Emory Report
October 25, 2004
Volume 57, Number 9


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October 25 , 2004
Wagner: Emory's state is 'very good'

BY Eric Rangus

Emory’s undergraduate population is the deepest and highest credentialed in its history. Oxford enrollment is up, and a new graduate school fellowship program is making recruiting easier.

External research funding topped $350 million, and proposals are on the table that could drive that figure higher next year. Entities as diverse as Facilities Management and athletics won national honors. Departments across campus had banner years attracting top scholars.

Still, minority enrollment is static in some cases, as is enrollment in some professional programs. And Emory fell from No. 18 to No. 20 in the prominent U.S. News and World Report rankings.

So with these statistics in mind, what is the State of the University?

“Emory is neither at the peak of its form, nor is it in decline or struggle,” said President Jim Wagner at the seventh annual State of the University address, Thursday night, Oct. 21, in Cox Hall. “In fact, if we want to talk very simply about what the state of the University is, I would say it’s very good.”

About 150 members of the Emory community attended the event, which had a town hall format. A question and answer period with audience members followed Wagner’s 35-minute address about all things Emory. The University’s current state was a subject of discussion, of course, but Wagner was primarily interested in talking about its future.

“Emory is at a moment in its history where it has an opportunity to seek greater fulfillment of its potential and to consider going beyond traditional levels of expectation,” Wagner said.

Saying there are “different levels of excellence,” Wagner challenged the community to practice “contributing excellence,” an idea he discussed at length. “Contributing excellence advances whatever it touches,” he said. “It changes the way other people think and do things. Other kinds of excellence like mere competitive excellence—they’re fine, they’re fun—[but] one can be a winner and exhibit competitive excellence yet still fall short of contributing excellence.

“Individual interactions between friends and colleagues represent opportunities for mentorship,” he continued. “They are opportunities to change each other not just through one-upsmanship, even if it is just by example.”

Wagner said the community can practice this type of contributing excellence by recognizing the differences between vocation and mere activity or employment, specifically the call to community versus simple coexistence; or valuable instead of lucrative research; professionalism instead of adequacy in staff roles; craftsmanship vs. superficial expediency in facilities; and wellness in health rather than mere survival in health care.

Returning to his central goal of making Emory a destination university, Wagner sketched out what must take place for that hope to be realized: Strong recruiting packages are needed to attract new faculty members and professional development opportunities available for current faculty; fair pay, benefits and recognition for staff; visibility and financial accessibility for students.

Wagner received a variety of questions from the audience ranging from how to promote award winners, partnerships with Fortune 500 companies, the role of the Board of Trustees and employee development. He was up-front and honest with his answers.

“We talk about attract, attract, attract, but retention is also a measure of what it means to be a destination university,” he said responding to a question about internal promotions for staff. “We are not doing as we should when we find that our staff cannot grow and develop and move up the ladder here.”