A&Spire to Illuminate Pillar 2

Transformational Undergraduate Education

Baylor University’s new academic strategic plan, Illuminate, reaffirms the University’s historic commitment to transformational education.  Building upon this strong foundation, the College of Arts & Sciences proudly assumes its central role and responsibility in providing dynamic programming within and beyond the classroom.

When Baylor University was founded in 1845 under the motto of Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana, it set itself on a course to produce graduates who would serve communities far and near. We have been successful for 170 years in shaping physicians, lawyers, entrepreneurs, political leaders, educators, ministers, engineers, social workers, scientists, and other leaders across civil society who serve others with compassion, integrity, vision, and skill. Arts & Sciences is poised not only to continue but also to strengthen the delivery of our dynamic undergraduate education as our students become informed citizens in a changing democracy, servant leaders in faith communities, superior professionals in diverse fields, and devoted family members and friends. We will also continue to recruit a faculty who help students achieve these goals and who reflect the changing demographics of our student body.

Coupled with Illuminate’s vision for Baylor to become a premier Christian research university is an equally ambitious goal of becoming a Tier 1 undergraduate institution (T1). These two endeavors complement one another, and the imperative regarding the increased focus on research accomplishments is matched by a goal of continuing to provide a life-changing experience for our students in an ever-changing world. At the heart of our strategy for delivering a dynamic, transformational undergraduate experience are the following initiatives:

      Fully implementing the new Unified Core Curriculum, thereby improving educational opportunities for the BA, BS, BFA, and BSAS degrees.

      Practicing Enrollment Management to recruit, retain, and graduate a diverse population of undergraduates at the level of institutions ranked in the top 50 universities in the U.S. News & World Report (USN&WR).

      Capitalizing on the Baylor brand by expanding and improving the services and programming of the Office of Prehealth Studies (OPHS).

      Developing the Office of Engaged Learning (OEL) that mentors and supports our diverse student population in gaining internships, conducting research, engaging with the community, and winning national and international scholarships.

These initiatives are built upon a vision for a transformative education that includes a thorough foundation in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences while holding true to and magnifying our University’s mission.

VisionThe College of Arts & Sciences will provide students with a broad-based, liberal education that prepares them to engage with ideas that are new to them, to think expansively about who they are and their place in the world, and to apply their learning to the good of the neighbor and flourishing of creation

Unified Core Curriculum

Building upon the University’s General Education Outcomes, the “core curriculum, taught within a community of Christian scholars, enables men and women to acquire the knowledge, skills, and virtues needed to uncover and recognize truth, to deepen their faith, to live virtuously, to strengthen their communities, and to affect the world in transformative ways.”

Goal 1: Fully implement the Unified Core Curriculum.

Action Steps

1.1    Assist all other Baylor colleges and schools as they “map on” to the A&S core curriculum.

1.2    Implement and populate the Creative Arts Experience (CAE) opportunities.

1.3    Develop a Core Fellows Program.

1.4    Develop and implement civic engagement opportunities.

Goal 2: Improve undergraduate curricular opportunities.

Action Steps

2.1    Increase A&S faculty participation in University Chapel.

2.2    Work with campus partners, including the Academy for Teaching and Learning (ATL) and the Institute for Faith and Learning (IFL), to develop opportunities for A&S faculty to design or redesign core courses.

2.3    Establish a Core Curriculum Diversity Advisory Group to increase resources for faculty as they design courses with cultural competency components in mind to celebrate our increasingly diverse student body.

2.4    Assess the Core: In Year 1 develop and approve an assessment plan and begin the assessment of the core according to the assessment plan (yearly task with report going to Core Curriculum Advisory Committee [CCAC] at the end of each year); and by Year 5, the Office of the Core will conduct a meta assessment of the core curriculum and provide a report to the Dean. The Director of the Core will work with the Provost’s Office, the chairs of the Core Curriculum Diversity Advisory Group, and the chairs of the A&S Diversity Taskforce in assessing the extent to which the diversity requirements of the Core are being implemented.

2.5    Increase visibility and access to interdisciplinary majors and minors through Web presence.

2.6    Work with departments and A&S Curriculum Committee to refine existing interdisciplinary majors and minors (especially Medical Humanities and Area Studies). This work will be done by the Director of the Core and the Director of Interdisciplinary Programs.

2.7    Work with departments and A&S Curriculum Committee to develop and implement new interdisciplinary minors and certificates. This work will be conducted by the Director of the Core and the Director of Interdisciplinary Programs.

2.8    Increase the number of students pursuing double and secondary interdisciplinary majors.

2.9    Increase the number of students pursuing an interdisciplinary minor and certificates.

2.10  Work with departments and A&S Curriculum Committee to develop five interdisciplinary certificates.

2.11  Increase courses with a cross-cultural element to prepare students better for “worldwide leadership and service.”

2.12  Populate the Grand Challenges in the Science Distribution List of the unified core curriculum with four interdisciplinary courses.

2.13  Establish a Humanities Fellows Program.

2.14  Establish a Social Sciences Fellows Program.

Enrollment Plan

In addition to offering a comprehensive core curriculum, Arts & Sciences is committed to recruiting the best students and then retaining and graduating them in a timely manner.

The current 2012-2022 A&S Enrollment Management Plan states that “a Top 50 ranking (based on U.S. News and World Report metrics) is achievable if the University is able to move forward on multiple fronts, but the goal cannot be met without extending the achievements in our major strength—undergraduate education, particularly in the University’s largest academic unit—the College of Arts and Sciences.”  According to the USN&WR 2021 analysis, 47% of the ranking is directly related to recruitment, retention and graduation, i.e., undergraduate education. Building on our continued success in recruiting high-ability students,1 the action steps outlined below will place us on a trajectory to achieve a T1 ranking within a decade.

Goal 1: Retain 89.8% of freshmen.

Action Steps

1.1    Implement enrollment practices as outlined by the Academic Capacity Committee’s 2020-2022 solutions document for the departments of Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Psychology and Neuroscience for the incoming classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022.

1.2    Study and identify retention patterns by demographic subgroups and establish intervention programs for the identified groups.

1.3    Increase the percentage of A&S freshmen enrolled in a credit-bearing New Student Experience (NSE) course from 75% to 90%.

Goal 2: Achieve 70% four-year and 80.3% six-year graduation rates.

Action Steps

2.1    Identify and assist at-risk populations by student classification.

2.2    Seek opportunities to reduce financial barriers to success, such as lowering the cost of textbooks.

2.3    Initiate a campaign to increase the number of students who have earned 30 hours at the beginning of their sophomore year.

2.4    Increase A&S offerings for summer online instruction, offering a limited number of online opportunities in fall and spring semesters for high-demand prehealth courses.

2.5    Explore opportunities for alumni to assist in A&S student-success efforts.

2.6    Collaborate with University Advisement (UA) to help A&S undecided majors select an appropriate major.

2.7    Offer an online Wintermester pilot program for 2020-21 and 2021-22 and provide an analysis of the pilot for the Dean and COC.

2.8    Offer a Maymester Baylor in Taos pilot program in May 2022.

Goal 3: Create an Arts & Sciences Enrollment Advisory Group to develop a draft of a 2022-2027 A&S Undergraduate Enrollment Plan (EP).

Action Steps

3.1    Draft and submit for Council of Chairs’ approval a 2022-2027 Undergraduate A&S Enrollment Plan (EP) targeting recruitment, retention and graduation goals stated in this section.

3.2    Research enrollment management plans at peer and aspirant institutions to guide the development of the EP.

3.3    Explore new markets for recruiting students, paying particular attention to enrolling a student population that better mirrors state and national demographics.

Prehealth Programs

The Office of Prehealth Studies (OPHS) in the College of Arts & Sciences engages students, faculty and staff across campus to provide services that will enhance students’ likelihood of successful application to programs and schools of medicine, dentistry, optometry, podiatry, physician assistance, physical therapy, occupational therapy, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, and, on occasion, chiropractic medicine. Programming activities of this office include student recruiting and retention, instruction of first-year courses to help students understand health-related professions, student advising, arranging of experiences in clinical and research settings, and coordination of professional school applications. OPHS prepares letters of evaluation and recommendation for students pursuing medicine, dentistry and optometry. The office supports approximately 18 prehealth student organizations, maintains a Living and Learning Center, and oversees the Texas Joint Admission Medical Program (JAMP) and Baylor Baccalaureate/MD Programs. In addition, OPHS hosts a variety of special student success and professionalism workshops, outreach programs, medical mission trips, leadership activities, New Student Programs, the Tropical Medicine Summer Institute, and a variety of alumni and development programs from which a significant number of scholarships are awarded every year.

Many students come to Baylor with the intention of pursuing a career in medicine, dentistry, or veterinary medicine but later must reassess their aspirations; therefore, a key element of prehealth programming is to guide these students toward degree paths that they can complete successfully. Programming in OPHS contributes to retention of students and strives to ensure that students who leave the prehealth track remain at Baylor in another course of study.

Although the goals outlined below target prehealth students in Arts & Sciences, OPHS serves all Baylor students regardless of major.  Therefore, the action steps detailed below present tasks that should apply to all Baylor students, and if these tasks are implemented effectively, we expect they will lead to achieving the stated goals.

Vision:  Prepare and support students aspiring to careers in healthcare through collaborations with the Baylor academic community and professional healthcare partners so these students may live out Baylor's mission of worldwide leadership and service.

Goal 1:  Increase first-year freshman retention rate for Arts & Sciences prehealth students overall (as of Fall 2019, 88.4%) and for each of the under-represented subpopulations (e.g., as of Fall 2019, 86.6% minority students) to the A&S target of 89.8% by Year 5.

Action Steps

1.1    Determine the first-year freshman retention rate, through a collaboration between the A&S Director of Information Analysis and the Office of Institutional Research (IR), of under-represented populations, according to gender, ethnicity, first-generation college students, and other appropriate demographics for prehealth students in A&S.

1.2    With the leadership of OPHS, form the Prehealth Freshman Retention and Intervention Committee (PFRIC) with representation from the College of Arts and Sciences Advisement (CASA), UA and Enrollment Management. The committee charge is to (a) identify prior to orientation potentially at-risk prehealth students and (b) design a program of intervention offering study-skills and advising.

1.3    Design, through the PFRIC, interventions (such as parallel plans of advisement) for students who (a) have received two or more academic warnings or who have been identified through poor academic performance, or (b) whose GPA and credit accumulation subsequently qualify them for the premedical, predentistry and preveterinary medicine (PMDV) designation at the end of their freshman year.

1.4    In collaboration with the Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences (HHS), assess the nature and effectiveness of programming currently provided to PMDV students, to determine acceptance rates into professional programs, and to make recommendations to improve outcomes. This step will ensure that students are aware of allied health options and pathways to admission to these programs. This collaboration will be led by the PFRIC.

1.5    Monitor the progress of intervention and parallel advising plans, as described in Action Step 1.3 above. The PFRIC will conduct this monitoring.

Goal 2: Increase the six-year graduation rate of all Arts & Sciences prehealth students (as of Fall 2018, 76.5%) to equal or exceed the graduation rate of all A&S students by Year 5 (as of Fall 2018, 80%).

Action Steps

2.1    Identify, through CASA and the Office of Degree Certification and Curriculum Development, A&S prehealth students who are not progressing at rates to graduate in four years and provide advising to these students for degree completion in four years or with minimal time beyond four years.

2.2    Assess progress annually through collaborative efforts of Directors of OPHS, Enrollment Management, and CASA.

Goal 3: Continue to increase the overall acceptance rate of Baylor Arts & Sciences students who apply to medical, dental, and veterinary schools.

Action Steps

3.1    Explore and potentially develop 4+1 BS/MS degree and other bridge year programs that allow students to effectively distribute the prehealth curriculum throughout their undergraduate career.

3.2    Provide and promote additional opportunities for students to develop interpersonal skills of ethics, compassion, and empathy through courses that have a cultural competency component to further these skills. Such courses may be electives or required courses in the major and minor fields, as well as in certificate programs.

3.3    Continue to develop Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and Dental Admission Test (DAT) programs and workshops to support students’ readiness and preparation for these tests.

3.4    Continue to develop alumni mentoring and shadowing programs.

3.5    Expand the professional internship programs with regional healthcare and dental partners.

3.6    Coordinate with campus partners to expand leadership development programs coordinated by the Division of Student Life, the Prehealth Chapel Alternative coordinated by the Bobo Spiritual Life Center, and medical mission trip opportunities coordinated by the Baylor Missions Office.

Engaged Learning

The Office of Engaged Learning (OEL) in the College of Arts & Sciences contributes significantly to Baylor University’s goals in transformational undergraduate education by facilitating experiential learning. The OEL is the central hub of programs through which faculty and staff help a diverse array of students maximize their undergraduate experience through learning beyond the classroom, linking transformational education to opportunities for application.  The OEL brings together mentoring opportunities for students across fields of study, empowering our undergraduates to:

  • compete for major fellowships and awards at the national and international level,
  • participate in faculty-led research,
  • engage in academically-informed work for the good of the community,
  • gain valuable professional experience through internships, particularly in research and public service, and
  • explore the world through study abroad.

The OEL’s endeavors in undergraduate research, civic engagement, and major fellowships and awards fall under the leadership of directors (full- and part-time) who work directly in OEL. Efforts in internships and study abroad involve extensive partnerships with other offices on campus.

While many of the activities that fall under the umbrella of the OEL have been underway for many years, the University established the current OEL framework in Fall 2019. By integrating multiple programs into one coherent ecosystem, the OEL is truly distinct in the landscape of higher education, providing students with access to unique educational experiences that enrich and strengthen one another. 

Vision: The College of Arts & Sciences will help Baylor students discover pathways to maximize their education through learning beyond the classroom, encouraging them to discover “the life that really is life,” where they maximize their own potential and apply it toward the flourishing of their neighbor and the world.   

Goal 1: Increase the number of students competing for major scholarships and awards to 100 annually and diversify both the applicant pool and the awards sought.

Action Steps

1.1    Develop a tracking database of awards sought annually by Baylor students.

1.2   Overhaul the website, including a searchable database, that better equips students to match their academic and professional interests with compatible fellowships and awards.

1.3   Increase the Ampersand Society cohort sizes in order to identify prospective applicants in their first year.

1.4   Begin to host interest sessions and workshops, both in-person and virtual, to reach wider student audiences.

1.5   Host interest sessions and workshops specifically designed for students from underrepresented backgrounds.

1.6   Pilot a for-credit class for the Ampersand Society that presents national scholarship and other engaged learning opportunities to students.

Goal 2: Assess current undergraduate research activity, potential capacity, and opportunities for growth, while simultaneously increasing the number and diversity of students participating in faculty-led research.

Action Steps

2.1    Collaborate with the Registrar’s Office to create a uniform course number for undergraduate research courses in all departments across the College.

2.2    Design certificates in research for undergraduate students.

2.3    Design and develop a curricular platform that helps students learn basic research literacy and discover research opportunities while connecting faculty to undergraduate research initiatives. 

2.4    Develop survey instruments to measure the campus-wide undergraduate research appetite and interests.

2.5    Apply for grants to establish and fund research opportunities for underrepresented students.

Goal 3: Increase the number of faculty and graduate students who mentor undergraduates in research.

Action Steps:

3.1    Create a certificate program for doctoral students in mentoring undergraduate research.

3.2    Support the development of Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) as part of National Science Foundation (NSF) grants in order to allow undergraduate participation in major NSF-funded research.

3.3    Implement and expand the Elizabeth Vardaman Award for Undergraduate Mentoring.

3.4    Develop a formal research program for the academic year that shares elements of the Baylor Transdisciplinary Research Undergraduate Experience (BTRUE) program.

3.4.1    Establish Career Development Seminars during the academic year.

3.4.2    Increase the number of on-campus opportunities for research presentations throughout the academic year, for example, linking these to high-ability recruitment events and to development/alumni/parent activities.

Goal 4: Implement a Civic Engagement (CE) course requirement in the Unified Core Curriculum for all Arts & Sciences students.

Action Steps

4.1    Work with the CCAC and the Registrar’s Office to develop a plan to phase-in the Civic Engagement Core requirement, including the establishment of a searchable “CE” designation for civic engagement courses.

4.2    Increase the number of CE courses, both through the Philanthropy & Public Service Program and through CE courses embedded in academic disciplines.

4.3    Identify faculty champions/pioneers in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and Sciences to mentor future faculty.

4.4    Educate faculty about new opportunities for CE courses.

4.4.1    Work with the ATL to host training opportunities.

4.4.2    Meet with the Undergraduate Program Directors (UPDs) across A&S departments to explore CE courses imbedded in disciplines.

4.5    Work with community partners to establish pathways for student service.

Goal 5: Develop partnerships that empower students and faculty to contribute substantially to the Solid Gold Neighbor initiative in Waco.

Action Steps

5.1    Offer a Philanthropy & the Public Good in partnership with the Office of External Affairs, making grants to support Waco-area nonprofits.

5.2    Explore options to designate Waco as a community host site for the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty.

Goal 6: Develop strategies to fund and administer 50 national or international internships annually for Baylor students, especially in the areas of research and public service.

Action Steps

6.1    Recruit high-achieving students to our existing internship programs in prehealth, research, and the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty.

6.2    Work with UA and the A&S Board of Advocates to generate new funding for summer internships in traditionally underfunded areas of strategic importance.

Goal 7: Increase the percentage of Arts & Sciences students studying abroad.

Action Steps

7.1    Collaborate with the Center for Global Engagement (CGE) to build support for programming.

7.2    Monitor the number of A&S students studying abroad annually.

7.3    Work with UA to cultivate new funding sources aimed at facilitating study abroad opportunities for A&S students.

Goal 8: Develop new programs that integrate engaged learning opportunities with study abroad.

Action Steps

8.1    Pilot research and internship opportunities through existing study abroad programs.

8.2    Work with CGE and A&S faculty to determine which existing study abroad programs are poised to integrate new engaged learning dimensions.

8.3    Explore new study abroad sites that show promise for integrated engaged learning opportunities.  

8.4    Pursue grant funding for engaged learning activities abroad.


[1] High-ability is defined as composite standardized test scores:  > 29 ACT or > 1340 SAT.  These score ranges represent roughly the top 10% of test takers nationally.