Point of View: 2012
The Annual Report of Emory University
I. In the race and feeling good
Let me say at the outset that I believe the state of Emory University is very good indeed. But let me go further and say that the state of Emory is good in the same way as a marathon runner, at mile 18, pronounces her progress "good."
2012 and Beyond
"We can be grateful for the place that we have come to as an institution." President James W. Wagner assesses Emory's achievements in 2012.
Naturally, she may be feeling some muscle aches, may be developing a blister, may be acutely aware that she still has eight more miles to go. Yet, balancing that, she may be in that zone of a runner’s high where the endorphins are flowing, or may just have passed a group of runners, or may recognize that she’s on pace for a personal best time. “Good” is where she finds herself after this mental calculus.
Ask her ten hours later how she feels—after a massage, something to drink and eat, and maybe a nap—and she’ll also probably say “good.” But it’s a different kind of “good,” because it’s another kind of state.
Emory is that runner at mile 18. We cannot ignore that we are working hard, that we hit some unexpected steep hills just a few miles back, or that the finish line is nowhere in sight. But we are “doing good.”
175 (years, not miles)
Last year we celebrated the 175th anniversary of Emory’s founding through a series of events, which culminated in our bringing back to campus many of those who have made history as a result of their association with Emory.
At our anniversary convocation in December 2011, there was a spirit of grateful recollection about the miles that Emory has run so far, joined by an equally palpable spirit of determination about Emory’s present and optimism about Emory’s future.
And why not? Our campus is home to the Division III national championship men’s tennis team and the poet laureate of the United States, Natasha Trethewey. It is also home to the national championship women’s swimming and diving team and another faculty poet who just won the American Book Award, Kevin Young. This past year English Professor Ron Schuchard was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Biology Professor Bruce Levin was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
We are nearing completion of a major new medical research building on Haygood Drive and have broken ground for a new library at Oxford College. From the pocket park in Emory Village to the impressive complex of Emory Point, we have helped to define Emory’s presence as a good neighbor in our community.
And from Dharamsala, India, where the first cohort of Tibetan monks and nuns completed the five-year course in the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative, to the Republic of Georgia, where Emory physician faculty members are implementing a medical training program that will strengthen the work of every doctor and nurse in that country, we have helped to define Emory’s presence as a powerful contributor to intellectual and social transformation in the world.
The University HealthSystem Consortium, an alliance of 116 academic health centers, recognized Emory University Hospital and Emory University Hospital Midtown as the second-best and sixth-best in quality, respectively, out of more than 250 hospitals affiliated with academic medical centers throughout the nation—the first time ever that a single health system has had two hospitals ranked in the top 10 for quality.
We have weathered the worst of our transition to a new economic environment, with our financial health strained but still sound.
Our strategic plan, now in its eighth year, is entering an interesting and important phase of transition toward a reaffirmation of certain of our directions. Campaign Emory, which aimed at raising the resources to support that plan and move Emory forward, has crossed the finish line and surpassed our goal of $1.6 billion by the end of December 2012.
Clearly, there is much to celebrate as we review the state of Emory. The inventiveness and curiosity of our faculty and students are stronger than ever. The aspiration for eminence impels the work of our staff and administrators. The energy of this small city of some 40,000 men and women, who participate in or directly support every kind of academic and clinical endeavor, is dynamic almost beyond description. So, we can be grateful for the place we have come to as an institution, as a community of scholars, students, and lifelong learners.
II. Measuring our progress
Customarily, I would dwell on each of these achievements and many more in reviewing the hundreds of reasons why we can take pride in Emory. But this year I would like to lift our sights to some broader matters that have captured our attention—matters that promise to shape the direction of our university life for years to come. Some would see them as threats; I hope that we might see them as opportunities.
Let me first review where we have come from. Seven years ago, we set out to plan for what we hoped would be a decade of transformative growth at Emory. In the annual report of 2005, I noted ways that we might both guide and measure our progress toward our aspirations. As Emory became the destination for the best faculty, the best students, and the best investments by philanthropy and research support, we could expect to pass clear milestones. Recall just a few of those.
Destination for faculty
- We said that we should aim to double our base of research support from $350 million to $735 million; this year our base was $519 million, not quite halfway to where we want to be.
- We said that the number of faculty elected to national academies should increase from 18 to 50; that number stands at 35.
- We said that the number of national faculty awards, such as Guggenheim Fellowships and the National Humanities Medal, should rise from 14 a year to 40; in 2011 we received 17.
Statistics and rankings never have been our primary focus, but they are—in some measure—the results of doing things right. These are a few of the ways we have measured Emory’s growing faculty eminence. What about our students?
Destination for students
- We said that the number of doctoral students should double, moving Emory higher among the universities regenerating the professoriate. Last year we awarded 243 PhD degrees, not quite halfway to our goal of 324 for 2015.
- In 2005 we accepted 36 percent of applicants to Emory College of Arts and Sciences, and we wanted to move that number down to 25 percent by 2015; last year it was 27 percent.
- At the other end of the college degree, the five-year graduation rate for undergraduates at Emory was 83 percent in 2005, and we wanted it to be 90 percent; last year it was 89 percent.
- We wanted the number of National Merit Scholars enrolling each year to double from 59 to 118; last year we enrolled 49, so clearly we have some work to do if we want that number to rise. With a new dean of Emory College admission and with best practices in recruitment, we can expect to see that happen.
- We also wanted to double the number of Emory students who are finalists for the national scholarships such as the Rhodes, Marshall, Fulbright, and National Science Foundation scholarships; we had 27 finalists in 2005 and 23 last year, so again we have work to do.
- Finally, we wanted the percentage of Emory undergraduates from other nations to jump from 3.8 percent to 10 percent, revised a bit later to 12 percent; last year they were 13 percent.
Again, these numbers and rankings are not intrinsically motivating but are the result of doing things right.
Philanthropy to Emory
In 2005 our annual unrestricted giving totaled $110 million, 39th among colleges and universities nationally. We thought that number should be $285 million, putting Emory 12th, by 2015. Last year it was $212 million.
On the other hand, we wanted the percentage of alumni giving back to their alma mater to move from 34 percent to greater than 38 percent. Despite vibrant programming and a strong alumni board, that number remains at 34 percent—still very good, but not where we would like it.
With a solid strategic plan informed by faculty throughout the university and guided by thoughtful initiative leaders and an excellent implementation committee, we set out to build on Emory’s strengths. We still have work to finish, but we have let some initiatives end; we have made others integral parts of longstanding components of the university; and still others are continuing in new ways.
III. Demands and disruptions
As we have been pursuing our strategies, we have continued to hear that, no matter what we are doing at Emory, higher education—that great abstraction—is failing in various ways.
On one hand, higher education is accused of neglecting its obligation to the public good by requiring too much from taxpayers, and on the other hand it is accused of neglecting its obligation to the private good by not preparing students for careers. Pundits also say that higher education risks becoming irrelevant to the 21st century and simultaneously risks losing its bearings by forgetting the old liberal arts. There is a welter of conflicting points of view about the state of American higher education.
Equally disturbing is the degree to which forces beyond our immediate control have made the climate for higher education less hospitable, whether we are talking about the global economy, federal support of research, state, and federal regulations, or conflicting attitudes about whether education itself is a public good or merely a private one.
Emory's place in higher education
At Emory we have a fairly specific point of view about American higher education and about where we find ourselves.
First, American higher education is highly segmented, and that segmentation matters. No diagnosis or prescription will fit every institution. Of the 4,600 institutions of higher education, fewer than 200 are research-intensive universities, and only 62 of those are in the Association of American Universities, the top research institutions in the country. Only 39 of those also have medical centers. Emory is one of them. Our niche matters.
Second, research universities such as Emory will remain relevant far into this century and probably the next. The enhancement of human society depends greatly on the kinds of research being done at Emory, whether it is in vaccine development or behavioral psychology, whether it is the invention of new ways to teach dance and music or the deepening of our understanding of human history.
The third point I would make is that the financial stresses experienced by research universities during the past decade will continue to be unrelenting and profound. Even as we will and must continue to charge tuition, it is no longer possible for any institution to depend on tuition to fuel growth. Nor can we count on some of the traditional streams of research support. And as 2008 demonstrated, our endowment income is hostage to unpredictable and sometimes catastrophic financial markets. We must find new income streams.
Nevertheless, for this very reason, my fourth point should give us encouragement. Despite the stresses we experience, there are many opportunities for growth, new revenue streams, and recharging of our commitment and vision.
My fifth point is related to this: in order to seize these opportunities, we must be disruptively innovative. Much has been written about the way disruptive technologies have made certain industries obsolete—the way, for instance, Gutenberg’s press put thousands of scribes out of the business of copying manuscripts. Some see new technologies that threaten to make universities obsolete. I am more optimistic. Without denying the realities in front of us, I believe that we at Emory have the courage and inventiveness to lead in the same way that the printing press did in the age of scribes, the automobile did in the railroad era, and iTunes did in the music industry.
Let me turn in the next part of this report to some of those opportunities before us, and let me suggest how the administration is working with the faculty to make them top priorities for the immediate future—and by “immediate future,” I mean this academic year.
IV. Engaging the community
We have identified nine priorities, which might be thought of as "Moving Emory Forward" in three broadly defined ways. First, let's think of moving Emory forward by engaging the community.
The Contribution of Our Faculty
Professor of Biology and President of the University Senate Gray F. Crouse reflects on the "amazing talent" among the Emory faculty and ways that faculty can contribute to decision making at the highest levels.
Defining Emory's Essential Contributions
Gray F. Crouse on strategies for Emory's future—becoming a better place to teach, do research, and contribute to society—and identifying the university's essential contributions.
Our first priority is empowering faculty responsibility for the future of the university. Developing Emory’s vision statement nine years ago required a collaborative enterprise and input from every participant. The faculty were integral to that process, as they were to the subsequent development of our strategic plan. No great university retains its greatness for very long without the diligent exercise of wisdom, intelligence, and commitment by its faculty. Those of us privileged to serve in the administration are here as supporting players, eager to invite, facilitate, encourage, and help find the resources for the faculty’s fulfillment of Emory’s mission.
We are fortunate that, on several new fronts, Emory faculty members have peered into the future and found it beckoning their energies in creative ways. The first of these is the initiative to examine the state of the liberal arts and their continuing promise as a keystone to American higher education in the coming quarter-century. Two years ago Emory College faculty broached the importance of this topic with members of the administration, and last spring former Provost Earl Lewis followed up on these conversations by appointing the Commission on the Liberal Arts. As the commission considers possible directions for the liberal arts at Emory—whether new degree programs, a revised curriculum, interdisciplinary innovations, or even new ways of structuring departments and schools—we know that the commission’s deliberations will chart a path that will attract and serve others in higher education.
University Senate President Gray F. Crouse outlines one more example of faculty leadership along these lines—the proposal to have the Faculty Council and the Senate focus on the theme of university finances:
Most private research universities, and certainly Emory, cannot continue to operate as they have in the past decades, even apart from the Great Recession. The primary reason is financial—operating as private universities have done is too expensive and continues to become relatively more expensive, in a manner that is unsustainable. My perception, confirmed in talking with many colleagues, is that most faculty are oblivious to these realities. It appears to be generally thought that once this crisis is over, . . . we can go back to the way things were before. Believing as I do in faculty governance, I would argue that this problem is not one to be solved by the university administration alone. My goal is to get faculty to engage with these problems, to understand the consequences of the financial pressures on higher education, and to consider what we as faculty can and should do to influence the course of changes that must come. . . . [W]e want the future Emory to be “better.” How, then, do we become “better” if we can’t continue to function as we have?
Promotion and tenure
Critical to the faculty’s ownership of the future of Emory is the issue of promotion and tenure. Former Provost Lewis did a superb job in working with the deans and the President’s Advisory Committee to define standards of eminence for judging whether faculty members have cleared the bar for tenure. Current Provost Claire Sterk and Wright Caughman, our executive vice president for health affairs, have set in motion a further deepening of our collective understanding of what it means to have tenure, including examining models at other universities.
Wright is guiding a pilot program in the School of Medicine with the active participation and enthusiasm of the departmental chairs. They are examining new ways to ensure Emory’s commitment to great faculty members throughout the cycle of their careers while also recognizing that careers bring varying levels of productivity, new interests, and ways to serve. We should expect Emory’s faculty to be extraordinary and exceptional in their excellence. Happily, that is demonstrably and increasingly so.
We—all of us
Currently at Emory, structured conversation about most of these matters seems to take place at the cabinet and trustee level. Serious engagement among the faculty ranges from a few individuals who clearly understand the challenges and opportunities, to those who, as Gray Crouse points out, expect that Emory’s historical wealth and current reputation will isolate the academy from the impact of change.
But the sorts of change necessary to convert the challenges of our day into opportunity will need to occur at the most fundamental levels of the academic enterprise—in the way instruction is delivered, in the way the curriculum is configured, in the ways laboratory and experiential education are provided, in the values we apply in hiring and promotion and tenure, in the nature of the student residential experience, in the ways institutional partners are engaged, and in the ways the business of the university is executed.
These sorts of changes must be imagined, owned, and implemented at the deepest levels of our institution. We will succeed only if we are able to engage faculty, staff, and trustees to ensure that the rapid and inescapable changes of our times are met with commensurately bold, principled, and energetic responses. We—all of us—must be about the work of plotting our course.
Business Practice Improvement Initiative
Initiated in December 2010 by Mike Mandl, our executive vice president for finance and administration, the Business Practice Improvement (BPI) initiative comprises a team led by Bill Dracos to work collaboratively with schools and units on improving the way we fulfill the business functions of the university, from travel arrangements to compliance with federal regulations. The team’s motto is that wonderful line from the 19th-century Emory president Atticus Haygood, “Let us stand by what is good and make it better.” We do a lot of things very well; many we could do even better. This year BPI is focused on five projects to consolidate, streamline, and improve research administration.
Refining Emory's global strategy
One of the framing principles of the strategic plan is internationalization, and this principle informs our third current and pressing priority. Former Provost Lewis last spring appointed a committee, chaired by Laney Graduate School Dean Lisa Tedesco, to find the next vice provost for international affairs and director of the Halle Institute. Since that position was established 20 years ago, Emory has made remarkable strides onto the world stage. Although the Halle Institute has served as an excellent coordinating agency for many of our faculty and student initiatives, the nature of a decentralized university makes a lot of what we do internationally ad hoc, haphazard, and less strategic than it might be. This period of transition gives us an opportunity to think through more carefully a global strategy for Emory and how we might best implement it.
The second broad way in which we want to move Emory forward is by enhancing the education Emory provides.
V. Enhancing the Emory education
Under this theme our first priority is strengthening Emory College. In September Dean Robin Forman announced a comprehensive, multiyear plan to strengthen programs in the college that have made Emory distinctive, to transform areas of excellence into areas of real eminence, and to allocate resources so that the college can move into emerging areas of study that will be critical for our students and society in the future.
This plan is the result of more than four years of intense study and conversation begun under the previous college dean and involving the Faculty Financial Advisory Committee and the Faculty Governance Committee. Even as it closes or reorganizes departments or programs in educational studies, visual arts, physical education, and journalism, the plan aims to strengthen departments in the traditional arts and sciences and will enable new programs in Chinese studies, digital and new media studies, and neurosciences.
In addition to the more effective use of current resources as a result of this reorganization, we are committed to stabilizing the college’s total financial aid cost, which has grown by 68 percent since fiscal year 2008, to some $84 million. Although Oxford College has become need aware in its admissions, the administration and the trustees are committed for the foreseeable future to keeping Emory College need blind. We believe that this policy should be a priority for as long as we can afford it, to help ensure that Emory can continue attracting the highest-quality student. Only by making an Emory education as affordable as possible can we ensure that it will be as attractive as possible. We have an outstanding faculty on a beautiful campus with a vibrant student life, but if students cannot afford to take advantage of these things, they will not enroll here.
In order to sustain this policy and simultaneously strengthen Emory College, we are implementing policy changes in admission and financial aid that are helping to strengthen student retention and otherwise make more effective use of scholarship aid. These changes will save the college millions of dollars. Soon we will launch a focused campaign to raise money wholly committed to scholarship support, and we are working already to solicit an anchor gift for that initiative.
Enhancing the student experience
In addition to strengthening the college, we want to enhance the student experience both in the classroom and beyond it. With the appointment of Ajay Nair as senior vice president and dean of campus life, we have begun a process of fulfilling our priority to make the student experience exceptionally fine. Under the guidance of former Senior Vice President John Ford, who retired in 2012, our Campus Life Division has established outstanding models of leadership training, residence life programming, education against alcohol and substance abuse, and many other facets of the student experience at Emory. John and his predecessors laid a marvelous foundation of traditions, service, and new facilities. Ajay will take advantage of these assets and build on them, beginning with the development of a vision for campus life for the next decade. That vision will include alumni and parents of students as well as faculty and staff—making campus life about life on campus for everyone. Ajay brings great personal and professional strengths to this work, including his own experience in developing strong living/learning communities and engaging with students through their proclivities for social media.
Leveraging our literary assets
Finally, in this area of enhancing the educational experience at Emory, we want to capitalize on our breadth of literary assets. I mentioned earlier the presence at Emory of extraordinary poets; they are emblematic of the depth and breadth of literary treasures on our campus. Last year USA Today ranked Emory among the most hospitable and effective campuses for nurturing aspiring writers. From our superb writing programs to traditions such as the Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature—delivered this year by Paul Simon—and from the presence of writers such as Salman Rushdie to the extraordinary collections in MARBL, we have the resources and energy to make Emory the premier place for the creation and study of literature.
Following a long search, we announced this fall the appointment of someone in our very midst to serve as director of MARBL. I have every confidence that Rosemary Magee, who has been vice president and secretary of the university for eight years, will bring the same excellent vision and administrative acumen to this work that she has brought to everything she has done at Emory. The future of MARBL looks very bright.
VI. Responding to a changing world
The third extensive way in which we want to move Emory forward is by responding to the changing world. Along these lines our top priority this year is to respond creatively to fiscal realities in the Woodruff Health Sciences Center.
Like Peanut Butter and Chocolate
Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Wright Caughman discusses challenges to health care, but emphasizes the university's and healthcare's strength through interdependence.
As noted earlier, Gray Crouse’s observations about the unsustainability of the current model for financing research universities are no less pertinent in the health sciences center itself.
Disruptive forces in society are having a dramatic impact on health education, research, and service. These forces include health care reform, a weak global economy, national debt, the aging of the baby boomers, market consolidation in health care services, the always-present threat of reductions in government funding for research and education, and increasing pressure to explore new ways to ensure the value of education and health services.
The pressure of all these forces on the Woodruff Health Sciences Center is exacerbated by programmatic and financial interdependence of the health services business of Emory Healthcare and the education and research of Emory University, especially the School of Medicine. The synergy of these two parts of Emory University depends, in part, on mutual brand and reputational excellence but also on real financial support in both directions. While the university’s strong balance sheet and double-A credit rating ensure lower borrowing costs and higher liquidity for Emory Healthcare, Emory Healthcare in turn supports the university through the transfer of an average of more than $80 million annually to education and research in the Health Sciences Center.
The steadily strengthening partnership with Georgia Tech
A second priority in addressing the changing world is to continue finding ways to build on our very productive partnership with Georgia Tech. Our sister institution across town just last year was invited to join the Association of American Universities, the group of 62 top research universities in North America to which Emory was admitted in 1995. We have seen great success during the past decade or more in our collaborations in biomedical engineering, global water projects, and predictive health.
Now we are exploring collaborations in library management, including the construction of a jointly owned and operated facility for off-campus storage of parts of our collections. By next June we will have defined our respective needs, identified a site for the facility, and gained approval from our respective boards to move forward with this project. This may sound like only a building, but it is much more. It is management of shared intellectual resources, and it may be a harbinger for even more such sharing of intellectual resources down the road.
New resource growth
Our final priority is to explore new markets for resource growth. I noted earlier the financial strains on all research universities and the disruptive forces that appear as both threat and opportunity. One of those forces is online education.
In September we announced that Emory had signed an agreement with Coursera to provide Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, worldwide. Emory joins nearly three dozen other Coursera collaborators, ranging from Brown and Vanderbilt to public universities such as Ohio State and the University of Maryland, in exploring where this new technology might take us.
Initially we do not expect any revenue from this experiment—all the courses are free. But one can imagine the development of certificate or degree programs for which we would charge tuition, and with more than 1.3 million students enrolled in Coursera courses currently, the potential is huge not only for extending Emory’s brand of education worldwide but also for tapping into that market in a way that could support our traditional programs in Atlanta and Oxford.
In a similar way, but with a different aim, we have led in forming a consortium to work with the online course company 2U in offering what we are calling a “Semester Online.” Our consortium partners include Northwestern, Duke, Yale, Notre Dame, and eight other prestigious universities and colleges, with a few more to be added.
Much still needs to be worked out as we move forward with these experiments. For instance, how can we best allocate faculty time for the unique kind of preparation that must go into shaping these courses? What kind of nuances would need to be addressed in accreditation of online certificate or degree programs?
Emory Innovations Inc.
As schools and units develop new ventures and new models of revenue generation, many of these ventures will present commercially viable approaches to supporting the missions of education, research, and service. A small subset of these innovative business models will require nimble decision making and may require a home that cannot effectively fit under Emory’s current business units and organizations across campus. We have formed Emory Innovations Inc. as a holding company for new portfolio companies. Through these, faculty members and others can commercialize innovative approaches to intellectual property development, professional services, international affairs, and other types of nonacademic enterprise whose revenue would support our principal missions.
These nine priorities that I have just elaborated have been identified by my colleagues on the cabinet as matters that must engage our individual or collective energy, attention, and best thinking during this year.
But I hope it is clear that these priorities already are engaging the time, imagination, energy, and best thinking of many people across our campus and beyond our borders. These priorities are simply ways of highlighting and bringing into focus the forward progress of our collective enterprise.
The strategic plan ends and begins
In that regard, let me close by saying a word about the next phase of our strategic plan as we move into the eighth year of our 10-year implementation of it.
In 2005 we unveiled a plan that literally hundreds of members of the Emory community had helped to shape, and that plan has guided us well. We are not finished—either with what we set out to do in that strategic plan or with the need to continue planning. The next three years will bring us in a hurry to 2015 and the end of our 10-year strategy. So it is imperative that we finish the work we set for ourselves in 2005. This will mean the need for continued frequent checks on our progress.
At the same time, when we reach 2015 we will not have run the race. We will still be moving toward our destination of greater eminence, no matter how eminent we will be in 2015. This journey never really ends. So let me offer a brief word about the process for planning between now and then.
We are disbanding the planning structures that have served us well, but that have become somewhat less effective as our strategic plan has aged. The Strategic Implementation Advisory Committee and the Initiative Leaders Group will go away. We may continue to need the guidance of a central strategic council, and we still will need mechanisms for the university to support unit initiatives through fund-raising and funds allocation. Provost Claire Sterk demonstrates extraordinary abilities and a knowledge of Emory that perfectly suit her to this work of strategic leadership. Before the end of this academic year, we will begin to put in place a new process for completing the current strategic plan and defining and pursuing future strategic initiatives.
Our challenge during the next three years will be to wrap up what we have begun while also preparing the strategic map for the next phase of Emory’s journey. We must exercise the same creativity in plotting our course forward as we did in charting our way to this place. We must take into account where we are now, including acknowledgment of the changes in the economic climate, as we plan our way forward. With our priorities keenly in mind, and with the willing engagement of those of our faculty and staff who are strategically gifted, Emory will move toward generating the next chapter of its tale of eminence even before the current one concludes.
With deep appreciation for all that you do in helping to write these chapters,
James W. Wagner
President, Emory University