Emory University Reflects, Looks Ahead

Emory's remarkable growth and student experience addressed in "State of the University".

By Gary Hauk 91 PhD, vice president and deputy to the president, Office of the President

President Wagner addresses the State of Emory University.

In his 2012 “State of the University” message, Emory University President James W. Wagner reported to the University Senate, “Let me say right at the outset that I believe that the state of Emory University is very good indeed.” With frank honesty, Wagner addressed the challenges and remarkable growth Emory has encountered this year.

“We can’t ignore that we’re working hard, we can’t ignore that we’ve hit some unexpected steep hills and a couple of unexpected pot holes,” Wagner said. “Emory’s ethos and our aspiration to be ethically engaged, supported by the extraordinarily visible presence and counsel of the Center for Ethics and our chaplaincy, help us to imagine and pursue, as best we can, what is right. Despite our hard work—actually because of it—our condition is better, and we are doing well.”

Wagner referenced the admissions data misreporting Emory revealed last summer. “In the process of dealing with that issue we have put in place a better system for gathering, reviewing, and reporting data, so that we can be sure about the integrity of our data going forward. Our condition is better, and it is good,” Wagner said.

After recognizing the achievements of students, faculty, and divisions within Emory, Wagner turned his address toward economic realities. “We have weathered the worst of our transition to a new economic environment, with our financial health strained but still sound,” he said. “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. That plan, informed by the thinking of faculty from throughout the university and guided by thoughtful initiative leaders and an excellent implementation committee, set out to build on Emory’s strengths and to pursue initiatives in Global Health, Predictive Health, Computational Life Sciences, Religion and the Human Spirit, Race and Difference, and Neuroscience and Human Behavior.  We still have work to finish, but we have let some initiatives end, we have made others into integral parts of long-standing components of the university, and still others we are continuing in new ways.”

The president also commented on the success of Campaign Emory. The campaign, “which has aimed at raising the resources to support that plan and move Emory forward, is nearing the finish line with every expectation that we will reach our goal of $1.6 billion by the end of December,” he shared.

“Clearly, there is much to celebrate as we review the state of Emory University,” President Wagner said. “The inventiveness and curiosity of our faculty and students is stronger than ever. The aspiration for eminence impels the work of our staff and administrators. The energy of this small city of some forty thousand 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.”

To share direction for his address, Wagner pointed out, “This year I would like to spend our time together lifting our sights to some broader matters that have captured our attention, matters that promise to shape the direction of our university life for many years to come.”

Moving Emory Forward

As Emory discovers new avenues for courageous inquiry in its immediate future, Wagner encourages developing potential. “In order to seize these opportunities—or, rather, in the very process of seizing these opportunities—we must not be afraid to be disruptively innovative. Without denying the realities in front of us, I believe that we at Emory have the courage and inventiveness to lead by becoming the printing press in the age of scribes, the automobile in the railroad era, what iTunes was to the music industry, or the personal computer to the mainframe.”

“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,” Wagner said.

In his address, Wagner elaborated on these critical priorities and goals for Emory in the coming year:

• Empower faculty responsibility for the future of the university.

• Focus on the Business Practice Improvement Initiative.

• Refine Emory’s global strategy.

• Strengthen Emory College of Arts and Sciences

• Enhance student experience both in the classroom and beyond it.

• Capitalize on our breadth of literary assets. 

• Respond creatively to fiscal realities in the Woodruff Health Sciences Center.

• Continue finding ways to build on our very productive partnership with Georgia Tech.

• Explore new markets for resource growth.

“These nine priorities that I’ve just elaborated have been identified by my colleagues on the cabinet as things that will engage our individual or collective energy, attention, and best thinking as a cabinet during this year,” Wagner said. “So let us continue this footrace together - encouraging (and from time-to-time even forgiving) one another, rising above our occasional discomforts, and applying our best selves to achieve and serve with the excellence of mind and greatness of heart to which we are called and must aspire.  Thank you for all that you do and for the privilege you extend to me of serving and working with you.”

We invite you to enjoy the complete video of President Wagner’s State of the University address.


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Michelle Valigursky