The Numbers Man

October 19, 2004
Larry LyonLarry Lyon is a social scientist and a self-described "numbers man." He collects data, proposes models and relies on facts and figures. He knows the power of these elements to propel change.
Now, he also knows their limitations.
After taking part in a self-study of Baylor in 1984-86 and directing one in 1994-96, Lyon has gathered more in-house data from more sources than perhaps anyone else at the University. He has a unique perspective on visions and goals -- especially as they apply to his alma mater, where he has studied and worked for more than 30 years.
Lyon, dean of the Graduate School, soon will begin his third comprehensive examination of Baylor University. In June, he was named a senior vice provost, tapped by Provost David Lyle Jeffrey to lead Baylor's 2005-07 self-study for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges, Reaffirmation of Accreditation. The study will look at Baylor's faculty, staff, administration, students, curriculum and finances, among other areas.
Although the 1994-96 self-study became the bedrock of Vision 2012, Lyon said he initially doubted 2012's ability to combine a serious faith component with top scholarship. Once he understood the philosophical and financial underpinnings of the Vision, he knew it could work, and he became one of its strongest proponents. "Once we came up with a model that showed how tier-one was achievable while still holding onto our religious roots, it was powerful enough to change this University in major ways," he said.
"Without the ideas and the numbers, the model, we could not have launched something like 2012," he said. "Although I didn't think, in the beginning, that the ideas were powerful enough to get it going, once they did, I assumed they would carry the day."
Instead, factions inside and outside the University developed and although, three years into it, the Board of Regents still unanimously affirms 2012, discord among many groups continues. "I initially underestimated the power of ideas, models and facts to transform a university; and then, I overestimated their ability to convince other people as completely as they did me. I was wrong twice," Lyon said.
In the fall faculty meeting, Provost Jeffrey addressed where the University was on the "map of change," referencing heavily the 1994-96 self study. He noted that of the 209 faculty members involved in that study, which unanimously endorsed the framework that would become 2012, 134 -- or 64 percent -- are still at Baylor. Calling the faculty's work and the study of a decade ago "accurately prophetic," he reported that 26 of the study's 28 objectives had been accomplished. "That is a remarkable tribute to the realism and hard work as well as the visionary character of the Baylor community," Jeffrey said.
"What we now call Baylor 2012 has been a kind of national advertisement for what had been chosen in the 1995 self- study ... and the delivery on aspirations has been tremendous," Jeffrey said at the faculty meeting. "What we now see and the nation sees is that Baylor can deliver on what Baylor promises."
Entering his third University study, Lyon says it will be similar to the one a decade ago, although SACS investigators will view online most of the data collected, with fewer personal visits to campus. Tiffany Hogue, assistant provost, and Van Gray, associate vice president for strategic planning and improvement, will work on the project under Lyon's direction. This time, however, the University has an opportunity to do more than satisfy SACS criteria.
"We are going to arrange the data we collect around the 12 imperatives as a midterm assessment of 2012," Lyon said. This information will be shared with "broad committees on various sides of the issues," for what he hopes will be an honest evaluation of the Vision's progress, viability and Baylor's future beyond 2012.
"I don't know all the players on all the sides, but I know a lot of them," Lyon said, "and I'm going to deliberately seek input and participation from all sides. Promise. Hold me to it."
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