Emory Report
October 1, 2007
Volume 60, Number 6

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October 1, 2007
President’s address takes stock of Emory’s strengths

By Carol Clark

"Let me tell you, clearly and unequivocally, the state of Emory University is not merely good, it is very good," President James Wagner told the crowd gathered in Cox Ballroom on Sept. 25. Wagner outlined Emory's myriad achievements the past year, and its bright prospects for the coming one, in his annual State of the University address.

External indicators of Emory's rising status include its movement up to number 17 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of universities and the boost of the Goizueta Business School to number four in Business Week's rankings.

"You ignore these external rankings to your peril, but it would be absolutely wrong to use them to drive our University," Wagner said, stressing that Emory aspires to its own vision of an inquiry-driven, destination university. Since the strategic plan initiatives were launched in January of 2006 to support this vision, Emory has developed internal indicators to measure their impact.

"By most of those measures, we're doing quite well," Wagner said. He cited selectivity in admissions as one example: Four years ago 43 percent of students who applied were accepted. Each year, that percentage has become increasingly refined. This academic year, only 27 percent of applicants made it into Emory.

And Emory is making a measurable difference in terms of the number of patients cared for in its medical facilities, faculty publications cited by other scholars, major research projects, partnerships formed with communities and organizations, students graduating without enormous debt loads, works of art created and square-footage of green-certified buildings.

"In these areas, Emory is having an impact," Wagner said. "We know this, in part, because other institutions increasingly look at Emory as a leader." Last spring, for instance, after Emory launched the Emory Advantage financial aid program, "universities such as Stanford and Chicago began to emulate our lead," he said.

Emory's key strategic themes gained significant ground during the 2006-2007 academic year. Wagner gave a few examples:

  • His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama was named Presidential Distinguished Professor at Emory;
  • Emory established the Global Health Institute and, in conjunction with The Carter Center, the Institute for Developing Nations;
  • Ciannett Howett (C'87) became the University's first director of sustainability initiatives;
  • Ozzie Harris became Emory's first vice provost for community and diversity;
  • An Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response was established, and Alexander Isakov was appointed its first director;
  • The Center for Health Discovery and Well Being opened at the Emory Crawford Long campus in Midtown;
  • The Bill and Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry was established;
  • The first "green" residence hall, Turman Hall, opened for freshman, the keystone of a planned complex to enrich the freshman experience;
  • The new School of Medicine building opened and construction begins this year on a host of other major projects, including the new Emory Clinic, a mixed-used development on Clifton, and expanded facilities for the departments of theology and psychology.

"The list goes on and on," Wagner said of Emory's year of growth and success. He noted the Pulitzer Prize won by Natasha Trethewey, Phillis Weatley Distinguished Chair in Poetry, as one of the crowning achievements of the faculty.

It was a good year for Emory students, as well, he said, praising Zachary Manfredi for becoming a 2007 Rhodes Scholar and Aimi Hamraie and Julie Hoehn for winning the National Debate Tournament – the first all-female team in the 61-year history of the contest to do so.

Wagner cited survey results that reveal the success of the strategic theme "Preparing Engaged Scholars." The national average for undergraduates who are engaged in service projects is 59 percent, while at Emory it is 80 percent. The national average of undergraduates who join study abroad programs is 19 percent, while at Emory that figure exceeds 40 percent.

"We at Emory are blessed with a genuine richness, not merely financial wealth," Wagner concluded. "What we are doing at Emory is translating the value of our endowment, our human talent, creativity and imagination into a making a sustained and powerful impact on the world of education and society at large. And thus, to fulfill the pledge embodied in our vision statement, that we aspire to make a positive transformation in the world."

Wagner’s complete address is archived and can be accessed at: http://realaudio.service.emory.edu/ramgen/EVENTS/SOTU/sotu2007.rm.