Emory Report
May 9, 2005
Volume 57, Number 30

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May 9 , 2005
Announcement of signature themes to wait until June

BY Michael Terrazas

At a retreat held April 29–30 at the Emory Conference Center, Emory’s deans, directors and members of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee and the President’s Cabinet made some decisions about the University’s proposed signature themes, but those decisions must first be reviewed by President Jim Wagner and the Board of Trustees (BOT) before being made public.

On the first day of the retreat, discussion leaders from each of the nine committees exploring the themes delivered presentations to complement the 10-page written reports they’d submitted in advance. All nine groups produced thoughtful documents, the steering committee agreed, and the subsequent decisions include elements from all nine themes.

However the steering committee acknowledged that some themes are reflected more directly in what it will recommend. Also, the committee identified other defined levels of activity in addition to “signature theme,” and these concepts also are being vetted by the administration.

“We realize people are eager and anxious to see what was decided—and that’s a good thing,” said Michael Johns, executive vice president for health affairs and steering committee co-chair. “That means this process has generated some intellectual excitement around these themes, which is exactly what we’re trying to accomplish. So we sincerely thank the signature theme committees for all their hard work in such a compressed amount of time, and we ask for just a little more patience as we decide the best course for moving forward.”

“I can’t say enough about the work of the theme committees,” said Johns’ fellow co-chair, Provost Earl Lewis. “In the middle of a busy academic year, groups of committed faculty, staff, students and alumni came together in a highly collaborative and collegial atmosphere to puzzle over these important topics and put forward solutions that will benefit the entire institution.”

Both Johns and Lewis were quick to point out that the bedrock of the strategic plan—the school and unit plans—are virtually complete and scheduled to be presented to the BOT over a three-day meeting, June 1–3. Toward the end of the April 29–30 retreat, most of Emory’s deans said their individual plans would change little or not at all in light of the signature theme decisions.

“We’re not going to build our reputation as a university solely on these themes,” Johns said. “We’re going to build our reputation based on what happens in the college, the medical school, business and all the others. These themes are ways to bring people together.”

“In a world too often defined by ‘winners’ and ‘losers,’ it’s helpful to point out that, in this process, the institution won,” Lewis said. “Emory won because we’ve identified these steps to move forward.”

Following the June BOT meeting, the steering committee will begin communicating aspects of the strategic plan over the summer, including themes, goals and initiatives.