Emory Report
August 30, 2004
Volume 57, Number 02


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August 30, 2004
Task force looks to enhance Emory's global profile

By Michael Terrazas

Tom Robertson’s new task force may be just beginning its deliberations, but it will play a central role in Emory’s work toward enhancing its international profile both in the United States and beyond.

“This is a University that’s fairly international already, and to a large extent, people don’t know about it,” said Robertson, the Goizueta Business School dean who announced in April that he would step down to head the internationalization component of the University’s strategic planning process.

Robertson will chair a 16-member task force that includes faculty and administrators from across the Emory enterprise to assess the University’s current situation regarding things international, benchmark that profile against other universities and recommend a plan of action for the future. It is due to present a final report to the strategic planning steering committee by February 2005; Emory plans to roll out its completed strategic plan next May.

The task force, which has met twice, currently is assembling information about Emory’s existing international programs and activities, a daunting undertaking in and of itself. But concurrent with that work is a larger philosophical question.

“We have to ask ourselves: What does it mean to be ‘international?’” Robertson said. “We have an international presence, but that presence has never been conceptualized. Do we have the appropriate scale for these activities? Is there synergy across programs, or is there just excellence of individuals?”

The task force’s specific charge is to develop a 10-year view consistent with the University’s vision statement, which calls for Emory to be “internationally recognized” and to work for “positive transformation in the world” across its endeavors. This will involve an examination of, among other things, whether the University is organized structurally in a way that optimizes international potential; how much centralization of leadership and resources is required; and how much of a role individual schools will play.

“This is a very exciting time for Emory,” said Holli Semetko, vice provost for international affairs and director of the Halle Institute. “Our position in the field of higher education is unique internationally because
of the Carter Center, which is unanimously praised around the world. One of our obvious strengths is global health, and here too we are uniquely positioned because of our close cooperation with the CDC.

“Our faculty experts in all the schools come together in dynamic area studies programs and key institutes and centers, giving us cross fertilization among the disciplines,” Semetko continued. “This gives our students opportunities for a deeper understanding of challenges and developments internationally. We have a strong basis from which we can do more.”

“It’s important that students and faculty stretch themselves,” said Bruce Knauft, Samuel C. Dobbs Professor of Anthropology, who took over as executive director at the Institute for Comparative and International Studies. this summer. “We want to learn about internationalization, but we also want to experience it, so that it’s not simply a cerebral exercise. We want to grow in our own experience of what it means to be international, rather than just reproduce what we already know in a foreign context.”

One thing to keep in mind, Robertson said, is that the task force looks to maximize Emory’s international potential, not recommend change for change’s sake.

“We don’t want to change anything that’s working,” he said.