Emory Report

April 26, 1999

 Volume 51, No. 29

Chopp explains how Emory's Vision is coming into focus

It's been a year since the University formalized its philosophical roadmap in the form of A Vision for Emory: Implementing Choices & Responsibility, the 60-odd page document compiled by Chancellor Billy Frye from literally hundreds of conversations with faculty, staff and students all across campus in the years since Choices & Responsibility was published.

Of the many statements and recommendations articulated in Vision, which have translated into tangible action? That's the question Provost Rebecca Chopp sought to answer in an April 13 presentation to the Faculty Council. Moving methodically through most of the report's 40 specific recommendations, Chopp said that 85 percent of the points "have been addressed in some substantive fashion." Chief among these, she said, are those charges pertaining to teaching and intellectual community.

Initiatives like the University Teaching Council--created after faculty responded less than favorably to Teaching at Emory's call for a University-wide teaching center--new faculty orientation, the new Druid Hills Books in Emory Village, the Academic Exchange publication and the Presidential Advisory Commission's compiliation of clear and concise tenure guidelines are all in keeping with Vision's recommendation No. 9: "Every opportunity should be sought to enhance the intensity and coherence of intellectual life on the Emory campus."

"Those actions around support for faculty are very important," said Chopp, who addressed everything from increased efforts toward internationalization (e.g., the Halle Institute) to special events (Martha Nussbaum's September 1998 lecture, the upcoming Emory 2000 symposium) to building construction.

That's not to say the recommendations in Vision have not led to questions as well. Chopp wondered aloud to the Council whether Emory is structured in such a way to meet its objectives, but praised recent efforts geared toward that end. "I hope it's largely invisible to people, but the ongoing reorganization of most of the committees and structures in the University to better meet and address academic priorities [is very important]," she said. "It's kind of a basic, foundational step for our next movement forward."

None of the initiatives she mentioned are being driven by Vision, per se, Chopp said, but rather they are logical extensions of movements both philosophical and procedural that existed before the document was published. It is a distinction between "strategic" plans like Vision (and C&R) and physical guidelines like the Campus Master Plan.

"In some ways the Master Plan is like a plan for how to build a house, and Vision for Emory is more how to live in that house," Chopp said. "The living, breathing organism itself is always changing, whereas one returns to the physical structure time and time again."

For his part, Frye is surprised the five-year-old C&R and its extension Vision continue to be visited as often as they are. "In my experience, academic planning documents, which in some sense Vision and C&R purport to be, go on the shelf and die an early death," Frye said. "One sees little evidence that they serve to guide development for any substantial period of time, and often the actuality of what an institution is doing seems to have very little relationship to planning documents.

"In a world as rapidly changing as ours is, and with as many external exigencies impinging upon us as academe is experiencing that are beyond our control yet necessitate some response or reaction, this low correlation between plans and reality is not surprising," Frye continued. "So it is surprising and gratifying that our documents continue to play some role in shaping thought about who we are and our future."

Though he plays no formal role in formulating University policy, Frye serves as an important advisor both to Chopp and to President Bill Chace. The chancellor also has assumed specific duties related to Vision recommendations, such as helping guide Emory's information technology path from an academic perspective through the new Council on Information Resources & Technology, which he co-chairs. Frye is also heading up the Emory 2000 Symposium project, which will focus on the issue of reconciliation.

Chopp said she will continue to inform the University on how its strategic plans are becoming reality. "Whether or not I'll use Vision as a guide again, in the sense of literally working through it, I'm not sure," she said. "So many of these recommendations have been met or modified, it might be more helpful to use a somewhat different approach next time. I am presently working with the Council of Deans and the Office of Institutional Research and Planning on specific strategic initiatives that will position Emory for the next decade in relation to the excellence of our faculty and the vitality of our academic programs."

--Michael Terrazas

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