Emory 2015: The University unveils a blueprint for the future

President James W. Wagner is fond of saying that Emory's history is marked by "moments of bold transformation"—its founding by Georgia Methodists in 1836, the daring leap to Atlanta in 1915, the beneficence of the Woodruff gift in 1979.

And now, he says, Emory is poised for another transformation.

"We have a vision of what Emory will dare to be," Wagner said this summer as he unveiled the University's strategic plan, which took two years to complete. "Over the next decade, Emory will achieve distinction as a place where engaged scholars come together in a strong and vital community to confront the human condition and explore twenty-first century frontiers in science, health care, and technology. . . . We dare not waste this moment; we must not let this opportunity pass unclaimed."

"Where Courageous Inquiry Leads: A Strategic Plan for Emory University" was officially released September 28. The principles, goals, and ambitions set forth in the plan will chart Emory's course, and guide its allocation of resources, over the next decade.  

"Emory University is about to undertake work that will transform not only the campus but also our community, that will greatly and positively transform our region--indeed, that will build a better world for our children's children," Wagner says.

The planning began by assessing Emory's existing strengths: its generous endowment (about $4.5 billion in 2004, the eighth largest in the nation); a history of excellent undergraduate teaching; external research funding that totaled $352 million in 2004 (a fourfold increase over 1990); growing applicant pools of highly qualified students; its location in the increasingly global city of Atlanta; a racially and religiously diverse faculty, staff, and student body.

By 2015, the plan states, Emory will have a world-class, diverse faculty; will enroll the best and brightest undergraduate and graduate students; will have a social and physical environment that enriches the intellectual work and lives of faculty, students, and staff; and will be recognized as a "place where engaged scholars come together in a strong and vital community to confront the human condition and experience and explore twenty-first century frontiers in science and technology."

Each division of the University--from the nine schools to Campus Life, the Carlos Museum, the libraries, and Emory Healthcare--has written its own strategic plan, setting individual goals that provided the foundation for the University-wide strategic plan. The full plan, complete with supporting documentation and summaries of the school and unit plans, can be viewed at


Provost Earl Lewis and Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Michael Johns, co-chairs of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee, also announced five University-wide strategic themes and additional initiatives that cut across disciplines and reach into every corner of campus.  

Strengthening faculty distinction. This will be accomplished by recruiting new faculty and by retaining and developing current faculty. By 2010, Emory plans to increase its faculty by 12 percent, to about 3,230. The goal, says Wagner, is to hire "scholars and teachers at the top of their game, in the middle of their careers, and considered by their peers to be in the top 10 percent of their field." The development of faculty will be supported by two new positions in the provost's office--the first devoted to academic planning and faculty development; and the second to community, diversity, and institutional development. Over the next decade, the University will aim to add new members to national academies, to increase the number of faculty gaining national awards (such as the Guggenheim Fellowships and National Humanities Medals), and to increase annual research funding to $735 million.

Preparing engaged scholars. Emory intends to be a first-choice, destination university for top-achieving high-school seniors who have stellar SAT scores. But the University also wants to attract students who do more than test well--who value scholarship and a life of the mind, desire to contribute to their communities and the world, and are eager to gain the skills and knowledge to tackle tough societal problems. To this end, Emory will build and renovate residential housing facilities so that 80 percent of Emory undergraduates are living on campus; expand volunteer programs and community building programs; integrate service-learning into the curricula; and revise faculty reward and promotion to recognize service, including mentoring efforts made outside the classroom.

Creating community--engaging society. As the competition for talented labor becomes more intense, Emory intends to establish itself as a preferred employer, where faculty and staff can achieve their full potential. Management excellence, diversity, and professional development of employees at all levels will become University trademarks. Other goals include identifying staff (especially women and minorities) with leadership potential and fostering their development; becoming an employer of choice in higher education and the local healthcare market; and supporting and encouraging staff to participate in University and community activities.

Confronting the human condition and human experience. Through feedback from hundreds of members of the Emory community, the University selected three areas in which Emory will take the lead in confronting pressing social issues: understanding religions and the human spirit, understanding race and difference, and implementing pathways to global health. "It takes a certain amount of courage to address these issues," says Provost Lewis. But to marginalize them, he says, would have its own costs. Emory is in a unique position to contribute to global health through its partnerships and proximity to CARE, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Carter Center, and other such organizations.

Exploring new frontiers in science and technology. This involves three areas of focus--neuroscience, human nature, and society; predictive health and society; and life sciences. Specific initiatives include forming a Comprehensive Clinical and Translational Neuroscience Center, and creating a physical "science village" in the area of campus surrounding the existing Atwood Chemistry Center, Cherry Logan Emerson Hall, and the Math and Science Center.

"We intend to create and support cross-cutting, intellectual bridges that bring our campus together in ways that will have much more impact on society than if we worked individually and in isolation," says Johns. "These are big questions, and it will take strength, determination and courage to look for big answers. Emory has all of those."

Implementing this ambitious vision will require strategic alliances, an international strategy, and policy solutions. For example, an Institute for Advanced Policy Solutions, composed of fellows from throughout Emory as well as visiting scholars, is in the planning stages.

"Emory has advanced from a major regional to a major national university, and now must take its place among the world's preeminent universities," says Tom Robertson, chair of Emory's Internationalization Task Force. "Emory has a distinct ability to connect global scholarship with informed action."  

Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Mike Mandl says the plan is, indeed, ambitious, but "we would not have done our duty to Emory with anything less. It will require significant new investment, but we are committed to working on all fronts to return value to our 'investors.' Preliminary estimates are that [it will take] $2.5 billion or so over the next decade to realize this vision for the University.

"We realize this is a significant amount of money," says Mandl, "but standing still is not an option. Standing still will, in fact, be going backward."—M.J.L.



© 2005 Emory University