President-select Linda A. Livingstone, PhD, did not always aspire to a career in upper-level university administration. Even as the possibility of that career path developed in recent years, she was determined to only look at institutions that aligned with her values.
Her discernment resulted in becoming Baylor’s selection as the university’s 15th president in mid-April. Livingstone officially begins in the position June 1. It is a return for Livingstone, who was a Baylor faculty member for more than a decade in the Hankamer School of Business during the 1990s and early 2000s.
“When I got my PhD, it was really because I wanted to teach and do research,” Livingstone says. “When I came to Baylor and eventually became associate dean for graduate programs, I found being an administrator to be interesting.”
Livingstone left Baylor in 2002 for Pepperdine University, where she served as dean of the Graziadio School of Business Management and professor of management. In 2014, she was named dean and professor of management for the George Washington (GW) University School of Business.
“Once I went to GW, I began to think about what I wanted to do with the rest of my career,” she says. “Several universities reached out to me about provost jobs and president jobs, but I was very happy at GW.”
Along came Baylor.
“It was the perfect fit and the perfect opportunity on so many levels,” Livingstone says. “I know the place, and I know it at its core and its soul. I understand the deeply held mission of the institution. And, because I’ve been here, I understand why people love Baylor so much and why they react so strongly to the good and difficult times that happen here.”
A Perkins, Oklahoma, native, Livingstone played varsity basketball at Oklahoma State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in economics and management, a Master of Business Administration and a Doctor of Philosophy in management and organizational behavior. Her husband Brad also played basketball at Oklahoma State, and their daughter Shelby, who was born in Waco, is a rising senior on Rice University’s volleyball team.
Livingstone began her professional career at her alma mater as a graduate teaching assistant and research assistant in management department. She joined Baylor’s faculty in 1991 as an assistant professor of management and became associate professor in that department in 1997. The following year, she was named associate dean of graduate programs.
Baylor Magazine had an opportunity to visit with Livingstone during her late-April visit to Waco. The following question-and-answer is a preview of the feature that will run in this summer’s edition.
Certainly, my time at Baylor was important to me. It was formative for me to be a faculty member here early in my career and to think about what it means to integrate your faith and your profession as an academic. It was here that I had my first opportunity to be an academic administrator. I liked the opportunity to influence the organization at a broader level. At Pepperdine, running a school as opposed to a part of a school, it gave me a much broader responsibility and perspective on the organization. You’re an advocate for your school while also being a member of senior leadership at the university and saying, ‘How am I ensuring that what we’re doing is also in the best interest of the university?’ It makes you more sensitive in the role of a president to understand what people in other places in the organization are dealing with and how the decisions you make and the initiatives you undertake impact schools, faculty and deans, and the importance of engaging those people in the process.
At the core, one of our principles at a faith-based institution is the belief that all truth is God’s truth and that truth is open to inquiry. That gives you freedom as a scholar in a Christian institution to ask difficult questions, to investigate them and not be afraid of the answers you get. Sometimes we are criticized in Christian higher education—that we are not open to scholarly findings. It’s just the opposite if you are truly, honestly a high-level research university, which Baylor is. It gives you an opportunity and a freedom to do high-quality scholarly work and not be afraid of the answers you get from that.
Students are at the core of what we do here. It’s important to work with student leadership work with them because they are the conduit to understanding what’s on students’ minds and what they’re excited about, what they’re concerned about. There are different levels and types of touchpoints with students, to engage with students and get to know them. Baylor is a large campus; you can’t get to know everybody on a personal level. But you can certainly be visible and engaged and participate in activities that matter to students and show that you are concerned and care about them and their activities on campus.
I grew up in a very small Methodist church, and I began going to Baptist churches in college. We went to University Heights Baptist Church in Stillwater, which is right next to the Oklahoma State campus. After my husband and I married, we went to First Baptist Church in Woodward, Oklahoma, for several years, and then we went to Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma. First Baptist City of Washington had been a vibrant inside-the-city Baptist church that had declined a lot over the years. Julie Pennington-Russell, who was our pastor at Calvary Baptist in Waco, was brought in to help revitalize this beautiful and amazing church. We felt called by God to be a part of that and help Julie get grounded in Washington.
We’re an academic institution, and that’s the core of our business. But wrapped around that are a lot of other experiences that inform and build on the academic and Christian mission of the institution. Athletics is an important part of that. It’s one of the most visible things we do on a campus; it’s a tremendous window into the institution. As much as we sometimes wish we received that kind of publicity for an amazing research project that a faculty member does or some other amazing activity in which a student engages, in our society, athletics gets that attention. But what you do in athletics has to support the Christian mission and the academic mission, not the other way around. We will focus on continuing to excel on the court and on the field, but doing it in a way that enhances and supports the core academic mission and the core Christian mission of the university.