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December 4, 2000

Provost's letter to faculty sets
academic theme

By Jan Gleason

A comprehensive review of information technology and the formulation of an election process for the Presidential Advisory Committee, the group that reviews candidates for tenure and advises the president and provost before they recommend candidates to the trustees, are two activities outlined in Provost Rebecca Chopp’s annual letter to the faculty.

Chopp began the IT review by asking members of the Council of Information Resources and Technology (CIRT), the Digital Futures Seminar, the Council of Deans, the Provost’s Council and others to describe Emory’s IT needs and help identify issues of immediate concern. She appointed Don Harris as interim vice provost for IT and asked senior vice provost Harriet King will lead a group that will map existing IT resources at Emory.

In the five-page missive sent to all faculty in early November, Chopp outlined these and other plans for the year that are meant to advance faculty scholarship by sharpening Emory’s academic profile, to increase the depth and breadth of support for scholars, and to improve the structures Emory uses to develop its academic agenda.

In the letter, she wrote, “Again, you must help sharpen our direction. Without your guidance, Emory’s academic development will not continue.”

Faculty reaction to the letter has been positive.

“What I’ve heard people saying about the letter is that they are pleased with being included in the loop and the information is very useful,” said Martine Brownley, Goodrich C. White Professor of English. “Some-times it’s easy to forget you’re part of a larger university, and this ties us altogether in a good way. This letter is a good device for letting people know what’s going on; they wouldn’t have any other way of knowing.”

Chopp outlined two activities that will help sharpen Emory’s academic profile: a focus on research at Emory and the systematic planning for the size and composition of the student body across the university.

Regarding the research at Emory project, Chopp wrote, “We need to consider how the university can help scholars increase resources for their research, take advantage of the latest technologies, deal with ever-increasing requirements and regulations, and insure that Emory sets the standards for ethical behavior in relevant areas.”

Chopp wrote that she and President Bill Chace will appoint a commission to investigate the nature of research and how changes will affect the future of the research university.

She has already begun to shape this project by talking this fall with about 120 faculty chosen at random to participate in small-group lunch meetings to discuss the questions that should be explored.

To help plan for student body size and composition, Chopp plans to involve faculty in developing strategies to enroll a student body that Emory has the faculty and facilities to educate while achieving diversity and international presence.

In addition to examining IT to increase support for scholars, Chopp said she will work to consolidate several funds that support faculty projects and create additional resources to help faculty conduct teaching and research.

Specifically, the University Teaching Fund awards will be used for a broader range of practices related to teaching, and a Quadrangle Fund has been created to enable faculty to compete for the means to hold research workshops, interdisciplinary forums and conferences.

“In addition to the formal initiatives to advance scholarship, I am also excited about the many informal initiatives, including the wide range of faculty seminars,” said Claire Sterk, professor of behavioral sciences and Faculty Council chair.

“Personally, I have had the opportunity to participate in a seminar on addiction sponsored by the Science and Society program and led by Howard Kushner, the Nat Robertson Distinguished Professor,” Sterk said. “Seminars like this stimulate interdisciplinary dialogue and research. One of Emory's main strengths is the willingness of the faculty to engage in interdisciplinary work, thereby contributing to the future of research at Emory."

Chopp also noted several new resources to support teaching and research: the purchase of the electronic database Science-Direct; the hiring of Wendy Newby to work with faculty to help interpret and resolve issues concerning accommodation of disabilities and teaching methods; and the appointment of a council to take up questions of diversity and faculty development that was recommended by a working group of faculty concerned about support for minority faculty members.

She outlined budget planning and tenure guidelines as two structures that would be focused on for improvement.

"Last spring the Ways and Means Committee announced that each school and administrative unit must present a plan to reduce its expenses for 2001-2002 by three percent of the 2000-2001 amount. This strategy is designed not to readuce the budget overall, but to free some funds for investment in new strategic areas. During recent budget cycles, the committee has learned how hard it is to trim programs and redirect the funds they require. This exercise is a first step toward focusing our investments routinely. If we are to develop new ideas, we must use discipline of this kind.”

Chopp’s letter can be read at:


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