Great Expectations

Becoming a Top-Tier Research University

Lawrence W. Barsalou, Winship Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology, and Elaine Walker, Samuel Canlder Dobbs Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience


Emory's New President and the Idea of a University
Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor of Preaching


Practical Matters
Rebecca Stone-Miller, Associate Professor of Art History and Faculty Curator


Economic Challenges and the Art of Education
Geoffrey Broocker, Walthour Delaperriere Professor of Ophthalmology

A Fresh Perspective for Perennial Problems
David Carr, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Philosophy

Teaching versus Research: Does It Have to Be That Way?
Lucas Carpenter, Charles Howard Candler Professor of English, Oxford College

Ethics, Diversity, and Teaching
David B. Gowler, Pierce Professor of Religion, Oxford College

A More Positive University
Corey L.M. Keyes, Associate Professor of Sociology

Advice from the Lighter Side
Vicki Powers, Asssociate Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science

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While it has set the pace for teaching and curriculum at research universities, Emory has not grown as rapidly in research. Across the board, Emory departments typically do not rank in the top five or ten, or even in the top twenty. Notwithstanding the foibles of national rankings, it's clear that most Emory departments are not
in the top tier, even though they are certainly respectable. In our opinion, the next challenge for Emory is to become a top-tier research university.

What must our new president do to help push a critical mass of our departments into the top tier? We believe the following five factors are key to this goal: intellectual vision, organizational ingenuity, long-term commitment to Emory, regional sensibilities, and international ambition. We address each in turn.

Intellectual vision.
Although a solid financial base is essential for Emory's success, a university president is not a CEO. In higher education and research--unlike in the business world--financial success is not an end in itself. Instead, financial success is the means to a much more important but intangible end: an intellectually vibrant university that educates its students brilliantly while producing academic works that turn heads around the world. Emory will not move into the top tier unless its administrators embody this goal and target it. A president who is a talented manager but an inexperienced scholar is unlikely to have the vision that will take Emory to the next level.

Organizational ingenuity.
Moving into the top tier will require changes in Emory's organizational structure and practices. Increasing the presence of eminent researchers at Emory requires organizational structures that attract and keep these faculty here. Similarly, because interdisciplinary work is increasingly exciting and important, the new president should develop university structures that initiate and foster it. Our new president must break down walls between university units, while simultaneously creating mechanisms for exchange and cooperation. Moreover, because spousal appointments have become central to attracting and retaining top faculty, Emory must study what other universities are doing and implement a competitive approach that works in our context. In general, the new president must be both willing and able to create organizational structures that move Emory forward, within the context of what Emory is and what works here.

Commitment to Emory. Nowadays the primary commitment of many administrators and faculty is to their career paths. Each stop at a university is one step towards a personal goal. While personal development is important, so is commitment to community. We very much hope that long-term commitment to the Emory community is important to our next president, as it has been in our previous ones. Someone committed to Emory's extended future is likely to continue its evolution into a top-tier research university.

Regional sensibilities. A modern university president must be skilled in public relations and fund raising. Because the university draws heavily on resources within its geographic region, its president must understand the regional culture and work effectively within it. We hope our new president has this orientation and uses it effectively to move Emory forward.

International ambition.
Simultaneously, our new president should be aware of what constitutes a top-tier research university in the international arena. What is it about such universities that underlies their success? Our new president should want Emory to become one of these universities and should not be satisfied with Emory being a top regional institution.

Given Emory's current resources--human and financial--the university will undoubtedly continue to grow, as it has under the leadership of Bill Chace. The rate of this growth will depend significantly, however, on the orientation, abilities, and vision of Emory's new president.