Upon Reflection

If we’re going to be rigid, operating in the nineteenth century and resisting change, then we’ll go the way of the Light Brigade.

—Kenneth Thorpe, Woodruff Professor of Health Policy and Management


Vol. 7 No. 2
October/November 2004

Upon Reflection
University leadership urges a new "discipline" of planning

My job is to make sure that the academic focus of the institution is always front and center.
Earl Lewis, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

If we’re going to be rigid, operating in the nineteenth century and resisting change, then we’ll go the way of the Light Brigade.
Kenneth Thorpe, Woodruff Professor of Health Policy and Management

Phase to phase

Strategic Planning Steering Committee

To learn more

Scholarship in Time
Or, Sipping champagne from a fire hydrant
Bruce Knauft, Samuel C. Dobbs Professor of Anthropology
and Executive Director,
The Institute for Comparative and International Studies

Is the Bible Green?
Ancient Israelite and early Christian perspectives
on the natural world
Carol A. Newsom, Professor of Old Testament

Further reading

The Mind and the Machine
A Review of Digital People by Sidney Perkowitz
Darryl Neill, Professor of Psychology


Return to Contents

Academic Exchange: What has been your impression of the process—its value and where it is headed?

Kenneth Thorpe:
We have been doing an assessment: representatives from each of the schools are coming through and just talking about their issues, where they are, where they strategically want to be, what are the road blocks, what are they thinking, what their future looks like. One of the things we’re trying to do is to see where there are obvious overlaps, synergies, and opportunities for collaboration.

We have all the usual suspect programs that appear—if you’re
an undergrad thinking about going to Princeton or Emory, or Harvard or Emory, what is it that Emory has that those other places don’t? Right now, nothing. That’s my take on it. And if you look at some of these other places that do have some innovative programs—obviously Harvard has the Kennedy school, and Princeton has the Wilson school—we could do something different and I think better. But I think we have different advantages here. Given our location, we have
some comparative advantages here that they don’t.

AE: Can you offer an example of those sorts of comparative advantages?

As I sit and listen to these presentations, I try to think, what is it about Emory academically and research-wise that’s unique? We’ve got all the basics in terms of disciplinary departments, but that’s not unique. I think that the hope here would be to take the best of all of what Emory has to offer both in terms of the college and the professional schools and find ways to integrate them and build on them. The worst thing we could have would be I think what we have right now, which is that these units operate pretty much independently of each other. There’s not a lot of integration, there’s not a lot of cross-pollination, the undergraduates don’t know much about what goes on over here. I think that given the fact that we have such a medical presence—with Emory Healthcare—and an international presence here—with the School of Public Health and the cdc—that the opportunities to do something really exciting along the domestic and international fronts that deals with policy issues is something that I’d like to see discussed

Public policy in and of itself is a discipline. It’s really taking economics, political science, and organizational theory and applying them to pressing public policy issues. My sense is that we have all the elements of that here. It’s one way I think particularly at the undergraduate level you can get students excited about ongoing major issues and controversies. It just seems to be a natural if Emory really wants to make its mark in the next decade or so as something that’s really unique.

AE: What do you think the faculty responsibility is in this process?

KT: I think the faculty has to make sure that whatever comes out of it is going to enhance our academic reputation and will be funded. One of the things we don’t want to do is inappropriately redirect money in a zero-sum game. The idea is to attract more resources and do something new and exciting that takes advantage of what we have here. Faculty have to think outside of our own disciplinary shells.

Ultimately, though, I think the bottom line will be whether we can take some of this and really meld it into something that’s going to launch Emory forward. I think we need to do it both in terms of attracting exciting fund-raisers and money; I think we have to take advantage of synergies we have here. We have pockets of good programs, and we can make them better by integrating them.

AE: What has to happen to keep this planning process from being just a lot of good ideas that never get realized?

KT: We have to have a flexible enough institutional structure that allows us to make those types of changes. If we’re going to be rigid, operating in the nineteenth century and resisting change, then we’ll go the way of the Light Brigade. Change is going happen that we can’t control, but there’s change that we can tactically and strategically lay out and control. And again, I think the idea here is to be thinking, What does this place look like ten to fifteen years from now? How are we going to do some of the leapfrogging? How are we going to continue to make this a better place? What are some of those unique decision points that we’re going to have to put in place?