January 7, 2011
Nearly 175 years ago, the fledgling Emory College was chartered 40 miles west of Atlanta—a decade before the settlement called Marthasville was even named Atlanta. The school’s mission was to mold character, even as it honed proficiency in such arts as Latin and mathematics among a corps of 15 young men paying $135 a year.
Centuries and miles removed from its natal home, the Emory of 2010 is much larger, immeasurably more diverse, and vastly more accomplished—numbered among the Top 20 universities nationally, according to US News & World Report, and located in the top third of the Top 200 globally, according to the 2010 Times Higher Education World University Rankings.
How has this long arc of growth and maturation been sustained and even accelerated over the past five years, as Emory began to implement the 10-year strategic plan forged by upwards of a thousand faculty, staff and students in 2004-2005?
With dollars, decisions and daring bets, according to the University’s senior leadership.
“The past five years disclose steady progress in quality, productivity and external recognition for our faculty.”
-Provost Earl Lewis
“The past five years disclose steady progress in quality, productivity and external recognition for our faculty, as we pursued a Faculty Distinction Fund strategy that balanced the recruitment of academic stars with the ethical commitments we have to our existing talent,” says Earl Lewis, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “From named chairs to mid-career associate professors to junior arrivals, Emory today has a richer, deeper professoriate than we did even at the turn of the 21st century.”
In a period when external research funding has increased to $535 million a year, the University also nearly doubled its faculty membership in select national academies, from 17 to 33, and added 138 net new tenured and tenure track faculty, for an overall growth rate of 13 percent. New PhD tracks have been added in areas such as biomedical informatics and religion, conflict and peacebuilding. New master’s programs have been launched in bioethics; computation and statistics; and development practice.
Mike Mandl, executive vice president for finance and administration, says the campus has been in some important measure transformed by major investments in the special residential educational experience that the top universities deliver. For instance, the administration has continued to grow on-campus housing for undergraduates, in the belief that the digital, networked world of the 21st century will retain a place for institutions offering a personalized collegiate experience at the heart of a world-class research university.
“Some of the most provocative and important initiatives generated by the strategic plan have at least one foot in the health sciences, but they span other divisions, creating new interdisciplinary pathways for the benefit of faculty, students and society alike.”
-S. Wright Caughman,
interim head of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center
A campus map shows no fewer than 15 major construction projects since 2005, representing one of the most active periods of building in Emory’s history. Importantly, all were designed to enhance elements of the strategic plan and foster the intellectual community. Projects ranged from the environmentally “green” Freshman Village (whose build-out continues apace); to major academic and research facilities such as the Candler School of Theology, the Center for Ethics, and the Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies Building; to major campus enhancements such as the new front entrance and nearby Oxford Road Building, with its upgraded admissions space and community-facing retail and social spaces.
“We are particularly proud of the recognition Emory has earned in the past several years as an excellent place to work,” Mandl says. “This is a reflection of the character of its people and environment.” Examples include repeated recognition by The Scientist magazine and The Chronicle for Higher Education.
S. Wright Caughman, interim executive vice president for health affairs and CEO of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, points to construction of the James B. Williams Medical Education Building and the Claudia Nance Rollins Building, along with the acquisition of the Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital, as examples of the continuing vitality of the health sciences enterprise. Equally important have been the new directions in research and scholarship forged by the strategic plan.
“Some of the most provocative and important initiatives generated by the strategic plan have at least one foot in the health sciences,” says Caughman, “but they span other divisions, creating new interdisciplinary pathways for the benefit of faculty, students and society alike. We are particularly proud of the signature work done by Jeff Koplan and his colleagues in the Global Health Institute, which quite simply defines Emory in many far corners of the globe. The new global health minor almost immediately became the most popular minor for undergraduates in Emory College.”
“Even beyond that,” says Caughman, “strategic initiatives in the neurosciences, in computational biology and life sciences, in predictive health, and in the relations between medicine, public health, nursing and religion, have created novel conversations and programs whose full impact may not be evident for years. New ways of understanding old disciplines, even new disciplines entirely, are in the process of being born right now.”
He acknowledges that one still-missing piece in the University’s 10-year plan as it was envisioned five years ago is the deferred hospital construction on Clifton Road. Plans for a new Emory Clinic and associated patient bed towers, across the road from Emory University Hospital, were put on hold in 2008 as the worldwide economic downturn deepened.
Caughman says he expects Emory Healthcare’s needs for expansion and revitalization of patient care facilities in the Clifton Corridor to be addressed in the coming year.
Among the University’s boldest wagers was its decision to commit to a public launch of Campaign Emory, the $1.6 billion fundraising campaign, in a state that had never seen any institution raise $1 billion, and in the face of a rapidly escalating economic crisis.
“To say that September 2008 was not an auspicious time to go public with the University’s first named campaign in 15 years—and with a goal this large and this unprecedented—would be to put it mildly,” says President Jim Wagner.
“The fact that we have been able to raise approximately $300 million since then, and $1.1 billion in all, gives us the heart to believe we made the right decision. Our own faculty and staff have already exceeded their ambitious goal for MyEmory. This is especially gratifying, because it suggests that those who know Emory best, support it the most strongly.”
More from the Strategic Plan Update issue