June 9, 2003

Bobby Paul settling in as new dean

By Michael Terrazas

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 this summer.

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 college.

“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 students.

“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 graduate education.

“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 the college.”

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.”