Last fall, Baylor announced the launch of Give Light — a $1.1 billion fundraising campaign to support Illuminate, the University’s strategic plan. Among the campaign’s capital priorities is a $50 million renovation/expansion of Memorial and Alexander halls, home to Baylor’s Honors Residential College.
The project includes a complete renovation of Memorial (opened in 1930) and Alexander (opened in 1941), along the same lines of the updates that many of Baylor’s other traditional residence halls have experienced since 2013. The biggest part of the project will be an expanded central location for Honors College faculty and staff, who are currently scattered across campus in Morrison Hall, the Baylor Sciences Building, Brooks Residential College, Brooks Flats and other locations.
The new space, designed to fit with the existing buildings’ classical look, will include office suites, classrooms, study spaces and more, all aimed at better serving students and faculty. Among the benefits: Increased student-faculty interaction allowing for enhanced mentoring relationships, and increased interaction among faculty of diverse disciplines leading to strengthened collaboration on research and other projects.
“We’ve had an emphasis in the Honors College from the very start on integration, so our faculty integrate their scholarship with their teaching,” said outgoing Honors College Dean Thomas Hibbs, who was recently named president at the University of Dallas. “We offer opportunities for students to integrate the life of study with the life of faith and the life of service.
“Having a place where we do all those things and where we’re spending a lot of time together increases the likelihood of the integration. Faculty are more likely to encounter students, see them reading or writing papers, and get interested in what they’re doing. Faculty are more likely to collaborate across disciplinary divides if they’re down the hall from one another, rather than being across the campus and rarely seeing one another. ... If you have a number of activities occurring in one place, particularly activities that help students raise their sense of what’s possible, then the repetitious awareness of, say, international fellowships and distinguished scholarships makes it much more likely that students will actively pursue these opportunities.”
The new space will be created in two ways. Most notably, it will come by building up from the current dining hall that sits between Alexander and Memorial, adding floors above to create additional square footage. The renovation process will also make available some spaces (like Alexander’s basement and Memorial’s fourth floor) that have become unusable over the years, bringing them back online to serve current and future students.
One bonus of the plan: Memorial Chapel, which was renovated a decade ago (thanks to generous support from the Getterman and Robbins families) with beautiful stained glass and hardwood floors and pews, will now be far more accessible to students via the new central shared space created between the two buildings.
“I’m excited about the people proximity that this creates,” Hibbs said. “So many really good things happen if you just put good people in the same spot, and they bump into one another and talk about things, and ideas come.
“I think for faculty, for collaborative research projects, for ideas about new courses, for chance conversations of a faculty member seeing a student come out of another faculty member’s office and saying, ‘Hey, that student’s really terrific in my class. Can you tell me more about her and what she’s thinking about doing?’ And then the faculty start to develop ideas about how to mentor the students better. Or, ‘That student seems to be really struggling. What’s going on in your class? How can we make sure that he stays at Baylor and continues to flourish in the Honors College?’ I think the people proximity, especially of the faculty and staff, in one spot, and then the benefits growing outward from that for students, is the thing that excites me the most.
“And the opportunity for us to do something big and bold in the historic center of campus — we are really grateful for the opportunity to do this in that part of Baylor’s historic campus.”
With plans sketched out, the next step is fundraising. Once that is complete, plans will be made to take Memorial/Alexander offline for a year so the renovation and construction can begin, with the goal of completing the project within a single school year so that students can begin benefitting from the new space.
Help make this renovation a reality by contacting the Office of Advancement at (254) 710-2561, to discuss opportunities to support the Honors College expansion.