Quality of Life in Our Community

By Amber Tabaka

Traveling on Interstate 35 or South University Parks Drive through Waco, it is easy to spot improvement to the skyline of Baylor and Waco with the number of buildings under construction. "The straight economic factor of construction has had a major impact on the community," says Jack Stewart, president and CEO of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.

"Baylor creates a resource to attract both businesses and individuals on where to locate themselves and do business," Stewart says. He also commented that Baylor provides expertise in areas such as business and research. With Baylor's first-class entrepreneurship and business programs, the community has great resources for business life and economic success in the city. Baylor is leading the community in technology and helping the overall economy by developing research areas.

Elizabeth Smith of the Cooper Foundation, an organization awarding grants to social service agencies, art organizations, educational institutions, hospitals, medical clinics and other non-profit groups, agrees with and encourages Baylor's emphasis on research and development. "New knowledge and products will seed new enterprises and often provide a competitive edge to existing businesses. Faculty, graduate and undergraduate students with expertise in fields such as nanotechnology draw attention, boost Waco's image and place the community on the radar screen of laboratories and businesses interested in applications of the research," Smith says.

As for Waco's plans for the future, Stewart says, "We intend to grow our business sector and continue to develop a diverse economy. Baylor supplies Waco with trained people who present the adaptation of technology to the workplace."

Outside the workplace, Baylor adds to the quality of life for Central Texas by providing many entertainment venues. The Central Texas community and Baylor students, faculty and staff have the option to attend a variety performances in theatrical, operatic and musical genres.

Theatre performances average four to six plays in a season and music concerts occur several times a week. In addition, Baylor choirs often have the opportunity to perform in local churches. "Baylor has shown much openness with events such as art shows and music symphonies, bringing culture to the community," Stewart says.

Along with Stewart, Smith recognizes other ways Baylor contributes to the community. "By hosting events on campus, sharing space, allowing the community to attend lectures, sponsoring camps for kids and building a fabulous new museum, Baylor improves the quality of life in Waco," Smith says.

For other forms of entertainment and recreation, many Central Texans turn to Baylor's Division I athletics. With teams competing in the Big 12 Conference, Baylor maintains high-quality athletic teams. Central Texans have the opportunity to experience Big 12 men's and women's cross country, track and field, basketball, tennis and golf as well as softball, baseball, football, volleyball and soccer. Stewart says, "There are few communities our size blessed with Division I athletics."

Not only does Baylor bring nationally prominent teams to Waco, but the University also attracts accomplished individuals to share experiences with students, faculty, staff and the public. When renowned speakers visit the campus, "...they become familiar with Waco and Baylor, and it exposes citizens of Waco to those who can bring a global perspective to the community," Stewart says. In addition, KWBU-TV (PBS) tapes events and lectures given at Baylor, including speakers such as Ernest Gaines and Shelby Foote, and broadcasts these on cable television's College Channel, shared with McLennan Community College and Texas State Technical College.

Klifford Kuehl, general manager of KWBU television and radio, says, "Raising the bar for the quality of life on campus and the quality of the learning experience at Baylor is bound to spill over into the quality of life for all Central Texans. It will help bring attention to Waco in positive ways we haven't thought of yet."

In July 2000, KWBU-FM brought National Public Radio to Central Texas, reaching almost 200,000 people and serving what was the largest unreached metro area in the country. KWBU-FM began airing The Local Show, a program that allows listeners to meet the people shaping the future of Central Texas.

KWBU-TV has produced a Race for the Cure documentary annually since the establishment of the local race. The station also helped to produce and air a documentary on the 50th anniversary of the 1953 Waco tornado, something close to the heart of this community. In August 2002, KWBU-TV began serving almost 600,000 viewers with a free, over-the-air signal due to increased transmitter power. Other special programs, including the award-winning Inside Baylor Sports, can be found at www.baylortv.com.

"We perform dozens of outreach events each year, teaching adults, children and childcare providers the best way to use our programming to enrich their lives. Among many other projects, we help to get the first books into children's hands and bring our community together to talk about issues that affect us all," Kuehl says.

KWBU profiles half-a-dozen non-profit organizations a month on TV and radio and forms computer discussion groups that complement local and national programs, adding to the quality of life in Waco and keeping important issues in front of students, faculty and Central Texans. Being part of a growing community with a great location enhances the life at Baylor.

"Waco has a location that's accessible and central with a good size of community that attracts both students and faculty," Stewart says. This community embraces Baylor and supports the University, as seen during the last two years of Gold Rush T-shirts worn by the extended Baylor population - students, faculty, staff and Central Texas businesses and families.

With this type of support, Baylor's investment in improving its academic excellence will continue to enhance the lives and communities of Waco and Central Texas. Smith says, "As Baylor's overall academic reputation improves, Waco will be seen even more as a center of intellectual capital, and the atmosphere of our community will become more creative - a key differentiating characteristic between vibrant, dynamic cities and those that languish."