Emory Report
June 20, 2005
Volume 58, Number 33


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June 20, 2005
Trustees give passing grade to strategic plan during retreat

BY Michael Terrazas

At a retreat held June 1–3, the Board of Trustees gave Emory’s nearly completed strategic plan an enthusiastic reception, and now only a few more months of hard work remain before the plan is unveiled to the public this fall.

Over two-plus days of presentations, panel discussions, dinner speeches and other meetings, the board was acquainted with every major aspect of the plan, which since early 2004 has taken shape through the efforts of at least 1,000 people spread across the University. The plan’s goal is nothing less than helping Emory leap into the highest tier of American research universities, and the theme of transformation was signaled early on; when the trustees arrived June 1 at the Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation, on Lake Oconee, they were greeted with a dinner address by President Jim Wagner titled “Emory: Where Courageous Inquiry Leads.”

“Over the next decade, Emory University will achieve distinction as a place where engaged scholars come together in a strong and vital community to confront the human condition and explore 21st century frontiers in science and technology,” Wagner said. “We can foster the great personal good of our community’s members while also seeking solutions that serve the public good of our neighbors and the world. And we can do so in a way that helps to restore and preserve America’s leadership in higher education. We dare not waste this moment; we must not let this opportunity pass unclaimed.”

The following morning, Provost Earl Lewis and Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Michael Johns, who co-chair the Strategic Plan Steering Committee, moderated a pair of panel discussions with Emory’s deans and directors of select units such as Emory Healthcare, Campus Life, University Libraries and the Carlos Museum. The first session covered the bedrock of the strategic plan—the individual school and unit plans—while the second session explained ways to bridge those schools and units through an architecture of cross-cutting initiatives, strategic themes and fundamental principles.

Later at the Thursday night dinner, Adam Gross of the Baltimore architectural firm Ayers/Saint/Gross, which is consulting with Emory on its current campus master plan update, walked the trustees through a slideshow of what the University’s physical campus could look like in the coming years and decades. And in conclusion on Friday morning, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Mike Mandl and Senior Vice President for Development and University Relations Johnnie Ray touched on the financing of the plan, both in the short term through newly identified revenue streams and in the longer term through the upcoming comprehensive campaign.

The trustees asked pointed questions. They addressed gaps or shortcomings as they saw them. They were (understandably) curious about how Emory planned to fund its ambitions. But there was no resistance to any of the plan’s major components; indeed, what criticisms were made centered on what they didn’t see, not what they did. For example, some wanted more emphasis on teaching; others asked what Emory will do to compete with Internet-based education; still others wondered whether more attention could be paid to what makes a university great from a student’s perspective.

But the praises were voiced with more passion. “I think your vision is magnificent,” said Alvin Sugarman, ’60B, ’88G, rabbi emeritus of The Temple in Atlanta. “If I were in the cash-raising department, I’d be loaded for bear. Anyone with resources and vision would be excited to support what you’ve put before us.”

“What’s good is that you’ve focused on outcomes,” said Laura Hardman, ’67C, BOT secretary. “It’s not just building up faculty; it’s about what those faculty are going to do. That’s where I think people will invest.”

A public rollout of the strategic plan is scheduled for this fall. Through the rest of the summer, each school and unit will develop a cost analysis and resource plan, which will be assimilated into a University-wide document. A funding stream of some $25 million per year—derived from royalties of Emory patents, a restructuring of the University’s internal bank, and contributions from the schools’ restricted endowment streams—will enable work on strategic initiatives to get under way immediately.