January 29 , 2007
Courageous inquiry steers Emory closer to its vision
As a community, we are receiving high praise for having formulated a statement of our vision and a strategy to achieve it. Emory aspires to be a destination university, internationally recognized as an inquiry driven, ethically engaged and diverse community. We intend to work collaboratively for positive transformation in the world through courageous leadership. We want to distinguish ourselves by great teaching, path-breaking research, enduring scholarship, excellent health care and transformative social action. Our strategic plan thus calls us to step out boldly through big initiatives. It also calls us to uphold certain fundamental principles that guide our smaller daily decisions.
The product of broad, high energy and creative involvement by representatives of the entire Emory community, our strategic plan must now become a discipline. It must become the set of habits that guide our use of time, money and talents, so that we become comfortable with the plan, as if it were second nature. It calls us to high aspirations but also to hard work and patience to endure short-term inconveniences. In some ways it’s more fun to plan than to implement. But implementation ultimately brings greater reward.
To meet our goals will require not only discipline but also a sense of ownership. It is not enough merely to obediently follow instructions. We must own the desire to make Emory a good and great university, to achieve and seek success because we want to, not just because we are told that this is what we should do.
What better way to ensure ownership of Emory’s future than by engaging with this plan through dialogue, testing and re-evaluation?
Moving forward from planning to implementation of the plan can be challenging. Moving forward requires the discipline to make difficult decisions about allocating resources to support the strategies of the institution. But this discipline should be tempered with adaptability, a kind of ability to improvise within constraints, much the way a good jazz singer makes a Cole Porter song her own by riffing on the melody.
What other disciplines will we need? For one thing, we have taken on the practice of measuring the success or outcome of our strategies every year. Each January, beginning this month, we will undertake critical review of our progress against specific indicators for each of the strategic goals. The Provost’s Office has generated a “dashboard” of these indicators that provides a detailed snapshot of the University’s quality, measured by certain key statistics. These include, in the area of students, such measures as selectivity in admissions, national scholarships won by our graduates, diversity of our student body, scores of our seniors who take the LSAT, MCAT and GRE and so on. For our faculty, the measures include compensation as compared to that at our peers, memberships in the national academies, sponsored research and publications. For staff, the indicators include turnover, diversity and average compensation compared to the market.
By some of these measures we are doing quite well; in others we have a way to go before we can declare that we are truly a “destination university.”
On the other hand, it is exciting to be part of an organization that has a sense of where it is going. The comprehensive University-wide plan complements the plans for excellence in the schools, and the parts are working together.
What can we expect in the year ahead? We can expect investment and measurable progress within the initiatives of each of our five strategic themes:
• Strengthening Faculty
• Preparing Engaged
• Creating Community — Engaging Society;
• Confronting the Human
Condition and Human
• Exploring New Frontiers
in Science and Technology.
Furthermore, both our processes and accomplishments will bear the hallmarks of Emory’s special character, including integrity, collaborative engagement and determination to lead, not only as successful competitors, but also as exemplary contributors.
We will be measuring our success in implementing the plan as well as evaluating our effectiveness in using strategic funds. Although the strategic plan has been successfully set in motion, we continue to learn as we develop new organizational solutions, improve measures and indicators and adjust the paths to our goals.
During this next phase of our work, I encourage you to become fully engaged, and to take ownership of your own part of Emory’s strategic objectives.
With gratitude for your commitment to Emory’s bright future.
James W. Wagner