President Linda A. Livingstone

Season 3 - Episode 301

January 3, 2020

President Livingstone
President Livingstone

2019 was an exciting year at Baylor University, providing many successes on which to build in the new year. In this Baylor Connections, President Linda A. Livingstone looks back at successes in areas like athletics, fundraising, hiring and more, and examines how Baylor is poised to build on those superlatives in 2020 as the University celebrates its 175th birthday.

Transcript

Derek Smith:

Hello and welcome to Baylor Connections, a conversation series with the people shaping our future. Each week we go in depth with Baylor leaders, professors, and more discussing important topics in higher education, research, and student life. I'm Derek Smith and our guest today is Baylor President, Dr. Linda A. Livingstone. As we head into a new year, over the next 20 minutes or so, we'll be looking back at 2019 and looking ahead to 2020. So, to everyone listening and to you as well President Livingstone, Happy New Year. Thanks so much for joining us.

President Livingstone:

Glad to be here, Derek. We're excited about the new year ahead.

Derek Smith:

Lots going on, lots to build on 2019. Seems like a really great springboard into a new decade, which is hard enough to believe. But I want to ask you on a lighter note first, as we get started, I've seen a few colleagues and people around Baylor ending the new year with a new license plate.

President Livingstone:

Yes.

Derek Smith:

We have the new Baylor license plate that's available now with the new institutional font and interlocking BU. If I can ask, what is your plate? What does the Baylor President get as her license plate?

President Livingstone:

So I did get to pick what I wanted on my plate, within boundaries of what was available. And so mine actually says Baylor, but instead of the A, it has a four, because somebody already had the Baylor spelled with an A.

Derek Smith:

Wow.

President Livingstone:

So it sort of says Four Baylor. So, yeah, so I'm a sporting the colors and hope everyone else does as well.

Derek Smith:

T hat'll be good. I've seen a few other people with Baylor-specific plate numbers on there, words, letters, numbers, if you allow that. Someone else got in line in front of the president though for-

President Livingstone:

They did. I'm not sure who had that kind of pull, but maybe it's one of our legislators or somebody that is a Baylor alum out there. I don't know who has it, but.

Derek Smith:

I've seen it around town. It was the old plate. I'm assuming they just grandfathered. Yeah. Well, hey, someone was on the ball early on.

President Livingstone:

I'm just glad there's somebody out there that sporting the Baylor name on their license plate. We're proud of that.

Derek Smith:

Well, you've been big in helping the Baylor family, encouraging the Baylor family to show their spirit through spirit Fridays and other ways. This is just a a another way. What does it meant to you to see the Baylor family really rally around the green and gold, just in terms of putting it out there, display in it?

President Livingstone:

Well, it's been wonderful to see everybody do that and we've certainly love green and gold Fridays. We'd love to see folks at our sporting events and other activities dressed in their green and gold. We always make sure when we're traveling around the country, we wear our Baylor gear and our green and gold and we always get stopped by people in airports and restaurants and everywhere that are just thrilled to see somebody else from Baylor. So we love it. We love the enthusiasm and the excitement that we have on campus and among the Baylor family right now and just encourage everybody out there to fling the colors everywhere they can go.

Derek Smith:

Well, as we wrap up now, we've wrapped up 2019 and looking ahead to 2020 if you went looking back at last year, if you could pick just a few words to describe the... A little bit of an abstract question, but are there some words that come to mind when you think out of the year that was 2019?

President Livingstone:

Well, it was a really fabulous year, so I don't know. If I think about some words that describe it. One would have to be generosity. We obviously had some unbelievable donors step up and come alongside us and give financially as well as all the people that just give their time and energy to the work that we're doing. I would also say excellence. We're really focusing on how we become an even better, a stronger institution. And I think we've seen it across the board, whether it's academically, in the arts and athletics, really seeing our students and faculty step up and do really exceptional high-quality work and we're so proud of that. And then I think the last word I would say is opportunity. I do think that 2019 we took advantage of a lot of opportunities, but I think 2019 also showed us how much more opportunity there is a head for a Baylor and just what an exciting time it is to be a Baylor bear. And we really look forward to the coming year and all that we're going to accomplish in 2020.

Derek Smith:

Well, looking back at 2019, it's great that we had so many things that we could think about in terms of celebrating. But let's start with, you mentioned generosity is the first word you used. So let's start with Give Light, the 1.1 billion philanthropic campaign. We saw the public launch and then last year that are really milestone gift, a transformative 100 million dollar gift, the largest in the history of the university. What impact has that gift made even though the funds aren't being dispersed just yet and it's not come to full fruition. What impact is that having on the Baylor family?

President Livingstone:

Well, when someone gives a gift like that, it just makes a very strong statement about the quality of the institution, about the confidence that someone has in the institution. And so I think that's very important to others that might be thinking about giving at any level for the organization. And then it's also, it's a wonderful model for other people to see someone that certainly gives something anonymously that significant. It just shows a great humility and a true philanthropic spirit, which we love modeled for everyone. And I think is important is that $100 million gift was, our numbers of givers has increased significantly in the last couple of years. So just all of the individuals, no matter what level they give, stepping up is so important. We're at around 800 million of the 1.1 billion now. And that is because certainly a 100 million dollar gift helps, but it's because tens of thousands of other people are coming alongside and giving as well at whatever level they can.

Derek Smith:

Why, why does that number of individual donors matter? Why is it better in some ways to have 10 people giving a 100 rather than having one person give a 1000?

President Livingstone:

It shows really broad-based support among the Baylor family for the university. And then what you want is you want to build a really strong base of individuals giving at whatever capacity they can, because then that helps you in the future. Whether with engagement with giving. The larger the base you build, the stronger the institution's going to be over the long run. So we've been thrilled to see that base growing in this campaign.

Derek Smith:

Well, certainly that 1.1 billion number is a good headline number, an eye-popping number. But in what ways, in terms of shaping, not so much the number, but the goals and aspirations behind that. In what ways did you and the committee who helped shape that arrive at some of these goals that we've heard about from facilities to endowed professorships chairs and more?

President Livingstone:

Well, the good thing about the Give Light campaign is it was designed to support Illuminate, our strategic plan. And so we developed Illuminate and really laid out this vision of becoming a Tier 1/R1 research university while continuing to strengthen our Christian mission. So to be a preeminent Christian research university. And then the priorities flow out of that. And then those priorities drive the campaign. So if you want to be a Tier 1 research university, you've got to have the best faculty. So we need endowed chairs. You've got to have the best students. And so you need great scholarship money. You've got to have the best facilities. So then you've got to look where do we need facilities to be the best in the areas that we're focusing on. And then that drives your campaign priorities. So you've really got to start with a strategic plan and then build your campaign to support the strategic plan. And that's what we did with Give Light in support of Illuminate.

Derek Smith:

Visiting with president Livingstone here on Baylor Connections. And President Livingstone certainly facilities, everyone gets excited about those. But what other aspects of Give Light are you sensing are most deeply resonating with people?

President Livingstone:

One thing that's been really affirming for me as we've been in this campaign is how much the Baylor family is willing to come alongside and give to endowment. Our endowment is about 1.3 billion, which sounds like a lot of money, but for the size of institution we are underfunded in terms of endowment and the Baylor community is unbelievably supportive of endowment. And you don't see that at all institutions, whether that's endowment to support scholarships, which is so critical. Whether it's endowment to support, endowed professorships, endowed chairs, whether it's endowment to support programs. Because that provides you with longterm financial support. That means that those faculties positions, student scholarships and so on are sustainable really into perpetuity and so that's been really affirming for me to see that and to see the support the community's provided for endowment that will help us to be a really strong institution for many, many years to come.

Derek Smith:

Visiting with President Livingstone as we talk about Give Light, we've seen success. Talk about Give light and Illuminate certainly two successful initiatives and other areas of great success for the university this year has been that athletic success that's brought a lot of positive attention to to the institution as a whole. We could go a lot of different directions, but as we are here at the in bowl season, at the end of bowl season. Let's talk about football a little bit first. Now beyond the wins, beyond a 11 regular season wins. What is it about the football program and the way they operate that you find most special and most meaningful?

President Livingstone:

Well, it's been wonderful to watch this team develop over the three years that I've been here. And I would have to say that their dedication to the team and to getting better has been a really important to watch and make a great example for so many and they had such a tough season two years ago. Certainly it was wonderful to see them do better than last year. I think we've all been very pleasantly surprised at how well they've done this year and where they were positioned at the end of the season. And I think that comes from their deep commitment to each other, to the team, to what Coach Rhule has put in place for them. And then they're doing it in the right way. And so they've got a really strong value space to what they're doing as well. And they're doing it for each other and not so much from a selfish perspective. So it's been great to watch them. They have a lot of fun. They care deeply for each other and just love the way they represent the institution.

Derek Smith:

As a leader and as someone who's been involved in sports and business in different worlds, those worlds for a long time. What about Coach Rhule's leadership, his style or the way that he oversees or stewards the program. What stands out most to you?

President Livingstone:

There's a lot I love about Coach Rhule and the way he leads that program. But I have to say one of the qualities that he exhibits so deeply that I think is critically important to effective leadership is authenticity. Coach Rhule is who he is and what you see is what you get. And he speaks the truth. He's honest about what's going on and and his genuine care and concern for his players, for the institution, for his faith all come out. And so I think the players see that authenticity and genuineness and I think it resonates really well with the Baylor family. And then the other thing I love about Coach Rhule, it's always about the players and what the players are doing and how they're contributing. I hear some of his press conferences after games and at other times and they're always asking, "Well, tell us about what the coach has contributed or what this." He always goes back to the players and what the players have done. He's a players coach and cares deeply about them. So just really love the way he's leading the program and the example he sets for our players and really for the institution more broadly.

Derek Smith:

Visiting with President Livingstone and President Livingstone, we'll let people know. We peel back the curtain on the inner workings of this show with the holidays and with travel. As we record this, we will soon know of what the Baylor volleyball team has done in Pittsburgh as they headed their first final four. When this show airs, we'll know hopefully a Baylor win in the Sugar Bowl, but as we talk, we don't quite know for sure right now. I say that, knowing that we'll hopefully know a little more when this airs. But football team's success, going to the Sugar Bowl, making it, they're having a great year. Some of those positive things, what does that mean to the university?

President Livingstone:

Well, it's really, I think it's been important for the university after all that had gone on at the institution. I think it's been a kind of a light for the institution and the way that they'd gone about doing it with just gritty, hard work has been really an important example. And then when the football team does that well, when some of your high profile programs do well, it gives a platform for the institution to tell its story more broadly. And we're an exceptional academic institution with a really ambitious strategic plan. And so getting the visibility we do from football, volleyball, basketball allows us to tell our story about our Christian mission, about our academic aspirations in ways that we wouldn't necessarily have a platform for.

Derek Smith:

Well now let's dive into volleyball. Really the first fans of Baylor volleyball and we'll talk even more about why that's special here for people who don't know in a minute, but as we speak, the Baylor volleyball team may actually be on the air right now on the way to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on their first ever final four. What has their success from your viewpoint, what's been most meaningful to watch about this team's success this year?

President Livingstone:

I love the joy they get from playing the game. They love each other. They're a team with a deep faith commitment personally and then certainly together as the team. And Coach McGuyre is a wonderful example of that. He cares so deeply about the spiritual growth and development of the women on that team as well as their volleyball. And so because that you just see the camaraderie they have, they love each other, they love playing together. And when you see them on the court, they just have fun. And so I love that. I think is part of the reason that they're playing so well because it's not about them. They're playing for a higher cause and I love seeing that.

Derek Smith:

Well you and the First Gent Brad have been volleyball parents for a long time with Shelby playing at Rice and you still are. She with being a grad assistant with the volleyball team this year. What's that meant to you to be able to, you know, it's that parent role, but a slightly different angle on it.

President Livingstone:

It is. We did not know she was going to do that until very soon before the volleyball season started. It's been fun to watch her kind of play in a different role. Being a player now, she's a volunteer assistant and I have a lot of people ask, "So what's it like watching her coach and everything?" And I said, "Well, it's a whole lot easier to watch a coach than it was to watch her play. It's not quite as nerve wracking watching her on the sideline, but she's loved being a part of this team and and contributing in the ways that she has and it certainly made it extra special for us to watch this team have such great success this year.

Derek Smith:

We've mentioned Coach Rhule, you've mentioned Ryan McGuyre, what we haven't mentioned yet as we look back at 2019 a women's basketball national championship, acrobatics and tumbling national championship. Our basketball teams have had great success as we head into this new year. What from your viewpoint, have been the key ingredients to that really departmental-wide success?

President Livingstone:

Well, I think to have that level of success in an athletics program, you have to have great leadership. Certainly leadership at the team level, which we do. Great coaches across all of our teams, but I think Mack Rhoades has just done an exceptional job as our vice president and director of athletics. He cares deeply about the program and our players. He wants to win, he wants to win right and his leadership has just been instrumental in the success that we've had. And I also think that the focus we have on preparing champions for life so that we're really sending the message that "Yeah, your athletic achievements matter, but so does your academic work, your citizenship, your spiritual growth and development." That we're really about making sure that all of our student athletes are going to be successful regardless of whether they play any more sports after they graduate from college. And then I think the other thing, and again I think this drives from the top down. What you see in our program is the teams and the coaches support each other. Whether it's on Twitter, where they're supporting each other or at the games where they are able to go. You really see a unity within the program, really rooting for everybody to do well. And I think success breeds success and there's probably a little bit of internal competition friendly competition. Oh my gosh, basketball won a national championship. Let's see if we could do that in volleyball, you know? And so that's fun. And I think they do it all in good spirits and we love seeing it and love the values that are being instilled in the ways in which the coaches and Mack and his staff are leading that, all the programs of the athletic department.

Derek Smith:

Visiting with President Livingstone and let's now on the topic of leadership, but a a little closer to to your office in Pat Neff Hall as we talk about your leadership team. And last spring we learned about Dr. Nancy Brickhouse, she was appointed as provost returning to her alma mater after three decades in higher education leadership. As you look back to as you got to know her better and what was it about her that impressed upon you and others on the search committee that she was that right fit?

President Livingstone:

Yeah, we're thrilled to have Dr. Brickhouse on board and she's done such an exceptional job in a very short period of time. So what drew her to us, I mean obviously she's a person of faith and that matters deeply to her and that matters to us. And so, that is one of the first things we, we want to learn about a candidate. But then when you look at Dr. Brickhouse's background, she's been a provost and she's served in a high level academic roles at a couple of different kinds of institutions, Delaware and then St. Louis University. And then she has really strong academic credentials herself. And so when we're aspiring to be a an R1 research university, she brings that background and experience. She has degrees from Purdue, which is an exceptional research institution. And then she just really, she loves Baylor. I mean she's a Baylor bear and her family still lives in East Texas. And so for her it was a wonderful coming home to really help advance and develop a place that she loved and cared about and really knows that the core because she was here. And so we're thrilled to have her. She's just doing an exceptional job and is a wonderful addition to our leadership team.

Derek Smith:

People would like to get to know her more and more about the role of provost. Just go to baylor.edu/connections and in October you can find our most recent visit with her and learn more about her role here. And from your standpoint that first semester here, which has just come to an end as we're visiting. What have been some of the highlights for her that first semester here? Just from that broader aspect of what's taken place?

President Livingstone:

Well, she stepped in after we'd developed illuminate our strategic plan and so really much of her work has been implementing and beginning to implement the strategic plan. And so they've done a lot of wonderful work building out our research infrastructure to support faculty as we seek to do more high-profile research, more funded research. She's putting together in collaboration with the deans a five-year hiring plan for faculty so that we really have a pathway to ensure we have the right faculty as we have a lot preparing to retire as well as we build out kind of our research and teaching function that we're hiring the right faculty. So we've got a five-year hiring plan and along with that will come a financial model to support that that she's working on. And then this really started before she got here, but we really rolled out the new core curriculum for the college of arts and sciences, which is a big deal. And that was a big change in an important move forward. So she's been very busy since she arrived, unbelievably well received by our deans and by our faculty. My other members of the president's council are thrilled to have her and she's been a wonderful addition to that team.

Derek Smith:

What does it mean to you to have that team really in full together here now? I think that's something maybe a lot of us outside of that don't think about a lot.

President Livingstone:

Yeah. Well, I always tell people that as a leader, the most important thing you can do is build your leadership team. And in an institution like this is very complex, large, that's even more critical. And I just can't say enough about the members of my president's council. They are unbelievably talented people technically in their specific areas, but they love Baylor. They are deeply committed Christians. We spent a lot of time talking about how we make sure that every decision we make strengthens the Christian mission of the institution, strengthens the academic direction of the institution and ensures that we're providing a great environment, a safe environment for our students. And so I think people can be very confident in the leadership team and the ways in which they approach their work here at Baylor and their deep love for the institution.

Derek Smith:

Well, it's a good year to think about that mission and strengthening that in the years ahead because it is a milestone birthday for Baylor, 175th anniversary of the chartering of the institution in 1845. What's special about getting to celebrate that, a milestone birthday at this time in Baylor's life?

President Livingstone:

Well, it's really fun particular because we're the oldest university in the state of Texas, which is kind of fun to always celebrate. But I think when you celebrate a big anniversary like that, it is a chance to reflect back on the history of the institution and all those people that sacrificed so much to get us to the place that we are now and to build the foundation that we have the opportunity now to build on. But while you're also celebrating the history of the institution, it's also a tremendous opportunity to say, "Okay, now where are we going from here and what's the opportunity ahead for us?" And one of the things I love about the founding of Baylor was the language that the founders used when they developed Baylor. Because they talked about developing a Christian university that was susceptible of enlargement and development to meet the needs of all the ages to come. That's pretty forward-thinking back in 1845 and that's what we're doing now. And so it's celebrating the past while looking forward to how do we continue to enlarge and develop the university to meet the needs of the students and faculty and the community for ages to come as a really exciting opportunity.

Derek Smith:

You've used the word opportunity a few times as you think ahead to 2020, what opportunities leap out of you?

President Livingstone:

Well, we certainly have the opportunity to continue to have success at the Give Light campaign. We hope to wrap that up maybe even a little early, although I don't want to go out on too much of a limb there.

Derek Smith:

You can at least think about that's a good thing.

President Livingstone:

Think about it. We have a tremendous opportunity there. We've got some wonderful folks that we're talking to that I think are going to be very generous to us in the year ahead. We have a tremendous opportunity to make significant progress on our strategic plan. We're going to do some faculty hiring, we're going to continue to build out our research infrastructure. And so there's a tremendous opportunity to make, have significant movement in the metrics that are going to matter for Illuminate and becoming a Research 1 university. And then when I think about our students, we just have unbelievably talented students and to see them grow and develop every year and then to see what they have the potential of accomplishing both while they're students and when they leave is very, very exciting. So there's a lot to look forward to in the coming year.

Derek Smith:

Well, we will look forward to that 2020. A lot of promise in store. And thank you so much for looking back at 2019 and sharing this time and a happy holidays to you and your family. And hopefully when we visit again next time on the show, we'll be talking about some more Baylor wins, some championships and maybe even closer to some of these goals with Give Light and Illuminate. So thank you.

President Livingstone:

That would be wonderful, Derek. Thank you very much.

Derek Smith:

Baylor President Linda Livingstone, our guest today here on Baylor Connections. I'm Derek Smith. A reminder, you can hear this and other programs online at baylor.edu/connections. Happy New Year and thanks for joining us here on Baylor Connections.