The voices of Emory University faculty are more diverse than the United
Nations general assembly. And its Allison Adams job to condense
those voices into a compelling and coherent compilation.
Welcome to The Academic Exchange.
When people ask me what I do for a living, said Adams, managing
editor of The Exchange, I tell them that my job is to create
and maintain a forum for faculty discussion of work, life and thought
at Emory University.
That forum is The Exchange, an intriguing mix of one-on-one interviews,
first-person pedagogical essays and in-depth, magazine-type pieces highlighting
issues of research, teaching and many other subjects that may cross the
desk or enter the office of a University professor.
And The Exchange consists of much more than the usually 12-page
(Sept. 2001s edition was 16), different-color-for-every-issue publication
that is delivered to faculty mailboxes five times a year. The print version
is supplemented by an online companion (www.emory.edu/ACAD_
EXCHANGE), which not only reprints articles and interviews from
the hard copy but mixes in new information (overflow pieces, responses
to issues that pop up between the publication cycle, links to articles
and news from other courses).
Then there is AEWeekly, an e-mail supplement that contains
still more news, like new-faculty profiles, event briefs and continued
discussion of topics featured in the print publication.
The Exchange is performing a vital function by helping the
faculty communicate with each other intellectually, said John Sitter,
Charles Howard Candler Professor of English. An essay Sitter wrote about
his experience as a witness in The Wind Done Gone copyright infringement
trial appears in the Oct/Nov. edition of The Exchange (as well as on page
2 of this weeks Emory Report).
We often find out from other sources what our colleagues are doing;
The Exchange lets us find out what theyre thinking, Sitter
The idea of creating The Exchange sprung from the mind of then-Provost
Rebecca Chopp and Susan Frost, who was then VP for institutional planning
and research, in 1998. She wanted to create a publication that would give
faculty a mouthpiece with which to conduct scholarly conversation throughout
campus. The format had to be intellectual yet accessible. And it would
take place within the confines of a university atmosphere, with a minimum
of administrative oversightdespite the fact the administration would
The idea was so forward thinking (and its consequences so unknown) that
no other school was found to have such a publication. An advisory committee
of professors from across Emory was formed to put the plan together.
In November 1998, that committee hired Adams as editor. At the time she
had spent four years as assistant editor of Emory Magazine, the last two
of them in a dual role as managing editor of the Goizueta Magazine.
Before the ink was dry on her new business cards, Adams began criss-crossing
campus, talking to professors about their interests, as well as what they
would like to see in the publication. Once the first Academic Exchange
was released in March 1999, Adams had spoken to nearly 100 professors.
In the more than two years since, shes sat down with scores more.
Not only does Adams pick professors brains individually over coffee
or a sandwich, but she meets with teams of faculty several times a year
as sort of focus groups. One of her goals, Adams said, is to set up a
more structured evaluation program with faculty.
I want to make sure that my finger stays on the pulse of this community,
she said. Just listening to people, thats an important part
of my job.
Another goal in The Exchanges near future is to expand its seven-person
editorial advisory board (the core of the committee that hired Adams makes
up this multidisciplinary animal). The board reviews copy, an important
task considering The Exchanges small staffAdams is the lone
full-time employeeas well as offering insights from departments
The Exchange also plans to dabble in high-end academic publishing.
This fall, Adams will publish two lectures and two responses from the
humanities council lectures, which took place last year.
Hoping to maintain a certain edge, The Exchange treads where few
internal publications will go. Professors by their nature can be somewhat
ornery and theyre definitely opinionatedthe attitude goes
with the job. If they are given an open forum, the results are permanently
up in the air. The conversation could bounce in dozens of directions,
not all of them pleasant (this is one of the reasons publications such
as The Exchange are basically nonexistent).
For instance, The Exchanges lead story in September dissected
the complicated series of events that led nearly two dozen professors
to draft a resolution disagreeing with an administrative change in Emory
Collegeproposed by Emorys administrationthat would have
created the position of executive vice provost for Arts and Sciences,
with duties in both the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Emory
The Exchanges handling of the issue was even-handed and thorough.
It took a long time to negotiate how to tell that story and make
sure all the voices that needed to be represented were heard, said
Adams, who wrote the main article, which was accompanied by interviews
with players on both sides, first-person essays by participants and an
outline of how graduate and undergraduate arts and sciences programs are
organized at other universities.
There are some obvious disagreements among those voices, but it
was important for us to pursue that story in such a way that those voices
didnt end up as administration versus faculty, because thats
really not what the debate was about. It wouldve been an easy out
to write that kind of story, Adams said. By doing that, I
hope we gained the respect of the administration.
Not that that respect wasnt out there before.
I have been pleased by the liveliness and quality of the publication
and hope it continues to be a place for the frank exchange of views,
said Provost Woody Hunter. Law school dean at the time of the arts and
sciences discussion, Hunter was not involved in that particular debate.
I encourage faculty to become active contributors to the conversations
that take place on its pages, Hunter said.
We are very fortunate, Adams said, to have a provost
and a president who understand our function in this community and are
very supportive of it. As long as we are fair. We dont try to blindside