Emory Report
January 29, 2007
Volume 59, Number 17

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January 29 , 2007
Strengthening Faculty Distinction

BY kim urquhart

If Frances Smith Foster, Charles Howard Candler Professor of English and Women’s Studies, were to write the recipe for the success of a faculty, the ingredients would call for equal parts teacher and scholar, mixed with interdisciplinary work and flavored by professional recognition.

“A good cook surveys the pantry first,” says Foster, who believes an inventory of Emory’s classrooms, laboratories and libraries would reveal a well-stocked assortment of outstanding faculty members “who are respected and known outside in the larger universe, but who also take their work in the classroom, in their college and in the University just as seriously.”

Foster, who received the University Scholar/Teacher Award in 2006 in recognition of her contributions to the scholarly life of the University, is an example of the faculty excellence that Emory values. Foster’s tenure at Emory has raised the visibility of the African American studies, women’s studies and creative writing programs, in turn attracting other leading scholars to Emory. An excellent faculty also attracts exceptional undergraduate and graduate students, serves as role models for the next generation of faculty, and creates new knowledge that advances humanity.

Emory seeks to foster a culture that values and supports faculty excellence. Several initiatives are under way aimed at strengthening faculty distinction.

To celebrate, reward and retain distinguished faculty and recruit promising scholars, the University has committed $35 million to a Faculty Distinction Fund dedicated to the retention and recruitment of outstanding scholars. The fund, supplemented with $10 million for equipment related to research, will also serve to enhance faculty diversity.

Emory strives to balance the hiring of distinguished faculty, such as the headline-making faculty appointment of celebrated author Salman Rushdie, with the pursuit of building and sustaining an outstanding resident faculty. Outstanding faculty are being identified for nomination to the national academies and other prestigious awards. Promotion and tenure processes are being reviewed, and a University-wide dialogue has begun to discuss ways of defining faculty excellence and assessing career paths.

Developing guiding principles for building and strengthening faculty distinction is at the core of a series of “Year of the Faculty” conversations Provost Earl Lewis has initiated with each school and college to define faculty excellence and how to achieve it.

Enhancing opportunities for faculty development is a key component of strengthening faculty distinction. Emory’s existing faculty development activities on which to build include interdisciplinary faculty seminars, manuscript development and conference funding. Emory’s faculty newsletter, the Academic Exchange, provides an opportunity for a campus-wide faculty dialogue; and the Emeritus College invites retired faculty to remain engaged in the life and scholarship of the University. Funding for faculty research is available through a variety of small grants awarded through the University Research Committee.

“I absolutely love the ways in which Emory builds into our options for improving our own personal and professional knowledge,” says Foster, who is one of the faculty members featured on the Office of Academic Planning and Faculty Development’s new “Great Scholars, Great Works” Web site. “Emory gives me opportunities every single year for knowing more, for learning more.”

Foster also values Emory for its rich resources, such as the extensive collection of African American literature in Emory’s libraries, as well as the opportunities to interact with other faculty across disciplines. When Foster leaves her Emory quadrangle office and crosses the bridge to attend a seminar at Emory’s Center for Health, Culture and Society, for example, she feels like a “true citizen of the University” with access to a critical mass of science and humanities colleagues with whom to collaborate.

To provide further opportunities for collaboration and faculty development, Emory also plans to establish a Center for Faculty Excellence. Envisioned as an umbrella organization that will combine Emory’s existing resources for faculty development, one of the center’s first components under development is a University-wide Center for the Advancement of Scholarship on Teaching and Learning at Emory. Proposed by the University Advisory Council on Teaching, CASTLE is envisioned to promote and support Emory’s firm commitment to distinction in teaching.

And what is a university, after all, without its teachers?

“A university is about trying to put our theories into practice and to make sure that all this data we create can become knowledge,” says Foster. “This means that students — and society — must understand how to apply it, and this is why a strong faculty is essential.”

Upcoming faculty development events

Faculty Symposia
Thursdays, Feb. 15 and April 5, 5–7 p.m.
New faculty orientation workshops will focus on interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary scholarship, faculty development activities, university programs, and tenure and promotion processes at the central level. For more information, contact Stacia Brown at 404-727-9947 or stacia.brown@emory.edu.

Conference on End of Life Issues
As part of the Religions and Human Spirit strategic initiative, Emory’s Timothy Jackson and Margaret Battin from the University of Utah will discuss right-to-die issues on April 19 at the Emory Conference Center. On April 20, Emory faculty and Atlanta religious and civic leaders will participate in three panel discussions about end-of-life issues.

Manuscript Development Program Workshops
Upcoming colloquia slated for this spring will focus on working with literary agents, the implications of the recent Modern Language Report on Publication and Tenure, and writer’s block. Dates and times will be posted at www.emory.edu/PROVOST/acad_planning_fac_dev/ManuscriptDevelop/ManuDev.htm.

Gustafson Faculty Seminar
Participants in the 2007–2008 Gustafson Seminar, an interdisciplinary faculty seminar addressing topics of central importance to a variety of scholars from all facets of Emory’s intellectual community, will meet monthly over the course of three semesters to discuss the topic “The Purpose and Future of Liberal Education.”
For more information, contact Nick Fabian at rfabian@emory.edu.