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Author: Jon DarbyPosted On: September 10, 2014Categories: Executive Blogs, President

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We successfully hosted our first Community Conversation Tuesday night. The topic? Answering, “What is the one thing I would change about Emory?” and “What is the one thing I cannot live without at Emory?” Though the turn-out was small, Raj and I were extremely happy with the opportunity for intimate, in-depth discussion that the number of participants provided. We received some fantastic feedback about what should be preserved when we’re discussing changes on campus, and also learned a lot about what should be changed.

In case you aren’t yet familiar with our new initiative, here’s a bit of background about it. Community Conversations are public forums for structured discussion around specific topics chosen by the community from a list published by the Student Government Association. They occur on the second Tuesday of every month in Winship Ballroom from 6:00 – 8:00 PM.

Here’s a taste of what was discussed Tuesday night.


“What is the one thing I cannot live without at Emory?”

Responses to this question broadly fit into four categories: Physical Spaces, Experiences, Services, and Academics.

Physical Spaces

  • The DUC (specifically the ability to reserve space for student organizations and its role as a “social hub” in the heart of campus)
  • Study spaces in the School of Medicine, Woodruff Library
  • WoodPEC (exercise as a form of stress-relief)
  • Dobbs Market and various other food options across the campus


  • Events, big and small, sponsored by student organizations
  • A sense of community created around those events, separate from a collective identity formed around a football team
  • Farmer’s Market
  • Signature events like Dooley’s Week, Homecoming and other traditions
  • Emory’s class size – not too small, not too large
  • Open-minded members of the community who are willing to discuss controversial issues as a conversation rather than an argument
  • Welcoming communities for new or exchange students


  • Shuttles
  • WiFi
  • Charging Stations
  • Sustainability Initiatives
  • Career Center and its resources


  • Excited, engaging professors
  • Public Computers and connected databases (especially in the library)
  • Small class sizes


“What is the one thing I would change about Emory?”

Responses to this question usually fit into four categories: Student Support, Experience, Transportation, and Services.

Student Support

  • The lack of a Venture Capital and Entrepreneurship hub and significant support in these areas
  • Career Center
  • Event advertising (especially the lack of a centralized, consolidated calendar of events happening on campus and the generally overwhelming nature of emails that aggregate campus events without categorization)
  • The timing of Financial Aid disbursement for Graduate and Professional students whose programs have early start dates
  • A more proactive Administration, one that identifies students’ needs and wants as opposed to only being reactive
  • Transparency of processes of College Council, Student Government, etc.
  • Sexual assault support, and emphasis on prevention
  • Lack of alumni space on campus


  • Food options on weekends, both on the Atlanta and Clairmont Campuses
  • Construction noise near Harris Hall at night
  • A lack of weekend entertainment and events
  • A lack of the following in the Business School: a sense of community, an environment of mutual support and collaboration
    • This coincided with complaints about the Business School’s grading system
  • A lack of communication from administration regarding a vision for the university or a strategic plan
  • A lack of programming for transfer and international students
  • A lack of collaboration between student groups and support from the various offices
  • Relationship between Orientation Leaders and Residence Life staff
  • A lack of cultural events
  • A lack of school spirit – a unifying theme that binds us all together
  • A lack of inclusion in certain areas
  • A lack of student ownership and stake in the community to motivate people to effect change
  • Exchange students unable to mix with other Emory students since they live off-campus


  • A need for increased “C” route shuttles on weekends
    • along with a need to evaluate shuttle routes and services
  • The proximity of parking spaces to academic buildings, especially in the Business School and Graduate and Professional programs


  • Improved WiFi coverage and reliability
  • More water fountains and bottle filling stations, especially in the DUC
  • SAAC gym
  • Residence Hall trash pick-up on Sunday
  • Creating a small dining plan for upperclassmen that would enable occasional visits to the DUC
  • Increasing the number of reservable spaces fit for presentations (especially in the Business School, but also in the library)
  • Mailing services can be more efficient
  • Improving or replacing OPUS
    • Updating information (especially financial) more quickly on student accounts


Outcomes: Actionable Items and Further Conversations

We promised to leave each Conversation with a list of items to address before the next Conversation. Our discussion at this event illuminated several items that could be addressed immediately, and also gave great insight into themes for future conversations.

Actionable Items

  • Contact Campus Services and Residence Life about trash pick-up on Sundays in Residence Halls, as well as construction noise near Harris.
  • Contact IT to develop a specialized website to monitor and report WiFi issues and outages.
  • Conduct a Pre-Survey before the next Conversation to identify specific questions for “experts” to answer.
  • Work with Weekends @ Emory to introduce interest-based mailing lists or categories to the Weekends @ Emory email, making it less overwhelming.
  • Work with the Office of Student Leadership and Service to promote a centralized calendar for student organization events.
  • Partner with Emory Entrepreneurship and Venture Management club to explore partnerships with the Office of the President and the Dean of Goizueta Business School to create an “Innovation Lab” or “Incubator” to promote and support student-led entrepreneurship.
  • Identify partners to facilitate cross-school and cross-divisional networking nights.
  • Contact the governing bodies of the Business School to further investigate the School’s grading system.
  • Diversity training similar to the one during Orientation Leader training for the new incoming class

Candidates for Themes of Future Conversations

  • Transportation and Parking
  • Technology and Student Services
  • Financial Aid
  • Career Center and Employment Opportunities
  • Academic Advising
  • Programming and Events
  • Alumni Engagement
  • Sexual Assault Prevention and Response
  • Support for International, Transfer, and Oxford Students
  • ‘Visioning’ or Strategic Planning with Administration (A General ‘Town Hall’)


If you missed this conversation, it’s not too late to participate! We’d still love to hear your responses to these questions. You can fill out this form to share what you like about Emory, and what you would change. To make sure that you don’t miss out on future Conversations, join the mailing list.

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