As we emerge from more than a year of uncertainty and challenges that have affected institutions across the landscape of higher education, Baylor University has benefited from our firm foundation in Christian values, our unwavering commitment to providing a transformational education, and the resilience of our faculty, staff and students.
In fact, we now find ourselves in a position of institutional strength and growing aspirations as we begin the 2021-22 academic year. The strength of the Baylor Family has given us tremendous momentum as we pursue the goals of our strategic plan, Illuminate. Our record enrollment that topped 20,000 for the first time provides ample evidence that the demand for a Baylor education has never been stronger. As we continue to grow and meet the needs of today’s students, we remain grounded in the absolutes of our mission and values.
In September 1969, Judge Abner V. McCall, Baylor’s president from 1961 to 1981, gave a speech in Waco Hall on the theme of “Change Within the Unchanging.” His words marked the beginning of the observance of Baylor’s 125th year. “This university is founded on the belief that only the truth proclaimed by our Lord gives real freedom and that this truth is unchanging,” he stated. “An educational program that emphasizes this truth we believe is ever modern and ever relevant to the life of the student in the university and outside the university in the future.”
Judge McCall went on tell the audience, “It has been often said, however, that change is the chief characteristic of this age and that the rate of change is ever accelerating.” After noting the advances that were “revolutionizing the ‘knowledge industry,’” he observed, “Baylor University must continue to be flexible, changing and progressive in these areas.”
Today, Baylor continues to face the challenge of responding to evolving circumstances in the life of our nation and to developments in higher education and society without deviating from our core values. This is a challenge we eagerly accept. Throughout our institution’s history, and during the tenures of those who have had the honor of serving as Baylor’s president, the University has carefully managed the tension between the absolutes of who we are and the needs of current and future generations of students.
Certainly, Baylor has never been “frozen in time,” unchanging and secluded from the outer world, but instead has always grown and welcomed each generation of students, and their unique qualities and expectations, into our community in order to best prepare the future leaders of our society.
Serving our Students
The students on our campus today are popularly called Generation Z, and as such they share several distinctive attributes. In addition to being our first “digital natives,” having been born into a world in which information is immediately accessible and social media increasingly ubiquitous, members of Gen Z are pragmatic and financially shrewd. They also will be the last generation of Americans that is predominantly white in terms of race. As a result, they embrace diversity and experience it in their everyday lives.
Diversity also is a growing part of the Baylor experience. In fact, we believe the diversity of our campus community is mission-centric both to preparing students for worldwide leadership and service and to being salt and light to the world as a Christian research university. At Baylor, we welcome individuals from around the world to our campus, and celebrating the Baylor Family’s diversity is an outpouring of our faith — the core of our mission. We are called to respect and learn from one another in a manner that reflects God’s love for every person.
Members of Gen Z are also strongly interested in making a difference in the world around them, mobilizing around causes they believe in. And they don’t want to wait a long time to make that impact. They want to accomplish things now.
In choosing to attend Baylor, our students have demonstrated their support of and eagerness to participate in the growth envisioned in our immediate future through the priorities of Illuminate.
Today, we are engaged in what truly is a courageous endeavor of elevating Baylor University to the top level of institutional achievement — what is known as Research 1, or R1, as defined by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. In addition to growing in our capacity and impact as a research institution and thereby strengthening our presence as God’s hands in the world, our drive toward becoming an R1 university directly benefits our undergraduate student body. Our faculty members bring new life to classroom instruction by integrating their scholarly research and activities with the subject matter of their courses. In addition, many Baylor students collaborate with professors and take advantage of undergraduate research programs — a powerful form of engaged learning that helps prepare them for graduate school, medical school and other areas of professional life.
In recent years, graduate professional education has become an increasingly prominent part of American higher education, and Baylor has strongly moved into this space. In 2018, we began the delivery of three online graduate degree programs: a Doctor of Education in Learning and Organizational Change, a Master of Public Health with a specialization in Community Health and a Master of Social Work. The introduction of these additional graduate programs represents our strategic growth, and we now also offer a variety of online professional graduate degrees in business, nursing and law. Such new digital education programs have enabled us to reach students who are passionate about advancing their careers in a variety of service-oriented fields, wherever they may be based.
Standing alongside our students — from those studying as undergraduates to the growing number of men and women enrolled in our graduate programs — Baylor University is facing the changes and opportunities of our world with great eagerness and the strength provided by a community unified around shared values. We are grateful to you for serving as ambassadors for the University as you use the unique gifts and voice with which God has endowed you.
Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.
President, Baylor University