Provost Frye announces Commission on Teaching

To Members of the Emory community and the Commission on Teaching:

To our great pride and satisfaction, Emory is rapidly becoming recognized as one of the preeminent universities of the nation. The hallmark of such an institution is and must continue to be the primacy and excellence of scholarly inquiry and publication in the work of its faculty. It is an unfortunate fact, however, that in many well established "research universities" this commitment has (or is widely perceived to have) tended to push concern for teaching and students too much to the side, rather than striving for a creative synergy between teaching and research.

Over the past two years, the faculty, staff, students and administration have held extensive conversations about the University's future. These discussions have made it abundantly clear, whatever the nuances of opinion, that excellence in teaching continues to be one of our strongest commitments, and its susceptibility to erosion one of our central concerns. Implicit in this concern is the recognition that our teaching reputation is one of our strongest assets as we face a changing future, and that excellence in both teaching and research is attainable if we but attend to both with equal conviction and determination. Indeed, we should see them as inseparable aspects of our scholarly mission. (You might, in this context, wish to review Emory's mission statement.)

Accordingly, as promised at the Faculty Town Hall meeting on Nov. 20, and at the request of President Chace, I am establishing a Commission on Teaching. The Commission is charged to examine the most critical issues that pertain to the quality of teaching at Emory and prepare a report that assesses the current state of teaching and the teaching environment. It will be asked to make specific recommendations concerning what can be done, consistent with our total mission, to assure our continued commitment to and success in achieving teaching of the highest possible quality in the years to come.

Based on the progress of our campus-wide conversations over the last two years, I would suggest the following five areas as ones of central concern and importance:

l. Teaching evaluation and the definition and objectives of good teaching;

2. Support for the development of good teaching, and the rewards and incentives for teaching;

3. The teaching environment, physical, philosophical and cultural;

4. Extra-disciplinary teaching, including but not limited to interdisciplinary, international and extracurricular teaching and learning;

5. Teaching and learning in the digital environment.

Professor Rebecca Chopp has generously agreed to chair the Commission, and Professor Walter Reed has agreed to co-chair it. The membership (see sidebar) represents all of our schools and colleges and other major units that have a primary role in the education of our students. The Commission has complete freedom to organize its work as it thinks best. However, I have made it large enough to enable it, if it so chooses, to organize itself into subcommittees that can independently examine these five issues and bring their findings and recommendations back to the Commission for synthesis into a report. Even with such efficiencies, the task is as large as it is important, so the Commission will be given whatever amount of time it finds to be necessary to complete its work. However, I will ask it to aim for a report to me, the president and the community by the end of the fall semester, l996, if at all possible.

It would be unreasonable to try to make the Commission large enough to embrace all of the rich interests and resources that relate to teaching on this campus. But I will encourage it to consult widely with faculty, students and staff and to avail itself of these sources of experience, interest and expertise as it proceeds with its deliberations.

I will ask the Commission, together with the members of the University Priorities Committee and the Faculty Council of the University Senate, to begin its work this semester by engaging members of the faculty, staff, student body and administration in a series of small group conversations around these issues. Many of you will recognize this as a continuation of the community conversations that have occurred over the past two years, focusing more closely upon the first of the five major issues ("the balance between teaching and research") set forth in Choices & Responsibility. As in past years, a cross section of individual faculty and staff will be specifically invited to participate in these conversations, but no one will be excluded. If you wish to be certain that you are included, please contact Jennifer Howe in the Office of Institutional Planning and Research (727-2768).

With your help, Emory will identify practical steps toward our shared goal of excellence in all that we do, and further define and cement a common understanding of what Emory is and should be all about.

Billy E. Frye

The Commission on Teaching



Rebecca Chopp, Chair, Theology

Walter Reed, Co-chair, English

Peter Aranson, Economics

William Branch, Medicine

David Edwards, Psychology

Michael Evenden, Theater Emory

Joan Gotwals, University Libraries

Jim Gustafson, Luce Seminar

Jackie Irvine, Educational Studies

David Kleinbaum, Public Health

Benn Konsynski, Business

Paul Lennard, Biology

Dennis Liotta, Chemistry

Frances Lucas-Tauchar, Campus Life

Maria Lunk, Russian Studies

Al Merrill, Biochemistry

Margaret Parsons, Nursing

Robert Pastor, Political Science

Vera Rorie, Multicultural Programs

Whitaker Sewell, Pathology

Jonas Shulman, Medicine

Patti Owen-Smith, Oxford (Psychology)

John Witte, Law


Susan Frost, Institutional Planning/Research

Betsey Patterson, Woodruff Library/Virtual Library Project

Steve Taylor, ITD/Computing Resource Services

Student: (Open)

Alumnus: (Open)