Engaged for Impact
Meet the people bringing Emory's strategic framework to life
When President Claire E. Sterk and Provost Dwight A. McBride launched a new strategic framework in September 2018, One Emory: Engaged for Impact, it embodied bold aspirations, pledging to promote a culture of eminence at every level of the university.
One year in, we are seeing the fruits of that vision. One Emory has us reaching higher and wider, propelled by common goals and the shared engagement of the Emory community.
This series of profiles chronicles the work that faculty, staff, students and administrators are doing to bring One Emory to life.
Each person profiled will represent a distinctive thread within the fabric of the framework. Together — drawing on their unique skills, talents and perspectives — they are carrying out responsibilities key to the goals of One Emory.
Partners in Student Success
Assistant Vice Provost and University Registrar
Video: JoAnn McKenzie discusses the role of supporting student success in the One Emory strategic framework
If you are a student at Emory, chances are your academic life begins and ends in JoAnn McKenzie’s office.
As university registrar, McKenzie and her team are responsible for collecting and maintaining all academic records spanning the student experience, encompassing “everything you can imagine, from registration, class scheduling, space utilization, final exams and data management to degree clearance,” McKenzie says.
“Essentially, I am the trustee of student records. From the first day on campus through graduation, we follow the life cycle of the student.”
Accuracy and service are the beacons guiding the work of McKenzie and her staff — recognizing the importance of each student and being accountable to the institution for quality work and collaborative solutions. All told, no small task.
There was a time when the work of a university registrar’s office was considered essential but somewhat invisible — a team primarily viewed as recordkeepers and paper pushers. And 20 years ago, that may have been true, says McKenzie, “since we pretty much did everything manually.”
Today, her office is much more connected with the life of the university, engaged as partners for student success. “I think we really serve as a hub for that,” she says.
Beyond being keepers of critical student data, that means working across all of Emory’s departments, colleges and professional schools to create best practices and identify issues that impact students.
“What is important to our students? How do we really provide them with the right tools to help them find success in the classroom?”
JoAnn McKenzie, university registrar
That outreach has paid off, McKenzie notes, helping her staff shape a more seamless registration experience. Consider last year’s implementation of an online Degree Tracker, a tool that provides a degree audit report outlining progress toward graduation requirements, including courses completed, in progress and still outstanding.
“It’s a game-changer,” McKenzie says. “If you can imagine a student really needing to figure out, ‘Am I going to make it? Am I going to graduate?,’ this tool allows them to see exactly how they’re progressing.”
Her team also helps students along the academic continuum if they are moving on to advanced degrees. “It’s been so rewarding being part of that process,” she confides.
McKenzie understands the complexities of the student journey.
Growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, she never imagined herself moving to the South, much less becoming a university registrar. But when her brother came to Georgia, she followed, taking a job with the city of Atlanta and later working for an architect.
With a passion for organizational development, she first came to Emory in search of opportunities in hospital administration. When she learned the Office of the Provost was seeking an assistant to the budget officer, she thought it sounded interesting.
That was 26 years ago, McKenzie laughs.
Preparing budgets, assisting with SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) accreditation reviews, mounting surveys and learning about institutional analysis — it was all a tremendous training ground. When Emory created an Office of Institutional Data, McKenzie came aboard as an informational analyst, working closely with the university registrar’s office.
Fifteen years ago, she joined the Office of the University Registrar, where she’s held the top leadership role for the past six years. “I’ve learned a lot about the institution,” she reflects. “I’ve seen Emory grow over time. It feels like a family member.”
When McKenzie looks to the future, she’s inspired and motivated by the direction offered in the One Emory strategic framework and finds herself asking, “How do we play a part in that?”
Beyond keeping pace with new technologies, she thinks the answer lies in creating even stronger bonds and bridges across campus, working together to fortify the pathway for student success.
“We really want to be a part of the Emory experience. We want to be at the table. We want to be in those conversations as the institution starts to think about how we move from excellence to eminence,” she says.
“I think the registrar’s office plays a key role in that transition, and I’m excited about it.”
Investing in Faculty
Deputy Provost for Academic Affairs and Professor of Philosophy
Video: Christa Acampora discusses the role of faculty in the One Emory strategic framework
As a budding scholar, Christa Acampora was fascinated with the ways in which philosophers built their arguments — the elegant intersection of language, structure and logic that offered a foundation for understanding the world.
Studying philosophy would not only launch her academic journey — eventually bringing her to Emory for her graduate studies — it would help her navigate a career spent as a researcher, university professor and administrator.
“One of my great joys as a faculty member was having the opportunity to meet and think with colleagues outside my department. I relish the deliberative process that the academy affords, and I so appreciate benefiting from insights that arise from the variety of disciplinary perspectives. As I progressed through the faculty ranks, I was presented with new opportunities to take on a variety of leadership roles,” Acampora recalls.
“And I really enjoyed bringing my philosophical thinking skills to problems of the university. That practice forced me to understand how to work with many people who may bring not only varied disciplinary or generational perspectives to education but differences of opinion about what really matters.”
Through it all, “I learned to navigate those differences by working through processes of discovery of our common values, using that as a basis to drive progress and change,” she says. “My philosophical expertise has trained me to recognize and articulate values and to understand their connection to other thoughts and action.”
Today, those experiences serve her well. Last year, Acampora joined Emory as deputy provost for academic affairs, where she functions as a strategic thought partner for stewarding the academic mission of the university.
That’s familiar ground for Acampora, who came from Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where she taught philosophy, mentored graduate students and served as associate provost for faculty affairs and research, creating successful models for faculty development and growth.
On any given day, her work can take her everywhere within the university. Meeting with faculty members to discuss innovative academic program development or how to advance student and faculty success. Working with colleagues to examine academic review processes. Conversing with key campus constituents about progress on priority academic initiatives.
It’s all part of an ambitious academic mission that fits firmly within the goals of One Emory.
“Provost McBride likes to talk about the strategic framework as decidedly an academic plan and putting the audacious aspirations for academic eminence at the core of all of our thinking,” says Acampora. “This is invigorating and inspiring work.”
At the epicenter of it all is an investment in faculty.
“Faculty are at the heart and center of virtually every dimension of the strategic framework, from producing the research and scholarship that will change the world to attracting other scholars to come to Emory."
Christa Acampora, deputy provost for academic affairs
“Faculty have an important role to play in enhancing the student experience across campus, contributing to those seamless pathways,” she says. “So, faculty are truly central in everything that we do. We also need their participation and engagement as we develop specific plans for the future. This is a plan that belongs to all of us, and it needs all of the intellectual resources we can bring to bear in order to achieve our aspirations.”
That will include recognizing faculty achievement, scrutinizing recruitment and retention issues as well as coordinating faculty hiring across the university “so that we build a faculty that leverages our core strengths while also creating spaces for innovation and opportunities for collaboration,” she says. “Having more visible and deliberate university planning processes also enables us to do a better job serving faculty. When we build multiyear plans, for example, we can support spousal hiring aspirations.”
Acampora points to the recent appointment of Pearl K. Dowe as Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Political Science and African American Studies to illustrate the type of innovation that lies ahead. Dowe joined the faculty this fall through a unique joint appointment between Oxford College and Emory College of Arts and Sciences.
“That’s a terrific example of what this new One Emory mindset should allow us to achieve,” she notes. “Faculty who can teach across the university, from Oxford College to Emory College to the Rollins School of Public Health.”
The road forward is energizing, she acknowledges.
“I’ve been very inspired by President Sterk as she’s begun to talk about signal moments in Emory’s history, as people came together to make transformative investments and decisions that dramatically changed the university, its opportunities and capacities. The strategic framework in conjunction with campus master planning and the framing of a capital campaign all align to make this a time when it truly feels like we are at the threshold of another one of those moments for change that exceeds any specific aspiration.”
“There’s such commitment and passion devoted to these efforts,” she says. “I think the opportunities are virtually unimaginable.”