Emory Report
November 8, 2004
Volume 57, Number 11


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November 8, 2004
SRO Winship crowd hears update, call for more input

BY Michael Terrazas

If the attendance at last week’s town hall meeting was any indication, those responsible for guiding Emory’s strategic planning process won’t have any problem drumming up interest and participation.

A capacity crowd packed into Winship Ballroom at lunchtime, Nov. 4, to hear executive vice presidents Earl Lewis and Michael Johns, co-chairs of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee, give an update on where the process stands and what is needed as it moves forward.

Most important at the moment, Provost Lewis explained, is the identification
of a handful of “signature” themes for Emory. These themes can arise from any corner of the University, Lewis said, but they must be (1) cross-cutting, (2) innovative and transformative, and (3) mission and vision

Three examples Lewis gave were “Mind and Brain,” “Predictive Health” and “Religion and Public Policy.” None of these has been chosen as a signature theme—the provost also showed a slide of some dozen other ideas—but they each have the necessary characteristics.

Over the next couple months, the steering committee will convene groups of faculty, staff and students to discuss the themes and identify which should be considered truly “signature” for the University; about five or six will be chosen for presentation to the Board of Trustees next summer. Above all, Lewis said, the themes must capture something that is uniquely Emory.

“Go on other schools’ websites and look at their strategic plans,” he said. “A lot of them end by saying, ‘We want better students, better faculty and better staff.’ If at the end of the day that is our strategic plan, then we’ve failed you.”

Lewis was quick to add, however, that the strategic plan must not be a “straitjacket”; Emory should retain some “nimbleness,” as Johns put it, to pursue new, unexpected opportunities as they arise. The provost even attempted to quantify this capacity, floating the idea that perhaps 15 percent of Emory’s resources—financial, intellectual, energetic, etc.—be left available to be deployed on short notice.

Johns, director of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, described the particular strengths and challenges Emory faces, such as (on the strength side) its location in Atlanta, “robust” financial condition, strong service ethos and major health care delivery arm, among others. On the challenge side are needs for increased national and international recognition of Emory, higher profile graduate programs, elimination of barriers to collaborative programming, infrastructure to support growth and strategic partnerships within the Atlanta community.

At the end of their presentation, Lewis and Johns fielded questions and comments from the audience. Indeed, the major theme of the event was a call for participation, both formally through committees yet to be formed and more informally through the strategic planning website (www.admin.emory.edu/StrategicPlan). The site features a comment section where anyone can post his or her thoughts, either about existing aspects of the plan or to propose new ones.

Audience questions ranged from the need to balance adding people versus adding buildings, to the need to develop metrics to gauge Emory’s success, to comments about the need to connect with students and further Emory’s relationship with Georgia Tech.

Both Lewis and Johns also stressed even though the strategic plan will go before the board next summer for approval, that doesn’t mean the process will be over.

“Strategic planning is a process, recognizing that we’ll add to it—it won’t end in 2005,” Lewis said, “We’ll have to refine it and see whether we’re on track. This is a process that will animate our activities over the next several years.”