Prelude: The More Things Change

During one of this fall’s more entertaining presidential debates, a Republican candidate offered the somewhat dubious assertion that “welders make more money than philosophers,” boldly adding that the country needs more of the former and fewer of the latter. 

If the speaker were making the point that the American economy needs a balance of highly skilled, thoughtful workers as well as highly trained, working thinkers, I’m not sure anyone would argue with that. But the comment struck me as interesting for a number of reasons—one being the use of “philosopher” as a job title.

This magazine features a story on Emory PhD graduates who have pursued careers across a remarkable range of fields, including law, medical communications, public health, and museum education. In fact, the Laney Graduate School has created a special program to showcase
the job opportunities outside academia that are open to those with doctoral degrees. This trend is not new, but it seems like a good time to brighten the spotlight on the positive, concrete contributions being made in all sectors by the accomplished alumni of universities such as this one. We may need more welders and more philosophers, too.

If we step back to look at the bigger picture, the presidential debates serve as a reminder that Emory is facing a profound leadership transition of its own. University President James Wagner has announced that he will retire at the end of this academic year, ending an era marked by visionary planning, progress, and a commitment to excellence on all fronts. The Emory community will be celebrating President Wagner
and the achievements of his tenure in the months ahead. It is a time, as well, to prepare for the anticipation and adjustment that naturally accompany change.

Stepping farther back, we can also see the restless constancy of change at work in the transformation of Emory’s Druid Hills campus during the hundred years since the university moved from Oxford to Atlanta. We mark that anniversary with recognition of the physical evolution that has mirrored Emory’s rise to the top twenty-five universities in the country, according to national rankings.

There may be no stronger evidence for the inevitability of transition than our cover story, which explores aspects of aging from a number of perspectives. We know that, thanks to health care advances, people are living longer than ever before—but as our years stretch out, is our quality of life keeping pace? From sophisticated neurological techniques, to attention and support for caregivers, to the use of tango dancing for better mobility (and enjoyment), Emory researchers in various disciplines are working to expand and improve not only the time we have, but also how we spend it. 

By chance, another current news headline is echoed in this magazine: The rising tide of refugees fleeing civil war in Syria to Europe and the US. Although Heval Mohamed Kelli 15MR came to Atlanta with his family in 2001 under very different circumstances, he remains deeply connected to his homeland and to those affected by the present-day conflict; the little boy who drowned off the coast of Turkey, and whose image has become a tragic symbol of the crisis, was from Mohamed Kelli’s hometown. 

As a Katz Fellow in Preventive Cardiology, Mohamed Kelli is pursuing innovations in cardiac care. As a doctor and Syrian Kurdish refugee, he spends time volunteering at a free health clinic in the immigrant community where his family once lived. Along with more welders and philosophers, we could use more people like him.—P.P.P. 

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