Since February, the Office of the Provost and Division of Campus Life have been holding Dialogues on the Emory Undergraduate Experience, focusing on topics as diverse as academics, student transcripts, campus life and school spirit. Geared toward improving the overall undergraduate experience at Emory, these forums — modeled off of the “Year of the Faculty” program held two years ago, which had similar aims — represent a unique and intriguing opportunity for a heightened degree of communication and awareness between the administration and the student body.
Through these forums, the administration has been able to reach out to the Emory student community in a significant way. At least 600 students from Emory College, Oxford College, Goizueta Business School and the School of Nursing have participated in the Dialogues. The initial dialogues began with a broader focus, but the ones held recently have been focused on specific groups such as international students and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community, providing a voice to various segments of the community.
The Dialogues also provide students with a chance to broach potentially troublesome issues with administrators; for example, at a Dialogue held in the B-School at the start of April, students expressed their worries that the school’s fall in the BusinessWeek rankings could affect their futures, taking their concerns directly to deans and other administrators from the College and the Business School. And at another Dialogues event, students made their displeasure known concerning the administration’s cuts to the pre-orientation programs.
Ultimately, however, these Dialogues will be judged by whether or not they yield tangible, positive changes. Obviously not all results will come immediately or even within the near future, but the new Health Sciences Mentoring program was a result of such Dialogues. Students and administrators have been exchanging positive and creative ideas at these forums, and it is important that administrators follow through on the productive ideas that these forums bring to the forefront, while not raising unrealistic expectations. The administration should also take note of which issues inspire the most feedback and depth of response from the community. Many students, for instance, have expressed their desire for a pre-health advising program, and the University should make note of this enthusiasm.
The administration plans to compile a book focusing on specific aspects of the undergraduate experiences of the students involved in these Dialogues, which will be available not only to administrators but also the general community. We hope that this series of dialogues provides the administration with tangible examples and ideas of how to improve the undergraduate experience. Positive steps are being made; now it’s the University’s job to build on these early initiatives and enact positive changes.
The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board.