President Starr: Fall 2013 Faculty Meeting

Aug. 29, 2013

President Ken Starr met with the Baylor Faculty at the Fall Faculty meeting on August 29, 2013. The comments below are his prepared remarks — his actual delivered remarks may have varied slightly.


  • Welcome to academic year 2013 - 2014. Baylor University, as we proudly say, older than the State of Texas itself. A glorious past, and by God’s grace, a bright future.
  • Do you have a favorite part of the day — that is, of your campus day, your professional day? Well, I do.
  • You might think: well, perhaps in moments such as Tuesday when Dean David Garland announced at the Truett Seminary Convocation a $1 million gift to the Seminary for student scholarships. That’s pretty special.
  • But as great as those moments are, my favorite part of the day is: time with students, especially one on one. That’s really special. And when I do, the conversation invariably turns to you--the faculty:
    • The faculty, and what you mean to these wonderful co-discoverers.
  • As the new semester dawned on Monday, I found myself — after virtually countless welcoming handshakes and hugs — saying a goodbye.
  • The time had come for Stephanie Allen, Baylor Class of 2013, to say her farewells before launching on a Rotary Global Scholarship to the renowned London School of Tropical Medicine.
    • From there, she enters — in just 11 months — the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
  • This is a life-long dream for Stephanie. From the age of 5, she felt the tug — the call — to be a doctor. As a high school student, Stephanie volunteered at Texas Children’s Hospital — she played with precious little children in the oncology ward. She shadowed the physicians as they made their rounds. She knew. And so she came to Baylor.
  • But like doubting Thomas, uncertainty began creeping in. She was confused, perplexed. On two occasions, she stood at the brink and said, that’s it. This isn’t for me.
  • On both those occasions, a mentor stepped in and gently helped her find her way back. The first was a Baylor graduate student. The second, a Baylor faculty member. They pulled her back from her shadowland of doubt and encouraged her to continue on her noble professional journey. “You were called to do this, Stephanie.” They knew.
  • And so off she goes to London and then medical school, but she takes with her a lifetime of deepest gratitude for what Baylor — the people of Baylor — encouraged her and inspired her to be.
  • We call these — the extraordinary stories. The stories of our students. Unfolding right here...
    • At this great college to work for — or as we say given our worldview, this great place to serve.
  • Thank you, as we move into the busy year, for serving — for teaching, for mentoring, for inspiring...for coming alongside our students, for being there.

* * * *

  • We are in year two of our strategic plan — Pro Futuris - under the leadership of Provost Davis. Her report this afternoon demonstrates that we are already seeing the fruits of those labors.
  • Collaboratively - under the tenets of shared governance — our faculty, staff and students have come together to create acts of determination in several areas:
    • Global education
    • Informed engagement
      • As Dr. Leeper mentioned, it is our calling to pursue academic excellence and innovation while having full awareness of the needs of others.
    • Technology enhanced education.
      • As the Provost said, let's not be afraid of MOOCs.
      • We are moving forward in online education as a charter affiliate partner with Semester Online.
  • The idea remains bold - to be a large, comprehensive research university that remains unapologetically Christian - and therefore one that cares deeply about our students.
  • In light of this bold vision, Baylor University should have a consistent presence at the table in national policy discussions.
  • I am pleased that Baylor University has joined with the Gallup Organization to create and conduct a global poll on religiosity. We hope that the Baylor-Gallup Poll on World Religion will become the seminal voice for policymakers, nonprofit leaders, and scholars worldwide interested in the state of religion around the globe.
  • I am also pleased that Baylor University is developing a partnership with Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs to further our institution's profound interest in religious liberty around the world.
    • This December, Baylor will be joining with Georgetown to sponsor an international conference in Rome entitled “Christianity and Freedom: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives”. This conference will bring scholars from around the world together to examine the role of Christianity in developing and deepening the culture of freedom.
    • As Baylor develops its presence in Washington D.C., we intend to create additional opportunities for our faculty, our students and our alumni to expand their networks, their opportunities and their influence.
      • Take for example: Just yesterday I talked to Melissa Rogers — a Baylor alumna and director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships - about joining us for The Texas Hunger Initiative Summit - an opportunity for leaders and practitioners from across the country to share their knowledge and expertise about food insecurity - a problem that 4.2 million Texans face every day.
    • We invite you to the conversation about Baylor's future in what our beloved, late alumnus, Joe Allbritton, has called “the most important city in the world”, Washington D.C.
  • As you may recall, Baylor sent a delegation to China last summer to further relationships with governmental, educational and business partners.
  • This summer, I had the privilege of returning to East Africa. I have a deep love for East Africa, where so many of our faculty, staff and students have invested their time and talents.
  • Along with our partners at Buckner International, I was able to see first-hand the great impact Baylor has made and to begin to imagine what we might do.
  • As the Provost collaboratively works with you, in the spirit of shared governance, to implement the acts of determination in the area of international education, as our student life and mission staff continue to cultivate opportunities for our students to go abroad, as our network creates opportunities for alumni to come alongside us on these ventures, and as Ken Hall raises money for all of this, I would ask you to continue prayerfully to consider how the work you do might expand Baylor's reach globally.
  • As you returned to campus from your time away, you will have noticed a few physical changes.
    • For one thing, Allbritton House has a new front lawn and driveway.
    • You heard from Reagan a few minutes ago. Just last month, at the Board of Regents’ retreat, Reagan gave a brilliant presentation about the extraordinary growth of our campus over the past 100 years. Even if you focus only on the last decade, the progress of building Baylor - in a challenging economic environment — is a great blessing.
  • In short, as times changed — and as our students' needs changed — our campus changed. More changes are on the horizon.
    • Fort Faculty has given way to the location of our new Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation.
    • Floyd Casey Stadium will become Baylor Stadium.
    • And East Village - as of last week, home to 700 undergraduates - is a jewel.
  • Changes are almost always bittersweet. But our respect for the past should not stand as an impediment to meeting the needs of the generations to come.
  • And so it is, that Baylor students who walk across the Ferrell Center stage each year deserve a robust and comprehensive alumni program.
  • We have tried to keep Baylor Nation updated throughout the summer about our conversations with the Baylor Alumni Association. Through hard work, and 10 months of earnest negotiations, the leadership of the Baylor Board of Regents and the executive committee of the Baylor Alumni Association reached a forward-looking agreement that holds the promise to bring a happy conclusion to more than a decade of tension. By coming together, we will be able to form a single, comprehensive, alumni-engagement program, supported fully by the University and with a truly global reach.
    • This agreement offers the best way to preserve what is most important in the old model of the independent alumni association — an independent voice — while at the same time continuing the nationwide — indeed global — work of the Baylor Alumni Network.
    • Here's the challenge: This agreement will not go forward unless two-thirds of those present at the BAA meeting 9 days from now — on Saturday, September 7 — vote in favor. And yes, you have to be physically present to vote.
    • Contrary to some commentary, however, a 'no' vote does not preserve the status quo. The University has already notified the BAA that should the agreement fail, the BAA’s license to use the Baylor mark is terminated.
    • We will simply move forward with the vibrant, university-sponsored Baylor Alumni Network, headed up so ably by Master Teacher — and Vice President — Tommye Lou Davis.
    • After thoughtful and prayerful consideration, many have stepped forward to support this agreement--including your own Faculty Senate which issued a unanimously approved statement of support on Monday. We are very thankful for the Faculty Senate's ringing endorsement of Baylor's moving forward.
  • Many of you in this room are alumni and are members of the Baylor Alumni Association. I strongly encourage you to inform yourself about the agreement. There is much information on our website, www.baylor.edu/forward, as well as on the BAA's website. I encourage you to vote at Waco Hall at 11:00 a.m. on the morning of September 7th.
  • This is an historic moment for our university. The transition agreement is our way forward. Please vote “yes.”
  • Let me close with a reflection on those favorite moments - the favorite time of the day.
  • As we say at Baylor, it's all about the students and their extraordinary stories.
  • But our students - and their families - are continuing to struggle under their financial burdens. They are meeting with me about those challenges.
    • Just this week, a young man - a sophomore - met with me about his younger brother. Both are first-generation college students. Their parents speak little English. They're struggling with the cost of higher education.
    • Standard and Poor's research tells us that “higher costs for students could spell trouble for private U.S. colleges and university credit quality.”
    • S&P reports:
      • The increasing costs of higher education have students reevaluating which college or university to choose.
      • Private colleges and universities are offering much more in the way of financial aid to students, which is cutting into their profitability.
      • Lower-rated private colleges and universities could experience negative rating actions in the next few years if they are unable to build a sustainable business model with a declining revenue source.
  • This is where we all have a role to play - to encourage our students; to urge them to plan, plan, plan. Baylor in 4 years. That one step will help tremendously in controlling student debt.
  • More broadly, don't hide your candle under a bushel. Encourage grateful alumni — those students who you taught and mentored — to support your school, your program, your department. Encourage them to help create more extraordinary stories.
  • * * * *

    And, as we look ahead to an exciting football season (and don't forget our wonderful soccer, volleyball, and cross-country teams), enjoy with me now Baylor's new television commercial from the Marketing and Communications Department under the able leadership of Vice President John Barry.

    "Watch video: That's What it Takes When You're on a Mission..."

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