Season 5 - Episode 543
The Fall Semester has been a busy time at Baylor—substantial faculty growth, expansion of resources for research and scholarship, and accolades in areas like core curriculum and University trust. In this Baylor Connections, Provost Nancy Brickhouse unpacks those topics and highlights research integrity at Baylor for National Compliance & Ethics Week.
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. Today, we are visiting with Baylor University provost, Dr. Nancy Brickhouse. Past years brought much to celebrate as Baylor grows as an R1 institution. The university has welcomed 110 new faculty, with more on the way, through Illuminate Forward. We've seen exciting news as it relates to core curriculum rankings, national trust, and more. This week also marks National Compliance and Ethics Week, an opportunity to highlight research integrity as a growing research institution. We'll discuss all of this and more with Dr. Nancy Brickhouse, Baylor University's provost. I know it's a really busy time, Dr. Brickhouse. Thanks for joining us on the program.
Nancy Brickhouse:Thank you for having me.
Derek Smith:Well, we're in that stretch where we are... We're really full speed ahead to the holidays and the end of the semester. So if we were to eavesdrop in your office these days, what are some of the things that take precedence that become priorities as we get into November and December?
Nancy Brickhouse:Well, I mean, clearly, we want to have kind of a smooth landing for the fall semester is where... Actually, a lot of the hiring that we do begins to kind of wrap up in late fall. The busiest time is first thing in the spring, but we want to kind of hit the ground running when students and faculty arrive back on campus in the fall. But I also just encourage people, myself and people around me, to take a little bit of time as we move into the holiday season, because it is such a family time for many of us. I have both kids as well as parents. I've got lots of cousins, and this is just the time of the year where I begin to think about the holiday gatherings with them, both over the Thanksgiving table as well as over Christmas. We'll probably head back to Virginia also sometime after Christmas to be with my husband's family for a few days before we hit the ground running again in the spring. So there's always a lot going on, and the end of the semester is always the busiest. But it's been a great fall and we're getting... A lot of what we're doing right now is not only wrapping up the fall, but we're preparing for the spring.
Derek Smith:You mentioned finding some time. You've got the holidays coming up and I know we see you at Baylor events, whether it be sporting events like the football game, the homecoming parade. Are there any ways on campus that are some of your favorites to just maybe get away from work just a little bit and enjoy being a part of what's going on at Baylor?
Nancy Brickhouse:I love campus life and, yeah, I enjoy... I have a little bit of a competitive streak, and so the athletic events kind of play into that. But I enjoy our artistic events as well, both our music as well as our theater. We have really excellent programs in the arts, and you'll see me at a lot of those, not because I'm required to be there, but because I want to be there. It's just such a gift to be at a university surrounded by people who have that kind of talent. I also enjoy opportunities to go to various conferences on campus and learn about the work that our faculty are doing. That's the fun part of being a provost, is really getting to celebrate the great work that the people here at Baylor are doing.
Derek Smith:Well, we've certainly had much to celebrate in recent years and certainly recent months as we visit with... Dr. Brickhouse, a growing family, certainly, as well. This fall, Baylor has welcomed 110 new faculty to the institution. Now, this is a really broad question, so broadly speaking, who are they? Who's coming to Baylor here this year?
Nancy Brickhouse:I mean, it's a very exciting class. It's a very class of faculty. I don't know why I'm talking about them as if there were a class of students. Maybe I should call them a cohort.
Derek Smith:It's the class of 2022 or the cohort of 2022.
Nancy Brickhouse:Yeah. Yeah. It's a pretty diverse group of people. I mean, some of them are new online instructors who are helping us in terms of staffing our professional and graduate education programs. Others are committed to focusing on undergraduate education and making sure that the core curriculum, which we're going to be talking about later, is being implemented in the way that it was intended. We're welcoming new endowed chairs. These are faculty that are very focused on their research and are operating at the highest levels of their disciplines. So I would say they come from... It's a pretty diverse group of people, and it's also the most racially diverse that we've ever had. 40% coming from non-Caucasian groups. It actually matches pretty closely with the racial makeup of our student body, which is something our students have asked for. So it's great they were able to have that kind of diversity and that kind of strength in terms of the talent that this cohort of faculty are bringing to Baylor. I guess the one thing I should say though that they all have in common is their commitment to our mission. Whether they're researchers or lecturers or clinical faculty, whether they're coming from the West Coast or they're from Middle America, the thing that we all hold in common is our commitment to Baylor's Christian mission. So it's always good to come back to that core of who we are, and this group of faculty will definitely contribute to helping us continue to strengthen the kind of Christian witness that is distinctive about Baylor University.
Derek Smith:Well, Dr. Brickhouse, you really answered the next question here, what is it that's bringing them here, the sense you get of what's attracting them. We have our historic commitment that attracts people. We continue to elevate. We've got so much of the growth that's taken place, the investment. What sense do you get about kind of that balance? There's the Christian commitment, and then also people are seeing what Baylor has done in recent years.
Nancy Brickhouse:The other thing is that Baylor is viewed as a place on the rise. I mean, people want to be a part of something that is growing in terms of its impact, in terms of the ability for them to be a part of something that's bigger for themselves. So it's that sense of Baylor being on the move, I think, is the other piece that's really attracting people to come here. I think the R1 designation that we received at the very first of this calendar year is also a big enticement for a lot of faculty who really want to operate at the very highest levels of their discipline and also want to be at a Christian university because both of those things are very important to them. There are a lot of universities that have not done well post-COVID. If you look at enrollment nationally, enrollments are down. And if you look at a lot of our sister institutions, other Christian universities, their enrollments are down and now their applications are down. So Baylor's actually kind of swimming against the tide here. We're doing well during a time when a lot of universities are kind of struggling to keep up.
Derek Smith:Dr. Brickhouse, as you talk about that growth in the face of this and just in general, Baylor's hired 110 new faculty this year, Illuminate Forward, part of that is a hundred new faculty, net new faculty over a five year period. I'm curious, for those of us who aren't as involved in the numbers and what that means in the higher ed context, how can we picture kind of the significance of that growth and what its impact could be at Baylor? Because a hundred is a great number, but if we don't have the context, we don't know exactly what that means.
Nancy Brickhouse:I think the way that you're going to see a difference in terms of impact is first of all, you're going to see continued impact in terms of our research trajectory. Our productivity around research will continue to grow, particularly as we bring in new faculty in areas like materials, where we've not had a large presence before. We're going to suddenly have a very significant presence in a field that is quite new and quite large. So you'll see it there. You'll also see it in terms, the other area that we'll see a lot of impact will be in the growth of our graduate programs. If you look at Baylor, we're currently about 25% graduate students, 75% undergraduate students. Now, we've doubled our graduate population in the last five years. But I think you're going to see with this new faculty, we're going to continue to grow that graduate population, because the R1 universities typically have a profile that is much more heavily graduate than what Baylor is right now. So as we bring in these new faculty, we're going to also be looking at strengthening our graduate programs, as they also have a great impact, if you will, on our research programs.
Derek Smith:This is Baylor Connections. We're visiting with Baylor University provost, Dr. Nancy Brickhouse. Dr. Brickhouse, switching gears a little bit. I mentioned at the top of the show that this week is National Compliance and Ethics Week. That's something that Baylor is focused on in a number of ways. And I'm curious, as we talk about compliance and ethics in the context of a Christian research institution, what do those terms mean to you?
Nancy Brickhouse:When you talk about compliance, I think a lot about federal regulations, about the way that we manage externally funded research. That's what we are really working on right now. So here's how I think about it. We get money from a variety of different sources, but when you get money from the federal government, which is where we're growing a lot right now in terms of our research graphs, you're basically getting taxpayer money in order to do research, okay? These are taxpayers' dollars. And the federal government wants to make sure that you're using the money in the way that you said you would use the money in the grant proposal. So they have regulations in place to make sure of that. They also want to make sure that the taxpayers are getting a good deal for their dollar, okay? That you're not buying things that you don't need, or that you're not buying things at exorbitant prices, that you're trying to buy things at good cost. You're charging things to the grants that are appropriate to charge to the grants. And most importantly, that you're charging faculty time appropriately to grants. So they want to see how you're charging salary to grants, so that they can make sure that the taxpayers are getting the biggest bang for their buck. The intent of that, again, I think is important. We're all taxpayers. We want to make sure that our money is well used.
Derek Smith:Sounds like it gets complicated fast. We've got a great research compliance staff within the Office of Vice Provost for Research. URA's a lot of people that help faculty with that. As Baylor grows as a research institution, we're really hitting just about every research metric at a much higher level than we were a few years ago. Really a pretty steep curve at times. So what does it take with what you just described and combining with Baylor's growth? What does it take to support all that? What does it take to facilitate that?
Nancy Brickhouse:There are a couple of things that come to mind. It's a combination of things. I would say you need people, you need policy, and you need technology. You need people who understand what the compliance regulations require. So that's an educational effort that our Office of the Vice Provost for Research is leading out on in terms of simply helping people understand what the guidelines are, what's allowed and what's not. We also need policies in place, where we need to make sure that we have well-defined rules around how things get charged to grants, and that we're consistent in the way that those policies are applied. And then we need technology that will help us manage all of this. We are working on a new electronic research administration software implementation that we will roll out later in the spring, that will help us manage grants and manage a lot of these compliance efforts. But you need really all three of those in order to be successful. Now, my hope is that over time, as we get used to these policies and regulations and new systems, that it simply becomes second nature. It's just harder when you're in that change period, and right now, we're in that change period where people are being told, "Well, you can't do things the way that you've always done them, and this is why. And here are some other ways in which we're going to help you do your work in a way that is compliant with what the federal regulations require."
Derek Smith:We're visiting with Dr. Nancy Brickhouse, Baylor University provost. Dr. Brickhouse, we've had plenty of accolades, as we've already mentioned, to discuss here at Baylor. I want to ask you about a couple of them as we head into the final few minutes of the program. One of them a pretty nice surprise right at the start of the semester, Baylor was named the top 10 most trusted university in the nation alongside institutions like Harvard, Princeton, Notre Dame, Johns Hopkins. For you personally, what does that honor mean as you think about the university and what we're doing research-wise and academically?
Nancy Brickhouse:Well, I mean, obviously, I think everybody wants to be trusted, and so it's a great honor to be named with institutions that are incredibly prestigious in terms of the fact that people trust Baylor in the same sense that they trust a Hopkins or a Princeton, et cetera. When I think about the kind of components, what does it mean to trust an institution, I think of two things. One is competence and the other is honesty. So you gain somebody's trust when you do what you say you're going to do. So you're honest about what your intentions are, and then you know what you're doing and you're capable of doing what you say you're going to do. So it's really kind of a two-pronged matter. It's about having the excellence and expertise to be able to accomplish ambitious goals in a way that you said you're going to do, and it's also about not overpromising, or again, kind of making clear what your intentions are so that you're basically doing what you said you were going to do. Let me give you an example. We claim that Baylor offers a transformational undergraduate education. We're very bold about that. That's what we say. Well, for people to trust us, we have to deliver on that. I think the fact that we're being told that we're trusted, I think that's a good sign that yes, indeed, that's what our students are experiencing. We're making good on that. When we say that our education is grounded in Christian principles, those are not just words, okay? Those are actions that has to do with the way that we structure our curriculum. It has to do with the way that we hire our faculty. It motivates the research we do. So we have to live out those things that we say that we are. And when it comes to research, it means that we conduct research with utmost integrity. That is, it's empirical research. We do research with an open mind, we do research well, using all of the tools of the discipline, and we communicate our findings faithfully. That's what leads to trust. So it's great company to be in, and I hope that we will continue to work to earn that reputation.
Derek Smith:It's certainly exciting to see as we visit with Dr. Brickhouse. Dr. Brickhouse, heading in the final couple minutes, I want to ask you about core curriculum. We saw earlier this semester, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni gave Baylor an A rating for core curriculum, and there were only 22 institutions in the nation who achieved that honor. So pretty lofty company for sure. But to better understand that, core curriculum, how is that defined? How can we picture exactly what that is?
Nancy Brickhouse:I think of the core curriculum as kind of the mark of an undergraduate Baylor degree. It is what distinguishes a Baylor student from another student. Since we're playing them on Saturday, maybe I'll just say we're not the same as a Kansas State student, okay? We provide a different kind of education. And in many ways, a core curriculum defines that because all students experience it. It doesn't matter what your degree is in, it doesn't matter what kind of degree that you get, if it's an undergraduate degree, you're going to be required to take the core. So it is an honor as well, because at Baylor, we've been very intentional about our core curriculum, and we take it very seriously. It was just revised a few years ago. So we're in the implementation of a new core curriculum. So this new core curriculum was the one that got this A rating that you're referring to. It's a very recently revised curriculum, and it includes courses and areas that this particular organization really cares about. So it includes things like all students are required to take a course in composition, in literature, and either history or civics, and a natural science or in math. And if you're getting a liberal arts degree, you're required to take a foreign language. So this is true for all students. And of course, you know that we have two religion courses, a course in U.S. Constitution. I think these are also courses that really kind of define who a Baylor student is. Those are courses that are in addition to what this organization requires, but I think they're actually pretty distinctive to a Baylor education, so I kind of want to talk about them as a whole. So in a lot of universities, the core... The general education requirements is what they call it. It's the same thing as a core curriculum. But honestly, they're treated by students and by faculty as something that you just kind of get out of the way until you can get to your major. And I just don't think that's true at Baylor. We have a core that we take very seriously, that our students take very seriously, and that is very distinctive. A lot of universities, you'll see there are so many choices in terms of what students take as part of their core curriculum, that there's really not that much that one student has in common with the next student. Their education was really quite different, because what they took as part of their core requirements was so vastly different, that they really don't have that kind of common sense of or that common mark of an educated person educated at Baylor University. So I'm very proud of the changes that we made in our core. It's very hard work to get people to come together to make these kinds of changes, but we've recently updated our core curriculum. We reduced the size of the curriculum in terms of the number of credit hours. Yet, as you can see, we remain to be on the top of the country in terms of the quality of that core curriculum, even with the new changes that, again, brought down the size of the core curriculum without reducing its impact.
Derek Smith:A great description for sure and lofty company for sure. Dr. Brickhouse, thanks so much for your time. Thanks for sharing, and we appreciate it very much.
Nancy Brickhouse:You bet.
Derek Smith:Thank you very much. Dr. Nancy Brickhouse, Baylor University provost, our guest today on Baylor Connections. I'm Derek Smith. A reminder, you can hear this and other programs online at baylor.edu/connections, and you can subscribe to the program on iTunes. Thanks for joining us here on Baylor Connections.