"...there are some things only colleges and universities can do..."
As we pass the midway point of our ten-year strategic plan, we continue to be certain that, for Emory, “where courageous inquiry leads” will be to the place where Emory is a great uni-versity, not a multi-versity.
We have spoken about this before—about how Emory has the opportunity to build bridges and buttresses between strong elements that in other institutions have hardened into stand-alone silos. Now is a perfect time for us at Emory to reach out our hands and stick out our necks to do what Emory may be uniquely positioned to do. Our efforts to address the recent budgetary difficulties actually have driven our deans, unit directors, and divisional leaders to levels of more open discussion and transparency than ever before.
Along these lines, the unifying potential of Emory College of Arts and Sciences is immense and promising. Welcoming Robin Forman as our new Emory College dean has meant welcoming also his vision that the liberal arts can enhance elements of the missions of every unit that collectively we call Emory. It is exciting to consider the ways our graduate school, our professional schools, the libraries, Oxford College, health care, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, and the Michael C. Carlos Museum all can help produce an even more powerful and distinctive liberal arts education at Emory.
In 2003 Emory’s trustees prepared a prospectus to inform candidates being recruited through a nationwide search for the presidency of the University. I kept my copy of that prospectus. Within it were four key agenda items developed by a widely consultative process that had included students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the neighboring community.
This last agenda item was not about the protection of Emory College but rather about securing and insisting upon its expected role as a central hub critical for pursuing the mission of a liberal arts–based research university.
Attention to this challenge and opportunity not only will carry us farther toward achieving our strategic goals but also will help us reinforce for ourselves and others the value of a life of the mind. It will require identifying and investing in our strengths, while leaving for others the work that they might do better than we. It will require recovering and reassigning critical resources, becoming comfortable again with taking risks, and following our best judgment in order to lead rather than waiting for others to show us the way.
In 2011 we will celebrate the distinctive culture of Emory University more publicly, as we mark its 175th anniversary. Plans have been under way for some months to observe the University’s anniversary in a variety of ways appropriate to the academy, from special lectures and performances to the sounding of anniversary notes in annual events, from banners across the campus to the identification of 175 Emory history makers who have influenced their times and ours since 1836. Toward the end of 2011, we anticipate a commemorative academic convocation.
All of this will be done not just to note that we are getting older—there’s nothing special in that—but to underscore the importance of a great university to the fabric of society.
Although all kinds of enterprises contribute to the vitality of life in local and global community, there are things that only colleges and universities can do. Few places other than universities provide space and time for the pursuit of the most fundamental questions, places where ambiguity is valued, where a forum exists for people to come together with violently opposed views so that they can engage nonviolently—where ideas, not people, do battle.
I am proud that Emory continues to emerge as a vital institution in this noble work, one recognized increasingly as a destination for those who share our vision.
James W. Wagner
It may sound odd to say that our alumni present a challenge for the coming year. Fortunately, they present a happy challenge—of continuing to engage effectively with alumni who clearly are clamoring to be engaged. The growth of alumni engagement with Emory’s extended mission has been accelerating in recent years. The prospectus prepared for recruiting Emory’s president in 2003 boasted that Emory enjoyed a base of some 70,000 living alumni. Only a few years later, after renewing our focus on these important partners in our mission, that number was reported to be not 70,000 but 110,000. We did not graduate 40,000 students in those intervening years, but we did reconnect with alumni who had dropped off our radar screen. Our Development and Alumni Relations office has been working hand-in-hand with an energized Emory Alumni Board to implement aggressive plans for our alumni to participate in ensuring Emory’s impact. The time is right for our alumni to understand that being an alumnus or alumna of Emory University is much more than being an emeritus student.