Note: This article explores some key administrative changes affecting Emory University, but not all. Positions also undergoing transitions include, but are not limited to, CEO of Emory Healthcare, Executive Vice President for Health Affairs and Senior Vice President and General Counsel.
Three out of four of Emory University’s undergraduate schools — Emory College of Arts and Sciences (ECAS), Oxford College and Goizueta Business School — will have new deans this year.
The 2022-23 academic year is met with numerous administrative transitions, from changes in undergraduate and graduate deans to adjustments in the Office of the Provost. Key positions affected include the ECAS Dean, Oxford College Dean, Goizueta Business School Dean, Rollins School of Public Health Dean, Vice President of Communications and Marketing, Associate Vice Provost and Director of the Carlos Museum.
New Rollins School of Public Health Dean Dani Fallin said she understands students may feel anxious at the slew of changes.
“You have to actively combat against just the uncertainty and anxiety that can come from change,” Fallin said.
New Goizueta Dean Gareth James said the turnover is not unusual. He previously worked at the University of Southern California, where he saw leadership turnover on a regular basis.
“The average tenure for a dean at a US University is around 5-6 years,” James wrote in an email to the Wheel. “So if a university has 10-15 schools you will see 2-3 dean transitions per year on average.”
James added that starting his position alongside other new deans has been beneficial.
“It is helpful for me personally coming in at the same time as several other new deans so that I can establish a strong working relationship with them as they are themselves learning the ropes of their job,” James wrote. “It is an exciting time for Emory and I’m very pleased to be part of this new phase in a great university.”
New Vice President of Communications and Marketing Luke Anderson noted that it is vital that administrators not rush the onboarding process amid a wave of transitions, as it can take a few months for new hires to fully integrate into the University. However, Anderson said this is not a major hurdle.
“What I’m trying to do is step back and listen as much as possible, meet with as many people as possible, because the true stewards of the Emory story and the people that make Emory, Emory, are the students, are the faculty that are standing at the front of classrooms,” Anderson said. “The first thing that I think any new leader needs to do is really learn the institution, learn the community, learn the culture.”
Although ECAS Interim Dean Carla Freeman is conscious of students’ anxiety about the changes, she noted that administrative transitions are largely positive.
“I see adaptability — getting comfortable with change — as integral to flourishing in every facet of our lives,” Freeman wrote in an email to the Wheel. “Changes in leadership allow us all to welcome new ideas and ways of approaching the educational experience — lessons we have all learned during these pandemic years.”
James agreed, writing that leadership changes often lead to “new innovations and improvements.”
“We don’t want leadership transitions on a frequent basis, but at the same time, it is also important to bring in new ideas or, just like any other organization, a school risks stagnating and falling behind,” James wrote.
Emory has seen successful administrative shifts in recent years, Freeman noted, listing University President Greg Fenves, who was appointed in 2020, and Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Ravi V. Bellamkonda, who was selected for the position in 2021, as examples. Freeman wrote that Fenves and Bellamkonda have proved that “change can be very exciting.”
Anderson agreed with Freeman, saying that the renewed energy brought by the recent administrative shifts drew him to Emory.
Vice Provost for Undergraduate Affairs and Association for Undergraduate Education at Research Universities President-Elect Pamela Scully noted that those leaving Emory are heading to great institutions, reflecting positively on both the University and the people who Emory employs.
“People like Dean Hicks and Dean Elliott could easily have gone on … the research university routes — they are both extraordinarily accomplished,” Scully said. “I’m sure they would have been recruited for things like that, but they both chose to go to be presidents for liberal arts colleges, [which] signifies that is where their and their sense of mission lies.”
Former ECAS Dean Michael Elliott left Emory for Amherst College (Mass.) while Former Oxford College Dean Douglas Hicks left Emory for Davidson College (N.C.).
Students should not be worried about Elliott and Hicks leaving the University, Scully added, saying the departure reflects positively on the quality individuals Emory employs in its administration.
“They are not going to institutions that are struggling or we have to worry about,” Scully said. “These are two of the top liberal arts colleges in the country, which therefore means the world.”
Amherst ranks No. 2 in the country for top liberal arts colleges and Davidson ranks No. 13, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Additionally, Emory has had at least five provosts and interim provosts, which is typically a transitional position, since 2013. While this number may appear large, Scully explained, it is important to consider that former provosts also left to pursue career advancement opportunities.
“One the provost became the president, why not have that transition?” Scully said. “And then there had to be an interim provost, and then one provost lived to become a president elsewhere, and so then we had another interim provost.”
Emory’s administrative shifts are part of a larger trend across higher education, Scully noted. University presidents are appointed for five years, and although many choose to serve multiple terms, the regular rotation of University presidents leaving and replacements coming from other schools built a “turnover” into the administrative system.
This trend likely increased because of the pandemic, Scully explained. University administrators — especially those at top research universities like Emory — had to learn to manage major crises and establish policies to best protect their students, as well as how to navigate the business side of research universities by fundraising and getting federal research funds.
This gave certain administrators a skill set that became “incredibly in demand.”
“The kind of leadership that is needed tends to be not just classically faculty anymore, which means that you bring people in who… have more experience and moving jobs,” Scully said. “This is a complex ecosystem.”
Scully noted that administrators’ ideas may clash if they start working at a university simultaneously, therefore disrupting the sense of continuity at the institution, especially amid the pandemic. However, she explained that this has sparked positive conversations about equity in academia.
“People are really thinking about pedagogy in terms of a student’s success and equities in education, and how do we make sure that all our students succeed, not just people who went to private schools,” Scully said. “COVID presented so many challenges, as we all know, but it really, I think, for the research university, has focused the mind on thinking about pedagogy actually in a new way.”
Emory has a high faculty retention rate because faculty who are not tenured or on the tenure track often have long contracts, which Scully said is of “incredible value” because students often list their relationships with faculty as what they love most about Emory.
Additionally, the University tends to promote faculty to fill administrative positions, which helps increase institutional knowledge. For example, Freeman worked as an associate dean before being promoted to ECAS dean, so she already understands how Emory functions and can have a smoother transition, according to Scully.
“They can provide continuity, even if there’s some floating around at the top,” Scully said.
Fallin noted the pattern as well, saying that the new ideas will coincide with the consistency of institutional knowledge.
“If there are any kind of cultural things that you want to make sure stay and don’t get screwed up by new leadership, then you have folks like that around to help,” Fallin said. “That’s true of all the dean turnovers at the different schools.”
Both Freeman and Charles Howard Candler Professor of Psychology Kenneth E. Carter (87Ox, 89C), who replaced Oxford College Dean Douglas Hicks, are serving as interim deans. Scully said that interim deanships generally last a year before a permanent dean is selected.
“In both cases, you’ve got people at the moment who are interim deans who know the institution really well, have been here forever and things will be fine,” Scully said.
Scully said she hopes to see more faculty appointed to leadership positions across higher academics.
“I worry that we don’t have enough,” Scully said. “I think Emory is actually committed to doing that, to some extent… It’s very important that higher education institutions like Emory have intellectuals in their institute of leadership.”
Emory College Dean
Former ECAS Dean Michael Elliott officially departed Emory on Aug. 1 to become the President of Amherst College (Mass.), his alma mater. Elliott began his deanship at Emory in 2017 but first joined the University as an assistant professor of English and a director of graduate studies in 1998.
Freeman — who previously served as the executive associate dean of ECAS and a Goodrich C. White Professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies (WGSS) — was selected as Elliott’s interim replacement. She assumed her role on Aug. 1 and will serve as interim dean until a permanent dean is selected.
“As interim dean, I am eager to build upon traditions that have served us well and seize new opportunities for innovation and growth,” Freeman wrote. “I am excited to celebrate being fully back on campus again, and find even more ways of melding the academic experience with building a sense of community and creating meaningful, shared experiences.”
Freeman first joined Emory in 1995 as a professor, teaching courses in the WGSS, anthropology and Latin American and Caribbean studies departments. As she takes on her new role of ECAS dean, Freeman is focused on launching the new Pathways Center and working with Campus Life to “better integrate” academics with students’ lives outside the classroom.
“I am in an especially privileged position, having spent my professional career at Emory as a professor, dean and Emory parent, to see just what a transformative time this is in our history — with so many new faculty, a committed group of administrative leaders and most importantly, an extraordinarily talented student body,” Freeman wrote in an email to The Wheel. “I will do all I can to [ensure] that the changes afoot make us all more intentional and more engaged as an academic community.”
Oxford College Dean
Former Oxford College Dean Douglas Hicks also left Emory to become the president at his alma mater — Davidson College (N.C.) — after holding the dean position since 2016. He joined the Oxford community in 2016 when he assumed deanship.
The University selected Charles Howard Candler Professor of Psychology Kenneth E. Carter (87Ox, 89C) as the interim dean of Oxford. He took over the position on Aug. 1 and will serve as interim dean until the national search for a permanent dean is concluded.
Carter wrote in an email to the Wheel that change is an “important opportunity for growth, and transitions allow us to embrace fresh ideas and perspectives.”
“I’ve already started partnering with other deans and university leaders, some of whom have moved to new roles, but all of whom have a rich and deep understanding and commitment to Emory’s mission to help students flourish in their college years and beyond,” Carter wrote.
As a first generation Oxford College and Emory University alumnus, Carter said returning to teach as an assistant professor of psychology at Oxford in 1994 was like coming home. His main goal as dean is “student-focused learning,” Emory University Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Ravi Bellamkonda wrote in an email to Oxford students.
“As interim dean, I am bringing my experience as both student and teacher to challenge, inspire, and reignite our already strong and vibrant community,” Carter wrote. “It’s an exciting time for all of us at Emory.”
Goizueta Business School Dean
James assumed deanship of Goizueta on July 1, replacing Interim Dean Karen Sedatole, who has held the position since May 30, 2020 after former Dean Erika James became the Dean of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. James previously served as the deputy dean of USC Marshall School of Business.
After five years of work, Goizueta is set to roll out a “reimagined” Master of Business Administration (BBA) curriculum under James’ leadership in January. James wrote that the new curriculum will increase students’ ability to customize their education and access to technological resources. The curriculum will also focus more on data analytics and establish touchstone modules dedicated to personal and professional development and community engagement.
A business minor will also become available for Emory College students in January, James added.
One of James’ main goals as dean is further integrating Goizueta with the rest of Emory, as he said one of the main challenges he faces is maintaining strong relationships between the schools.
“In recent history the leaderships of Oxford, the college, and Goizueta have worked together in a collaborative fashion for the benefit of our students,” James said. “We have to ensure that continues with the new leadership, but we are already working hard to make sure that happens.”
James also hopes to increase Goizueta’s involvement in Atlanta’s growing business community and Emory’s new AI.Humanity initiative.
Rollins School of Public Health Dean
An extensive international search was conducted to find the new dean of Rollins School of Public Health after the former Dean James W. Curran — who held the position since 1995 — announced his retirement in April 2021. After eight months, the University ultimately selected Dani Fallin, who previously served as the chair of the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (Md.), as well as the director of Hopkin’s Wendy Klag Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities.
Fallin took over as dean on July 1 and said she has had a “really fantastic” experience so far.
“One of the reasons I chose to come to Rollins and to Emory is because it’s this special combination of really, really good people who are at the top of their game in the science and education practice that they do, but also really lovely and people you want to be around and people you want to work with,” Fallin said.
Although Fallin said she will focus on letting Rollins faculty, staff and students drive their own research and learning, she hopes to work with the community to determine which facets of public health they should pour their resources into and establish a shared vision.
“This moment for public health is a particularly challenging but inspiring time,” Fallin said. “So we’re going to work together to think about where we prioritize our energy.”
There are several topics of public health warranting attention — such as public mental health and the effects of climate change on health — so Fallin said she is not sure which directions the school will take this year. She added that the current and future pandemics will always be a part of their focus.
Fallin also hopes to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion in the upcoming year.
The University will “[continue] to think about how we handle not only our own inclusion and diversity concepts for our own people, but how we think about inclusion and diversity as a public health challenge and solutions,” Fallin said. “So infusing these concepts not only in our own behaviors and practices, but also in our research and our educational activities.”
Vice President of Communications and Marketing
Luke Anderson — who previously served as the associate vice president for strategic communications and chief marketing officer at the University of Florida Foundation — took over as the new vice president of communications and marketing on Aug. 15. He replaced Vice President of Government and Community Affairs Cameron Taylor, who has served as the interim vice president of communications and marketing since September.
Anderson said he has been greeted with a palpable energy at Emory.
“Just being very early in my tenure, just a few days in, really excited by the energy that I can feel within this community, just sort of embrace our mission and move forward,” Anderson said.
In the upcoming year, Anderson said he aims to be a “steward of the Emory story and to advance the Emory story” by looking across all audiences — from prospective students to world-class researchers the University wants to recruit — and telling them about the “great things” that the University is doing.
“That amplification, and getting that news and that word and that story out there, is at the heart of the goals I’ve set for the coming year,” Anderson said.
Associate Vice Provost and Carlos Museum Director
Henry Kim will assume the position of associate vice provost and director of the Carlos Museum on Aug. 22. Most recently, Kim served as the founding director and CEO of the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, which features Islamic art, Iranian art and Muslim culture. He has previously held several positions — such as curator, university lecturer and director of the university engagement project — at the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford.
This transition follows former director Bonnie Speed’s retirement in 2021. While the University was searching for a new museum director, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Art History Bonna Wescoat served as interim director of the museum.
“I am excited to be part of a new group of leaders who are being brought into the University at this time,” Kim wrote in an email to the Wheel. “With new leadership comes the opportunity to bring in new ideas, approaches and experiences that will help shape the development of programs and departments.”
Kim has met with faculty, students, alumni and staff to discuss the future of the Carlos Museum and plans to incorporate the museum collections more into teaching and research as well as in programs that provide an additional perspective on contemporary issues.
“[The Carlos Museum] can serve as a gateway to developing a truly global view of culture, by representing peoples who are typically underrepresented in museums across America,” Kim said. “It can lead innovation in how objects can be used to develop critical thinking skills in traditional and non-traditional teaching fields. I look forward to helping shape its future, working closely with students and faculty to develop its teaching programs and with the libraries and other institutions to develop programs and exhibitions that have relevance today to Emory and its wider communities.”