Emory Report
October 1, 2007
Volume 60, Number 6

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October 1, 2007
Report captures Year of the Faculty dialogues, outlines actions

By Kim Urquhart

Faculty should have discovered in their mailboxes last week a copy of a handsome blue book titled, “A Community of Excellence: Reflections and Directions from the Year of the Faculty.” Contained inside are analyses of national and Emory trends and data; essays capturing an insider’s perspective; and suggested actions that express the voice of the faculty as the University continues to invest new levels of strategic resources to build and strengthen a faculty of excellence.

Culled primarily from a series of faculty dialogues held throughout the 2006–07 academic year — and continuing a longer tradition of intense self-reflection and engagement at Emory — the report examines challenges and opportunities related to faculty recruitment and retention; faculty roles; development, promotion and tenure; balancing research, teaching and service; and the pursuit of diversity.

“The Year of the Faculty dialogues have helped to underscore the importance and dimensions of pursuing continued faculty excellence,” writes Earl Lewis, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and Claire Sterk, senior vice provost for academic planning and faculty development, who produced the book with contributions from authors across the University.

“This is really the faculty’s voice,” said Sterk, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Public Health. “Every topic was generated by the faculty. Our goal was to capture the best of what faculty have urged and offered, while putting it into a larger context.”

The report is a “community product” that outlines issues that will shape the University’s future, said Lewis, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of History and African American Studies.

Sections such as “The Graying Professoriate” examine the national picture of changing faculty demographics. How this trend will impact Emory was one of several driving forces behind the Year of the Faculty conversations and the creation of this report, which makes a case for careful and systematic preparation on the part of faculty, departments, deans and the University at large to handle the expected increase in faculty retirements over the next 10 years.

“Last year, as the evidence mounted, we thought, ‘We are about to experience a significant generational transition,’” Lewis explained. “We could wait for that transition to happen to us, or we could plan for the transition.”

The report is organized into three central components. “The first is a scholarly reflective analysis looking at this generational transition and tying that transition to the normal frame of academic life and structure,” said Lewis. “Ultimately the question became: How do we prepare Emory to continue to grow and develop as an institution? How do we make this a fine place to work and a place that attracts and develops people of visible excellence? In other words, how do we move from strength to strength?”

The second section details faculty development actions initiated during the Year of the Faculty dialogues and outlines a series of new initiatives planned for this year. The final section encompasses a series of essays from faculty and graduate students that offer an insider’s perspective on important aspects of university life, from seeking tenure to embracing retirement.

“Having essays by graduate students symbolizes how it’s not just about us, it’s about the next generation of faculty,” said Sterk.

“What the essays suggest is that this project is not finished in one year,” said Lewis. “We have outlined a pretty bold agenda for ourselves as we attempt to tackle a range of issues. Last year’s exchanges and initial action steps are just the beginning.”

Lewis hopes the report will serve as a “living document.” An online version will be updated to keep pace as new steps emerge in the University’s initiative to strengthen faculty distinction.

Sterk and Lewis said the report helps set the stage for Emory to be a leader in faculty distinction, to tackle the undergirding issues affecting institutions around the nation while retaining the Emory identity and culture. “Change is difficult,” Sterk said, “but it’s also an opportunity for us to be in many ways the leader that faculty have expressed they would like us to be.”