Summer Camp Visitors Receive a Texas-Style Welcome
by Alan Hunt, (254) 710-6271
The summer months at Baylor University bring thousands of visitors to campus to brush up on interests and skills as varied as piano and pipe organ to band and basketball. Others will attend events such as staff training camps, church retreats and leadership conferences.
Baylor's 735-acre manicured campus will this year play host to nearly 60 summer programs during the four-month period May through August. Some of the activities will attract as many as 1,300 participants; others will involve as few as 20 people. The total number of summer camp guests at Baylor is projected to exceed 10,700.
Orchestrating a traditionally warm Baylor welcome for the visitors is the task of the Office of University Host, led by Chris Krause, director; associate director Susie Johnston; Debra Miller, assistant director; and Kent Ellis, assistant director over audio/visual and technical services, who offers daily support to these programs. They and members of their staff work diligently to maintain Baylor's reputation for Texas-style hospitality - a quality that helps boost the university's growing popularity as a summer camp and conference venue.
The University Host team is responsible for scheduling and providing logistical planning and support for all of the summer camps and conferences on campus. Additionally, they provide university guest housing for department guests and dignitaries, coordinate other conferences for Baylor and visitor groups at facilities around campus and host the University Interscholastic League spring meet and youth programs.
The benefits that so many out-of-town guests bring to the Waco and Central Texas economy are numerous. Reporting on the economic importance of Baylor on the Waco Metropolitan Area in the 2004-05 academic year, Dr. Tom Kelly, director of Baylor's Center for Business and Economic Research, emphasized the impact of "out-of-county dollars" on the local economy.
The Baylor business school professor said spending by visitors was a major factor in Baylor's estimated economic impact of $1.2 billion on the Waco Metro Area economy during the academic year. This figure includes, of course, overall spending by faculty, employees and the university's traditional student body (more than 11,000 of them out-of-county residents), along with Baylor's operational expenditures and capital spending.
Susie Johnston said local businesses "do very well" in terms of the participants' spending.
Summer programs also help to showcase the campus to prospective students and promote the university among its constituencies, Johnston said.
"These programs and camps further allow the university to maximize the utilization of its facilities during summer months, while at the same time generating revenues to help cover fixed costs associated with these facilities," she said.
Johnston added that expected attendance this year will be up by about 1,000 over last year, although the number of overall programs is slightly lower because of the scope and scheduling of campus maintenance and renovation projects this summer. "Each summer seems to be busier than the next," she said.
Johnston said her department receives numerous comments about the beauty of the campus and the hospitality shown by staff, faculty and students. She quoted comments from camp and conference directors, including one from a representative with the First Baptist Church at Allen, who wrote, "What an awesome week we had at Baylor. You were such a big part of that as you worked so hard to find out what our needs were and do whatever you could to get those needs met. Baylor is the greatest and so are you."
Another representative, from Worldview Academy, wrote, "We had a great launch to an incredible summer. You have partnered with us to impact the culture for Christ through these students."
Worldview Academy, a nondenominational, educational organization, is sponsoring staff training and leadership camps at Baylor this year. The academy, in its 11th year, features similar camps nationwide and typically involves evangelical, Christian, college-bound students who are challenged to look at things from a biblical standpoint and to lead and serve with integrity.
One of the largest out-of-county groups to participate in this year's Baylor summer camp schedule will attend the Flight 360 - First Baptist Church, Euless program, scheduled for July 24-28. About 1,300 young people in grades 6-12 are expected to participate, representing 10 churches in the Dallas and Austin areas, and one church in Smyrna, Tenn.
Matt Downing, assistant director of the Flight 360 program, said they are looking forward to their Baylor visit. "We love the campus," he said.
Downing said Flight 360 is a combination of two previously separate summer programs - Flight Week, which for several years had been held on the Baylor campus, and the 360 Turnaround program, which was held annually in the Dallas area. "Now, we have a wonderful, combined program arranged at Baylor," he said.
About 150 people are expected to attend the annual Texas Baptist Conference for the Deaf, scheduled for June 16-18. This year marks 57 years of existence for the Texas Baptist Conference for the Deaf. It has held its annual conference at Baylor for more than 21 years.
Gerald Davis, a community consultant for the deaf to the Baptist General Convention of Texas, said the participants like the ambiance of the Baylor campus and the ease of getting from one place to another. "Baylor has a really pleasant atmosphere that provides for a nice weekend," he said. "The food is wonderful."
As in previous years, the conference will focus on bringing the hearing impaired congregations and churches together for fellowship, worship and training. Davis said programs also will be available for family members and teenagers.
Other summer camp programs scheduled for the coming weeks include Baylor Soccer; Scott Drew Basketball; Baylor Tennis; Summer Piano; Middle School/Junior High Band; Summer Piano Institute; Advanced Placement Summer Institute; Christian Leadership Institute; Baylor Bear Baseball; Kim Mulkey Lady Bear Basketball; Drum Major/Color Guard; LaDanian Tomlinson Football Training; 5 Star Basketball; Athletic Training; Summer Scholars; Volleyball All Skills; Baylor Cross Country; Baylor Summer Debate; Horizon; UCA; All State Choral Music; Texas Demolay - Annual Conference; Volleyball Setter/Hitter; Texas Baptist Church Weekday Education; Baylor Baseball Total Skills; Volleyball Team; Alleluja! Church Music Conference; Baylor Line Camp - Spiritual Journey; Baylor Line - Spirit of Baylor; and MA Dance and Auxiliaries.
"We impress upon all our guests that the best way to learn about Baylor is to enjoy its campus and sample the warmth of our hospitality," said Johnston. "We're confident that they'll discover the big picture of what Baylor offers as one of the most respected universities in the Southwest."