Emory Report

April 27, 1998

 Volume 50, No. 30

Frye addresses values, objectives
and institutional character of Emory: A Vision for Emory released

Editor's note:
This issue contains the text of Chancellor Billy Frye's report, A Vision for Emory. In the report, Frye offers ways Emory can build on the ideas presented in Choices & Responsibility.

Our central aim is to make Emory one of the best universities in the nation and the world. We wish to do so in our terms, not merely by following the tracks of older, leading institutions. Choices & Responsibility, published in 1994, was written as a statement about the core values that we wish to advance as we pursue that ultimate aim. This report builds upon that earlier document to suggest how those values can be realized.

There was a time when the needs of Emory were so great that almost any choice we made would advance the quality of the university. Today, we enjoy the benefits of the remarkable progress that has been made in strengthening Emory in the last two decades. However, growth has slowed; the need to bring greater identity and coherence to our programs and culture has risen; and as our standing in the academic community has grown, so has the obligation to define clearly the ways we choose to be excellent. And so the university and its units and divisions are engaged more overtly in planning than ever before.

This report addresses that aspect of planning that defines and clarifies the values, the long-term objectives, and the ultimate character of the institution that we seek to build. It reflects conversations with many hundreds of faculty, staff, and students during the past two years. My hope is that it captures a vision that can guide us as we set proximate goals and that will help shape into a coherent whole the myriad individual decisions and actions through which the university continually reinvents itself. This report should serve three interrelated purposes. It should advance a sense of shared vision and expectation for Emory that builds upon and goes beyond Choices & Responsibility. It should foster continuation of campuswide discussion and debate on the proper goals and character of Emory. And, it should bring greater discipline, direction, and consonance of purpose to the use of our fiscal resources. It is therefore not a map, but a compass-more a set of guidelines about how we should conduct our business and set our priorities than an agenda of what we will do.

In the historical overview that follows, Emory's history is described in terms of four epochs that have built successively upon one another from the time of our rural beginnings at Oxford until the present period, in which we have become a strong contender for the highest rank of American universities. Today we are, in a sense, launching a new phase-the fifth epoch-of our development. We well may ask, therefore: what are the outcomes we should expect if we are diligent in our pursuit of the recommendations in this report? In what ways will Emory be different when another generation looks back upon our time in history? Out of the mix of deliberate intentions set forth in these recommendations and the inevitable flow of social forces, a number of characteristics will emerge.

First, Emory will enjoy a well-deserved reputation as both an outstanding teaching institution and a distinguished center of original scholarship. Having risen ever higher in the quality and reputation of our scholarly research in all its forms, we also will have been true to our legacy of excellent teaching. We will have achieved an energizing fusion between teaching and research-a complementarity in which the synergy between teaching and research is valued as much as their individual contributions to learning and discovery.

Second, the Emory community likewise will continue to be united by an unabashed sense of moral purpose. Building upon our roots in the Methodist Church and in Southern culture, improvement in the well-being of humankind through knowledge will be the moral doctrine that underpins our teaching, research, and service mission.

Third, interdisciplinary scholarship and collaboration among departments and schools will occupy a more prominent part of our intellectual landscape. The disciplines will have become less confining and less competitive with one another, thus seeing themselves as integral parts of the larger university.

Fourth, the use of digital technologies will support the flow of information between and among sources and users, irrespective of location, format, or disciplinary boundaries. But access to scholarly information-not infatuation with technology-will be the engine that drives this information vehicle.

Fifth, the boundaries between the university and the outside world will in some important ways be less sharp than they are today. The advancement and use of scholarly knowledge, not physical or organizational boundaries, will define the proper venues of teaching and research with more certainty than ever before.

Sixth, we will be more international in our profile. As knowledge becomes more global in both literal and figurative senses, this fact will be reflected in the composition of the student body and the faculty, in the content and structure of the curriculum, and in the scope of our teaching, research, and public-service programs.

Seventh, the social and cultural landscape of Emory also will reflect national and global changes in society. Not just an inevitable response to these changes, this diversification will be embraced by Emory as an opportunity to create a more responsible and stimulating intellectual and social environment.

Eighth, the financial support of the university through partnerships with external entities-corporations, governments, foundations, and philanthropic agencies-will reflect the greater interdependence between the university and the larger society.

Ninth, these changes will be mirrored in the physical campus. While physical changes will inevitably be slow, the structure and aesthetics of the campus will have begun to support a more integrated intellectual community.

Tenth, and finally, the intellectual matrix of the university will be even more dense and muscular than it is today, and the Emory community will have molded for itself a more confident view of what academic excellence means. While we will continue to measure ourselves by international standards of scholarship, we will be less concerned to follow in the footsteps of universities with long-established reputations for preeminence and more concerned to decide for ourselves what is right for Emory.

Taken in the aggregate, this constellation of changes will result in a great and dynamic university that is building upon its roots to produce an excellent institution that is at once powerful in its intelligence, moral in its sensibilities, global in its perspective, and distinctive in its cast.

This report is the result of numerous conversations during the past two years with hundreds of faculty, staff, students, and alumni about the future of Emory, and in particular about how to promote the values discussed in Choices & Responsibility. I haven't the space to recognize individually every person and group that has contributed to this endeavor. Nonetheless, I must acknowledge my particular indebtedness to the University Priorities Committee, the Faculty Council of the Senate, and the Strategic Planning Task Force for the time and energy that they gave to this project. I also am greatly indebted to Susan Frost, Harriet King, and Jan Cahoon for the many contributions that they made to the report and the process leading up to it, and for their indispensable personal support.

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