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March 26, 2001

Paul named A&S
executive vice provost

By Michael Terrazas


Deciding that the best time to make major changes is in a time of major change, Emory’s top leadership has created a new executive position charged with overseeing the Arts and Sciences (A&S) faculty in both Emory College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Bobby Paul, who began his tenure as dean of the graduate school in September, has been appointed executive vice provost of Arts and Sciences, effective June 1. The move was announced to faculty in a meeting held March 20 in White Hall.

President Bill Chace and Provost Rebecca Chopp said they made the decision in light of the recently announced departures of college Dean Steve Sanderson, who is leaving to become president of the Wildlife Conservation Society, and of Chopp herself, who announced last week that she will be the next dean of Yale Divinity School (click here for story). Dean Woody Hunter of the law school will serve as interim provost following Chopp’s departure.

“In recent years,” Chace and Chopp wrote to faculty, “many of us in the faculty and the administration have recognized that key structural problems inherent in the dual structures of the separate college and graduate school systems diminish or block our capacity to achieve our ambitions for excellence.

“While we want to preserve the distinct identities of Emory College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, we are convinced that one office, that of the vice provost of Arts and Sciences, should be designated to coordinate the vision, develop the structure, and further the interests of the arts and sciences at Emory.”

Saying he was excited, humbled—and nervous—to be charged with leading the graduate school and “minding the store” at the college after Sanderson leaves, Paul said the recent developments pre-sented an opportunity for Emory to move into the “next phase” of A&S development. He said he hopes to follow the Woodruff Health Sciences Center’s (WHSC) lead in creating a strategic plan for both the academic and structural components of A&S education.

“In accepting this job,” Paul said. “I want to make it clear that I am not the unified ‘dean’ of the college and the graduate school—I’m something else.”

However, Paul was quick to point out that neither he nor anyone else is exactly sure what that “something else” will be; Paul was adamant in not committing to any specific structural changes, saying that in the near future, with the help of Chace and Hunter, he will work with A&S faculty to determine the best organizational model.

Paul also said the biggest challenge for him will balancing two “opposing mandates”: the need, over the next few years, to solicit a wide range of input in defining this new structure, against the pragmatic necessity of decision-making.

Whatever the outcome of the process, it will be designed to ensure that A&S education comes to the forefront of the University. “The heart of any university is its college or equivalent, its center of liberal learning,” Chace said in the faculty meeting.

Chopp concurred. “I’ve been thinking for years about giving ‘heft’ to the arts and sciences,” she said. “Arts and sciences give rigor to an institution, they allow faculty in the professional schools to have a breadth and depth of knowledge. Arts and sciences has to be the biggest player at the table.”

There has arisen a “clear and present danger,” Paul said, of Emory’s becoming an institution dominated by its health sciences center. He made clear that this view is in no way meant to criticize or take away from the tremendous success of WHSC—“That’s a freight train that’s not going to stop,” he said—but simply a statement that A&S education cannot become so overshadowed that it loses influence.

“We want to be a great university that has a great medical center, not vice versa: a great medical center that has an OK college attached,” Paul said.

Regardless of its goals, this appointment was met with no small degree of trepidation at the faculty meeting. Chemistry Professor Dennis Liotta, while assuring the administration that it will have the faculty’s support, expressed regret that the decision was made so quickly and without soliciting widespread faculty approval.

Chace and Paul acknowledged these concerns and admitted the process had not been ideal.

“However, institutions have to contend with the contingencies at hand,” Chace said, and the sudden departures of both Chopp and Sanderson presented quite the thorny contingency.

“You can’t set a process like this in motion in a total void,” Paul said. “I appreciate [the administration’s] confidence that I can do it.”

Paul said he is deeply indebted to the work of both Chopp and Sanderson in strengthening A&S during their tenures. “Arts and sciences is much stronger for [Sanderson’s] having been here for four years,” Paul said. “While I don’t think I have many of his strengths, I look to his model of leadership.”

“During the past four years, Steve Sanderson has helped craft a unified vision on the Arts and Sciences,” Chopp said. “Under his excellent leadership, we have all begun to think of the unity of this important faculty and of its relationship with other faculties of the University. Steve has showed us how the Arts and Sciences faculty reach out to other disciplines as well as to other schools and centers around the world.”

In the short term, Paul stressed that he hopes to achieve as much continuity and as little disruption as possible. Following Sanderson’s departure on June 1, decisions normally made by the college dean—those involving tenure, hiring, etc.—will be made by Paul.


Back to Emory Report March 26, 2001