For almost two years, Bobby Paul has been laying
the foundation for the future of Emory College, not knowing who
would be building on it.
Now he can put his hardhat on.
Following a nine-month national search, the University announced
on May 20 that Paul can remove the “interim” from his
title as dean of the college, and the Charles Howard Candler Professor
of Anthropology and Interdisciplinary Studies can look forward to
moving into his new office in the renovated Candler Library later
It’s a long way to come for the person whose first thought,
when former college dean Steve Sanderson walked into his office
in spring 2001 and announced he was leaving Emory, was, Well, I’ll
tell you one thing: I’m not going to be interim dean of the
“Of course, I ate my words on that,” Paul said. “But
God works in mysterious ways.”
The ways of administration are no longer a mystery for Paul, who
had barely settled into his role as dean of the Graduate School
of Arts & Sciences when Sanderson announced his resignation.
Now, with two full academic years under his belt as interim dean,
Paul knows how Emory College works—and he has a clear idea
of where he wants it to go.
“I’d like to see growth in the size of our faculty without
necessarily growing the student body,” he said. “With
a better student-faculty ratio, we can have a more advantageous
leave policy so faculty can do more of their own research without
sacrificing the ability to meet curricular needs and be there for
“The other main thing is growth in endowment for student financial
aid, both at the graduate and undergraduate level,” Paul continued.
“We need to be not just OK but incredibly competitive in both
areas in terms of getting the students we want—the best students.”
To achieve these goals, Paul said the college already is hip deep
into a comprehensive fund-raising initiative he began without knowing
whether he would be around to see it come to fruition. He admits
he “wasn’t shy” about long-term planning as interim
dean because it was work that needed to be done, no matter who became
permanent dean, if the college was to continue its upward trajectory.
“If I felt we were just on a plateau and weren’t going
anywhere…” Paul shook his head. “I have no interest
in just being a caretaker.”
Indeed, having served (albeit briefly) as dean of the graduate school
before he took over the college, Paul is uniquely qualified to address
what he sees as the primary challenge facing Emory as a whole: improving
“The domain that needs immediate attention, that’s in
the most critical state, is the fact that we have fallen behind
in our ability to financially support graduate students,”
he said flatly. “Our stipends are not big enough, and they
don’t last for as many years—they’re just not
competitive with the rivals we’re up against.”
Since the college dean has primary authority in hiring and tenure
matters regarding most of the faculty who teach graduate students,
Paul will be in a key position to influence graduate education at
Emory. The graduate school, he admitted, has fewer resources at
its disposal than does Emory College.
Revisiting the structure of the arts and sciences at Emory—an
examination that began with Paul’s short-lived appointment
as executive vice provost of arts and sciences in spring 2001 and
was suspended when a committee charged with studying the matter
concluded that the University’s current administrative transition
dictated leaving in place the status quo—is something that
needs to be done, Paul said.
“Very definitely [the question needs to be brought up again],”
he said. “I have my own views as to what would be a good solution,
though I’m always open to other arguments and in fact have
changed my mind about this as I’ve heard other points of view.
But I definitely think the current situation is not optimal for
And the time is approaching when the administrative transition will
be complete. After President Bill Chace’s successor takes
office, almost certainly before the end of the 2003–04 academic
year, all that will remain is the question of who will be the permanent
provost. Paul, who admitted that the uncertainty about those two
offices was “disconcerting” as he applied for the college
deanship, hopes that whoever holds them continues the work Chace
and interim Provost Woody Hunter have done.
“With Woody and Bill, I think they’re very dedicated
to the arts and sciences and have done a great deal for it,”
Paul said. “If you look at where Emory was—on almost
any measure—when Bill Chace came in and where it is now, the
improvements are very palpable.”