Oxford glimpses the future

with new planning document

Although its name foretells a future just eight short years away, Oxford 2005 is a planning document that will outline the Oxford College community's long-term vision and goals for itself. Oxford 2005 will adhere to the institutional values articulated in Choices & Responsibility and will take a place in the University's new strategic plan.

"Oxford began a study of its [own] physical and natural resources more than a year ago, using the services of Robinson Fisher, a planner and landscape architect," said Dean William Murdy. At about the same time, a long-range planning committee composed of faculty, staff, students and alumni began the meetings from which Oxford 2005 would arise. The document's purpose is to "define the current nature of Oxford, articulate our vision for the future and identify the human, academic, physical and financial resources needed to achieve our goals," said Murdy.

"Oxford's in a unique position within the University and within academe in general," said David Rowe, director of development. "We have an opportunity to define what excellence means for a two-year liberal arts college within a larger university."

Oxford's example of close faculty/student interaction can serve as a model for the rest of the University, said Provost Billy Frye, who was invited to critique a draft of Oxford 2005 at a February committee meeting. "I like its unabashed emphasis on the student/teacher relationship and educational values," he said. "You get mentioned and valued more than you might imagine among faculty members on the Emory campus," he told the faculty and administrators present.

While Oxford 2005 broadly outlines institutional values on teaching and individual responsibility, it also embraces the College's future needs in bricks and mortar and technology. "The process creates a context for us to revisit our mission in light of current challenges and opportunities," said Joe Moon, associate dean for student affairs.

"New instruction methods and technology have us asking new questions about how we teach and what tools we use to teach in the future," said Rowe. Moon sees RESNET as one such tool. "With RESNET in [residence] halls, students can pull up class discussion or study groups in their rooms and talk with professors by computer," Moon said. "Traditional faculty/student interaction is face-to-face, and we hope this won't take the place of that, but enhance it."

As for buildings, "The arts center is the number one building priority of the College," said Moon. "In some ways that project has necessitated this long-term look at the whole campus and its programs."

Rowe emphasized that Oxford 2005 is now a draft document only. Perhaps it's in the nature of the process that it remains such, said Moon. "It's a planning tool that we hope to be able to consult as needed-a work in progress," he said.

Frye encouraged similar thinking. "I think it is important to have clearly agreed upon goals and intentions," he said. "But it is equally necessary to maintain enough fluidity in our plans to be able to adjust our expectations to new information and changing conditions, such as resource availability, as we progress toward our goals."

-Stacey Jones