William M. Chace
Starting a new calendar year prompts us to review Emory's situation in the largest sense and to renew our dedication to achieving its goals. The University has more opportunities and fewer disadvantages and impediments than any other school in the country. We are blessed by our position in Atlanta, by the generosity of our benefactors, by the thoughtfulness of people who preceded me here, and by our strong philanthropic base. We are able to recruit the best faculty, and we see students applying to the University in much greater numbers. Emory is an extraordinary place, with an extraordinary past, and an extraordinarily good set of opportunities for the future. Not only would I rather be here than any other place, but I believe that feeling is shared by many faculty, many students, and many of my administrative colleagues.
About that future, let me offer these thoughts:In the next decade, Emory aims to be recognized as a first-rate participant in the international arena, particularly through The Carter Center. Developed by former President Jimmy Carter after his departure from the White House in 1981, The Carter Center is a unique entity within American higher education. Other universities have research centers on their campuses, such as the Hoover Institution at Stanford, but we alone have a center devoted to such practical missions in the world as a voter monitoring program, efforts to bring about peaceful reconciliation between peoples, and expeditionary efforts to solve the problems of river blindness and Guinea worm disease. An integral part of Emory University, The Carter Center is a place where undergraduates can immerse themselves in study about parts of the world, then go to other countries to involve themselves in a mission that will benefit them and the country in which they work.
In addition, through The Atlanta Project of The Carter Center, we are reminded of the local need for Emory's involvement. The University is already an integral part of Atlanta, but I hope in the coming years that we will become even better neighbors, having more of our students work in such efforts as Habitat for Humanity and Jerusalem House, and having more of our professors actively participate in the life of the Atlanta community.
Another aspect of our future is one to which we must pay continual and passionate attention: the quality of our teaching. This is very important, because together with all of the University's aspirations, we must keep in mind that Emory's basic mission in one sense is very simple and remains the same today as at Emory's founding in 1836--to find the best young people it can find and to bring them together with the best professors we can find, so that teaching and learning can thrive. Emory was founded as a premier teaching institution, and today our faculty remain devoted to undergraduate teaching, as well as to graduate teaching and research.
To renew our dedication to excellent teaching, Provost Billy E. Frye, my colleague and friend, established the Commission on Teaching, bringing together a group of outstanding faculty under the very able chairmanship of Rebecca Chopp, professor in the Candler School of Theology. The commission is working on three tasks: to assess what good teaching is, to reward good teaching, and to set up ways in which we can teach teaching. I want the commission's report to be substantive and thorough; I want it to impel us to make some changes here at Emory to affirm our dedication to teaching.
I began my work in higher education as a teacher, and even now as president, I consider myself primarily a teacher. Last year I taught my course on James Joyce, and this year I am teaching a course to undergraduates in the Institute for Liberal Arts on a variety of twentieth-century writers. My teaching has expanded, however, because now I am teaching teachers, and sometimes I teach administrative colleagues, and occasionally I am even given the opportunity to teach trustees. I see the institution as a very complex classroom. My identity is that of a teacher, and I have extended my teaching talents throughout the campus.
In this new year and in the years to come, then, Emory aims toward greater recognition within the United States and elsewhere in the world as an absolutely superior institution. We work toward a deeper involvement both in the international sphere and within the Atlanta community. And most of all, we renew our dedication to supremely good teaching.
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