As the skyline at Baylor continues to be transformed, it's obvious to even first-time visitors that the University has entered a period of change, including the construction of the science building, new museum complex and Dutton Avenue Office and Parking Facility.
All of the activity has been planned as part of Baylor 2012, says Rick L. Creel, assistant vice president for operations and facilities, but one particular aspect of the Vision is especially important to the vitality of University life: Imperative 8, which calls for the construction of useful and aesthetically pleasing physical spaces.
"We can achieve all of the other imperatives -- improve our academic programs, create a truly residential campus, build wonderful buildings -- but having these spaces is the glue that holds the pieces together on the physical side of campus," he says.
Included in this imperative are 32 action projects that address issues ranging from the creation of prayer gardens for study or reflection to the development of the Brazos River corridor along University Parks Drive, he says. Other projects being planned are a face-lift for the Waco Creek area linking the McLane Student Life Center to the McCrary Music Building, the construction of at least two additional parking facilities at the perimeter of campus, an increase in campus intramural fields to about 23 acres and the eventual renovation of the Bill Daniel Student Center, Creel says.
These projects were based, in part, on survey responses from nearly 3,000 students. "They won't just spend their lives here in their dorm rooms, apartments or classrooms," he says. "It's critical for them to feel comfortable walking around campus or eating lunch outside with their friends."
By beautifying the walking malls bisecting campus, reclaiming green spaces from some parking lots and developing multiple outdoor courtyards for study or fellowship, "we are creating community," he says.
Roadways, both on the exterior and interior of campus, also will undergo changes. University Parks Drive will become more welcoming for visitors with the addition of brick columns, a joint effort with the City of Waco and the state, he says: "It will be something large enough and significant enough to say, 'You've now arrived at Baylor.'" Fifth Street, which runs in front of the Bill Daniel Student Center, soon will be closed to traffic, raised to correct drainage problems and resurfaced with paved stones. Eventually, most of the streets intersecting the campus will be transitioned into pedestrian walkways for both aesthetic and safety reasons, he says.
The improvements are a massive undertaking, but invaluable, Creel says. "We're educating the whole person. We've got to create a place where students want to stay longer than just their class times."