Over the summer, Senior Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Ajay Nair determined 10 areas of focus and improvement for Campus Life for the upcoming school year.
The goals focus on the Barkley Forum Center, new student spaces, international student life, the Emory Entrepreneurship Ecosystem (E3), Greek life, dining changes, sexual violence prevention, new senior leaders, cultural change and overall strategic planning. The goals were crafted in collaboration with student leaders over the summer.
Each goal has a specific timeline defined through student-led initiatives, Nair wrote in an email to the Wheel.
Barkley Forum Center
The Barkley Forum Center for Debate Education is Emory’s central debate and oratory institution. One of Nair’s goals is to expand the organization’s role in developing students as leaders in their community by strengthening their abilities to create arguments and engage their community on important issues.
“We will have campus dialogues centered around campus issues to train student leaders to make effective arguments,” Nair wrote.
New Student Spaces
In addition to recent changes such as the creation of the Centro Latino in the Dobbs University Center (DUC) and the Atwood Chemistry Center building renovations, Campus Life will focus on expanding the number of student spaces for events and student-led gatherings on campus this school year. One of these additions is an open pavilion that will replace the former Black Student Alliance house and will be used for various events, according to Nair and a Sept. 15 Wheel article.
“I hope that this will be a space that feels ‘off campus’ that students would find attractive and a great social venue.” Nair said.
Construction on the pavilion is set to begin in the spring and will likely be completed before next fall semester. In addition to the pavilion, Campus Life is discussing plans for the new Campus Life Center (CLC).
The new construction is currently in the design phase and supervisors hope to break ground in 2017, according to Nair.
The CLC will replace the current DUC and will expand dining and student organization space to accommodate more students.
International Student Life
The Office of International Student Life (OISL) plans to work with Campus Life to merge Emory’s domestic and international student populations into one unified community. A newly launched volunteer program will pair international and domestic students to initiate cultural discussion and strengthen conversational skills.
“We want to encourage the OISL to work with other departments to engage [the] international student community,” Nair said.
Emory Entrepreneurship Ecosystem (E3)
Nair and Campus Life hope to foster a spirit of entrepreneurship and creative thinking among Emory students. The first step in this process was the establishment of entrepreneurship as the theme of Raoul Hall last year. The other components of this initiative are the promotion of the E3 Living Lab and MBA mentorship program.
The E3 Living Lab is a student living space in Few Hall where like-minded student entrepreneurs can come together to discuss their plans and network to put their plans into action.
“We hope to create an ongoing series every semester that brings in faculty, alumni and graduate students with entrepreneurial experience who can serve as mentors for students,” Associate Vice President of Finance, Administration, and Operations of Campus Life Eric Bymaster said in an Feb.24 Emory Report.
The MBA mentorship program serves as a means for current Goizueta Business School students to connect with alumni and form a protégé- mentor relationship. Mentors work with protégés to develop their professional skills and profile for the job market. Mentors and protégés meet throughout the year in addition to attending events and meeting professors, alumni and other students.
Greek Life Task Force
One of the core areas of change is Emory’s Greek life system. The goals call for a mobilization of a “Greek Task Force” which will help better integrate both the Greek and non-Greek communities at Emory, according to Nair.
“Greek life is an important component of Campus Life — not separate from or incidental from it,” Nair wrote. “Ultimately, the community, particularly students, will drive the recommendations and future of Emory Greek life.”
The task force will be a collaboration between Ducemus, a secret society at Emory, and Campus Life, according to a Sept. 15 Wheel article.
With many of the recent changes to Greek life at Emory that occurred last year such as Chi Phi and Kappa Alpha fraternities being suspended, some students are apprehensive about what impact the task force might have.
“While I do appreciate the incentive to integrate Greek life with the larger Emory community, I am hesitant regarding the execution and guidance of this task force,” College senior and Zeta Beta Tau brother Fuad Haddad said. “I only hope that this task force is not another means of the University to impose policy but actually a representative effort of Greek life members to connect and break the “Row bubble” we have all known too well. “
The task force will be largely student-led and student groups will handle any cases.
“We empower students to own it and take responsibility for their actions,” Nair said. “Student accountability and self governance is the future of Greek life at Emory.”
Though Bon Appétit may have come on board as the new campus food provider, more changes will be made to Emory’s dining system.
“Bon Appétit is a company that listens very carefully to student needs,” Nair said. “Students need change over time and I think we’ll see responses to that. If students are eating in these spaces every day, we’ve got to keep it fresh.”
Bon Appétit and Emory dining services are actively working to get student input on dining options that reflect the interests of Emory’s diverse student body.
“Quality and diversity of flavors is what I’m most excited about,” Nair said.
Sexual Violence Prevention
Sexual assault and violence awareness programs are a big part of Emory’s social activism focuses, according to Nair. In addition to a mandatory freshman online module about interpersonal violence and sexual assault prevention, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in conjunction with Emory students and faculty recently conducted a survey on campus awareness of sexual assault. The survey data is meant to give researchers and administrators a means to gauge the Emory community’s knowledge of sexual assault and how to best support survivors. CDC researchers, students and faculty are currently analyzing the data collected and a recommendation will be issued soon.
“The greatest awareness will come from the analysis of the survey,” Nair said. “From there, we can get a better picture of where we need to improve and where to go from there.”
New Senior Leaders
Campus Life recently hired several new senior administrators who will engage the student body and work with them to carry out many of the initiatives the 10 goals call for: Suzanne Onorato as Assistant Vice President of Community, Michael Vienna as Director of Athletics and Recreation and Wanda Collins as Assistant Vice President of Counseling and Psychological Services.
“It’s a great time to be in Campus Life because we’ve been able to bring in some nationally recognized leaders.” Nair said. “The folks that we’re recruiting are the best in their field and they want to be at Emory.”
The change to the Campus Life staff is also part of a movement for increased student involvement in this department of Emory administration.
“There’s going to be a huge culture change,” Nair said. “Students are going to be part of the decision making process and there will be more transparency.”
The central focus toward exploring the many cultures present at Emory is connectivity. Rather than simply recognizing the differences between the many cultural groups that students represent, this goal seeks to explore the implications of these differences and how students can learn more about each other through communication.
“It’s not enough to say we have diversity. What do we do with that diversity?” Nair said. “It’s more about offering conversations about issues and equipping students to engage effectively with others. That’s the notional of cultural humility: to engage and self critique and think about who you are.”
All of these goals feed into a core vision that Nair hopes will shape the future of Emory. This vision is founded on six principles: flourishing, critical inquiry, cultural humility, courageous inquiry, social justice and professional excellence.
Film Critic Vikrant Nallaparaju is a College Sophomore from Houston, Texas studying Anthropology and Human Biology. This is his second year writing for the wheel and the first serving as film a critic. When it comes to movies, he can usually be found watching the films of Joe Dante and lamenting the fall of John Carpenter.