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November 5, 2001

New commission ramps up research

Aimee Pozorski is a graduate assistant in the Office of Strategic Development.


On Monday, Oct. 1, in the Carlos Museum, President Bill Chace and Interim Provost Woody Hunter gave the Research at Emory Commission its formal charge: to develop a profile of research at Emory against a backdrop of trends at other U.S. universities; to consider the influences and potential advantages of these trends and realities; and, in 2003, to propose improvements the University should consider.

Throughout the year, this regular column in Emory Report will update the community on the commission’s work, as well as discuss current improvements related to faculty research. Since receiving their charge, the faculty who make up the commission have begun clarifying questions and defining terms, including the term central to this project: “research.”

As chair of the commission, Claire Sterk emphasized the group “defines research in the broadest sense possible and considers all types of research, which requires a more evolved understanding of university scholarship in general.”

Commission members have formed four committees working in the following areas: Committee One, led by Carol Worthman and Les Real, considers different research philosophies at Emory, while Committee Two, led by Kim Wallen and Michelle Lampl, focuses primarily on the edifying issues that influence research.

Committee Three, led by Sterk and Lanny Liebeskind, investigates how Emory encourages research both structurally and culturally; and Committee Four, led by Jim Fowler and Art Kellermann, emphasizes the ethical dimensions of research such as balancing research with family, teaching and service, and the values underlying these dimensions.

While guiding the work of these committees as well as balancing their own research and teaching, Sterk and co-chair David Carr have realized in the last several weeks just how important Research at Emory has become.

“We know Emory is strong in research, but we need to reflect on the balance among its various aspects and functions throughout the University,” Carr said.

Susan Frost, vice president for Strategic Development, suggested that this commission “aims to recommend improvements for Emory and also to contribute to national conversations about research universities in our society.”

Both Carr and Sterk are well aware of what this commission means to Emory as a nationally known research university. According to Carr, “In the last decade or so, Emory has ascended headlong into the ranks of the major universities. It’s important that it take stock of its major activities: teaching and research. It needs to proceed according to a plan of its own, rather than merely reacting to outside pressures.

“It was entirely appropriate that teaching, which was thought by many to be the neglected side of the new research university, be subjected to a major university review,” Carr continued, referring to the recent Commission on Teaching. “But now research deserves the same scrutiny.”

Sterk’s belief is similar, stressing that the work of the commission is, in part, “to set our own priorities as a research institution.”

Both Carr and Sterk emphasize that this new research commission will not reinforce a long-standing dichotomy between research and teaching, but rather serve to link the two by concentrating on undergraduate and graduate student relationships with faculty researchers and mentors.

Quadrangle Fund: A new resource for faculty
This focused attention on research at Emory naturally bears on the work of the graduate school—particularly its commitment to high standards and faculty-student interaction. Both the Quadrangle Research Fund and the Quadrangle Seminar Fund (under the care of Gary Wihl) facilitate faculty and graduate student collaboration fundamental to the graduate school’s mission.
Emphasizing programs of research rather than individual research projects, the Research Fund rewards well-defined areas of scholarship, a sustained program of research and evidence of a commitment to training future research faculty. The Seminar Fund supports more preliminary work while simultaneously allowing graduate students to build on research topics and faculty to test their theories.

According to Wihl, “[This fund] is an effort to build working relationships between faculty and students—students whose scholarship is central to the work of the graduate school—in areas that cannot be sustained in individual departments.” In fact, he said, both the seminar and research funds allow faculty and graduate students to develop new and cross-disciplinary initiatives that raise significant methodological issues.

Both the Quadrangle Fund and the Research at Emory Commission work to create opportunities for faculty and students, as well as find ways to support their initiatives. In each case, faculty have welcomed the occasion to identify their interests at the ground level, define their topics of research for support and practice rigorous scholarship in every possible sense.



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