Shining Our Light
As Baylor’s largest academic unit, with the largest number of active alumni among all units, the College of Arts & Sciences has a critical role in the success of the University’s ambitious Give Light philanthropic campaign.
Give Light, launched in November 2018, will undergird Illuminate, Baylor’s strategic plan. As of Feb. 29, 2020, Give Light had raised $846 million of its $1.1 billion goal. More than half of that total goal — $670 million — is being raised through Baylor’s academic units, and the largest single share of that amount — $160 million — is projected to come from donors to the College of Arts & Sciences. As of March 1, Arts & Sciences had raised $94 million of that target amount.
“It is incumbent upon the College of Arts & Sciences to help Baylor achieve the ambitious goals in Give Light. To do this, the excellent development team we have in place within the College has redoubled its efforts at fundraising,” said Dr. Lee C. Nordt, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “Doing our part will allow the University to meet its overall goal.”
The overwhelming majority of the College of Arts & Sciences’ Give Light goal — all but $20 million of the $160 million total — will be used to strengthen endowed funds in three important areas. These include the research and teaching done by faculty members, financial support given to students and academic initiatives achieved through student organizations and programs.
The need to recruit and retain gifted and nationally renowned faculty is critical to accomplishing the goals set forth in Illuminate. That’s why the Give Light campaign calls for Baylor to raise $500 million in this area, of which $368 million has been raised.
As a part of Give Light, the University seeks to add least 17 endowed chairs and professorships through the Baylor Academic Challenge (BAC) — announced as part of a $100 million gift from an anonymous Baylor family in May 2019. The BAC maximizes Baylor’s investments in promising research and academic programs by matching dollar-for-dollar qualifying gifts from other members of the Baylor Family. Five of these endowed chairs are planned for the College of Arts & Sciences.
“Having endowed chairs and professorships will help us recruit faculty at the senior level who will have an immediate impact on our research and teaching needs, and who will help us more quickly gain national recognition for the departments,” Nordt said.
Endowed student scholarships
Right now, about 91 percent of Baylor undergraduate students receive some form of financial aid. In order to keep attracting and retaining outstanding students, the College of Arts & Sciences seeks to raise $40 million to increase its amount of endowed student financial assistance –– including undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships and postdoctoral fellowships.
“Endowed scholarships are helping remove financial barriers that might keep great students from developing their minds and talents with a Baylor education,” said Dr. DeAnna Toten Beard, chair of theatre arts and professor of theatre history. “We believe that nothing should stand in the way of a student who is able to meet our high academic standards, feels called to pursue rigorous training in arts and entertainment, and wants to experience our unique Christian community. If a person is meant to study here at Baylor, we should move heaven and earth to make it happen.”
Endowed excellence funds
The College of Arts & Sciences aspires to raise $20 million in endowment to strengthen existing discretionary funds that are used to support a variety of high-impact learning experiences for both students and faculty.
Through the Dean’s Discretionary Fund provided by donors, Dean Nordt is able to respond rapidly to educational needs within the College that are not met through existing budgets. As one example, money from the discretionary fund is used each year to allow top Baylor prehealth students to attend the National School of Tropical Medicine Summer Institute at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. There, students are introduced to efforts to treat the diseases that affect the world’s poorest populations. Discretionary funds are also used by Dean Nordt to help cover various Arts & Sciences expenses that can’t be met through annual budget allotments. These include paying travel expenses for Baylor faculty and students to attend and present papers at important academic conferences, and to enable Baylor’s Model United Nations and Model Organization of American States student teams to travel to compete at international conferences.
“These funds are indispensable for the support I am able to provide to faculty and students, and I do so on a weekly basis,” Nordt said. “The impact of these funds includes more publications and granting for our faculty, and better job opportunities for our students.”
Support for research
Funds raised through the Give Light campaign will not only support these three areas and the major initiatives contained within Illuminate. At the same time, these same funds will allow Baylor to increase the amount and quality of research done by faculty and students, moving the University into the top tier of research institutions nationwide.
“One reason that the College of Arts & Sciences has such a large portion of the overall Give Light fundraising goal is because enhancing the science departments within Arts & Sciences will play a critical role in helping Baylor achieve its goal of becoming an R1 research institution — moving us up to the level of universities with the highest levels of research activity nationwide,” Nordt said. “This goal exists alongside all of the academic initiatives outlined in Illuminate.”
Needed capital improvements
Finally, as part of the Give Light campaign, Baylor Arts & Sciences has raised $17 million to fund a comprehensive renovation of the Tidwell Bible Building — the first significant renovation in the iconic building’s 66-year history. Thanks to a generous $15 million gift from the Sunderland Foundation of Overland Park, Kansas in April 2019, work is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2020, and when the building reopens in 2022, it will again house the departments of history and religion, as well as the new Sunderland Academic Center.
“Nearly every undergraduate student takes courses in Tidwell Bible Building. It is essential to have up-to-date spaces and technologies for learning in those courses that are central to the transformational education Baylor provides,” said Dr. William Bellinger, chair and professor of religion and The W. Marshall and Lulie Craig Chair in Bible. “The building needs considerable renovation to its infrastructure, and renewed classrooms and office space will support both teaching and research.”