Q&A: Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.

Q&A: Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.

Baylor Magazine: How are things on Baylor’s campus?

Livingstone: The spring semester has been a time of great excitement on our campus. The students are engaged in the daily life of the University, and the faculty have been actively involved in working on Illuminate, our academic strategic plan, especially in terms of submitting and evaluating proposals for research and collaborative endeavors. In addition, we are deeply engaged in the Give Light philanthropic campaign right now, which is generating a lot of energy on the ground and throughout the Baylor Family. There is significant enthusiasm about the future of the University.

Magazine: How would you describe the faculty’s role in developing plans in support of Illuminate?

Livingstone: We’ve developed a structure through the Provost’s Office for the implementation of Illuminate around the five signature academic initiatives: Health, Data Sciences, Materials Science, Human Flourishing, Leadership and Ethics, and Baylor in Latin America. An Illuminate Steering Committee is providing leadership for the process of soliciting and evaluating proposals around each of the five academic initiatives, with subcommittees assigned to each of the initiatives for initial review.

At the heart of this process is the goal of advancing the metrics around Baylor becoming an R1-status institution, which is the term in academia for doctoral universities in the Carnegie classification system that are engaged in “very high research activity.” Baylor currently is classified as an R2 doctoral university, meaning we have “high research activity.” Many proposals will be given seed funding to begin their work and will ultimately grow into receiving external funding for research endeavors.

We’re excited about the potential for this broad-based, interdisciplinary effort. It’s important to note that this is a strategic use of University resources. We have a well-defined goal, and we are engaged in an organized, highly prioritized process to achieve it. We’ve encouraged our faculty and staff to develop interdisciplinary proposals, because the five key initiatives of Illuminate will require cross-disciplinary research to create solutions that are truly groundbreaking and impactful.

Magazine: What progress can you report concerning Give Light, Baylor’s $1.1 billion philanthropic campaign, since its launch in the fall?

Livingstone: Ever since our campaign kickoff during Homecoming Weekend, the response to the Give Light campaign has been dynamic and powerfully sustained. We are now hosting Give Light events across the country, beginning with one recently held with great success in Washington, DC. Additional events will be held in Southern California, New York, Houston, Dallas and other locations.

"We strive to embed our faith commitment across campus and throghout our educational and extracurricular programming."

We have raised $568.6 million to date thanks to the remarkable generosity of the Baylor Family. Gifts of all sizes are helping us move the needle toward achieving our ambitious goal. The Give Light campaign is vitally important to providing the financial support necessary for the initiatives in Illuminate, and gifts made as part of the campaign are playing a central role in increasing our endowment for the support of students and faculty.

Magazine: Are there new facilities in the works?

Livingstone: Of Give Light’s $1.1 billion goal, about $500 million is targeted for endowment, about $300 million for current-use funds and about $300 million for capital projects. We’re thrilled that Mark and Paula Hurd have made a lead gift to create the Hurd Welcome Center, which will be a fabulous front door to our campus at the corner of University Parks Drive and Interstate 35. We will continue doing fundraising around that lead gift so that we can soon move toward developing architectural plans and ultimately breaking ground on that project.

In terms of athletics, we have two facilities on the horizon, provided fundraising is successful. One is a new fieldhouse that would house the men’s and women’s basketball programs and free up space in the Ferrell Center for volleyball and acrobatics and tumbling. The other project is a football operations center that would significantly improve support for that athletic program while making space available in the Simpson Athletics and Academic Center for other sports. 

We also are feeling optimistic about the fundraising we’re doing for the iconic Tidwell Bible Building, which houses our history and religion departments. Almost every Baylor student takes classes in Tidwell, and we are excited about honoring the heritage of that building while making it a more modern facility that meets the needs of educators and students today. 

Funds to support the work we’re doing in our STEM areas are also of vital importance. This is a growth area for us, and we need to support the research our faculty and students are doing in these scientific fields as we grow toward becoming a preeminent Christian research university. We are working to make the most effective use of our facilities in the Baylor Sciences Building, the BRIC, and elsewhere to build upon the important research being done on campus and have placed a priority on endowment funding for faculty and research needs. 

Give Light also calls for the build-out of the Honors Residential College. We currently have two residence halls, Memorial and Alexander,
along with a dining facility that serve our Honors College. However, we need to add space for faculty offices so that the Honors College can gain synergy from the collaboration among faculty who are currently located in various spaces across campus. 

Magazine: Can you speak to how Illuminate preserves Baylor’s traditional strengths while moving the institution forward by integrating research and teaching?

Livingstone: Our transformational undergraduate education will be enriched by an ongoing emphasis on strengthening our faculty’s pedagogical skills and by hiring new faculty who deeply care about our students’ learning experiences. Along with that, we recognize that top undergraduate students want to be engaged in research. In fact, many of our students matriculate at Baylor having already been active researchers while in high school. Accordingly, we need to grow our research footprint, both among our faculty and our population of graduate students, so that we can offer undergraduates more opportunities to pursue hands-on research experiences, whether that’s in the humanities or the sciences.

Magazine: How does Baylor’s faith-based mission and Christian educational environment influence faculty-student interaction and student life programs?

Livingstone: One of the pillars of Illuminate is our unambiguously Christian learning environment. This environment has been a touchstone for generation after generation of Baylor students, and it’s one that will only be strengthened as we move forward into greater activity and prominence as an institution where both excellent teaching and groundbreaking research can be experienced. 

We view Baylor University as a light unto the world, and one of the things we spend a lot of time on is ensuring that we maintain the integrity of our Christian mission. We strive to embed our faith commitment across campus and throughout our educational and extracurricular programming. Hiring people of active faith to serve on our faculty and staff is an essential part of this effort. Indeed, the hundreds of men and women serving in those capacities are at the core of our Christian mission.

We also focus on our students’ experience, requiring them to take religion classes and attend Chapel and encouraging faculty to include discussions of faith, when relevant, in their classes. Beyond these measures, we also place chaplains in our residence halls, provide missions opportunities to students, and have built important bridges with local churches and faith-based nonprofit organizations in the Waco area. We take the spiritual development and service orientation of our students very seriously.

Magazine: What are some of the initiatives Baylor continues pursuing to improve campus safety and ensure Baylor students’ well-being?

Livingstone: One of our highest priorities is to ensure the safety, health and well-being of our students. We’ve done a number of things to address that priority in recent years, partly due to the challenges we faced but also because we continue to learn more about the needs of our students. We have significantly enriched the resources of our Title IX Office to help provide support for victims of sexual assault and interpersonal violence. We also have conducted a great deal of trauma-informed training within our police department and have worked to embed our officers in the life of the University so our students trust them in potentially difficult situations. We provide transportation to students after dark. We also have dramatically increased the number of cameras on our campus to monitor who is coming into our community, both to avoid potentially harmful incidents and to have a record of anything that happens.

There has been increasing demand for counseling services for college students across the nation, and Baylor is taking a strong leadership role in this area, including the opening last year of the Beauchamp Addiction Recovery Center, which has been unbelievably helpful to our students. We want Baylor students to know that we are here to help them in every aspect of their lives. That’s a commitment we strive to live out every single day.