Stuart Zola

The three R's of Emory's interim provost

He has mentored graduate students and post-docs in psychiatry, launched a web-based app to diagnose a precursor of Alzheimer's disease, supervised 400 direct reports and some 2,000 nonhuman primates under his charge, and co-led research at one of the country's largest Veterans Affairs medical centers. He is Stuart Zola, and on August 15, 2016, he brought this wide range of expertise and experience to his new role as Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at Emory.

President-elect Claire E. Sterk recently announced the appointment, as she prepared to move from her position as Emory's current provost to serve as the 20th president of the university. "Dr. Zola is not only one of the country's preeminent neuroscientists but also a respected leader with a long track record at Emory," Sterk says. "He has deep and broad experience in the health sciences and a love of the humanities that make him the ideal leader for academic affairs during this transition."

Zola's previous roles at Emory include director of Yerkes National Primate Research Center, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences in the School of Medicine, and co-director of the Emory Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. He most recently served as deputy associate chief of staff for research at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center, enhancing relationships between the VA and Emory and other universities in Georgia, including developing a joint analytics program.

In looking ahead to the first days on his new job, Zola plans to focus on what he's dubbed "the three R's."

"In times like these, we need to consider our sense of risk," he says. "Are we risk takers? Should we be? What is the cost if we are too conservative in our risk-taking strategy?" Secondly, he sees an importance for all of the Emory community to take responsibility for their actions and decisions, from single individuals to entire units. "We have to match our aspirations with accountability in all that we do," Zola says.

The third R is recognition, or branding, for academic affairs and for the university. "Another way to think of this," Zola says, "is that we must tell our stories." As a scientist by orientation, Zola admits that his career has centered primarily around facts and data rather than storytelling. Yet he appreciates the complexities of emotions and record of history that the humanities bring to knowledge. "As we bring science and the humanities together, to present the best of what Emory represents, we will produce something extraordinary."

Emory News Center: Stuart Zola becomes interim provost of Emory University