Presidential Selection Prospectus

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On the strength of its accomplishments and values, Emory University is a prime national contender for talent, resources, and sponsored research on an arc that promises substantial—even historic—gains during the term of the next president. In every dimension, Emory seeks a president equal to its bright future.

Executive Summary

Emory harnesses imagination and discovery to address 21st-century challenges, leading research and innovation in the health sciences, natural and social sciences, humanities, and arts. 

Faculty lead our inquiry driven, ethically engaged, and diverse intellectual community. Today, Emory students are more academically qualified as well as more ethnically, economically, and internationally diverse than ever before. 

During the past five years, Emory’s research funding has increased more than 20 percent and, in fiscal year 2019, Emory experts received $689.1 million in total research funding awards. Our National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding testifies to this strength, with the university ranked 19th in the nation and two of its schools in the top ten.

As the state’s most comprehensive provider of clinical services, Emory Healthcare serves all basic health care needs while also being the place patients turn to for treatment of the most challenging, rare, and complex conditions.

The university is currently in the silent phase of a highly ambitious capital campaign, consistent in size with other major universities in the country and on track to be very successful. Emory has an endowment and strategic investment funds that have enabled a striking upward trajectory that sets a promising path for the future.

Investments in Emory have changed the course of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and serious infectious diseases such as Ebola, enabled unparalleled health care for millions, and enriched the lives of gifted students who go on from here to lead lives of meaning and consequence.

Engaged here at home and in more than 160 countries, the people of Emory improve lives and strengthen communities through health care, research, education, and civic engagement.

Emory University

A nationally and highly ranked global research university known for exceptional teaching, research, scholarship, health care, and service to humanity, Emory University combines nine undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and colleges with the most comprehensive—and constantly growing—health care system in the region and a sponsored research base that make it one of the great universities in the country. As a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU) since 1995, Emory is a leading partner in the AAU’s mission to “strengthen the contributions of leading research universities to American society.”

Emory has a signal advantage: a common purpose to think beyond oneself. This sense of responsibility has been present among students, faculty, staff, and alumni across generations. The result is a courageous community continuing to realize the university’s mission “to create, preserve, teach, and apply knowledge in the service of humanity.” 


When a small group of Methodists founded Emory College in Oxford, Georgia, in 1836, they named the school for John Emory, an American Methodist bishop who believed education molded the character as well as the mind. From those humble beginnings in the Georgia countryside, Emory’s character was strengthened by the struggle to establish stable finances and make a name for itself. 

One thing that has not changed since 1836 is the conviction that the best education tends to the whole person, heart and mind. As the Emory motto proclaims, Cor prudentis possidebit scientiam: The wise heart seeks knowledge.

In 1914, with a gift of $1 million and 75 acres from Asa Candler of The Coca-Cola Company, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South chose Atlanta as the site for Emory University. In January 1915, Emory University received its charter and began the process to incorporate Emory College into the university.

In that same year, the university merged with Atlanta Medical College and then, in 1916, began operations for its new schools of theology and law. Emory College made the 38-mile move to Atlanta in 1919. While the university took shape in Atlanta, Oxford College continued on the original Oxford campus. These years marked an ambitious expansion that, through the ensuing decades, elevated the university’s reputation, as alumni in ever increasing numbers demonstrated the value of an Emory education.  

In the past half-century, the university and its campuses have undergone a stunning transformation, much of it owed to the largesse of alumnus Robert W. Woodruff. He went on to lead The Coca-Cola Company to unparalleled growth as the most recognized brand in the world. In 1979, Robert Woodruff and his brother, George, gave $105 million in unrestricted funds to the university—at the time the largest gift to any institution in the United States. 

Focused on making Emory “one of the principal universities in this country, one of this society’s unassailably distinctive resources,” the president at the time, James T. Laney, set about strengthening the liberal arts, building graduate programs of distinction, and recruiting ever more distinguished faculty. This drive to excellence culminated in the appointment of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter as University Distinguished Professor in 1982 and a formal affiliation between Emory and The Carter Center. In 2007, His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama—the 1989 Nobel Peace Laureate—also joined the faculty as Presidential Distinguished Professor.

Emory opened its doors to women in 1917, and the first female graduate received her degree in 1920, the year American women were guar­anteed the right to vote. The university successfully sued for the right to admit students regardless of race or color in 1962. Groups internal to Emory—the Black Student Alliance, the Employee Council, the Women’s Caucus of the 1980s, and the LGBTQ community of the 1990s—all pushed the university toward a greater manifestation of its ideals.

Meanwhile, Oxford College remains one of two choices for entering Emory undergraduates. It provides students a distinctive education focused on the liberal arts, leadership, and service for their first two years in a small-town, close-knit setting. The student body at Oxford is among Emory’s most diverse. The campus is particularly community-oriented, with students and professors as partners in learning. 

Relationship to the United Methodist Church

Given the founding of Emory College by the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the university has a historical affiliation with that denomination’s descendant, the United Methodist Church. Although the university is a separate and self-sustaining corporation not controlled by the United Methodist Church, its work and self-understanding continue to respect a relationship between the church and the university, and the two collaborate and inform each other as independent entities. Rooted in its Methodist heritage and values, today Emory has become one of the most religiously and philosophically diverse universities in the country.

The research enterprise

Innovation and discovery—carried out in a uniquely collaborative, interdisciplinary way—are the building blocks of the university’s DNA. Not only are linkages strong across the schools and centers, they are equally productive with key partners around the corner and the world. Hundreds of research faculty and students are focused on solving the critical problems of our time to tease out the next breakthrough.

The impact of the research being done at Emory is indisputable. In 2003, three Emory professors developed the drug emtricitabine; it is now used by 9 out of 10 HIV patients in the United States to treat their condition. In 2005, Emory sold the rights to the drug for $525 million in what was then the largest known intellectual property agreement involving a U.S. university.

Emory’s largest-ever research award, $180 million, was announced in 2019 to continue an initiative already making great strides to reduce child mortality around the world. With more than five million young children dying annually, mostly of preventable diseases, this award expands the project’s footprint and enables the development of more effective interventions. 

Recently, an Emory pediatric hematologist—who harnesses research across math, medicine, biology, physics, and biomedical engineering—worked with a graduate student to develop a novel smartphone app to detect anemia.

With their dominance in brain health, Emory researchers have brought new light to the discrete systems in the brain that play roles in recognizing and navigating places. The findings can prove valuable for developing better brain-rehabilitation methods as well as for advancing computer vision systems, such as those in driverless cars.

Important discoveries in the humanities are equally a part of the Emory story. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, developed with scholars from around the world, uses big data to reveal a more complete portrait of the slave trade. According to Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, the database is “one of the most dramatically significant research projects in the history of African studies, African American studies, and the history of world slavery itself.” 

Nearing its 40th anniversary is the Center for the Study of Law and Religion (CSLR), respected around the world for the strength of its scholarship. The center gained international prominence with its 1991 conference, “Christianity and Democracy,” bringing together 800 participants from five continents and offering keynote addresses by former President Jimmy Carter and Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu. In recent years, the center has expanded its reach to explore the relationship of law to Hinduism, Buddhism, and other religions; the role of law and religion in social justice; and the interaction of law, religion, and health. CSLR produces innovative scholarship, facilitates challenging conversations, convenes the best minds, and trains the next generation of academics, lawyers, and religious leaders to advance the global discussion regarding law and religion.  

Emory College of Arts and Sciences faculty have resoundingly shown their commitment to a spirit of deep inquiry and intellectual challenge. Among the college’s more than 45 preeminent departments and programs, two of note are Creative Writing and African American Studies.

Across its 29 years, the Creative Writing program has gained a national reputation as an incubator for writers. The stature of the faculty is evident in some of their recent awards for books and films; these include finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry; a Peabody Award; the Aspen Words Literary Prize; the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work (fiction); and the Audience Awards for Best Documentary at Outfest LA, NewFest NYC, and several other U.S. and international film festivals. 

In African American Studies, the faculty has conducted award-winning research in English, history, religion, art, public health, and education. For this faculty, though, it is about more than the academy. It also is about applying knowledge in ways that empower students, other members of the Emory community, and—ultimately—the society at large. Their scholarship and expertise is evident in national news forums. They weigh in on public policy for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of State, the United Nations, and as expert witnesses in immigration hearings. They create resources, such as the database for Civil Rights Cold Cases in Georgia, which further the cause of justice. 

During the past five years, research funding at Emory has increased by more than 20 percent. In fiscal year 2019, Emory experts received $689.1 million in total research funding awards, of which $451 million was in the form of federal awards, led by the NIH with $381 million. More than 2,800 research proposals were greenlighted last year, demonstrating that the pipeline for new research is strong. 

Emory’s major research centers include:

  • Antibiotic Resistance Center
  • Center for AIDS Research
  • Center for Global Safe Water
  • Center for Neurodegenerative Disease
  • Cherry L. Emerson Center for Scientific Computing
  • Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory
  • Emory Brain Health Center
  • Emory Global Health Institute
  • Emory Institute for Drug Development
  • Emory Vaccine Center
  • Global Diabetes Research Center
  • Goizueta Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center
  • Winship Cancer Institute
  • Yerkes National Primate Research Center

Research partnerships include the Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance Network, the Georgia Clinical and Translational Science Alliance, the Georgia Research Alliance, the Emory–University of Georgia Center for Excellence in Influenza Research and Surveillance, and the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. 

The Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, through world-class faculty from Emory and Georgia Institute of Technology who lead cutting-edge research in key biomedical areas, prepares students to reach the forefront of leadership in the fields of biomedical engineering and to impact health care significantly. U.S. News & World Report ranked the department No. 3 among the nation’s top graduate biomedical engineering programs for 2019–2020.  

Emory and Georgia Institute of Technology researchers were doing cutting-edge research in nanotechnology before many others, which brought both funding and recognition in the scientific community. In 2005, the National Cancer Institute awarded $19 million to the two universities for the creation of the Emory-Georgia Tech Nanotechnology Center, one of seven National Centers of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence. That same year, the NIH awarded Emory and Tech scientists $11.5 million for a new program to create advanced nanotechnologies aimed at detecting and analyzing plaque at the molecular level. Research in this field continues on many fronts—from new cancer therapies to pollution-eating compounds, and from more durable consumer products to detectors for biohazards.

Emory was ranked 19th in the nation in NIH institutional funding in 2019. The School of Medicine ranked 19th nationally for NIH funding, the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing ranked fifth, and the Rollins School of Public Health ranked fifth. Winship Cancer Institute and Yerkes National Primate Research Center scientists contribute significantly to Emory’s NIH research funding totals. The Emory School of Medicine has 11 departments in the top 20 in NIH funding, including six in the top 10.

Undergraduate education

The undergraduate student body numbers 8,101 and features students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries who speak 80 languages other than English at home or as a first language. Seventeen percent of undergraduates hail from abroad, putting Emory in the ranks of schools with large percentages of international students. The undergraduate population is also one of the most ethnically diverse in comparison to peer institutions. Emory ranks fourth among Top 25 national universities in the economic diversity of its students. 

Emory College applications numbered 30,000+ in 2019, up from 17,796 five years ago. With the steady increase in the academic quality of students, the admit rate is 15.6 percent, with a 29.3 percent yield. The median unweighted high school GPA of matriculated students was 3.84. The median SAT score for students who matriculated to Emory College was 1460. For the Class of 2023, black students make up 8.2 percent of the Emory College class and 6.8 percent of the Oxford College class, while the university has seen a 15.9 percent increase in Hispanic and Latino/Latina students during the past five years. The number of first-generation students continues to grow as well. It all adds up to Emory students as diverse as the world around them.

Among many academic honors, Emory students in the past seven years have won 69 Fulbright Fellowships, 32 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships, eight Goldwater Scholarships, five Schwarzman Scholarships, three Udall Scholarships, two Gates Cambridge Scholarships, two Marshall Scholarships, two Truman Scholarships, two Rhodes Scholarships, and four Beinecke Scholarships.

Graduate and professional education

Emory’s highly ranked professional schools include Goizueta Business School, Candler School of Theology, the School of Law, the School of Medicine, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, and Rollins School of Public Health. On the Druid Hills campus, the university’s graduate and professional schools share labs, libraries, and other spaces, which fosters collaborative and cross-disciplinary research.

Goizueta Business School. Business education has been an integral part of the university identity since 1919. With diverse graduate programs that include a One-Year MBA, Two-Year MBA, Evening MBA, Executive MBA, MS in Business Analytics, PhD, and Executive Education program, Goizueta produces principled leaders intent on having a purposeful impact on business and society. During namesake Roberto C. Goizueta’s 16-year tenure at The Coca-Cola Company, he increased its value from $4 billion to $145 billion. Today, Goizueta students live out his values of curiosity, intellectual courage, and integrity, which form the cornerstone of the school’s educational approach. Top U.S. News & World Report rankings include No. 21 for Best Business Schools, No. 9 for Part-Time MBA, and No. 18 for Executive MBA.

Candler School of Theology. An intellectually vital, internationally distinguished, and intentionally diverse school, Candler in many ways occupies the heart of Emory’s commitments and campus. Among the 16 degrees available to students are the Master of Divinity, Master of Religion and Public Life, Master of Religious Leadership, Master of Theological Studies, Master of Theology, and Doctor of Ministry. Candler faculty—among the great minds in theological education—lead the university in the production of scholarly books.  Top rankings for Candler include being named, six years running, among the “Seminaries That Change the World” by the Center for Faith and Service. 

School of Law. From Eléonore Raoul, Emory’s first admitted woman, who joined the law school in 1917, to Dean Ben F. Johnson Jr.’s landmark integration case before the Georgia Supreme Court, the law school’s history includes proud moments of change and progress. With degrees that include the Juris Doctor, Juris Master, Master of Laws, Master of Comparative Law, and Doctor of Juridical Science, Emory Law is educating the next generation of leaders and innovators—graduates with a social conscience who improve the communities in which they work. Top U.S. News & World Report rankings include No. 26 overall, No. 36 for Health Care Law, No. 31 for International Law, No. 27 for Intellectual Property Law, and No. 27 for Trial Advocacy Law.

School of Medicine. Emory’s medical school is challenging the conventions of traditional care and reshaping how medicine is practiced. Aided enormously by Emory’s interdisciplinary nature, medical students have the advantage of links to many other academic resources traditionally outside the realm of health care; hospitals where they learn the most advanced, compassionate patient care; as well as research institutes and government and industry partnerships lending their expertise to finding the next discovery or cure. Top U.S. News & World Report rankings include No. 24 for Research-Oriented Medical Schools, No. 35 for Primary Care Schools, as well as leading programs (Physician Assistant, No. 5; Physical Therapy, No. 5; Pediatrics, No. 15; Radiology, No. 16; Surgery, No. 17; Anesthesiology, No. 17; Internal Medicine, No. 19).

Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. Emory nursing graduates go on to become national and international leaders in patient care, public health, government, and education. Master’s degree graduates are qualified to seek certification as nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and/or clinical nurse specialists. The school’s PhD program focuses on clinical research. Its Doctor of Nursing Practice program offers two specialty tracks: health systems leadership and population health. Top U.S. News & World Report rankings include No. 4 overall for the school’s graduate programs, No. 15 for its Family Nurse Practitioner graduate program, No. 9 for its Doctor of Nursing Practice program, No. 10 for its Nursing Administration program, and No. 15 for its Nurse Practitioner: Adult/Gerontology, Primary Care program.

Rollins School of Public Health. Rollins students learn to identify, analyze, and intervene in today's most pressing public health issues. The school’s setting, both within Emory and Atlanta, is ideal for hands-on research and collaborations with the world’s leading public health agencies, as well as interdisciplinary work with national and international organizations. Graduate degrees include the Master of Public Health, Executive Master of Public Health, Master of Science in Public Health, and six different PhD programs. In the 2020 U.S. News & World Report rankings, Rollins is No. 5, one of only two schools founded in the past 50 years to be ranked in the top twelve.

Laney Graduate School. Laney offers 47 doctoral and master’s programs across the humanities, social sciences, public health, biological and biomedical sciences, natural sciences, and business. The graduate school has a proud tradition of scholarship known throughout the world, and graduate and professional students at the university number 7,297. Top U.S. News & World Report rankings include No. 11 for Clinical Psychology, No. 24 for Political Science, No. 27 for History, and No. 30 for English. 


Emory’s faculty are renowned experts in their fields, tireless researchers working to improve understanding of the world, and leaders in their communities. They excel as intellectual role models, welcoming students’ diverse points of view, engaging them in collaborative research opportunities, and stirring their imaginations. 

Major faculty honors have included winners of the Pulitzer Prize for history, the Booker Prize for literature, and the Nobel Peace Prize, as well as the U.S. poet laureate. Twenty-two members of the regular and affiliated faculty have been honored with membership in the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and 34 have been selected for the National Academy of Medicine.

In the past year alone, books by faculty numbered 104 and topics have ranged from a new form of poetry to an examination of voter suppression, and from a chronicle of contemporary anti-Semitism to an exploration of what religion and science teach us about diet.

Faculty research is as diverse and creative as the individual professors in pursuit of new knowledge. Whether an economist explaining how rising credit card debt affects the economy, the first U.S. neuroscientist to treat an epilepsy patient with deep-brain stimulation, or a law professor exploring the international law that applies to military uses of outer space, Emory faculty are routinely called upon to help shape international dialogue across the sciences, humanities, arts, and other disciplines. 

Other examples of faculty who occupy a leading edge include the Emory ethnobotanist who became intrigued with a guide to traditional Southern plant remedies in circulation at the height of the Civil War. Her published study of three plants from this guide finds that they have antiseptic properties. If researchers can identify the compounds responsible for the antimicrobial activity, they are on their way to benefiting modern wound care.

A Pulitzer Prize–winning author and Emory professor launched the Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project at Emory in 2011; each fall, his class focuses on a different case. In their work on one case, the class solved a murder mystery that had spanned decades. That research became the subject of a podcast, “Buried Truths,” which won a Peabody Award in 2018.


Emory attracts top-flight staff drawn to the uncommonly rewarding environment and the chance to contribute in an intellectually stimulating, diverse, collaborative community where the work product is nothing less than the ability to enrich, change, and save lives. In June 2019, Forbes released its first-ever list of America’s Best Employers by State, and on it, Emory was ranked No. 2 in Georgia. 

Library system

Emory University Libraries—ranked among the top 20 by the Association of Research Libraries in North America—serve as an interdisciplinary, intellectual commons for the campuses in Atlanta and Oxford, Georgia. Collections include more than 4.4 million volumes, 336,390 electronic journals, more than one million electronic books, and internationally renowned special collections.

The Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Books Library is home to more than 250,000 rare books and  its collections span more than 800 years of history, with particular depth in modern literature, African American history and culture, and the history of Georgia and the South. The Rose Library holds the papers of Ted Hughes, former poet laureate of Great Britain; Seamus Heaney, Nobel Prize winner; Salman Rushdie, Booker Prize winner; and Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize winner. Also housed at the Rose Library is the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library, featuring more than 75,000 volumes of English-language poetry.

The Robert W. Woodruff Library, at the heart of the Atlanta campus, houses the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library; Goizueta Business Library; and the Marian K. Heilbrun Music and Media Library. Other libraries include the Woodruff Health Sciences Library, Hugh F. MacMillan Law Library, Pitts Theology Library, Oxford College Library, and Science Commons Library.

Emory Healthcare

As the state’s most comprehensive provider of clinical services, Emory Healthcare has a profound impact in Atlanta and across Georgia and the Southeast, with 11 hospitals, outpatient locations in 25 counties, and regional affiliate hospitals throughout the state. With more than 24,000 employees, the system exerted a statewide economic impact of $9.62 billion in 2019. Emory Healthcare serves all basic health care needs while also treating the most challenging, rare, and complex conditions.

Volume has risen in two ways: organically (through reputation and high quality) and through acquisition. Patient service revenue grew from $3.06 billion in 2016 to $4.4 billion in 2019. The net from operations was 2.5 percent in the 2018–2019 budget.

Emory University Hospital admitted the first person with Ebola virus disease treated in the United States in August 2014. Within three months, the hospital’s cutting-edge Serious Communicable Diseases Unit had successfully treated and discharged four patients who had contracted the virus while caring for Ebola sufferers in West Africa. As a result, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asked Emory to serve as lead coordinator of the National Ebola Training and Education Center.

For the eighth year in a row, U.S. News & World Report ranked Emory University Hospital No. 1 in Georgia and metro Atlanta. Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital ranked No. 2, while Emory University Hospital Midtown ranked No. 4 in Atlanta and No. 5 in Georgia. The system’s other hospitals include Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital, the only dedicated orthopaedics and spine surgical facility in Atlanta; Emory Rehabilitation Hospital; Emory University Hospital at Wesley Woods; Emory Johns Creek Hospital; Emory University Hospital Smyrna; and its three newest facilities: Emory Decatur Hospital, Emory Hillandale Hospital, and Emory Long-Term Acute Care.

The only National Cancer Institute–designated comprehensive cancer center in Georgia, Winship Cancer Institute has 500 faculty who received more than $96 million in research funding in 2019. The Emory Proton Therapy Center opened in midtown Atlanta in December 2018, providing Winship clinician-researchers a powerful radiation-therapy option to use in their quest to lessen the burden of cancer for Georgians and those in the Southeast. The institute’s investigators conducted more than 300 therapeutic clinical trials that enrolled more than 900 participants in 2019.

The system also includes the Wesley Woods Campus, which serves a geriatric population through a variety of facilities; the Emory Clinic, the largest group practice in Georgia; Emory Specialty Associates; and the Emory Healthcare Network, a clinically integrated network with nearly 2,800 Emory and private-practice physicians in 250 provider locations. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta partners with Emory’s School of Medicine for clinical training and research. The partnership between Emory and Children’s is among the strongest in the nation for advancing pediatric research, education, and clinical care.

Grady Hospital, Atlanta’s downtown municipal hospital and one of Atlanta’s two Level 1 trauma centers, is a critical community resource. Emory School of Medicine faculty constitute approximately 80 percent of the physicians caring for Grady patients, with Morehouse School of Medicine and Grady-employed physicians providing the other 20 percent. They lead programs targeted to problems experienced disproportionately by indigent, underserved populations, including stroke, diabetes, sickle cell disease, cancer, high-risk pregnancy, and infectious diseases, including HIV and tuberculosis. The Grady-Emory connection has been in full force since 1915 when it became the teaching hospital for Emory’s School of Medicine.

Emory also provides medical direction for Grady Health System’s AIDS treatment center and is a primary site in the nation’s NIH-funded AIDS Clinical Trials Networks.

In 2019, Emory provided $688 million in community benefits to improve the health care of Georgians, including $151.5 million in charity care.

Fundraising and fiscal outlook

Campaign Emory, the comprehensive campaign that ended in 2013, engaged nearly 150,000 donors and raised $1.7 billion. The university is currently in the silent stage of an even more ambitious capital campaign that is on track and that the next president will lead.

Emory’s endowment is valued at approximately $7.1 billion, ranking in the top 20 of U.S. university endowments. The university has $2 billion in cash assets, which it invests prudently but with increasing returns, such that it has created a robust strategic investment fund. The discount rate on undergraduate tuition is a modest 39 percent, even with generous financial aid and a significant cohort of Pell-eligible students.

Emory Healthcare produces a strong net operating income that supports clinical improvement and academic strategic investment.

A spirit of service

The Emory community is consistently recognized for its local and global commitment to service and volunteer work. In 1980, two Emory students founded Volunteer Emory to serve as the hub of Emory’s undergraduate volunteer efforts. True to its roots, Volunteer Emory continues to connect Emory with the needs of the community through days of service, weekly service trips, alternative breaks, social justice dialogues, and community connections.

A major milestone each year is the Emory Cares International Service Day, now in its 16th year, sponsored by Volunteer Emory and the Emory Alumni Association. In 2019, more than 1,600 students, faculty, staff, and alumni participated in 93 projects in 73 U.S. cities and 13 countries.

On the international stage

In seeking to understand and engage the world around it, Emory long has been dedicated to expanding and deepening its global impact. 

Faculty work in more than 160 countries, endeavoring to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems. The campus is home-away-from-home for more than 4,000 international students and scholars. Moreover, the university’s schools and colleges have research and exchange agreements with nearly 200 global institutions.

To maximize its influence and leverage resources, Emory has identified strategic locations—Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, and South Korea—where it partners with local institutions as well as the universities of Addis Ababa, Nanjing, and Yonsei.

Selected top rankings

  • 1—Integrative Studies Program (Best Colleges, 2018)
  • 3—best universities for transfer students (Money, 2019)
  • 3—Department of Biomedical Engineering, with Georgia Institute of Technology (U.S. News & World Report, 2020)
  • 5—Best Quality of Life (Princeton Review, 2020)Emory ranks in the top 25 for 15 categories in the Princeton Review’s “The Best 385 Colleges” guide, scoring highly in a range of categories that include overall satisfaction, life on campus, academics, resources, and impact.
  • 5—Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing (U.S. News & World Report, 2021)
  • 5—Rollins School of Public Health (U.S. News & World Report, 2020)
  • 5—NIH research funding for nursing schools, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing (Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, 2019)
  • 5—NIH research funding for schools of public health, Rollins School of Public Health (Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research, 2019)
  • 21 among national universities (U.S. News & World Report, 2020)


There is perhaps no greater asset than being a university on the rise in a city on the rise. An exciting international city of more than six million residents, Atlanta is home to 16 Fortune 500 companies— third-highest in the nation. Among well-known names are United Parcel Service, The Coca-Cola Company, The Home Depot, NCR Corporation, and Delta Air Lines.

Atlanta is also recognized as the public health capital of the world, based on the strength of Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health and organizations such as The Carter Center, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Cancer Society, and CARE.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the world’s busiest, is a major resource. Atlanta is the corporate, financial, arts, music, and film capital of the Southeast, and it features a burgeoning tech industry. Replete with distinct neighborhoods, the metro area features a mix of diverse cultures, entertainment, leading sports teams, and the arts.

The city draws considerable wattage from its 44 colleges and universities, which enroll 400,000 students. It is home to historically black colleges, including Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College and School of Medicine, and Spelman College.

Emory enjoys a thriving partnership with Georgia Institute of Technology. The two schools spend $1.4 billion on research annually.

Collaborations with University of Georgia include the Center of Excellence for Influenza Research Surveillance, a malaria research consortium, a new diagnostic test for tuberculosis, and collaboration on an HIV vaccine.

The university was annexed into the city of Atlanta in 2018 to reaffirm Emory’s connection to the city and its growth. With a full-time workforce of more than 37,000, the university is the largest private employer in the city. In addition to its strong cultural influence, alumni leadership, and academic strengths, Emory has a profound economic impact on metro Atlanta—$14.8 billion in 2019—creating thousands of jobs, generating millions in tax revenues, undertaking capital investments, and contributing to communities through health care, research, and civic engagement. The city, in turn, connects Emory faculty and students to opportunities for broader networking and partnerships, jobs, research, service, and learning.

The Challenges and Opportunities for Emory’s Next President

Throughout its history and in the lead-up to this presidential transition, Emory has demonstrated committed and thoughtful leadership.

That is no small advantage, for it has allowed the university to make remarkable progress, especially given that Emory has advanced via growth spurts, or what might more eloquently be termed “transformative events.” The latter, though soundly positive in Emory’s history, also have brought with them heightened expectations as a result of rapid advancement.

The previous capital campaign set a bold mark for the university. It was rightly celebrated for its record-setting results, despite being conducted during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The satisfaction of unified hard work that succeeded against the odds cannot help but have a salutary effect on the developing campaign, which has benefited from new leadership. 

Emory has taken regular stock of its position, engaging in careful strategic planning not only at the school level but at the university level as well. The current strategic framework, “One Emory: Engaged for Impact,” aligned with a new master plan that provides a shared vision for the facilities and digital investments of the future, has created a promising blueprint for Emory. By virtue of its nature as a framework, not a rigid plan, it provides flexibility for the new president to modify as needed along its proposed decade-long trajectory. 

The leadership teams of both the president and provost are strong. The deans are impressive, demonstrating progress for their schools that ties to the university’s broader goals of being an academic community of choice for the most talented students and sought-after faculty. There is also deep managerial strength in the financial and strategic segments of the academic health care and clinical operations as well as impressive overall university financial management. 

As a historically decentralized institution, Emory must continue to seek ways to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts, both fiscally and philosophically. One level at which this discussion should take place is the relationship of the health sciences to the broader university. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center (WHSC) consists of the schools of medicine, nursing, and public health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; Winship Cancer Institute; the Emory Global Health Institute; and the most comprehensive health care system in the state. A significant plus is that WHSC leaders understand what investments are essential for both clinical growth and research success.

Finding the unity of purpose that “One Emory” envisions

Emory has much of what it needs—combined strengths in the arts and sciences, professional schools, and health sciences—to weave into an integrated whole and demonstrate impact in Atlanta, Georgia, the nation, and internationally. 

Following a significant deliberative process undertaken internally, the “One Emory” strategic framework, launched on September 5, 2018, is designed to shape the university’s advance from excellence to eminence in four areas.

Faculty Excellence
Foster a culture of eminence that attracts and inspires scholars of the highest order 

Academic Community of Choice
Cultivate a thriving campus and a compelling student experience

Innovative Scholarship through Creative Expression
Harness imagination and discovery to address 21st-century challenges

Atlanta as a Gateway to the World
Unleash Emory and Atlanta’s shared future to mobilize change for the world

The framework has been well received, its goals resonating with faculty and staff, who support the administration. They are eager for the recognition that Emory deserves and keen to be even more active participants in bringing about this bolder future. The new president will be critical to the success of this blueprint. 

Achieving fiscal unity

Emory has historically managed its finances in a highly decentralized manner, with separate revenue streams and endowments. In practical terms, each school—and sometimes even departments—was authorized to execute its own fiscal strategy.

The WHSC has been a significant exception, with highly integrated research programs that combine faculty routinely across its three schools. In addition, the professional schools have understood the value of maximizing resources and thus have created joint degrees and joint appointments that have found significant favor with students and faculty. 

University leadership has moved to create new central investment funds, strategic plans that stress cross-disciplinary efforts, and seed money to encourage collaboration. Nevertheless, Emory needs even more fluid structures and finances that incentivize shared initiatives in both research and education.

Creating a more distinctive, holistic undergraduate experience

The academic achievement of Emory’s undergraduates has risen steadily. As these ever more capable and diverse students energize the current classes, Emory must live up to their expectations. In the language of “One Emory,” the goal is to “become the most influential institution in our students’ lives by cultivating affinity for Emory.” 

In the past several years, Emory has acknowledged the need for a more seamless undergraduate experience, taking positive steps at both the administrative and programmatic levels. There is more work to be done, however, in order to improve retention and graduation rates, raise student satisfaction so that graduates become more committed alumni, and prepare students—through advising and other means—to better leverage their Emory degrees. 

Student retention is approximately 95 percent, slightly below Emory’s peers. Six-year graduation rates are roughly 90 percent—again, slightly below the university’s peers. The differences might seem modest, but they have strong effects on rankings and reflect the need for improvement.

The path for an Emory undergraduate is to start either at Emory College or Oxford College for the first two years. In the remaining two years, students may stay in Emory College or transfer to business or nursing.

Currently, advising is primarily carried out by faculty, although there is a nascent professional adviser structure. A strengthened advising system is needed, and plans are under way to provide it. So too with career services: that assistance is more highly developed in the professional schools than at the undergraduate level. 

The new master plan calls for the expansion of undergraduate housing. At present, Emory houses students only in their first two years, but the university has ambitions to move in the direction of a full-time residential college experience.

Emory offers its students ample opportunities for study abroad, research experience, or experiential education. For a variety of reasons, not all students have been able to take advantage of these rich resources. The university is committed to more deliberately expand participation in these value-added enrichment options.

With coordination on the part of Emory College, Oxford College, the Office of the Provost, and Emory Campus Life, many good ideas are coming to the fore around improving the undergraduate experience. To fulfill this pledge, Emory needs to empower its students, guide their ambitions, open the full horizons of the university to all, and thereby ensure that every student finds a pathway to success. 

The Task Force on the Future of the Arts, convened within the context of “One Emory,” identified priorities through 2025 to increase the impact of the arts across campus and to ensure Emory’s recognition as a leading place for the expression of creativity and the arts. Emory recently appointed a vice provost for the arts. His priorities include enabling cross-functional collaboration for existing arts programs and venues, developing new and impactful curricula, attracting and retaining eminent faculty and students focused on the arts, and overseeing comprehensive communications and fundraising efforts for the arts at Emory. 

Embedding Emory more deeply in Georgia and Atlanta

Emory has made common cause with Atlanta in myriad ways.

As just one example, through the Center for Civic and Community Engagement (CCE), Emory students channel their passion for social justice, education, health care, and more into purposeful impact in metro Atlanta and beyond. Through the CCE’s Community Building and Social Change Fellows Program, Emory has invested 60,000 hours in community endeavors with 40 partners, while preparing 200 Emory undergraduates to become agents of positive change.

Given the many elements that make Atlanta an enviable place to live and work, students who have come to Emory from all over the world increasingly choose to stay following graduation. The 2019 Economic Impact Report shows that the number of alumni living and working locally yields an additional $402 million of household income within Atlanta and $842 million within the state.

Augmenting the extensive reach of the Emory Healthcare Network, its nurses, physicians, and allied health professionals staff and provide essential services to Grady Hospital, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and the Atlanta VA Medical Center, making Emory the dominant health care provider for the region.

The quality and number of existing partnerships are noteworthy. Nonetheless, as a comprehensive research institution with the region’s only academic medical center, Emory is well positioned to contribute even more fully to the metro area’s advancement. As Georgia participates in the knowledge economy and as that economy spreads beyond Atlanta, universities are the state’s greatest resource.  

For all these reasons, the university will expect its new president to be a leading citizen of Georgia and Atlanta, engaged in the civic, business, and public councils of the region as well as championing the critical role of higher education in advancing the city and state.

Leading on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion

Emory’s student body is quite diverse in racial, gender, and socioeconomic terms. Among faculty, 14 percent represent historically underrepresented populations and 47 percent are women, while for staff, 41 percent represent historically underrepresented populations. These good indicators notwithstanding, representation and inclusion, in every dimension, require constant attention.

The recent hiring of a vice provost for diversity, chief diversity officer, and adviser to the president goes a long way in this direction. It is also the case that numerous offices and programs, both centrally and at the school level, robustly support diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Nonetheless, this chief diversity officer, partnering with the new president, will wish to work with campus leaders and representatives to define community goals, establish guiding principles, and create a strategy for communicating progress.

In fall 2019, Emory announced a cluster hire of three Latinx Studies scholars, highlighting the university’s commitment to the study of race and ethnicity across the humanities and social sciences. The three faculty members not only have exceptional research and teaching portfolios, they also have a proven record of mentoring a diverse student body, including first-generation and historically underrepresented students.

Emory has taken seriously the need to diversify the STEM workforce. In spring 2017, the university established the Initiative to Maximize Student Development, a two-year, NIH-funded research program committed to increasing diversity in the biological, biomedical, and behavioral sciences by nurturing students underrepresented in these fields. Women in Science at Emory consists of faculty at all levels from the STEM departments at Emory College. They enhance the success, visibility, and stature of women at all levels in science and science education at Emory though advocacy, networking, strategic mentoring, and building a sense of community. 

Growing and strengthening Emory Healthcare

Nationally, health care providers have consolidated in an attempt to control costs amid rising volume from greater insurance coverage and the effect of an aging population. Atlanta mirrors the larger trend: while in 2011 the top four systems accounted for 47 percent of discharges, today the leading four systems account for 84 percent of discharges. 

Emory Healthcare is positioned exceptionally well. Three of Emory’s hospitals—Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital, Emory University Hospital, and Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital—achieved Magnet recognition from the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a reflection of the nursing professionalism and superiority of patient care at these hospitals. In this way, Emory Healthcare represents three of the seven Magnet-designated hospitals across Georgia; no other health system in the state has similar Magnet designation.

The university and Emory Healthcare will need a coordinated strategy and investment plan that extends the system’s market leadership and enhances university resources while protecting it financially. 

Building philanthropy and leading the capital campaign

Emory is in the silent phase of an impressive capital campaign. From 2013 to 2016, Emory raised an average of $238 million a year, growing to an average of $376 million a year from 2017 to 2019. The campaign has been greatly aided by large gifts from some of Emory’s most generous long-term donors. 

Historically, the schools of theology, public health, and medicine have succeeded admirably in varied forms of fundraising and have built impressive endowments. However, the schools and colleges that rely more heavily on alumni giving have more modest endowments than their national peers. The Board of Trustees and the senior vice president for advancement and alumni engagement have committed to strengthening alumni giving to build broader long-term support across the university.

The president will arrive at a critical inflection point, and the board and leadership will look to the president to help define the most critical campaign objectives, interact with principal donors, and help inspire alumni engagement. The capital campaign will rank as one of the new president’s highest priorities. 

Defining strategic choices

Given all that is noted above, Emory will require multiple investments, staged and balanced by strategic choice. Among these are:

  • Investment in the undergraduate experience—which will be expressed through bricks and mortar, advising, experiential learning, and enhanced career services
  • Resources for faculty hiring, development, and retention to improve Emory’s standing in critical disciplines
  • Laboratory space, cores, and personnel in the sciences to enhance growth and remain competitive nationally
  • Greater support for computer science and scientific informatics
  • Enhanced facilities for the arts
  • A strengthened bioengineering partnership with Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Additional investments for Emory Healthcare
  • A new law school building
  • As the president becomes deeply involved with the capital campaign, the master-planning process, and the allocation of strategic investments, these competing priorities will be front and center.

Professional and Personal Qualifications

Emory seeks a transformational leader with the vision, capability, and drive to inspire the university community to greater levels of eminence. The selection committee understands that no single candidate will have all the ideal qualifications, but it seeks candidates with the following experience and abilities:

  • A record of strong personal integrity and adherence to the principled traditions and service leadership that are central to the Emory experience and identity
  • A demonstrated belief in the value of diversity of all kinds, equity, and inclusion as well as experience fostering these values
  • An outstanding career of academic scholarship and achievement along with a successful background in the academy, including the recruitment and retention of superb faculty
  • A commitment to the work of philanthropy, a talent for fundraising, and the capacity to cultivate the friendships that are essential to Emory’s traditions and future
  • A record of past visionary leadership, demonstrative steps in achieving and advancing academic excellence, and a history of continuous advancement both personally and for the institutions served
  • The ability to articulate an ambitious blueprint for Emory and the charisma to inspire others to seek its realization
  • An impressive track record in a complex research institution, preferably one that has life sciences, a medical school, or a scope that is directly analogous
  • A demonstrated ease in the public sphere, able to represent Emory locally, nationally, and internationally and the capability to inspire respect within the ranks of American higher education
  • The talent for bridging disciplines, leading across silos, and harnessing and facilitating the potential for collaboration
  • A history of substantially advancing graduate programs as well as developing a distinctive undergraduate experience, one that creates pathways for students to find their intellectual strengths and achieve rewarding outcomes in their lives and careers
  • Strong management, planning, and financial skills as well as an astute understanding of university finances and the relationships among academic priorities, budgeting, and fundraising
  • The capacity to understand university and health care strategies and the ability to consult broadly, articulate rationales, and make strategic decisions that are essential for the university
  • A leadership style that is creative and entrepreneurial, eager to tackle significant challenges 
  • The capacity for empathy and the ability to uplift and unify Emory’s constituencies  

To Apply 

Emory University has retained Isaacson, Miller, a national executive search firm, to assist in this search. It also has retained Ilene H. Nagel of Education Executives to consult on this search. Confidential inquiries, nominations, referrals, and resumes with cover letters should be sent to: 

John Isaacson, Chair
Ponneh Varho, Partner
Ernest Brooks, Senior Associate

Electronic submission of materials is strongly encouraged.

Emory University is dedicated to providing equal opportunities and equal access to all individuals regardless of race, color, religion, ethnic or national origin, gender, genetic information, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and veteran's status. Emory University does not discriminate in admissions, educational programs, or employment on the basis of any factor stated above or prohibited under applicable law. Students, faculty, and staff are assured of participation in university programs and the use of facilities without such discrimination. Emory University complies with Executive Order 11246, as amended, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Vietnam Era Veteran's Readjustment Assistance Act, and applicable executive orders, federal and state regulations regarding nondiscrimination, equal opportunity and affirmative action. Emory University is committed to achieving a diverse workforce through application of its affirmative action, equal opportunity, and nondiscrimination policy in all aspects of employment including recruitment, hiring, promotions, transfers, discipline, terminations, wage and salary administration, benefits, and training. Inquiries regarding this policy should be directed to the Emory University Office of Equity and Inclusion, 201 Dowman Drive, Administration Building, Atlanta, Georgia 30322. Telephone: 404.727.9867 (V), 404.712.2049 (TDD).