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Legacy of President Sterk, and Insight Into Gregory L. Fenves

a1b2c3d5a1b2c3d5 8 replies3 threads New Member
I am wondering what the legacy of President Sterk is. In reflecting on her presidency, was she effective in her short tenure? What lasting impact has she had on Emory?


I am also wondering what everyone thinks about the apparent hiring of Gregory L. Fenves (UT Austin) as our new President?


Side note: why were our applications down this year? Is this a result of COVID-19?
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Replies to: Legacy of President Sterk, and Insight Into Gregory L. Fenves

  • a1b2c3d5a1b2c3d5 8 replies3 threads New Member
    @bernie12 would love to hear your insight!
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  • ljberkowljberkow 668 replies5 threads Member
    Applications were all due before the USA outbreak of COVID-19.
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  • bernie12bernie12 5449 replies10 threads Senior Member
    edited April 8
    @a1b2c3d5 : I have many thoughts and critiques, so I have two posts (please forgive me!).

    To start: Do NOT get caught up in the superficiality that is the admissions office and whether it gets bunches of apps/increases in app volume every year. That stuff can easily be gamed, and it is no longer effective to game it for the rankings. Stats are starting to converge at top schools and most are stats whoring so not even the original schools that benefitted from it can do much in the way of admissions to enhance their rankings. They, like Emory now are left to just compete on the product/level and quality of academics provided to make the needle move, which I think is a good thing because maybe Emory already is and can focus more on that and continue to put more effort into marketing its efforts . You should only concern yourself about the quality of the students which can actually increase even with less applicants. And also, other elites saw downward shifts in application numbers, including Harvard and many others (about the same % change as Emory or slightly more) likely because of what @ljberkow brought up and the HS student availability finally dropping off (at less elite schools, especially private LACs, the enrollment cliff looms and many are very concerned).

    Sterk gave the board and others what they wanted except for maybe her handling of the Sanctuary campus thing which was sloppy, but she got a strategic plan off the ground, got a 400 million dollar gift that won Emory the ability to have 3-4 healthcare/allied health buildings in the bag (Winship Midtown, Health Sciences Research Building, a new Public Health Building, and lots of stuff happening at Executive Park), Another master planning phase is off the ground, and she finalized some key political moves that has lightrail on the table for Emory/CDC/Dekalb. I don't care for the time of her departure, but if a miracle happens where recession ends sooner than later from this Covid19, she has established some momentum for the new pres. to work with. With that said, I'd hope that various boards and whatnot encourage the new pres. to be bolder or try something different for Emory. One thing that needs to happen is a lot of fundraising and further expansion of the endowment and then allocation of endowment and investment OUTSIDE of medicine, allied-health schools, and healthcare. Like ECAS GBS, Law, and many other entities really need to build their endowment to be truly competitive. Rankings and clout wise, they are currently miraculous because they don't have good endowments compared to the analogous peer schools elsewhere (even many "near peers" like that Vanderbilt, Notre Dame, Rice, Brown, Cornell class of schools).

    I would honestly also like to see a reversal on the anti-undergraduate engineering stance. Even Chicago gave in and just chose to establish a program(s) in areas that could be supported by already well-established departments. That type of investment can be very worthwhile, along with investments in programs (both grad. and undergrad) like economics, CS, physics, and math, two of which are continuing to grow fast (CS especially, but math also), but could afford lots more investment in faculty and infrastructure to become more prominent (if not eminent). Continuing to merely invest in areas of historic strength at Emory won't cut it if the whole university wants to be eminent. You can't activate the full potential and impact of research at the university with those areas as "meh" as they are versus some of the most elite peers (they are also "meh" at most of Emory's closer peers, but good luck standing out if you have over-lapping strengths/weaknesses with those schools AND they have engineering which has additional pull in terms of recruiting faculty talent and facilitates ease of interdisciplinary research in STEM. The least you can do is be a Chicago and have strength in those areas to more than compensate for lack of engineering or essentially have them fill in to serve the same purposes).

    And Emory also needs to join its more elite peers in rethinking undergraduate education (whether we talk gen. eds and what not. To be clear, I think Emory is definitely starting to do it more so and more successfully than some "near peers" but I don't know if the proposals are bold enough. And of course Emory needs more money to implement bolder efforts), and that takes money and some risks. Emory has some risk taking in certain departments (chemistry is one, the establishment of QTM is going very well. They are sneaking in capstone requirements to numerous majors all the sudden. It appears that more course based research options are coming about in and out of STEM) and it may pay off, but some things, particularly in STEM, my area, just need to change if Emory is to differentiate itself from most non-Ivy neer peer privates. Much of this would involve having special academic programs/tracks and options that target the most talented first years and prospective students (I feel that even social sciences and humanities was hip to this when they implemented the Voluntary Core and history started classes like Hist. 100).

    Most of the top 10 schools have an abundance of such options to cater to this group in STEM and otherwise (but especially in STEM) whereas elite privates below that threshold (including Emory), not as much...and Emory used to have way more of it pre-2009 recession. They need to bring back STEM honors courses (like I'm sorry, you can't tell me that students with multiple STEM AP/IB credits belong in a barebones intro. physics, biology, or chemistry courses, no matter how well taught, and all of the most elite peers offer very compelling entry pathways for students with that level of preparation or talent in virtually EVERY STEM department, and not just math) and think about special academic tracks (could be interdisciplinary curricula or early research programs that are tied to curricula/allow students to access more advanced offerings in depts if they have plenty of STEM experience and AP/IB credit) to cater to ambitious students as well.

    This would likely enhance retention rates among this group, help recruit some of the top talent that usually gets monopolized by the HYSChCtM crowd of schools, as well as the intellectual climate among undergrads. Talent shouldn't just be passed through Emory, given high grades, and told they are the greatest for doing whatever. Talent and skills should be intentionally sharpened and further developed like it would be at some of the most eminent peers. On top of retention, this is the best way to make droves of Emory graduates even more competitive and desired among employers, graduate programs, fellowships/national scholarships, whatever. Bringing in people who were "the absolute best in k-12" and hoping they just find their way to even more greatness won't work when you aspire to TRUE eminence (it'll give slight bumps in the rankings and often that doesn't last). More students have to be guided and encouraged to challenge and further develop themselves in a way that fully leverage the Emory degree and enhance its value. People like to say that places like Harvard, Stanford, etc are just a "brand", and their brand is very important, but it wasn't made from nothing. They really put the full weight of their resources behind their graduate, research, and undergraduate programs to ensure that students get leading edge training and oppurtunities in whatever areas as early as possible.

    edited April 8
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  • bernie12bernie12 5449 replies10 threads Senior Member
    I used to think they just sort of selected and then "harbored talent" and ultimately had more (and to some extent this is true. Like, while SAT/ACTs and GPA look similar at most top schools today, no doubt that places like HYSPMCCt are still drawing far more already "prize winning" students in specific areas. They have a monopoly on students from things like those International STEM olympiads for example, and it isn't due to just the prestige. They have curricula and courses that can "handle" those students as soon as they hit campus that many other places just don't) raw talent than other schools(even elites) at the undergraduate level, but after maturing and investigating into their curricular offerings and co-curric. oppurtunities, this isn't quite the case. They also are just more successful at offering oppurtunities both in and out of the classroom that make the already talented students even better so that they maintain an edge over others even post-grad. Like when you see medical schools and STEM PhD programs run after students from top tier LACs and those super elite undergraduate programs or essentially just feed themselves, there is a legitimate reason beyond networking/prestige. They all often change their undergraduate programs to reflect the needs of professionals that would go into those fields and are very deliberate in designing and then controlling for the quality of their programs over time. Emory and places like it need to take that more seriously.

    I think CMU has figured this out which is why it ranks around Emory but has key undergraduate and graduate programs with HUGE impacts and track records of success that ultimately give CMU disproportionate clout and recognition in certain areas the academic and professional world than their ranking suggests. At one point, Chicago was the same way, Emory level rank, but already had a huge impact globally and nationally (and had programmatic options that made them over-perform in their ability to feed many professions and academia). In fact this is so much the case, that all they had to do was "fix" the admissions to quickly climb the rankings (as in the other metrics were already in their favor and much better than the near ranked schools). You'll note that other schools who followed Chicago's strategy in the admissions arena had limited success in that arena because the level of impact and influence in key areas is just not comparable (JHU is actually the one who is the most similar and you see how quickly they benefitted from changing admissions. Again, they already had the impact and clout in lots of areas). Again, the superficial aspects of "prestige" are gonna matter less and less in terms of impact and external evaluation. Time for big and meaningful changes that further enhances Emory's product and overall impact. Eventually, outsiders and prospective students will believe in it too if it starts making even more serious strides.
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  • ljberkowljberkow 668 replies5 threads Member
    @bernie12 well, they hired someone who has served as a dean of an undergraduate school of engineering at a major university. It would be a great leap to suggest that Emory has even entertained the idea that the hiring of President Fenves and his background in engineering are anything more than a coincidence.

    As to timing, I read recently that the average time served by university presidents dipped from over 8 year to close to 6 in the past few years. It's not a great trend. I do appreciate that President Sterk is not an opportunist and just retired and is going back to teaching and at Emory. I was fortunate enough to be at Emory during the 16 year tenure of President Laney (77-93) who saw in incredible growth and expansion at Emory.

    Greg Fenves has a very impressive background. He is the son of a Holocaust survivor and in the Supreme Court, successfully defended affirmative action policies in student admission at the University of Texas. In his time at UT, the 4-year graduation rate among undergraduates skyrocketed. That had been an issue in Austin.

    It is hard to say why Fenves decided to leave Texas for Emory. The Emory position pays a little more, but the difference is not significant and he may not have any ties to Emory or Atlanta. We should find out more about President Fenves after the pandemic subsides. Hopefully, the search for a new dean of GBS concludes as successfully as the one for president.

    Always appreciate your insight Bernie.
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  • a1b2c3d5a1b2c3d5 8 replies3 threads New Member
    @bernie12 I got exited to see that you posted twice! Thank you for your insight, and for your continued support of Emory.
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  • a1b2c3d5a1b2c3d5 8 replies3 threads New Member
    @ljberkow Thank you for your insight as well, you and Bernie are such wonderful contributors to this forum.
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  • bernie12bernie12 5449 replies10 threads Senior Member
    @a1b2c3d5 : lol looking back at the post and considering what Covid19 is doing to the economy and finances (with most of them, including Emory announcing budget cuts and hiring freezes for about a year or so) of universities even as elite/well-endowed as Emory makes me even more resolute in what I said about Sterk. Wow! She really lucked up and got a couple of key gifts to keep some key capital projects on track (because they were funded by the Woodruff and Rollins gift which were for very specific projects, I am imagining those are the projects that will continue).
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  • ljberkowljberkow 668 replies5 threads Member
    @a1b2c3d5 for a few years, there were some students posting on these Emory threads. Bernie is a younger alum who is far more in touch with Emory than I am. He is also very helpful to applicants and students. As an older alum and parent, I also appreciate his input here.
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  • karen0karen0 183 replies31 threads Junior Member
    My daughter was accepted to Emory regular decision. I am wondering when a new Dean of Goizueta will be named. I understand that the BBA program does not begin until the end of sophomore year or start of junior year.
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  • bernie12bernie12 5449 replies10 threads Senior Member
    @karen0 : Can't know...that search likely just started and I can't imagine it being as easy with this pandemic and whatnot. Hopefully they get someone by later this year or early next year (if the search is too short, it would concern me). They'll likely find a pretty good interim Dean though.
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