Emory Report
March 5, 2007
Volume 59, Number 22

Emory Report homepage  

March 5, 2007
Employees urged to expand roles at council meeting

BY carol clark

Cut off the leg of a spider and you have a wounded creature; cut off its head and the spider dies. But if you cut off the leg of a starfish, the starfish can simply grow a new one. In fact, the severed leg can also generate an entirely new starfish because starfish are decentralized organisms and replicate their major organs in each arm.

Think of Emory as a starfish organization, President Jim Wagner urged staff and faculty gathered for the Employee Council Annual Town Hall on Feb. 28. Wagner used the metaphor from the book “The Starfish and the Spider,” by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom, to emphasize that Emory needs to be driven by the power of shared principles and peer relationships, rather than rigid, hierarchical leadership.

“The responsibility, ownership, understanding and advocacy of Emory exists outside of the people sitting up here,” Wagner said, indicating the panel, which included Provost Earl Lewis, Executive Vice President of Finance and Administration Mike Mandl, Vice President and Secretary of the University Rosemary Magee and Vice President for Development Phil Hills.

The theme of the town hall, moderated by Employee Council President Linda Sheldon, was: “Do You Know Where Courageous Inquiry Leads?”

When giving campus presentations about Emory’s vision and its strategy for achieving it, Wagner said he often gets asked: What’s my role? How can I help? He said that every employee should “be a student of Emory,” to learn about how the University is contributing to the community and to the world. And secondly, each employee should take responsibility and ownership for Emory’s success.

As examples of Emory’s contribution to the local community, Wagner cited the creation of neighborhood activity centers, increased transportation choices, a pedestrian-friendly environment, partnerships with public schools and ongoing efforts to provide more affordable housing near the campus.

Emory’s contributions to the world include its pursuit of sustainability, its preparation of scholar-citizens and its initiatives in global health, predictive health, religion and the human spirit, race and difference, neuroscience and human behavior and computational and life sciences.

“Be proud of Emory. Know about these things – have them on the tip of your tongue,” Wagner said.

A few of the issues raised by questions from the audience included:

• The need for a single, central point of communications.
“Earlier this week, approval was given to move ahead on a major redesign of the Emory Web page,” Wagner said. One of the goals will be to improve its role as a central focus of communication both within and outside the University.

Wagner also urged everyone to read Emory Report each week. “Even if you just read the headlines, that would help,” he said.

• The problem of turnover caused by the end of grants and contracts.

“It’s a tough dynamic and it’s really a national issue [for universities], as well as an Emory issue,” Mandl said, adding that Emory has formed a human resources task force to work with the research community to find ways to retain talented staff currently employed by “soft” money. The task force is “making strides, but it’s really a multi-year challenge,” he said.

Phil Hills added that office of Development is looking into “how we can search out donors for bridge funds to fill lulls between grants.”

• The desire for more child-care and elder-care services for employees.

Child-care and dependent-care issues is currently a focus of the Emory Work-Life Task Force, said Magee, who co-chairs the task force. She urged interested employees to “be part of the discussion” by submitting “thoughts and suggestions” via the Online Work-Life Forum Web site at www.admin.emory.edu/StrategicPlan/worklife.

The Town Hall can be viewed on the Employee Council Web site at www.employeecouncil.emory.edu.