Going Global
How in the World is Emory?

Vol. 9 No. 3
December 2006/
January 2007

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Going Global
How in the world is Emory?

Global Scholarship for Informed Action

Around Campus, Around the World

"I think we want Emory people working in global health to have a kind of distinctive, humble, non-arrogant, cooperative ethos."

"Is this an imperialist culture, in which we are getting the Emory name brand out, or is it a genuinely inclusive, reciprocal partnership?"

Swimming with the Turbot
Scholarship for a Global Public

We May Be Using English, But That Doesn’t Mean We’re Speaking the Same Language
Universalizing global knowledge


London. Istanbul. Addis Ababa. Peking. The list reads like a collage of vintage labels plastered to a jet-setter’s luggage. In fact they are, in the parlance of the Internationalization Task Force of the university’s strategic plan, potential “points of presence” in Emory’s aspirations to become a global university.

What is a point of presence? “We could create one in London, an administrative hub for admissions, student exchange, fundraising, getting jobs for students,” says Tom Robertson, former Goizueta Business School dean and now executive faculty director of the new Institute for Developing Nations (IDN). (Until recently, Robertson’s title was special assistant to the president for global strategy.) “Or we could go to Istanbul, in a partnership with the leading hospital there, where we would supplement their expertise in one or two specialties and bring patients over to Emory. That’s a point of presence.”

Along those lines, a flock of new endeavors has taken flight to global destinations from Emory recently. The Europe/Middle East/Africa (EMEA) Board, composed of government and business leaders, diplomats, and professionals from those regions, launched last year as an international advisory group to the university and has met twice—in Westminster Abbey and in Istanbul. The Institute for Developing Nations, a partnership with the Carter Center, will unite faculty research with the center’s work in Africa. The new Emory Development Institute in Emory College, led by sociology lecturer Sam Cherribi and funded by George Vojta, former vice-chairman of Bankers Trust and founder of the eStandards Forum, offers courses and field experience in economic development in low-income nations, particularly Mali. An administrative delegation recently traveled to Ethiopia to facilitate strategic planning at Addis Ababa University, and a proposal is under consideration to send Emory emeriti faculty there to teach. A partnership between the Woodruff Health Sciences Center and Peking University’s Health Sciences Center, initiated last year, promotes joint research projects in genetics and cancer. The new Global Health Initiative, one of the major themes of Emory’s strategic plan, embraces an interdisciplinary and applied approach, primarily in developing countries. The “internationalization of Emory” remains an evolving concept, with more developments on the horizon.

These efforts join a multitude of existing entities, including the Office of International Affairs and its subsets, the Halle Institute and the Institute for Human Rights, and The Institute for Comparative and International Studies and the Center for International Programs Abroad in Emory College, not to mention public health’s Department of Global Health, among myriad programs and projects in individual schools (see page 4 for a sampling of the various enterprises).

It’s almost a given that Emory, with its ties and proximity to the Carter Center, the CDC, CARE International, CNN, and others, is uniquely positioned for a prominent role in global scholarship and social action. But to some, the university’s international efforts seem to be growing like a chaotic garden: the soil is rich, but the vines are tangled, the roots crowded and competing. Is there a gardener weeding and pruning, imposing order and providing nourishment? Should there be?

“You want a thousand flowers to bloom,” says Peter J. Brown, a professor of anthropology with a joint appointment in the Department of Global Health, who co-leads the Global Health Initiative out of the strategic plan. “But in some ways Emory doesn’t have a good sense of all the things that are going on.”

“Faculty members need intellectual freedom to pursue what they regard as important research,” adds Tom Remington, professor and chair of political science, who specializes in Russian political development. “They’re forever looking for new frontiers and interesting questions, and you don’t want to stifle the opportunity to pursue some interesting new endeavor.”

Imperial or reciprocal?

Some argue, though, that Emory’s seemingly scattershot approach has unintended consequences. “There is a huge disconnect at Emory between the people who are most actively promoting programs abroad and the people who know something about the places being promoted,” says Edna Bay, associate professor in the Institute for the Liberal Arts and African studies. “For me, internationalization has to do with transforming ourselves—our students, faculty, and staff—helping us, as Americans, to be part of a world that is broader than Atlanta, Georgia, the U.S. But the idea that I have seen very actively pursued is, ‘We have expertise; let’s go solve some problems.’ ”

Or, as Abdullahi An-Na’im, Candler Professor of Law, poses it, “Is this an imperialist culture . . . , or is it a genuinely inclusive, reciprocal partnership? Of course, the human impulse is to be imperialist, because if you have tremendous resources, you think you have a clear vision of what the world should be like. We see this in American foreign policy; we see it sometimes with the best of intentions, because it is not always a question of bad people trying to do bad things, but of naively thinking that they can bring benefits to others. That sort of imperialist posture is very human. We can and should change this.”

“That’s just a wonderful issue,” says Robertson, who chaired the strategic planning Internationalization Task force and has since been instrumental in shaping the EMEA board and the IDN. “I don’t totally have an answer. What it means is that you have to be in partnership with the people on the ground in these countries if you’re going to do
relevant work. ‘Globalization’ is such a loaded word these days; does it mean forcing a western point of view on other people? The faculty is going to have to be very sensitive to it.”

Some faculty already question the perceived intent of many of the new initiatives. “It’s not clear what internationalization at Emory means,” says Joyce Flueckiger, a professor of religion whose work centers on south India. “We often hear its success will imply international name recognition and funding from international sources, rather than an intellectual, ethical vision and practical, on-the-ground implications of faculty and student exchanges and research. There often seems to be a disconnect between the vision for internationalization at the top and that of faculty and students who are already conducting international research, for whom obtaining sufficient internal funding is often an overly bureaucratic and frustrating process.”

Asked what he thinks “international” should mean, Robertson suggests that those two thrusts—to strengthen Emory’s intellectual work globally and to promote “the Emory brand”—are complementary: “When you walk around campus, there should be lots of languages being spoken. We should be as well known in Istanbul or London as we are in Atlanta. We should be getting the credit we deserve for being engaged in research and social action on topics and concerns relevant to the world. We have major issues of branding, especially when you leave Atlanta and the United States. It gets your attention when no one has ever heard of us.”

Some of the new entities, such as the IDN and the Global Health Initiative, aim to both clarify priorities and heighten the institution’s international profile. “I don’t think you can tell faculty what countries to be interested in,” Robertson says, “but it may be that some choices have to be made. For example, it may be that there has to be a set of decisions by the advisory board of the IDN as to what countries get emphasis, about where we deploy resources and where we don’t.”

It appears that much of those resources are gathering around Africa, particularly with the IDN (which has been funded equally by Emory and the Carter Center). “Africa is of considerable of interest to us, “ says Robertson, “especially to the college, health sciences, and public health faculty. A lot of them are working on issues relevant to Africa—AIDS, for instance.” Indeed, Emory is making forays into Mali, Ethiopia, and Liberia. That problem of fragmented communications, however, plays out in questions of Emory’s intellectual power—whether the applied work in those locales will be informed by deep, “place-based” cultural understanding, versus a “one-solution-fits-all” approach.

“We in African studies are very excited about this focus,” says Pamela Scully, associate professor of women’s studies and director of the Institute for African Studies in the arts and sciences. “But we are troubled by the fact that, as far as I know, at least in the arts and sciences, we don’t actually have the faculty working on those particular countries at Emory. If we are going to have sustainable engagements in Africa, we really need to have the faculty to support them. We also need people who work on African politics, economics, sociology, literature, and languages. We will not be credible in our plans to internationalize if we do not have those things in place.”

Improving communications

Most agree on the importance of communicating about international plans and developments. “Much international work gets initiated by individual faculty who are passionate about their teaching and research, and our goal is to keep communication lines open to be aware of new developments,” says Holli Semetko, vice provost for international affairs. She is convening the International Affairs Council and committees of faculty and staff to streamline internal communications.

“I think it is important to bring to the surface the breadth and the depth of what we’re already doing internationally, as our new international gateway on Emory’s website is designed to do,” Semetko adds. “It’s more about the reputation of the institution at large. There should be a clear, consistent brand image of Emory at home and abroad, like there is of Harvard at home and abroad. We want Emory internationally to become better branded as a place where serious issues are discussed and addressed in a tolerant and open campus environment.” —A.O.A.