Baylor University

Waco Tribune-Herald: EDITORIAL: Staying the course at Baylor University

Jan. 15, 2012

Republished with permission from the Waco Tribune-Herald.

Anyone perusing a draft of Baylor University's strategic vision for the next decade will be struck more by what it doesn't say than what it does. Gone are the pillar-like imperatives of its sometimes controversial predecessor, Baylor Vision 2012. University officials tell us that this new document reflects not only the increasing volatility of our times but the need of the Baylor Nation to be able to turn on a dime.

Nearly as striking is the listing of aspirations that Baylor already seems to be on the road to fulfilling, such as accenting research and bolstering scholarship opportunities, enriching the undergraduate experience in novel ways and, especially crucial, growing financial assistance for Baylor students, mirrored in the $100 million President's Scholarship Initiative, launched as Judge Ken Starr was inaugurated as president in September 2010.

In short, Baylor seems to be codifying and internalizing worthy pursuits and initiatives that teachers, students and administrators have been undertaking in recent years. The draft strategic plan puts all this into print, ensuring such goals are fully acknowledged, vetted and critically measured by university leaders in charge of such matters. It ensures such priorities don't disappear just because top administrators retire and students move on.

Why should we care?

Why should Wacoans and Central Texans even care? Fair question, though longtime residents already know the answer: Waco and Baylor are joined at the hip. Whatever benefits one clearly benefits the other. Beyond that, Baylor in recent years has steadily built on its commitment to the surrounding community (that's us) -- something acknowledged as a priority in the draft, indicative of those Christian principles about working to better one's neighbors. Baylor has remained true to that concept. Some in our town overlook this.

We've seen many examples of these good works, ranging from energetic student volunteer initiatives such as Steppin' Out, which assists less-dynamic neighborhoods in Waco, to projects in which experienced students and faculty apply what they've learned in the Baylor classroom and research toward real-life community efforts to address hunger and poverty -- both chronic problems in our city.

Smart strategy

Some might argue Baylor should have offered a new vision for the next chapter in its history. But wisdom and foresight sometimes mean keeping to a smart strategy settled upon earlier and merely refining it to address new challenges. That appears to be where Baylor is headed as it aspires to top-tier status as a national research university, singular in its Christian goals such as excellence in all things.

Looking at Baylor at the dawn of this new year, it's obvious Vision 2012 has made it a far better place, despite all the strife that so often revolved around that vision in the past decade -- strife that we suspect too often arose from the reluctance by some to rise up to tackle new challenges in higher education.

The dramatic rifts we witnessed during the past decade have died down under new leadership and the realization such unrest ultimately does Baylor no good. Meanwhile, Vision 2012 has yielded not only a new campus profile reflecting an exciting building program but a revitalized commitment to research and scholarship in all areas. Baylor is ever-changing these days, but in strongly positive ways.

If a "Baylor bubble" ever existed, it doesn't anymore. The draft strategic vision under review makes clear that an institution tightly interwoven with the people of Waco will continue to serve as an active catalyst for good in our community. To that end, all local citizens should heartily endorse what's evolving at Baylor.

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