Emory Report
March 28, 2005
Volume 58, Number 24


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March 28, 2005
Strategic Planning town hall explores proposed signature themes

BY Michael Terrazas

About 40 people got a glimpse last week of ongoing discussions of Emory’s proposed signature themes at a strategic planning town hall meeting, March 23 at noon in Cox Hall Ballroom.

Representatives from eight of the nine commitees exploring the proposed themes described their discussions to date on the themes, and Strategic Planning Steering Committee co-chairs Michael Johns (executive vice president for health affairs) and Provost Earl Lewis talked briefly about the overall planning process. The meeting had a different tone than the last strategic plan town hall in November, when a capacity crowd packed into Winship Ballroom; last week, with about 40 audience members scattered around 25 tables, there was considerably more elbow room.

Johns opened the event with a review of the process and preview of the upcoming time line. He said the steering committee will present a substantially finished—but not necessarily final—version of the strategic plan to the Board of Trustees at a June retreat. Then, in September, the plan will get a public roll-out for the University community.

He then turned the floor over to the panel of signature theme discussion leaders, who one by one reported on the work their groups (each composed of about 30 faculty, staff, students and even alumni) have done. Some of the theme leaders dwelt mostly on Emory’s existing resources; some talked about the opportunities that exist for the University in the theme areas; others focused on the resources or structures that could be useful in capitalizing on the themes.

All the theme leaders spoke with the passion of advocates. “We really felt this topic transcended all themes,” said Clinton Kilts, professor of psychiatry and behavioral science and co-leader of the “Critical Inquiry and Creative Expression” group.

Peter Brown, professor of anthropology and co-leader for “Global Health,” said his group felt global health “is Emory’s destiny,” recalling that Robert Woodruff was guided into philanthropy by a concern about malaria among workers at his south Georgia plantation.

Several theme leaders said their themes fit perfectly with Emory’s vision statement, offering compelling explanations of why this was true. This serves to highlight the importance of the signature theme committees’ work, as Lewis repeated that, sometime in late April, the steering committee will select three to five themes that will be adopted in the strategic plan and given special prominence in Emory’s upcoming comprehensive campaign.

“The questions we’re putting on the table are incredibly important,” said Lewis, who pointed out that simply bringing together the theme committees—whose members are drawn from all corners of the Emory enterprise—will yield its own rewards.

The town hall arrived squarely in the middle of a series of open meetings of the theme committees. Six of the groups met last Tuesday and Wednesday night, and tonight (March 28) the last three—“Race, Racism and Society,” “Citizen as Scholar and Scholar as Citizen,” and “Critical Inquiry and Creative Expression”—will open their meetings to the public from 6–7:30 p.m. in the Emory Conference Center’s main ballroom.

There will be another overall strategic planning town hall on Wednesday, April 20, from noon to 1:30 p.m. in a location to be determined. For the most up-to-date information on strategic planning, visit www.admin.emory.edu/strategic_plan/.