President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.
Season 4 - Episode 452
Baylor University is now an R1 research institution. The end of 2021 brought this exciting news, as this long-pursued goal became a reality. Additionally, the University celebrates the announcement of an agreement with the City of Waco to locate Baylor’s new basketball facility along the Brazos River near downtown Waco. In this Baylor Connections, President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., discusses these major benchmarks and their impact going forward.
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 today, we are visiting with Baylor University, president Dr. Linda Livingstone at the end of very exciting year here at Baylor. Some exciting news at the end of the year that we will get to visit with her today as we celebrate Baylor's R1 designation, exciting things taking place in athletics and facilities and more. And lots of good things to talk about President Livingstone. We appreciate you joining us today. And happy new year, by the way, to you and your family.
President Livingstone:Thank you so much, Derek. Appreciate that. And it's a good time to be a Baylor Bear.
Derek Smith:Absolutely. And the reasons why keep on coming. Shortly before Christmas, we received an early Christmas present. We've talked a lot, I've heard you talk a lot and faculty talk a lot about Baylor's pursuit of R1 recognition. And we got there. In the 2021 rankings, Baylor was an R1 institution, newly on the list among the nation's most prestigious research institutions. Starting off, what does it mean to Baylor to be on this list and to achieve this so quickly too.
President Livingstone:It's just a tremendous accomplishment for Baylor for so many reasons, but just credit to our faculty and staff, to the leadership in the provost office and our research office for the effort they've put into this. And frankly, this is a process, even though this really was a very specific goal three years ago, it is a process that we've been working on for many years, even before I got here in previous strategic plans to build the foundation and the infrastructure on which we then put specific focus to get to R1. So it's a tremendous accomplishment. It is a campus wide effort from the board all the way through all of our faculty and staff. So I couldn't be happier. I'm so happy for our faculty and staff. And it's just really recognition for the great work that they're doing. And then the other thing I would say as a Christian university, there are not a lot of those among the R1 universities that are not only doing at a very high, the highest level of research in the country, but also maintaining the integrity of their Christian mission and really thinking about how our faith community, our faith perspective informs the research we're doing. And informs how we solve problems. So it's just really important to us on so many levels.
Derek Smith:I saw a lot of people celebrating it on Twitter and social media, and there's been a lot of exciting achievements that Baylor's enjoyed recent weeks, in recent years. But to help us even put this in perspective even more for people who maybe are outside higher education day to day, how can they envision the magnitude of an accomplishment like this and its impact?
President Livingstone:Well, this just says a lot about the quality of the institution that you are in. I mean, if you think about who are the best institutions of higher education in the country, one of the first markers that you look at is who are the Research one universities. And so it really puts us in the same category with the other top universities in the country. And what that does is it gives us a lot of credibility. It gives our faculty credibility from an academic perspective. It gives our students when they're thinking about where to go to school, it attract students. When they're going out and looking for jobs, coming from one of the top universities in the country is valuable to them. When we're ready to hire faculty. I mean, we've been able to attract a lot of faculty who knew that our aspiration was to be Research one and they wanted to come help us accomplish that, but now that we're there, there will be a whole other set of people that say, I'm only going to go to an R1 university, but I would love to go to a Christian university. That's still very deeply tied to their Christian faith as an R1. And so it helps us attract students. It helps us attract faculty. It will continue to help us grow our research endeavor and attract research funding. And it gives us a platform for sharing our faith as a Christian university, because now we have sort of traditional academic credibility. And when you have that than people are willing to listen to kind of the values that underpin why you do it and where you came from. So there's just so much about this that is positive for us and why it's important for us. We really view it as, we've been blessed at Baylor with tremendous resources, tremendous people. And we really are the only, certainly only Baptist university like Protestant university in the country. And only a few among the Catholic universities that actually have the capacity and the resource base to do something like this. And we feel like it's really a calling to be good stewards of all that God's given us to do the most we can, have the greatest impact we can on our students, on the world, through the research that our faculty are doing. So this is sort of an affirmation of that. It's not the end all and be all, because it's just a step along the way. We've got more work to do, but it's a wonderful one to affirm what's already happened at Baylor.
Derek Smith:Visiting with President Livingstone. And as you said, certainly Illuminate has built on efforts moving towards this that have been taking place for a while now. But I am curious, it's been a little over two year since we officially said we're pursuing R1 as an institution. And at your inauguration you said, "We must be bold in our aspirations because the world needs a place like Baylor." I'm curious, would your boldest of predictions have had us achieving it quite this quickly in that process once we put that stake in the ground?
President Livingstone:Well, I wish I could tell you that I knew that by December of 2021, we were going to be R1, but I certainly wouldn't have back in fall of 2017. We knew, I mean, it's a lot of effort. It takes a lot of resources. It takes tremendous commitment across the board. We really believed we would get it in 2024 in the next round. We knew we would be really close this time, but to be very frank, we thought it would be 2024. And so I think that's why in a way we were actually kind of surprised. When we saw it this morning, we were thrilled and excited, but weren't necessarily anticipating it, knowing that it's a challenging set of criteria to meet. And so I think that's why in some ways it means more when you weren't sure you were going to actually get there and do. And so I'm just, like I said, and I'm so happy for our faculty and staff and all the leadership that made this happen.
Derek Smith:Visiting with President Livingstone. And President Livingstone another quote from your inauguration, you said, "The world needs a Baylor that brings our religious identity, institutional resources, and human talent to bare in generating creative solutions to complex problems." As you look at this achievement, how have those three areas played into that? How have you seen our religious identity, our institutional resources, and the human talent come together to make this day possible?
President Livingstone:Well, it only happens when those elements come together and I think it starts with great alignment of vision, and direction, and strategy. And that's really what we did with Illuminate. Our board's bought in, I'm bought in as president, my leadership team is, our deans are, our faculty are, the staff that support all of this are. And so when you have everybody aligned like that, especially with the board, and then when you align your vision and strategy, then you align your resources to support that direction. And you make very conscious decisions about how you're going to allocate resources, how you're going to raise money, what you're going to raise money for to drive that strategy. And we have done that very deliberately, very consistently. And the fact that faculty and staff were such a big part and bought into that, our donors walked alongside us and have been unbelievably generous in areas that we knew were important to helping us get here. And so aligning the people, the resources, the processes, it's all about that to accomplish what we did in such a short period of time. And deeply grateful to our board for such a high level of support in this process. Because when we said this, that we wanted to be R1, we had people who said, Baylor can't do that or shouldn't do that. When we said we were going to raise $1.1 billion, we had people say, you can't do that. There's no way Baylor can do that. And so I think what it shows is when you're deeply committed to your mission and to your purpose and ours is driven by our Christian identity as a university. And then you all are on the same page and put your effort and resources behind it. You can accomplish a lot in a very short period of time. And I think what it also says is there's tremendous upside for us ahead, given what we were able to accomplish in this window of time, all working together. Over a longer period of time, there's just so much more opportunity for us to have impact in the world and impact for Christ because of the work we're doing at Baylor.
Derek Smith:As we look ahead now to the next few years of the strategic plan of Illuminate, we've seen that growth towards the next few years that we thought was at least from a community we thought we're talking about is helping us get to R1. Well, now we are there. So it's going to elevate that even further. What's in store for Illuminate over the next five years? And as you think about that now, knowing that we're R1, how does that even enliven those plans even more?
President Livingstone:Well, it's exciting to think about. At the board meeting we had in November, the board affirmed Illuminate, which is the next five years of Illuminate that we thought would be getting us to R1 in three years. But now it's really the opportunity to just leverage being R1 and advance even further along the path of providing transformational undergraduate education, transformational graduate education, and continue to grow the impact, and influence, and breadth and depth of our research. And so part of that plan is to hire a 100 new faculty over the next five years, new faculty lines beyond just the replacement lines we have. Faculty, all faculty that will help contribute to the research and teaching goals that we have in Illuminate. So that will be really impactful for us. It will help us continue to have not only the best experience in the classroom for our students, but to continue to grow the quality of our research. A part of that is also related to some facilities. Some of that is making sure that we're enhancing our academic facilities, whether that's continuing to build out labs and research space, whether that's space for our honors college and really giving them a home of their own, whether that's the continued renovations of the rest of our residence halls that haven't been renovated. And then we have some athletic facilities that are a part of that. It's really a comprehensive way to continue to enhance the quality of our educational experience, our academic experience. And then what's happening in our performance areas like arts and athletics that are so important to us, both in terms of the experience they create for our students, but also because they have such an impact on the visibility of the university broadly.
Derek Smith:Well, it's going to be exciting to see you. And we'll look forward to talking to you and getting to meet some of those faculty once they're here on campus, have them here on the program as we visit with Baylor University, president Dr. Linda Livingstone here on Baylor Connections. And let's shift gears just a little bit as we continue to celebrate some great achievements. As a lot of people hear this, there's going to be a lot of people in New Orleans, you and your family included celebrating the Sugar Bowl. Certainly a neat way to bring this 2021 year to an end, but what's that mean for you and your family and the Baylor family to celebrate a big 12 championship in football and really a lot to celebrate at the end of a year in a place like New Orleans?
President Livingstone:Well, we're having a great time here in New Orleans. So we're hoping that we have a great game tomorrow and excited about it. Couldn't be more pleased with certainly the success of our football team this year. That again, was surprising to folks that we did that well, but a credit to coach Aranda, his staff, certainly the Mack Rhoades and the support he provides and the leadership he provides. But also again, the Baylor family, coming around and supporting that team, providing a great game day experience at our home games this year. And then across the whole athletic program, we've had such tremendous success. Men's basketball, of course, with a championship last year. They're doing great this year. Women's basketball, our volleyball team had a great year. Men's tennis last year was amazing. I mean, across the board, we've had such success. And I think celebrating a New Year's day bowl this year is in some ways just a continuation of that success.
Derek Smith:Absolutely. And meanwhile, President Livingstone, that's not the only exciting sports news because back in Waco, we've seen the news about the new Paul and Alejandra Foster Pavilion, new home in downtown Waco at University Parks and I-35. And an exciting partnership between the city of Waco and Baylor University. As we talk about this, we know there's a memorandum of understanding between the university and the city to negotiate and execute a final agreement by March 1st of this year. But with that in mind, let's talk about this pavilion and this partnership. What aspects to you are most exciting and most meaningful for Baylor and for the city?
President Livingstone:Well, we're extremely excited to break ground this summer on the Paul and Alejandra Foster Pavilion that will be located along the Brazos River, just adjacent to the Clifton Robinson Tower. It's a beautiful location for it. This has certainly been in the works really since we launched Illuminate and then our Give Light campaign back in 2018, 2019. We knew we needed to create a facility for our really amazing championship basketball programs, men and women that was more fan friendly that could create a better game day atmosphere and then free up space in the Ferrell Center for our nationally recognized women's volleyball team and our national champion acrobatics and tumbling team, because they deserve their own home as well. And so this has been something we've been working on for several years. Partway through that process, the city approached us about the possibility of partnering with them on a location where they were going to build out a riverfront complex of shopping and restaurants and mixed use facility. And so over a period of really a couple of years in conversations with the city and us thinking about what's best for Baylor, how's this going to benefit the city. We ultimately reach the agreement with the city to locate it at this riverfront property adjacent to Clifton Robinson Tower. It's going to be an amazing location. It's going to be an amazing basketball atmosphere inside the pavilion. And then we think it's going to be a wonderful atmosphere outside as that riverfront complex is built out and will be not only a benefit to Baylor in helping us attract students and others to the community, but will be a benefit to Waco, McLennan County, Central Texas, as we really continue to create a vibrant downtown district, where there's things to do, places to go, great food to eat. So we're excited about what it's going to do, not just for Baylor and our athletic program, our basketball program particularly, but the impact it's going to have on Waco generally.
Derek Smith:What stands out? When I was a student, people joked about a lot, the Baylor bubble. That was a phrase, people would joke about. Well, you look at how that's changed over the years and a project like this, it's a downtown location, but still a stones throw from the main campus. What aspects of our partnership and the relationship with the city were really meaningful in making something like this a reality?
President Livingstone:I think you have to go back, and we've had partnerships with the city of Waco from many, many years. They partnered with us on Waco Hall, years and years ago. And so we've worked with them closely on many things, but I do think the McLean Stadium partnership with the city, they were instrumental in partnering with us to make McLean Stadium a possibility and making it, designing it in a way with the Baylor Club and some other amenities that open it up to the community more broadly. And so I think because of some of the success we've had with some of these other partnerships and really when you see the way the city has become kind of a tourist destination and a place where people want to come, place people want to retire to, our students. When I was here, I've been here twice and so when I was here the first time students didn't really want to stay in Waco and work in Waco and live in Waco. They wanted to go to Dallas, or Houston, or Austin. And when I came back in 2017, students were starting to say, hey, I kind of like living in Waco and there's a lot to do. And there's interesting places to live and there's interesting restaurants. And it's gotten even better since then. And so I think that partnership benefits us, it benefits the city of Waco. And we know that working together in this city helps us all, helps the whole community, helps with economic development. It gives us opportunity to attract more people to the community, whether they live here permanently, or just come on a temporary basis. We have a great relationship with mayor Dillon Meek and working well with city manager, Bradley Ford. It's just a great partnership. And we are greatly appreciative of the city council and others that have worked with us on this. So it's an exciting partnership. It's going to be great for the city. It's going to open up opportunities for not just basketball, because it's a multipurpose center for concerts and other kinds of events to happen in there when we're not using it for basketball.
Derek Smith:So President Livingstone, cool isn't maybe the most defined metric, but when you think about people driving through Waco on I-35 now, and there will some day be McLean Stadium, there will be a welcome center up Baylor and our spires, a basketball pavilion, silos, downtown Waco. It's kind of hard to measure that exactly, but what could that mean for the city and Baylor, when people come in and see that as their entrance to town?
President Livingstone:It's a tremendous entry to Waco from the north side as you're coming in from Dallas. And cool's not a bad way to describe it. I think it will be a really a spectacular entry into the city, both highlighting the diversity of what you can do in this city, but also a really beautiful front door to the city, because it is, it's McLean Stadium. It will be our pavilion. It will be the Hurd Welcome Center that will be right across Interstate 35 and then go on down a little further and the silos are over there. So there's just a lot of exciting things going on in Waco. And we're just privileged that Baylor to be able to be a part of that and to be a part of what we're seeing in Waco and McLennan County as this part of Texas continues to grow and develop. There's tremendous opportunity ahead for the entire region.
Derek Smith:President Livingstone, as we head in the final couple of minutes, I want to ask you, as we talk about the pavilion, you mentioned Paul and Alejandra Foster, and we now know that it was their lead gift that spearheaded that and so much with Give Light. What should we know about their heart for the university? I know they're a name that we see on buildings to a lot of people, but you know them.
President Livingstone:Yeah. Paul and Alejandra Foster are a just wonderful, dear, humble people and they have such generous hearts and they have a great love for Baylor. And they want to help Baylor accomplish its goals. And so they're certainly very, very generous, but they want to make sure that their resources are direct to things that matter the most to us to make a difference. And if you look across our campus, the Foster Success Center that helps students that need counseling help, our first in line program, students that need support and help, that's the Foster Success Center. Obviously the foster campus, the beautiful campus for our business school, for the Hankamer School of Business that we're so proud of. Obviously one of the, I think one of the best business school facilities in the country. Part of that $100 million gift was the foster academic challenge that allowed us to fund those first 14 endowed chairs at 3 million or more, a game changer for us as we bring in those faculty, which we've talked about. And then of course the Foster Pavilion and the impact that's going to have, not just on our basketball program, but on our other athletic programs. And then frankly, much more broadly on the community. So what I love about Paul and Alejandra is certainly their generosity, their humble hearts, but how they have really chosen to impact the university broadly and deeply, both academically and athletically and in ways that have really helped drive our strategy in significant ways. And so we love them. We are deeply appreciative to them and really so many others like them that have come alongside us in the Give Light campaign to allow us to accomplish all that we have up to this point.
Derek Smith:Absolutely. Well, President Livingstone, happy New Year to you. Thanks for coming on and thanks for all the times you do come on to share with the Baylor family here.
President Livingstone:Happy to do it, Derek. And happy New Year to the Baylor family.
Derek Smith:Baylor University, president Dr. Linda Livingstone, our guest today here on Baylor Connections. I'm Derek Smith. A reminder you can hear this and other programs online, baylor.edu/connections. And you can subscribe on iTunes. Thanks for joining us here on Baylor Connections.