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Scholarship for the public good

Andra Gillespie, an authority on political participation and racial and ethnic politics, says she gives media interviews to lend insights to public debates that can oversimplify complex issues. Carlos Moreno, an expert in cancer bioinformatics and systems biology, says he speaks out on matters that allow him to advocate for science and research.

Both professors are making their academic expertise available to wider audiences through the practice of public scholarship -- the topic of a spring series of panel discussions hosted by the Office of the Provost.

"The series is designed to reach a broad audience at Emory who may be thinking about how being a public intellectual fits with the life of an academic," says Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Dorothy Brown, a law professor who writes editorials for national publications.

Gillespie and Moreno joined Provost Claire Sterk at the January kickoff, which was moderated by Timothy Holbrook, the School of Law's associate dean of faculty. "Public scholarship contributes to the public good," Sterk says. She would like to see faculty activities that share specialist knowledge with general audiences become more integrated into the campus culture.

Tips for working with the media include sharing ideas in bite-sized pieces to create freestanding sound bites, university media relations expert Megan McRainey told the gathering. She and her colleagues in Emory's Communications and Public Affairs division work with faculty to explore ideas and develop talking points for interviews and stories.

Next up in the series is Writing and Placing Op-Eds on Thursday, February 5, 2-3 p.m. in the Jones Room, Woodruff Library. A third discussion on the challenges and opportunities of managing a public intellectual profile is being planned for March.