As stated in Pro Futuris, Baylor University is committed to scholarship of the highest quality and to articulating a distinctive voice in global conversations about crucial issues such as social responsibility, human rights, poverty, diversity, economic growth, sustainability, and health care. Arts & Sciences curricula are structured to develop the "whole person." In addition to studies within their major disciplines, students take courses in the sciences, religion, languages, mathematics and communication. While Baylor seeks to be influential across the spectrum of disciplines (refer to Theme 2), the University enjoys a special reputation for providing excellent health-related educational programming, illustrated by the fact that approximately one-third of the University's incoming freshmen regularly designate interest in careers in health care. As we look forward to the implementation of the aspirations set forth in Pro Futuris, we must pay special attention to the educational goals of this substantial portion of our undergraduate population.
To this end, we must continue to provide excellent course offerings and educational programming in the health sciences at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. We must invest in graduate programs, students, and faculty who promote health science research, thereby increasing scholarly output and providing more undergraduate and graduate research opportunities. We must offer our students opportunities in research and clinical experiences, thereby allowing them to be competitive when applying to professional schools, graduate programs, and post-doctoral science programs.
We also must improve research in the health sciences within and beyond Arts & Sciences. More faculty and staff will be needed, as will greater doctoral production and expanded facilities, to accomplish these goals.
The Baylor Sciences Building has limited space for expansion, yet the Arts & Sciences STEM departments must make strategic hires to achieve the University’s goals of enhancing health science curricular offerings, research, and extramural funding. Furthermore, numerous obstacles exist with respect to facilities:
Therefore, we recommend the following:
Current activities related to the health sciences (i.e., research and clinical collaborations, undergraduate research experiences, graduate training, and academic programs) are numerous. Given the complexities associated with these health-related activities, particularly with research and external funding, we must strengthen and expand these efforts. An administrative structure within Arts & Sciences or the appointment of a health science coordinator will provide a readily identifiable and visible entity to coordinate, administer, and lead interdepartmental and multi-site academic and research programs.
Nothing is more critical to supporting the health science initiative at Baylor than hiring faculty who can directly support and enhance the educational experience in classroom, laboratory, and clinical settings. It is essential that Arts & Sciences STEM departments hire faculty who enhance departmental goals in support of the health and human sciences. Such faculty hires will not necessarily be clinicians, nor will they necessarily pursue research directly related to human health. These hires will include faculty who conduct work in topical areas applicable to human health issues and whose research interests are in basic and translational science fields such as genetics, biochemistry, nutrition, neuroscience, and cell and molecular biology. Furthermore, undergraduate and graduate student research experiences in these laboratories will equip students with skills directly related to their success as future scientists and practitioners in the health and human sciences.
Table 4.1 shows the teaching demand serviced by sciences, mathematics, and statistics departments in relation to number of faculty. Consequently, the number of student credit hours (SCH) per faculty FTE translates to many large classes, resulting in fewer-than-optimal student contact hours, fewer classroom-laboratory interactions, and limited modes of instruction (less oral and written communication than is desirable). Significantly, high major-to-faculty ratios occur in departments that encounter difficulties providing the number of quality research experiences that students expect. Such experiences are invaluable for success in admission into professional programs in medical, dental, and other health-related schools. Small major-to-faculty ratios identify departments likely having capacity to educate more majors; targeting recruitment effort toward these majors could reduce pressures on the heavily subscribed majors.
Table 4.1. Student Major-to-Faculty and Credit-Hour-to-Faculty Ratios for Sciences, Mathematics, and Statistical Science Departments at Baylor.
Determination of student-to-faculty ratios is complex, and justification for increases in faculty numbers is based on an equally complex constellation of factors. However, proven best pedagogical practices, literature on retention and engagement, and comparison with peer and aspirant institutions show strong support for mounting a significant effort to reduce this ratio in the sciences at Baylor. Arts & Sciences has adopted a 10-Year Enrollment Management Plan (refer to Appendix 1B) and has already hired a Director of Undergraduate Enrollment Initiatives as initial steps in addressing these concerns. The enrollment management strategy will strive to shape the freshman class in ways that moderate the numbers of majors in traditional prehealth departments (Biology, Psychology and Neuroscience, Chemistry and Biochemistry) and to guide prehealth students to other science majors having capacity, as well as to majors in the Humanities and Social Sciences.
Within the allied health professions, many faculty will have clinical roles in addition to, or instead of, the teaching and/or research responsibilities held by faculty in traditional academic roles. Clinical faculty, as their title suggests, are more involved in clinical teaching and clinical supervision where the emphasis is on clinical skill development. The research faculty designation will also become more important as hiring in the health sciences continues.
Even though approximately one-third of entering Baylor freshmen cite career plans in the medical field, a much smaller percentage of that cohort enters medical school. We must intervene early to help identify other areas in the health sciences in which this larger percentage of students can succeed. Accordingly, we affirm the initiative in the recently approved Arts & Sciences 10-Year Enrollment Management Plan that "by 2014 Arts & Sciences, in concert with Admissions Services, will shape the size and profile of the Arts & Sciences freshman class." Arts & Sciences has already begun this shaping process by establishing majors in pre-Biology and pre-Psychology and Neuroscience. The 10-Year Enrollment Management Plan also calls for limits on Medical Humanities majors by 2014. Moreover, the Office of Prehealth Studies has developed courses and programming such as the Science & Health Living and Learning Center to support the educational and professional development of our prehealth student population. While these are positive steps, we need to expand these kinds of efforts.
Another positive development is the Arts & Sciences initiative (expressed in the 10-Year Enrollment Management Plan, Appendix 1B) to assign one professional advisor to our students for their freshman and sophomore years. As this new advising model is implemented in Fall 2014, the professional advisors assigned to prehealth students will need a background in, or training in, advising in the health sciences. To this end, professional advisors working with this cohort will participate in a semi-annual workshop offered by the Office of Prehealth Studies.
Based on the quality of our undergraduate prehealth program and on both long-standing research and graduate initiatives, Arts & Sciences will play a pivotal role in the achievement of the University’s stated health science goals. However, this success will be limited without cooperation between Arts & Sciences and the School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), the Division of Health, Human Performances, and Recreation (HHPR) in the School of Education (SOE), and the Louise Herrington School of Nursing (LHSNU). This collaboration is necessary because the number of faculty in these areas is relatively small compared to those of our aspirant institutions. Establishing Bioinformatics is a logical first step in building synergies with the ECS and will require the hiring of additional faculty from both units to build critical mass in terms of faculty and programs. Enhancement of Nutrition Sciences is another logical step that would require Arts & Sciences faculty to collaborate with the faculty of HHPR and the LHSNU, and with other clinical programs. The Department of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) has a strong Child and Family Studies program that supports both the SOE and the School of Social Work (SWO).
Additionally, Arts & Sciences must forge stronger relations between our faculty and entities beyond Baylor. Plans are underway for Baylor and the Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) to develop joint faculty and adjunct appointments to create research teams between the two institutions. The National School of Tropical Medicine is the first division at BCM to develop such relationships with Baylor, with cancer research being another likely area for collaboration in the near future. Baylor Scott & White Health is seeking research collaborations to build upon its strong clinical programs. The Baylor Research Institute, as part of the Baylor Scott & White Health Care System, provides collaborative opportunities for the study of infectious diseases. These relationships will enhance our ability to hire nationally recognized faculty in the field of health sciences and to create centers of research excellence.