A New Focus on Government and Community Relations

December 8, 2008
Cultivating relationships with government officials at every level is important for Baylor University. Among other things, government regulations affect the operations of Baylor's energy plant, waste disposal systems and food services. Legislative decisions affect dollars available to students in the form of loans and grants, and federal and state research dollars fund projects that lead to new understanding and allow the University to contribute to the well-being of our state and community.

In an effort to be more strategic in relationships with government entities at all levels, Baylor has restructured its governmental relations efforts. According to Dr. Karla K. Leeper, chief of staff to the president, the name of the office assigned to coordinate this work has been changed from the Office of Public Affairs to the Office of Government Relations to more accurately reflect its mission.

To create a more consistent and effective federal presence, Baylor has engaged the services of Washington, D.C.-based Patton Boggs LLP to represent its interests.

"The team from Patton Boggs has already been helpful in making Baylor's case for federal research dollars and in monitoring federal legislation that may impact the University," Leeper said.

To lead efforts related to state and local governmental entities, Baylor has welcomed Rochonda Farmer-Neal (MA '93 in political science), who comes with 16 years of experience in Austin. She will serve as director of the Office of Government Relations. She has held similar positions with the Texas Association of Counties, the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation and the Department of Family and Protective Services. In addition to her work with state and local officials, Farmer-Neal will serve as a resource for the campus community about governmentally related issues.

"It's great to be a part of an organization like Baylor that is focused on families and communities," Farmer-Neal said. "Our objective is to enhance the relationships and partnerships with the Texas Legislature and the Waco community so that we can continue the Baylor tradition of providing outstanding educational opportunities."

The University also has been examining ways to enhance Baylor's presence and its relationships within the local community. To increase the strategic focus of Baylor's community relations efforts, the University is launching the new Department of Community Relations within the marketing and communications division. Jana Hixson (BBA '00, JD '04) will oversee this program as its director.

"The Waco community and Baylor have had a strong long-standing relationship, but my hope is that with this renewed focus, we will cultivate new ideas and partnerships that will benefit our community and our University," Hixson said. "I look forward to this new opportunity."

John Barry, vice president for marketing and communications, said he is eager to help initiate a more focused community relations effort at Baylor, and believes that the program will prosper under Hixson's leadership.

"Jana has experience in community relations, loves Baylor and desires to see us partner more effectively with area government and civic leaders, service providers, churches, community groups and others," Barry said. "She will help ensure that we do a better job connecting in meaningful ways with the community while more effectively engaging the community in the life of the University."
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