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Monday, November 22, 2010

Q&A with Penn President Amy Gutmann

Last Wednesday's presidential conversation on bioethics with Emory's Jim Wagner and the University of Pennsylvania's Amy Gutmann was such a success, we just didn't want it to end.

We've been to Philadelphia and even visited Penn's campus and we liked both a lot, but we really didn't know that much about the university's community. We also were intrigued about Gutmann's work on the bioethics commission, which met for two days last week at the CDC in Atlanta.

Before Gutmann left to return home, we asked if we could email her some questions to learn a bit more about the commission and her community.

She pleasantly obliged us, and here's what we talked about.

EAA: Tell us about your Atlanta experience. What was it like? Both with the commission meeting and our Wednesday evening conversation.

AG: The
President’s Commission held meetings in Atlanta at the invitation of Jim Wagner. These meetings were also part of an effort to make sure that we hear from voices all over the country. Atlanta was an important stop for us because of the presence of Emory, the Centers for Disease Control, and other groups integrally involved in biotech, medical, and public health issues.

One of the personal highlights for me was our
alumni event at the CDC. Seeing so many engaged alumni from Penn and Emory who wanted to learn more about bioethics was particularly heartening. Part of what makes Penn special is its unique mission of putting knowledge into practice to benefit the world, and this event was a perfect example — fielding questions from alumni on an important societal issue, sharing the stage with President Wagner to talk about our work on the President’s Commission, and benefiting from our eminent faculty, who facilitated an engaging and edifying conversation.

EAA: Why is advancing dialogue on bioethics important?

AG: Bioethical dilemmas by definition have no obvious answer, at least at the outset. Through respectful debate about opposing views and active participation by all citizens, we often can find common ground and, where we cannot do so, we work to cultivate mutual respect where irreconcilable differences remain.

Particularly in a society like ours, where we rely on informed consent and surrogate decision-making, it is critical that all citizens are empowered to make knowledgeable decisions in the best interest of themselves, their family, and their community. Ongoing dialogue is critical for individual education and collective policy development. It is broad public interest in such profound matters that makes advancing the dialogue surrounding bioethics critical.

EAA: How has it been working with
President Wagner? Did you know a lot about Emory or our community when this partnership began?

AG: It's been a great pleasure working with Jim! I think we have very complementary strengths — his background in engineering brings a wonderful perspective to my work on ethics and public policy. Before my work on this commission, I was very aware—and appreciative—of Emory’s role as a leading research university with strong and distinguished programs in the arts, sciences, and professions. I also admired Jim’s particular focus on furthering the university’s interdisciplinary commitment to ethics, which made me confident that he was a very wise choice to serve as vice chair of the commission.

Jim and I both recognize the responsibility of universities to further deliberation about complex issues among people who disagree. It’s wonderful that President Obama did, too.

EAA: What's
Penn's alumni community like? Not just here in Atlanta, but around the world?

AG: Without exception, whether I’m traveling to Atlanta or elsewhere in the United States, internationally, or if I am at home in Philadelphia, the Penn alumni I meet are passionately engaged, amazingly energetic, and proud of their Penn connection. Our global alumni number nearly 300,000, and we have 122 alumni clubs: 68 domestic clubs in the United States, plus clubs in 49 foreign countries.

These active members of the community serve as leaders in business, government, medicine, science, the arts, and the media. They also participate as trustees, as overseers of Penn schools and centers, and as leaders of class- and school-based initiatives.

EAA: Any ideas about future joint Penn/Emory events in Philadelphia?

AG: I would be delighted to host a similar event in Philadelphia for our joint alumni communities. I hope we have the opportunity! In the meantime, I extend a warmest welcome to Emory alumni to visit our campus.

-- Eric Rangus, director, communications, EAA

Thursday, November 18, 2010

When Penn met Emory

See the photos...

What did Penn say about the evening?

Universities on the Leading Edge: Advancing Dialogue in Bioethics

The title of Wednesday night's co-sponsored presidential conversation may have sounded intimidating--particularly for those who are not bioethically inclined. But the attitude of the hundreds of Emory and University of Pennsylvania alumni, faculty, staff, and students who attended was so open and welcoming, any content-related anxieties disappeared faster than the hors d'oeuvres.

The event, which was the EAA's first in tandem with Penn, followed a two-day meeting at the CDC of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. Penn President Amy Gutmann is the commission chair, and Emory President Jim Wagner is vice chair. The evening also marked the first EAA event at the CDC, and if its success is any indication, it won't be the last.

From the beginning, Gutmann and Wagner had an easy chemistry. It helped make what in lesser hands would have been an impenetrable scientific wonkfest into an engaging, accessible, and enlightening conversation.

Moderators Kathy Kinlaw 79C 85T, associate director of the Center for Ethics at Emory, and Jonathan Moreno, David and Lyn Silfen University Professor and Professor of Medical Ethics and of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania, helped in that regard as well, keeping the conversation moving at a brisk, but not unrelenting, pace.

Following introductions, Wagner and Gutmann delivered opening statements, then traded answers on questions provided by the both the moderators and the audience. The pair played off each other well. Subjects included the definition of bioethics, an exploration of universities' roles in bioethical discussions, and much more.

The evening had many memorable highlights (No Strings Attached's pitch-perfect renditions of the University of Pennsylvania Anthem and the Emory Alma Mater was one) and lots of memorable quotes .... some of them are below, with moderator questions included where applicable.

Opening statements ...

Wagner: We need people who feel confident in our abilities to exercise judgment based on ethics and our ability to make decisions based on moral principle. And I suggest to you--in fact, I insist--that our colleges and universities may be almost exclusively the intellectual breeding ground to produce people and ideas to meet these vital and timeless needs of society.

Gutmann: It is really important to bring the theoretical together with the practical, both inside and outside our universities. It is wonderful to see how this is happening on the president's commission. Everyone here recognizes the importance of universities to furthering the disposition and the ability to deliberate among people who disagree. That's something that brings Jim and myself together--engineer and political philosopher, differences aside.

Bioethics ... what does it mean?

Gutmann: The expansion of science, technology, and medicine has called into question how doctors should treat their patients, what kind of hospital practices there should be, and what are the benefits and the risks of emerging technologies, such as synthetic biology, neuroscience, nanotechnology, and genetic engineering. Bioethics spans a whole range of questions about distribution of resources, the treatment of individual, vulnerable people, and also the best use of new, emerging technologies.

Wagner: In the early days, bioethics was almost entirely concerned with medical issues. But much of what we are talking about now in bioethics has to do with things we call 'organisms' that not too many decades ago we weren't even sure were life.

What does the future hold?

Wagner: It might not be far from the truth to imagine the last century as a century focused on technologies of transportation, communications, computing, and synthetic materials. We may now be in a century that one day will be called the bio-century.

How can universities foster ethical behavior?

Wagner: Many universities as part of their undergraduate curriculum have writing-intensive courses. You need so many "Ws" on a transcript. What would it mean if there were "E" courses? When a biology professor is talking about genetics, he or she would have the opportunity to introduce ethical considerations into the classes and the examinations.

Gutmann: When H1N1 broke out, there were big questions about the production of the vaccine and its distribution. Who gets it first? At how much cost? What are the best incentives for experimentation? For instance, if you experiment on human subjects, what do you owe them? All of these questions ... if universities don't ask them and try to come up with really good answers--even if they are not universally accepted answers, but at least well-reasoned answers, nobody else is going to do it.

What are the values and skills that university presidents bring to the commission?

Gutmann: One of the takeaways from this evening for all of us, I think, certainly from Jim and my own experience on the commission, is how far universities have come in demonstrating the importance of the integration of knowledge and how important it is to be committed to showing what knowledge can do for society.

Jim and I really believe that we are stronger as individuals and our institutions are stronger to the extent that we can attract an incredible diversity of really smart people and encourage them to want to work together to produce something--whatever it is--that is bigger and better than anything they can do by themselves.

-- Eric Rangus, director of communications, EAA

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Emory Cares ... everywhere

When I accepted the position of coordinator of regional volunteer programs at the Emory Alumni Association (EAA) in August, I was told that managing Emory Cares International Service Day fell under my job description. “Sounds good,” I said. “I went to Emory for college, so I know all about Emory Cares.”

I had no idea.

I knew Emory Cares Day was worldwide and open to all members of the Emory community. I assumed the EAA and Volunteer Emory (VE) staffs worked pretty hard organizing it. But until I started communicating with project coordinators and volunteers across the nation and around the world, I didn’t quite understand the scope of Emory Cares Day.

Yes, the EAA and VE staffs work tirelessly, and we’re happy to do it. What really impressed me was the dedication of the alumni, student, staff, and faculty project coordinators. Some of the project coordinators have led the same project for years. Others are people who found a great organization or wanted to be part a part of connecting the Emory community to the larger community. They helped organize projects, spread the word, and made sure the volunteers had a fun and rewarding experience.

All of this hard work resulted in another record-breaking year for Emory Cares: 76 projects in 27 cities in four countries on four continents with approximately 1,500 volunteers worldwide, including roughly 1,100 in Atlanta alone. You can see some of our photos on the EAA's photo page. We'll be adding cities as they come in.

Emory Cares has gained recognition outside of the university community. The Arlington Food Assistance Center (A.F.A.C) has named the Washtington, DC Chapter of Emory Alumni its “Volunteer Group of the Year 2010.” The DC chapter has volunteered with A.F.A.C. every year since Emory Cares Day was founded in 2003.

Oxford College’s project making gift boxes for children in foster care was featured in the Covington News, the local newspaper of Covington, GA. And on campus, we made it into The Emory Wheel.

Emory Cares Day also succeeded in reaching new regions and countries. The EAA introduced a new program this year, Emory Cares Everywhere. It allowed alumni outside of Atlanta to plan their own volunteer project and join in the spirit of community, no matter where they lived. This program attracted alumni in areas as small as Sherman, CT (population 3,827) and as far-flung as Amsterdam.

We sent them Emory Cares t-shirts to wear while volunteering, and they sent back photos and notes saying how meaningful it was to know that they were connected to the Emory community even when far away.

The success of Emory Cares International Service Day 2010 shows that Emory does care - about the global community, and about one another.

-- Kate Gregory 09C, coordinator, volunteer programs, WAA

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Networking in DC

Back in time ...

On October 27, with the midterm elections right around the corner, DC alumni penciled in a swift night of networking.

I spoke with Julie Clements 02C, director of legislative affairs for the American Mental Health Counselors Association, who organized Emory's DC Networking Night, to get a sense of the feeling on the Hill.

Emory graduates from all kinds of career backgrounds came together to share the tips of their trades with other alumni. Thanks to the event's gracious host, George W. "Sandy" Mayo, Jr. 67C, alumni set up camp on the 13th floor of the influential DC law firm, Hogan Lovells US.

Alumni with careers in law, business, government affairs, health care, and the nonprofit sector hosted their informational tables.

Creating a festive atmosphere, people milled about, chatted and asked questions well before the event started--and continued after it ended.

Many post-millennium and earlier alumni attended and staffed the tables. But most of the alumni who came to the event were either still in graduate school or DC-based alumni looking to change their work environments.

"There was a lot of talk about Congress changing hands and what that would mean," Clements said. "Many of the alumni in attendance have political jobs. Those on the Hill are in pretty safe seats, so there was not concern about the member losing his seat."

Clements also met a reporter from NBC Nightly News who came out to the event and spoke about her reporting related to the election.

Throughout the night, alumni followed the proper "DC networking etiquette." Now for those of us who only know the fork-and-knife kind of etiquette, this kind means alumni showed up with business cards in hand ready to talk about their careers and ask questions.

About 100 Emory alumni turned out for the event, and with elections right around the corner, alumni working on the Hill were the last to leave.

--Lindsey Bomnin 12C, EAA communications assistant

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Life and wine

Monday night, November 8, with the help of Mark Wallis from Atlanta Wholesale Wine , many members of the Emory College of Arts and Sciences' senior class had the opportunity to learn about wine tasting in the first Life 101 event of the year.

Each year, the Student Alumni Association (SAA), an interest group of the Emory Alumni Association (EAA), hosts Life 101, a series of events and seminars that is designed to teach students important life skills they may not necessarily learn during their normal college experience, such as etiquette at a business dinner, how to change a car tire, or what a credit score means.

For this kickoff Life 101, the Class of 2011 sampled eight different wines. Although some of the attendees had already had some exposure to wine tasting, this was a great event for seniors to not only continue to learn about wine, but also to spend time having fun together.

It was a great night and everyone had a wonderful time and learned some valuable information about wine and wine tasting!

Photos from the event can be found on the Senior Experience Facebook Group.

The SAA also co-sponsors the 100 Senior Honorary Award, for which nominations are now being accepted online. For more information on the SAA or the Life 101 Series and other events offered for students by the EAA, visit www.alumni.emory.edu/students.

-- Stephanie Cohan 11C, vice president, senior experience, SAA

Monday, November 8, 2010

Photo of the day: Chicago cares

Chicago Emory alumni didn't have to travel far experience life on a farm. They gathered at City Farm, an urban farm among the skyscrapers, for Chicago Emory Cares Day, Saturday, October 30.

Reaping the fruits of their long day of labor, Emory volunteers, led by Lindsey Whitlock 08B, tasted organic cherry tomatoes fresh off the vine after weeding and tilling the soil. They said those tomatoes packed a lot more flavor than the store-bought ones.

See more great photos here!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Photo of the Day: Welcome to Dallas! Can you play quarterback?

The Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter of Emory Alumni hosted a "Welcome to Dallas" party at Villa-O in the Knox-Henderson neighborhood of Dallas on October 28. It was a great mix of new Metroplex residents (the welcomees) and long (and short)-time Dallas-Fort Worth hometowners (the welcomers).

No word on whether scouts for the Cowboys were on hand looking for talent, but you never know.

See more photos here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Alumni, get enticed with spice

Today was a bad day to skip breakfast. That's because I'm reviewing a cookbook.

Not just any cookbook. It's Shubhra Ramineni's new Indian cookbook, Entice with Spice. And I was definitely enticed.

She's the wife of Emory alumnus
Naveen Ramineni 93C. Laura Riddle 79C and Mary Williams 82C hosted an alumni book launch party in Riddle's Houston, TX home on October 28. The event included an Indian cooking demonstration and a dinner party.

You can see pictures from the event here.

The banana in my stomach jumped around as I looked through each mouthwatering recipe in her book. Divided up into all the classic categories of Indian dishes, like breads and rice, lentils and soups, chicken, lamb, seafood and of course dessert, this book isn't missing a thing. She even included a vegetarian section that carnivores alike can enjoy.

And the best thing about it, Ramineni's recipes are made for fast-paced people, so you don't have to slave away all day for an authentic, homemade Indian meal.

Here are a few highlights...

1. The ever-popular chicken tikka masala: one of Ramineni's favorite dishes made with heavy cream and best served with breads or rice.

2. Here's an Indian dish you don't see every day: a healthy fresh lentil sprout salad made with sprouting lentils, tomatoes, onions, red peppers, cucumbers and cilantro.

3. Classic Indian bread: Ramineni's naan is made with yogurt and she offers kneading tips for the dough.

4. Another classic: samosas stuffed with potatoes and peas that can be made with Mexican white flour tortillas (she includes the from-scratch recipe for you adventurous chefs out there).

5. Lamb kebabs: good for cooking on the grill and served on a bed of rice with cumin and peas or with bread.

6. Roasted eggplant: under the vegetarian section cooked with onions and tomatoes and served with--you guess it--bread

7. And for desert, classic Indian ice cream called kulfi: made with whole green cardamom pods; it's not churned during the freezing process, so it turns out solid and dense, instead of soft and creamy like typical ice cream.

Now these are just a few teasers. For complete recipes, pick up her book at your local bookstore. I hope the EAA won't mind me borrowing this edition for a few days.

--Lindsey Bomnin 12C, communications assistant, EAA

Monday, November 1, 2010

President Wagner said what?

The title of President Jim Wagner's October 28 address in Atlanta was Why We Need Universities More than Ever: A Forum for Difficult Dialogues. Actually, the event, which featured a dialogue between Wagner and Ron Sauder, vice president for communications and marketing (above, right), couldn't have been more civil.

Sauder deftly set Wagner up to discuss a variety of subjects, including the responsibility of a university, why Emory is aggressively acquiring the papers of well-known authors and, as the title said, why Emory should be a forum for difficult dialogues.

Keep reading for highlights from the conversation, like what Wagner said ...

About whether Emory will add an engineering school. Wagner, an engineer by training, prefaced his answer by nothing that Emory’s ninth president, Isaac Hopkins 1859C 1883H was the first president of Georgia Tech: “We started one engineering school and we’re very proud of it. We don’t have any intentions of starting another one.”

About the responsibilities of a university: “The opportunity to bring people together and challenge them as a community is something that will always be the responsibility of a university.”

About difficult dialogues, part 1: “Free speech is insufficient for communication. Free speech is that guarantee that I can say whatever I want to say, so long as it doesn’t put anyone in harm’s way. But the communications we’re talking about is less about a guarantee that I can say what I want to say and more about a guarantee that what I say will be heard. And my obligation to say it in a way that it will be heard, which means that I have to leave out obscenities. It requires the listener to be part of the contract as well, and to imagine that listening is more than waiting for their turn to talk and to entertain the possibility that what the speaker is saying could be meaningful."

About difficult dialogues, part 2: "If we can model difficult dialogues, civil discourse, to our students, our hope is that is part of the Emory Bubble they take with them when they land."

About difficult dialogues, part 3: "Whatever those things are that you’re not supposed to talk about in polite company … Emory has to provide the polite company with which to talk about those things."

About diversity of thought in research: “It is not possible to claim with integrity that you have studied any issue thoroughly unless you have explored it from as many perspectives as possible.”

About the Emory's recent acquisitions of literary collections such as Salman Rushdie and Alice Walker: “We need to be capturing the intellectual assets of some of the great thinkers of our time in places where people can debate what they mean, and it will be in those places where we can have those difficult dialogues.”

-- Eric Rangus, director of communications, EAA