Q&A: Pattie OrrMay 13, 2008
On June 1, 2007, Pattie Orr began work as vice president for information technology and dean of libraries. Randy Fiedler of BaylorNews spoke with Orr about her goals for the University's libraries and technology resources, as well as her role in coordinating Baylor's sustainability efforts.
BaylorNews: Tell me a little bit about your background before you got to Baylor.
Pattie Orr: Well I'm originally from Dallas, and all my family is from Texas. They all live in little towns all around the state, such as Comanche, Bluff Dale, Tolar and Stephenville. When I was eight years old my family moved to Duncanville, which is a suburb southwest of Dallas. When we moved there it was a rural small town, and now it's of course a big part of the Metroplex. There were lots of horses, pretty land and fences involved, but now it's not like that. I went to Duncanville High School and enjoyed it, and then went to college at what then was Abilene Christian College, where I majored in education.
After graduation I taught public school for eight years. My first teaching assignment was at the School for the Blind in Austin. My mother is totally blind and has been since birth, so I had grown up in a family that experienced disability and how to overcome it, and I had worked a lot in volunteer settings with people with various handicaps. I was able to use that expertise along with my teaching. When I was a senior in high school my mother taught me how to read and write Braille because we needed to be able to communicate when I went to college. I was the first person in my family to go to college, so we wanted to be sure we could keep up. Back then it cost a lot to make phone calls, and we could never afford to call, so I wanted her to be able to read my letters and I wanted to be able to get news from her. Since I had that background it helped prepare me for the position in Austin.
I met my husband Steve at Abilene Christian College, and for many years he was a banker so I lived and taught in a few different places where he had jobs in banking. About the time I had followed Steve to Midland, where he worked for the First National Bank of Midland, I became very interested in technology. The timing was such that I moved in the summer and it was too late to get a teaching position, so instead I worked for American Airlines, which was opening a new station there in Midland. I thought, well, I don't know anything about that but I can learn and it will be interesting. I attended the American Airlines Academy in Dallas and a large part of the training they gave us there was learning to use computers and a national information network. I was fascinated by computers, although it was really cryptic back then and you needed a lot of logic to make it work. Working on computers just made perfect sense to me! Many of my classmates, by contrast, didn't think it made sense at all.
I worked at American Airlines for a few years, and then decided maybe I'd like to have my own business. There was an opportunity at the Midland airport to open an aircraft catering business. Since I knew everyone at the airport and had done catering management for American as part of my role, I established the "Plane Jane" catering business at the fixed base for private planes. I bought my first personal computer, an Apple IIC with no hard drive, and learned to do my books for the business on the computer. I loved the business and continued doing that for four years, but then the economy in Midland got really bad during the oil bust. I decided to quit the business and go back to teaching. By that time, there were no computers in the Midland classrooms at all, but there were a few in the office, and school personnel were all pulling their hair out because nobody could make the computers work. So, I would go in and help them figure out what to do. I next convinced them to let me have a computer in my classroom, then we began to get grants to provide other teachers with computers. Of course, most of the other teachers did not know how to make the computers work. I made a deal with the principal to plan for in-service days and then let me teach computer classes for the teachers. I found that was what I really liked to do -- helping faculty members learn how to use the computers in their classrooms. I soon realized, "Hey, I should get paid for this." One thing led to another and I added an information technology certification onto my teaching certificate.
Meanwhile, my husband had been working in banks, but across the country banks just kept failing. First National Bank became Republic, then Republic became NCNB, and it just kept going like that. At the last bank he was with he was a trust officer, and he said, "You know, if I can't beat them I'm going to join them." So he joined the FDIC. He figured, I know all about banks, and while I've never closed a bank I think I can do it. He got trained to do that, and enjoyed it. The reason we moved to the northeast is because he was transferred when the banking crisis began up there. When we moved, I had to figure out what I was now going to do. I decided I would take an interim position as a technology director in a public school system there. I did that for a while, and then a position opened at Wellesley College for a Macintosh computer specialist and I thought I'd try it. At that time in schools Macs were primarily what we used. I started at the beginning level while doing graduate studies and got my master's degree in education, assisting in computer technology. After I got my master's degree I started teaching one or two classes a year in the computer science department and I also taught information relevancy courses for students.
Wellesley's library and information technology areas merged together in 1994, similar to the setup we now have at Baylor, all under one vice president. While I was there I learned a lot about how such an organization could work. The best training I had to help me in that role was being selected to go to the Frye Leadership Institute, which is sponsored by EDUCAUSE, Emory University, the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, and the Council of Library and Information Resources (CLIR). Through the Frye Leadership Institute, international leaders from various areas in IT and libraries were brought together in a class of about 40 people to discuss and study questions such as, "What do leaders like this need to know to lead new information organizations for the future? And although the organizations are going to be set up in different ways, since technology and information are all converging, what do we need to know?" They would bring in the best authorities in the world on such topics as how to publish in the future, how we will preserve materials we already have, copyright issues, the culture of IT and libraries, those sorts of things. It was a two-week residential program, but it had a long-term effect because of the fellowship that continued on with these other folks. That was a career turning point for me because I really began to understand the bigger picture of information. I became a copyright agent at Wellesley, worked a lot in programs to do security, policy and planning work, and began to prepare myself for a future role to lead my own organization. That's how I got to where I am today. I was at Wellesley 15 years and loved being there, but I wanted to be a vice president someday and take that next step to lead a merged library and IT organization.
BN: What brought you to Baylor?
PO: It began completely unintentionally on my part. My husband and I knew that we would want to come back to Texas someday, but we weren't thinking it would be soon. He had a worked for the FDIC all those years, and when they closed the regional FDIC office after the banking crisis got better, he went to work for the Veteran's Administration to finish out his government service. We thought that in two or three years we'd probably start looking at going back to Texas. I was very busy working on a doctorate in higher education administration at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, enjoying my research, and happy in my work at Wellesley College. In the fall of 2006, I went to EDUCAUSE, the national conference for IT professionals, and at that conference various colleagues of mine kept pulling me into corners and saying, "There's this person who has been hired by Baylor University to do a national search for their leader of IT and library, and I gave them your name and told her you're really great, you're a Christian, you're immersed in a library IT organization and you want to come back to Texas." When the fourth person pulled me over into a corner to tell me the same thing, I decided that maybe I should think about it.
The person doing the search did in fact contact me and told me about the position in Waco. I said, "Well, this could be interesting. I'm not really thinking about leaving right now, but it so happens my daughter and son-in-law are both faculty members at Baylor in Waco." They were like, they are? My daughter is Ivy Hamerly, a faculty member in political science, and her husband is Greg Hamerly is a computer science faculty member. In addition, my niece is a Baylor student and my family lives in Dallas. But even so, we weren't really thinking we were ready to move yet, so I took it under advisement. We visited my daughter in Waco for Thanksgiving and sort of snuck around campus to find out things like what the library looked like. After our visit I thought well, this could be interesting but I still wasn't quite sure. My daughter was interviewing for a tenure track position at Baylor, so I decided to wait and see if she got the position. Sure enough she got the position, so we had a family pow-wow and I asked everyone how they would feel about me applying for the vice president's job. My daughter said, basically, that she would not be uncomfortable with me being there, and that Waco was big enough for the four of us. I then put in my application.
BN: From your perspective at the time, was Baylor similar to Wellesley in any way?
PO: There were so many ways that coming to Baylor would be similar to my experience at Wellesley. Both are private schools with a very strong commitment to teaching, and they've both always had that. They also both have a strong academic core requirement for students. Both are known for a strong expectation of integrity and honor. Baylor is known for integrity based on a Christian commitment, while Wellesley -- although secular -- has a very strong focus on integrity and an honor code that is just rock solid. I really valued that. Baylor is a very strong caring community from a Christian perspective, and Wellesley has a very strong sense of community among the women that go there, so it felt really very comfortable to be there. Also, the IT organization and library at each school were very similar. They were under one leadership and working collaboratively together, so that felt good. There is a strong commitment to service at both institutions. Wellesley has Banner; Baylor has Banner. Both schools even have the same vendor for the online library catalog- it was uncanny how similar it was.
BN: What was it like interviewing for the Baylor job?
PO: I just loved the people I met at Baylor when I interviewed. The library and IT employees were so warm and friendly. I found them to be very competent, creative, and there was a lot of strength and good customer service here. That was good, because I didn't want to take a new job that would require a major overhaul of the system. I have colleagues that specialize in reorganization, but that's not what I feel called to do. I wanted to come and build on what was already in place and work with my colleagues to create something wonderful. The interview process itself was a grueling three full days of individual and group interviews all day long. As I went through the interview process, I found that I really liked the people and loved President Lilley's collaborative approach to things. I learned that he meets with his executive council once a week for three hours, looks at issues from all different sides, and makes decisions with the input gathered. That is the type of approach that I experienced at Wellesley and was accustomed to. It felt very comfortable, and when I was finally offered the job I accepted gladly.
BN: In your job as vice president you oversee two important areas -- libraries and information technology. Let's discuss the libraries first. What are your responsibilities and challenges as dean of university libraries?
PO: Baylor has several libraries. The central libraries are Moody and Jones. We have four special collection libraries: The Texas Collection in the Carroll Library, the Armstrong Browning Library, the Poage Library (Baylor Collection of Political Materials) and the Electronic Library. I think the dean's position is to be an academic leader in this community of libraries and to chart their direction. A big aspect of that is working with the other deans and helping our library programs to interface with the broader academic community. I need to promote and support the libraries and get the resources needed to make things happen and move forward. Also, a big part of the job of the dean of libraries is fostering external relationships, because libraries these days are not just about purchasing and collecting. We certainly have very valuable and fine collections here, but you can't own everything. There wouldn't be enough buildings to put it all in. We're lucky if we can have just a small percentage of the things that are published each year, so increasingly what modern libraries depend on are relationships among themselves to share materials. We have TexShare for the state of Texas, and there are several other programs for interlibrary loans which allow exchange of materials. If we don't have a journal or other material someone needs, we can either get that physical material or receive it electronically or digitally. This way, by doing a rapid exchange of items, our collection becomes a much bigger collection. One of the things I've been doing this year is going to meet our colleagues in all these different interlibrary associations, including the Greater Western Library Alliance, the Texas Council of College and University Librarians and the Texas Independent College and University Libraries. We're also partners in the Texas Digital Library Association, and I have been trying to meet our other Big 12 deans and to promote relationships to share materials and do collaborative projects.
BN: Has the common perception of librarians changed in recent years? In the past it seemed that librarians were mainly curators of books, but now librarians seem to be considered more as information consultants who help solve problems.
PO: Well, I guess the impression people have of librarians has changed a little bit, but the reality is we haven't changed that much because we've always been about getting information in the best format available. You used to go to a librarian who would use a printed guide of some sort to help you find and look up the information you needed. Now, we continue to do that, but we also help them look at electronic resources and we're still acting as guides. Having said that, it is hard to improve upon a book. They are so portable, convenient and easy to use. There's a lot of great things stored in books, manuscripts, journals and primary source documents. As information and technology have converged, of course, a lot more of that has been preserved digitally. At Baylor, for example, some of our oldest and most treasured materials, even the actual letters and writings of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, are being preserved by digitization.
BN: Is there always going to be a place in libraries for printed books as well as resources found on the Internet?
PO: I wish I had a magic ball to tell you the answer to that, but let me look at just one example. A lot of e-books are now being published, and many of them are available online for free. Most of the time you just download them in digital form, but at the same time, thousands of people order printed copies of them. I have two or three such books on my shelf where I first looked at the e-book online, but I eventually ordered my own print copy because it's portable and I like to have that physical copy available. A lot of people prefer having the portable version, but I think we will see people continuing to perfect digital books you can download and then read on a great electronic book reader you can easily take with you. When you're done with one book, you take it off the reader and put another digital book on. They are lightweight and portable and getting better all the time, but it's still hard to improve upon the paper book.
BN: Is the feel of the library changing? Not too long ago libraries were places you had to be very quiet in and where you couldn't bring in drinks or food. Now many of those old rules are gone, and it seems there's a much more casual atmosphere.
PO: Yes, the way people study and learn has changed a good bit. What we're seeing now is more and more professors giving their students assignments that are more collaborative in nature and require group work. Students today interact with technology and use computers in their work, so the kinds of spaces they need to study in are different. The old model of study, where you put your books down and faced a little cube, worked at the time. That's where I spent most of my time studying. Even back then they also had some kinds of group study rooms, but that's been emphasized even more in postmodern libraries. Our students like working in groups, and they don't need quiet in the same way that students years ago may have thought they needed quiet. In the Moody Library building, since it is gracious but a little older, we've tried to create zones with designated areas for people to work in different ways. We have some areas we consider "monastery quiet" zones. Those are kept very quiet, because sometimes you've got to memorize information and think, or really buckle down and read, and you need quiet. There are the "nature film narrator quiet" zones where you can talk but should do so in a whisper. Then we have other areas which are collaborative areas where it's fine to talk. It's where people use what I call their nice "restaurant voices," where you're talking and working but not screaming. The media library and the Pritchard Common, where people have their laptops and talk while they work in groups, would be examples of that. We're hoping to do renovation, in Moody Library in particular, to create zones which architecturally can better support truly quite and truly collaborative zones.
BN: Does this push for more collaborative areas in the library apply to computer labs?
PO: Yes. Ultimately, we'd love to create more group study spaces so students could have rooms to go to with some sound insulation where they could work with technology. The way our computer lab is set up in the media library now is kind of little soldiers all in a row. Everybody is sitting right next to one another, so if a group wants to work together one person can type at the computer, but everyone else has got to sit on the floor behind them. And that group is also interfering with the other people around them who are trying to concentrate. It's not an ideal group study setting, so we want to work toward having spaces that can have some sound control but will allow for small group work.
BN: You said you wanted to come to a university to build things, not fix them. What things do you want to build in Baylor's libraries?
PO: I think one thing would be to continue to enhance our interlibrary loan programs. We've got a very good program now, but this past fall we joined a consortium called RAPID. RAPID will put us at a higher service level with other research universities to make possible quicker exchanges of digital materials, so that we'll receive things within 24 hours. I think that would be terrific. Do you remember how, not all that long ago, you would order a book through interlibrary loan and it would be two weeks later before it would come? You would then take a look at the book and say, wow, this isn't quite right -- now I'm going to need to order some other books. By contrast, with this agreement through RAPID you can get a look at the material within 24 hours to see if that is what you're looking for. That's really moved us up a level. I want to continue to put us in partnerships that let us include those kinds of services. By the way, Baylor has been chosen as the 2008 Academic Library of the Year for interlibrary loan in Texas. That's something we're really proud of. I would like to let others know about the great work we are doing and to improve our national reputation.
BN: Any other things you want to help build?
PO: High performance computing falls under the library domain, and that's very important. We have just unveiled Baylor's new high performance computer that we call Kodiak. We now have enough firepower, if you will, to be able to do serious research and computational work. Having such powerful computational resources to help our faculty with their research computing is critically important. We've been invited to join HiPCAT, which is the high performance computer association in Texas. That is a big step for us. Through HiPCAT, we'll be working with other research universities to swap out cycles of high performance computing. Another thing I want to be sure that we are on the emerging edge of is instructional technology, so this past fall I had us join a group called ELI, the Electronic Learning Initiative, that is part of EDUCAUSE. Some of my faculty and staff attended the ELI meeting in San Antonio this year, just to make sure we're truly aware of, experimenting with and moving forward on the newest instructional technology methods. We also will be working closely with the new Baylor Academy of Teaching and Learning to make sure we're supporting whatever needs they might have for technology resources.
BN: Are there any plans in the works for changing the way books are stored and retrieved in Baylor libraries? I've heard that various ideas are being looked at to free up floor space.
PO: They are, and it's a very important issue because we really are full. Any library at Baylor you look at is 90 percent full, and that's very problematic. When you are that full, if you want to add a few new things then you have to move a zillion things first, and that's not good. It's very difficult and takes a lot of labor, and if you keep doing that then ultimately you're not going to any have space left in the building. Of course, we are already doing things to save space such as taking out duplicate copies and other things that streamline the collection in appropriate ways. But in the end, there are only two choices that every library faces. One is to have off-site storage, a building somewhere to hold overflow materials. The problems inherent in that are that you have to staff the building and it's usually less secure because it's an off-site location. You have to continue to have humidity and temperature controls, and it's is very expensive to run that. When you retrieve the materials stored there, you spend a lot of your staff's time and energy coming and going, locating the material, bringing it all back, transferring it, getting it back to the person and taking it back when they're done. It's very costly to do it that way, and it's a constant battle to keep the things stored in such a warehouse in good shape.
BN: What's the alternative to off-site storage?
PO: Using an automatic retrieval system, a way of doing things that uses robotics. We would call it the Baylor Automatic Information Retrieval System (BAIRS). What we would put into the automatic retrieval system are the things that are our least-used items. We would still have browseable and frequently used items on the shelves. We have looked at that as it might be used here, and in the next year we'll be visiting some other locations that have it. If we are able install an automatic retrieval system, we would build it attached to the Moody Library building. We would have thousands of books put into the system that could be retrieved within five minutes. The automatic system would go and retrieve the book from the bin that it is stored in and bring it to you almost instantly so you can check it out. So, instead of having to request a book a day or two in advance from an off-site location, with automatic retrieval you could have that same material in five minutes.
BN: Are there any future plans to build an entirely new library building?
PO: At this time there are not because we think the Moody Library building is structurally very good. However, it does need renovation including updates on carpet, paint, lighting, restrooms and upgrades on the electrical and network systems. We'd like to do some zoning for various uses and add collaborative spaces, but we think that if we had the BAIRS system to move out some of the collection to make room for collaborative spaces we'd be fine. The building is in the heart of the campus, a central location for the university. We think it's got great windows, but it's just so full we can hardly see out of them. We'd love to streamline it a little bit to provide more study spaces and soft seating near our beautiful windows, restoring the building to the grace it once had.
BN: The other half of your title is vice president for information technology. Would you talk about what you oversee in that part of your job?
PO: It's interesting. Both parts of my responsibilities -- libraries and information technology (IT) -- touch almost everybody on campus, because almost everyone on campus needs a library resource in one way or another, and almost everyone needs some sort of IT. Maybe it's not the best analogy, but sometimes IT is kind of like plumbing. We all are utterly dependent on plumbing, but we don't think about it much when everything is going well. I think a big charge of mine is to make sure that we have the infrastructure for IT here at Baylor that will identify and support whatever needs to be done. As we grow in the number of our programs and our buildings, the IT infrastructure should grow along with that. That growth not only includes physicals resources like wires and cable, but it also includes the people behind that who answer questions and give support. That's a challenging task, but we're working to make sure it's true.
BN: Has Baylor kept up with demands for information technology compared to other institutions?
PO: I think so. We have a very nice data center, which was built in the last few years. We have great equipment there. They've also got a very knowledgeable and talented staff that is working with these programs and with the equipment, which is also important. A really strong staff and great customer service as well -- you usually don't get all of that in one package, which is something I really like about Baylor. I continually hear from people how helpful the IT people have been, how caring they've been when they come to solve a problem. They say the IT staff doesn't talk down to them and really tries to help them. Keeping our staff large enough to be as responsive as we need to be is a real challenge, because as we grow there are more things that come up and more needs that must be met. Trying to be sure we can respond quickly is something we have to keep working at. I think the biggest challenge I probably have is research computing, because the demands and the needs for that are really quite different than the demands inherent in using regular desktop computers. We have a group of interested faculty and staff members who talk with us on a regular basis, trying to make sure we're working to appropriately support all of the research computer needs.
BN: Is computer security also a concern of yours?
PO: That's a huge concern. There is nothing more important than protecting our information. We have all kinds of physical processes in place, as well as all kinds of logical processes in place like firewalls. We also rely on great policies and security officers, and we've recently added one position in the policy and security area to help. Education of the users is also an important component of security. We can make our server rooms secure, but if a user doesn't handle a password securely or if they are not careful about encrypting laptops when they're traveling, then all we've done to ensure security is at risk. One thing that persuaded me to come to Baylor was that EDUCAUSE has a research group called ECAR, the Educause Center for Applied Research. They did a big nationwide study a couple years ago about information security, and then they chose two or three cases they think are exemplary. Baylor was chosen as one of those exemplary cases, and we got a beautiful booklet that was distributed all across the country and internationally about our approach to information security. I knew that Baylor takes information security seriously and thought I'd enjoy working in this proactive environment.
BN: What specific things does Baylor do to make sure that its information is secure?
PO: For one thing, we do regular security audits. We have a company that comes in and works with us, unbeknownst to most others on campus, to test our IT systems. They give us an audit report with recommendations on what to do. Of course, here on campus Juan Alejandro and his group regularly do audits, and they have someone who specifically audits IT. We do everything we can to keep information security issues in the forefront. One thing that I redoubled the efforts on this last fall was trying to get everybody's laptop computer encrypted. That way, if it is ever stolen we don't have to worry that that data would be insecure. We're doing a big push this spring so that the faculty and staff can bring in their laptops to us and get those encrypted.
BN: Is there a need to expand the availability of Air Bear, our wireless network, on campus?
PO: This is so important because if you ask what is the biggest IT trend overall, it is the desire for wireless devices and wireless access. Air Bear is a great system, but the popularity of that system increases the number of people using it, and there is also the need to continually update the equipment that is related to our wireless networks. We put a big injection of capital into that this spring to grow it and to increase its availability, and that's going to be a continual process. We're going to need to keep expanding wireless access on campus.
BN: What about our computer labs on campus? Do we need to make any changes regarding their availability?
PO: I would say a couple of things here. First, public computer labs are for all students, faculty and staff and are managed by the library. We already make those labs available as part of the 24 hours study space. We also check out laptop computers to students in Moody Library and we offer a computing lab support. We're not going to see computer labs go away because they are very important for convenience. You'll need one if you're having trouble with your own computer, or maybe if your computer is three or four years old and won't run the latest academic software that you need to run. Or, maybe you just don't own a particular software and need to use it at the lab for free. All our research shows that students love using computer labs. However, on the other hand, personal laptop computers have become less expensive, lightweight and more portable. Students often will bring their laptops with them, so I think in the future we're going to need to take our computer labs and spread them out a bit. Students like to work with computers, and they like to have all their stuff around them, including their own laptop computer. So we need to be thinking of having our computers arranged not so much like in a traditional lab, but spread out more to allow for bigger groups of people and for better spaces for mobile computers. There should be good lighting, power, and great tables where you can enjoy computing with your own laptop.
BN: Another part of your duties at Baylor, although I'm not sure this was in your original job description, is to be the campus point person for efforts involving sustainability, conservation and recycling. Can you talk a bit about what you do in those areas?
PO: When I came to Baylor I didn't know those areas would be part of my job. Before I came here there were a lot of efforts going on with various groups to work with sustainability issues. For example, dining services had done a lot of things, as had the ECO Club and Baylor housekeeping -- lots of people. They had done a presentation for the Executive Council shortly before I came about what the needs were on campus, so the summer when I arrived Executive Council began to talk about that a bit. One thing that became very clear was that even though good efforts were going on in some areas, there was no coordinated effort being made across campus. That's why Baylor used to get bad grades on our sustainability, because the first criterion is whether you have a group on campus that coordinates sustainability efforts, and we didn't. President Lilley asked me if I would chair a group to do that, and I agreed because I think it's very important. One of the first things we have done is change many printers on campus to printing on both sides of the paper instead of just one. Doing double-sided printing has saved almost half a million pages of paper already this year, and those savings have paid for all the duplexers and printers that we've put in. We've also done our best to make it economically feasible to offer recycled paper for use on campus. We negotiated with our supplier and got a very reasonable price for using 30 percent recycled matter paper. That paper is now available for all departments to purchase as part of our standard ordering system. We also have kicked off a new recycling program whereby all residence halls now have single stream recycling.
BN: What exactly is single stream recycling?
PO: There are different ways to recycle. One popular way is to sort your trash, where you put bottles here and paper there, and then it's all sorted and taken in separate bins to a recycling location. By contrast, single stream recycling is where you take aluminum cans, plastics and paper and put it all in one container. Then, when it gets to the recycling location it's sorted out there. They have a big conveyor belt and the sorters separate the trash as it comes down -- plastic here, paper here and aluminum here. This type of recycling is so much simpler for an institution to manage. A lot of schools and businesses are going to single stream. If you look at the City of Waco, they are doing single stream recycling. Everybody in Waco has these blue rolling dumpsters that are used to hold paper, plastics and all the recyclables together. If it works for Waco, and it works for other large cities, then it makes sense that it could work for us. That's what our recycler, Sunbright, does, so we said okay to that.
BN: How is single stream recycling being introduced at Baylor?
PO: The first phase of our recycling effort has been introduced in the Baylor residence halls. We worked with Baylor housekeeping to choose a recycling container that would work well there, because originally we were going to purchase these very big containers. However, when we met with a sustainability committee, the housekeeping representative told us that some of their employees are too small to lift a bag out of a 55-gallon container without hurting themselves. So I then met with the people who were going to be affected by the recycling program, and we decided that a 35-gallons container would work best. We had labels made up to help people understand what mixed recycling means. The labels spell out everything, letting people know they shouldn't include glass, styrofoam or liquids. What we're doing is rearranging our trash. We pay for every pound of trash that we send to the landfill, but when we recycle that same trash, we get paid. So it makes so much sense to recycle, if nothing else from a financial standpoint. The money we make from recycling can then be used to support the sustainability program on campus.
BN: Haven't Baylor's recycling efforts recently received honors?
PO: Yes. We are taking part in a nationwide contest called RecycleMania. They base their rankings on how many pounds of trash per person an institution has recycled. At several points we've been number one per capita in the Big 12, ahead of both Texas A&M and the University of Texas. We're very proud of that.
BN: What are the next phases of the recycling plan?
PO: Phase two will include the libraries, the Bill Daniel Student Center and the Student Life Center. Phase three will include all campus offices and classroom buildings. After that we will work with the athletic facilities and outdoor spaces. Before each phase is implemented, we will have groups do walk-throughs with building managers to help determine exactly what will everyone need in each different building.
BN: We hear the term "sustainability" a lot these days when recycling is discussed. Just what does that term mean?
PO: It's sort of the word that's in vogue at the moment. I think what it means is trying to do things in an ongoing way to show good stewardship. It means trying to use resources in a way that makes them last and saves resources ultimately. Sometimes that means recycling. In the long run recycling that will save us money and keep things going in a way that's not wasteful. If we just put our paper in a landfill no good really comes of that. It's not really taking care of God's creation to do that. Other ways to approach sustainability are to reduce consumption when possible. If I can put a little sticker near every elevator that says, "Take the stairs, you'll save energy," and 50 people a day take the stairs, then we have helped saved energy. That helps us be sustainable because the energy we have can now go further and last longer. Another aspect is to re-use things when possible. Why throw away every folder you have? Instead, why not put a sticker on it, flip it over and use it again. Getting more out of the resources we have will sustain us longer than if we waste things. To me, sustainability really boils down to being a good steward of the resources God has given us.
BN: Are there any other easy ways for faculty and staff to recycle?
PO: There are so many ways that are so easy, and we have a good plan for recycling in offices with good cooperation from our housekeeping staff. If you want a recycling box to put paper in at your desk, call housekeeping. Our long-term goal is to provide appropriate containers all across campus for recycling to make it convenient and easy. Until those containers are in place, materials such as paper, cardboard, plastic, and aluminum can be placed directly into the blue bins behind the various buildings.
BN: Haven't Baylor's recycling efforts recently received honors?
PO: Yes. We took part in a nationwide contest called RecycleMania. They base their rankings on how many pounds of trash per person an institution has recycled. During the 10-week competition Baylor recycled 192,259 pounds of recyclable materials. That placed us third in the Big 12 Conference with 11.4 pounds of trash per person, and increased our national rank from No. 93 to No. 65 in just a year. We're very proud of that.*
BN: One last question. Has there been anything about Baylor that surprised you?
PO: The most surprising thing I found one day in December. I came out of my office and I was walking down the concourse toward the media library, I looked up and saw a huge, beautifully decorated Christmas tree. My stomach tied itself in a knot and I thought, "Oh my gosh, I am going to be in so much trouble," because in a secular institution I could get fired for promoting a Christian symbol like that. Then I thought, "Wait a minute, this is Baylor! It's okay." It was such a funny moment and it was such a sweet Christmas season for me. I was able to really enjoy my faith this year. I even had a gathering for my whole division, a lunch together to get to know each other and celebrate Christmas. Theoretically I knew Baylor would be like this, but I guess I'd been so long in a secular institution it was both a joy and a terror-filled moment when I saw that Christmas tree. It's been a real delight, and I enjoy being able to have prayers at Baylor functions. It is wonderful to be able to have excellence in our academics but also be open about our faith. Another surprise has been sports. I love football, but I had no idea how exciting football was going to be at Baylor, and how fun and exciting basketball was going to be. The whole community is there. I really missed football and basketball because Wellesley does belong to a competitive conference. We had T-shirts there that said, "Wellesley football: Undefeated since 1875." At Baylor I've enjoyed being part of an institution that has competitive sports and so many fun gatherings.
*Editor's note: One more award came Baylor's way following publication of the spring 2008 issue of BaylorNews. In recognition of Baylor's recently enhanced sustainability initiatives, the University received a Partners in Pride award from Keep Waco Beautiful for Baylor's new Go Green Recycling program. The award honors local individuals, businesses or schools that help make the community a cleaner, safer, healthier and more beautiful place to live and work.