At its spring forum on April 30, 2014, the three committees of the Commission on the Liberal Arts presented their findings and preliminary recommendations to the Emory community. Each committee—Learning Through Instruction, Learning Through Innovation, and Learning Through Integration—offered sets of both immediate and more long-term projects and goals. The aims of their recommendations are to build on the many existing strong programs at Emory, in order to meet new challenges in higher education, have more flexible and permeable structures that facilitate innovative approaches to teaching and research; and share across disciplines and units the core values that affirm the principles of liberal education.

Among the committees recommendations:

Learning Through Instruction

  • Intellectual tailgating event during a visit by a high-profile Emory-affiliated figure
    •  Pre-event
    •  Post-event
  • Implementation of a Common Book or Performance
  • Virtual connected space on Instagram or Twitter
Long Term
  • Create an Emory liberal arts experience that is shared across units
  • Tell our story in such a way that we become known as a liberal arts research university
  • Provide opportunities for cross-school teaching and learning

Learning Through Innovation

Short Term

Pilot Project 1

  • URC-type funding to provide release time to develop cross-unit, team-based initiatives in creativity, discovery, research, and innovation
    • Faculty-led but with student input and involvement
    • Flexible and fluid in structure and life-cycle
    • Structured and supported to provide time and space (e.g., library)
    • Outcomes-based
    • Structured for follow-up activities
    • Based on existing successful models: Piedmont Project; Academic Learning Communities; Global Health Institute

Pilot Project 2

  • Expansion of SIRE program to pair undergraduate (future innovators) with graduate students (current innovators) in a systematic way

Pilot Project 3

  • Facilitation of cross-unit scholarly interaction
    • Forums for interacting across units (e.g., salons, faculty dining room, “speed dating” gathering)
    • Clearinghouse of faculty research interests
Long Term
  1. Cultivation of a culture of cross-unit innovation
  2. Sustainable incubator of entrepreneurial innovation
  3. “Pop and prestige” associated with participation in cross-unit innovation
  4. Evaluation of impact of cross-unit research projects

Learning Through Integration

The work of this committee is still in process, based largely on the still-open survey of the Emory community it began in late April. Their forthcoming recommendations will include

  • Establish user-friendly repository
  • Provide adequate infrastructure
  • Provide rewards & incentives
  • Improve faculty integration across ranks — adjunct, instructor, and tenured
  • Improve liberal arts/studies/learning models — past and present

Commission Chair and psychology professor Robyn Fivush also described some infrastructural changes already underway to address the following:

  • Creating processes to allow faculty to easily teach across units
  • Creating processes to allow students to easily enroll in courses across units
  • Development of more coordinated academic calendars
  • Development of more flexible types of course offerings
    • –Variable credits
    • –Variable time: semesters, mini-semesters, workshops, etc.
  • Development of a system for allocating teaching credits across units based on contact hours, student enrollment, etc.
  • Consideration of faculty evaluation/ reward structure for teaching and mentoring.

“Our goal,” she said, “is to increase flexibility: we envision more faculty opportunities to engage in cross-unit teaching and mentoring for those faculty who are interested. Our recommendations aim to increase possibilities, rather than requirements.”

In her response to the presentations, Provost Claire Sterk praised the thoughtful and focused work of the committees and added, “What we are talking about is culture change.” She also announced that Fivush had accepted an appointment in the Office of the Provost to work on implementation of many of the outcomes of the commission.


General mandate for all committees

Each committee is asked to develop a series of strategic goals and concrete recommendations to achieve CoLA’s vision.  We emphasize that the objectives of CoLA are to re-think current structures and processes in ways that will both highlight what Emory does well and what we can do better in order to achieve the core values of a liberal education.  Thus, committees should consider information about current policies, processes and structures, archived reports and white papers from previous Emory committees and task forces, look to other universities for models and ideas, as well as gather new data from Emory faculty, students, staff and administrators.  (Please note that we will provide graduate student assistance for much of this work.)

We urge committees to be bold and creative in their thinking, to re-imagine what Emory could be rather than focusing on obstacles:

  • What do we do well?  What do we want to keep?
  • What do we want to change?
  • What do we want to construct?

In developing their recommendations, committees should consider:

  • The core values of a liberal arts education as articulated in the vision statement
  • Issues of disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity
  • All constituencies, including undergraduates, graduate students, professional students, faculty, administrators, staff and community partners.
  • Issues of infrastructure including:
    • Physical spaces: How can we best configure the residential campus in our vision?
    • Scheduling and calendars: How can we re-think academic schedules and calendars to achieve our vision?
    • Technology: How can we best incorporate innovative technologies in our vision?
    • Permeability and flexibility: How can we best create systems that allow maximum permeability and flexibility between and among units and across time for individual faculty and students?
    • Intellectual community: How can we facilitate the creation of exciting and stimulating intellectual communities within and across units?

In making recommendations, committees are also asked to think through:

  • How initiatives are related to/ aligned with individual units’ strategic plans and priorities
  • How implemented changes can be evaluated both in the short term and the long term. 

Subcommittees: General mandate

  • During the Fall semester, each committee is asked to develop a set of specific questions and/or issues that they will investigate through archival research and gathering ideas and opinions from Emory constituencies.
    • Graduate student assistants will be available to help gather archival data both from within Emory and from other institutions.
    • The steering committee will coordinate outreach activities.
  • Each committee will provide regular status reports to the steering committee, through the co-chairs of the committee.
  • By December 15th, each committee will present a plan for the spring, that will include an outline of the questions/ issues to be addressed and the data needed to address these issues.
  • The steering committee will work with each committee to develop the specific questions/ issues to be addressed in a series of town halls and forums.
  • During the spring semester, each committee will engage in outreach activities, and continue to gather and summarize information with the goal of developing specific recommendations and action steps.
  • By May 15, each committee will present a written report to the executive council that will include a summary of their work, and that will include:
  • A set of clear objectives to achieve a specific vision (or multiple visions)
  • A set of specific recommendations and action steps that can be taken in the immediate future (within a year) to achieve specific goals.
  • A set of recommendations and possible action steps that can be taken over the next 3 to 5 years to achieve specific goals