Season 6 - Episode 610
Inside the Office of the Provost at Baylor, the Spring Semester has been a busy season of faculty hiring, infrastructure growth and celebration. In this Baylor Connections, Provost Nancy Brickhouse examines honors like Baylor’s recognition as a Top Fulbright Producing Institution, shares factors that draw prospective faculty to Baylor and highlights research growth across the university.
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 pleased to visit with Baylor University Provost, Dr. Nancy Brickhouse. I could say this at the top of every show we visit with you, it's a busy time at Baylor. It's an exciting time at Baylor. There's a lot going on in terms of growth. New faculty hires, new honors for the university, and it's always fun to get to visit with you on these Dr. Brickhouse. Thanks so much for your time today.
Nancy Brickhouse:It's great to be here. Thanks so much for having me.
Derek Smith:Well, we've got a lot of exciting things to talk about, but before I dive into a few I have for you, I'm curious, if we were to look into your office these days, what are some of the things that we would see front and center as we really get full on into spring?
Nancy Brickhouse:Well, this is February, the end of February, and this is probably the peak of our faculty hiring season. And so we have 185 searches, give or take, 5 or 10. But we've got a lot of searches going on this year and we are at the pinnacle of making those offers out to faculty. And so that is really the buzz, if you hear in my office, that's what people are doing, is they're working on making these hires. And I have to say of all the things that we do at Baylor, hiring is probably the most important.
Derek Smith:A lot of work for sure. Well, when you say that number 185, that certainly paints a picture and it's been exciting to see so many of the great hires in the last few years and to envision who's going to be coming here to Baylor. So let me ask you about that, to jump ahead a little bit. This is an exciting time and as we grow our faculty ranks, this is such a broad question, but who's interested? Who's wanting to come to Baylor these days?
Nancy Brickhouse:Faculty who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Baylor is nationally known. We are now running with a peer group with the R1 designation. We are sending the signal that we are supportive of research, we're growing our research. We are. We're continuing to grow research at about 30% per year, if you look at research expenditures. And so faculty who really want to engage in both our scholarly efforts as well as our commitment to undergraduate students and to be at a Christian university where our purpose is a divine purpose, is something that I think a lot of faculty find very intriguing and very exciting. And we are getting great candidates as well. I have met more interesting people than you can imagine.
Derek Smith:That's exciting. And you know, mentioned R1, we received that R1 recognition a little over a year ago. How much does that play? Because I know we were getting some really great candidates even before that, because the vision is really what's compelled a lot of people. But how much is that R1 designation? I don't know if it's the cherry on top of the cake, but does that look like?
Nancy Brickhouse:It's symbolic, I think. Well, it's very metric driven, so it's funny for me to say it's symbolic. But when it comes to recruiting faculty, I think it's very symbolic of our commitment to research that it's not just words. We're actually doing it. And that's what I think is compelling to them.
Derek Smith:We are visiting with Baylor University Provost, Dr. Nancy Brickhouse and Dr. Brickhouse zooming out a little bit. We've talked about a lot of awards honors that Baylor has won over the years. And this spring we saw another one. Baylor was named a Fulbright top producing institution. And the Fulbright name is one people know, but maybe not all of the details. I think I would put myself somewhat over the years before learning more in that category. So what does it mean to Baylor to have students and faculty earning Fulbrights, and what does it mean for an institution to be recognized like that?
Nancy Brickhouse:So the Fulbright is the flagship international exchange program, created by the US government and run through the State Department. So it's a signal that your faculty are not only engaged nationally, but internationally. It means that your students have opportunities not only nationally but internationally. And so to be one of the top producing Fulbright universities in the country, again, indicates where you are operating in terms of your international reputation. So if you look at who our peer set is, who are the other universities that also produced 14 Fulbright awardees from their student body this year, it puts us in the same category as Tulane, the University of Michigan, at Ann Arbor, the University of Minnesota and Washington University. And if you look at our competition within the state of Texas, there's only one university who produced more than we did, and that's the University of Texas, at Austin. And so they've now got a bullseye on their back, because there's nothing I love more than beating the University of Texas, at Austin.
Derek Smith:That sounds pretty good. In fact, it's funny, as you were saying that in my mind, I'm already thinking, "Well, we're doing that with a smaller student body base," and so now we can go up and get them numerically as well. No, that's good.
Nancy Brickhouse:That is a very good point. We don't have the scale of the University of Texas on a per student basis, we already beat them.
Derek Smith:Already. But let's beat them in that numeric total as well. I like that. The competitive spirit here as we visit with provost Nancy Brickhouse and Dr. Brickhouse here, we talk about the busyness of the season and transitions. And really over the last several months, and especially galvanizing in recent months, we're seeing transitions in dean's offices across campus. Dr. Daniel Pack was recently named Dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science. Baylor's announced impending retirements, transitions in a graduate school, law school, School of Music. And we've been blessed with some pretty great leadership in our dean's office here at Baylor. And change is change, it can be a transition that's exciting and also an opportunity for growth, even as we say goodbye to some people we've loved. So how would you describe what this season is like for Baylor in the life of these transitions in dean's offices?
Nancy Brickhouse:Well, we had been very blessed with great leadership here at Baylor, and particularly at the dean level. We have longstanding deans who have made such a huge impact, not only on their college, but on the university as a whole. But there comes a time when they're ready to do something else and it's healthy for both them as well as the university to begin to find new leadership. So it's, on the one hand, sad to say goodbye to some of these friends who have... And some of the people that you're referring to literally have shaped this institution in ways that are really very significant. And it's hard to say goodbye, but at the same time, next year we'll be very busy as we replace some of these dean positions. But I think it's a great opportunity for Baylor.
Derek Smith:Dr. Brickhouse, I mentioned the name Dr. Daniel Pack. He was appointed as dean for the School of Engineering and Computer Science. Could you give us a little 101 on Dr. Pack? Who is he and why is he the right fit for Baylor?
Nancy Brickhouse:So I'm really excited to welcome Daniel Pack. He starts June 1st. He'll be coming to us from the University of Tennessee, at Chattanooga. His prior experience was at the University of Texas, at San Antonio. And at the US Air Force Academy. I think the things that he brings to the position that are particularly intriguing is, first of all, he has strong Department of Defense connections, as does Baylor. And so I think he'll be a really key partner in terms of our connections with the defense industry around research as well as education. But I think even more significantly for me was the fact that this is somebody with a real track record. He has been to two other institutions and leadership positions, schools not that different from our own engineering and computer science school and made a really tangible difference. And when he was here on campus, I knew he was the right person for the job because I could specifically talk to him about the kinds of things that were on his resume and find out what that was like when he went through it, how he did it. He just comes with a lot of experience and a lot of success, and I think that he's going to be really exactly what we need in engineering computer science. He also has a very mature Christian faith, comes from a family of ministers. And so he fits very, very well with our Christian mission, and I think he's very drawn to us for that reason.
Derek Smith:Well, we're excited to welcome him and get to know him. I'll have to have him on Baylor Connections as he gets settled in. I want to ask you, I'm late on this one, but I want to ask you about Dr. Jason Carter. It's been about a year since he was appointed. He joined this fall. We actually had him on the program last week and really enjoyed visiting with him. So there's a great chance for people to get to know him, but for those who don't, what was it that when made him stand out to lead Robins College?
Nancy Brickhouse:So what was really interesting to me about Jason was his track record in terms of building research. He had great experience as a department chair and I actually pay a lot of attention to leadership at that level. That was his first experience at Michigan Tech and a department that's very similar to one of ours and Robins. He then went on to Montana State where he was the vice provost for research and focused on building research across campus. So he has a very interdisciplinary way of thinking about research. He's also just very strategic. I've described him, actually, as kind of scrappy. He's looking at how to get the job done and I think that he's going to make a big difference. I'll also say he's a very well funded researcher himself, and so he's actually bringing with him NIH funding, does work on sleep, which is something we have going on elsewhere here at Baylor. And so he's got colleagues that he can collaborate with who care a lot about the research on sleep and how it affects us physiologically, psychologically and spiritually.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dr. Nancy Brickhouse and Dr. Brickhouse, as we look ahead to the transitions that'll be taking place when there's a transition at the dean level, what are some of the key factors that goes into a quality search, finding the right people to serve and asking the right questions. What does that look like?
Nancy Brickhouse:Well, I spend a lot of time thinking carefully about the search committee, because they oftentimes are incredibly important in terms of being able to recruit a great pool. We'll engage a search firm on these deans as well, on these deans for these deans searches as well. And they help us in terms of finding great candidates that might be outside of our own personal networks. And generating a really great pool is the key. If you can generate a diverse pool, a pool that's committed to our mission, who understand how to elevate the quality of academics and research in a college, that's what you're really looking for. If you can generate a great pool, then it becomes a lot easier on the actual selection process. So that's really what's key. So I'm working right now and putting together the search committees, and we will engage with those firms this spring and we'll be out early in the fall. That's the other thing, it actually helps if you're out early in the fall rather than late in the fall, I think it makes a difference in terms of the quality of the pool. So we'll be proceeding post taste on these searches.
Derek Smith:Well, we'll wish the best to look forward to seeing the fruits of those searches in the months ahead. This is Baylor Connections. We are visiting with Baylor University Provost to Dr. Nancy Brickhouse and Dr. Brickhouse in the last year, you've added a new member to the provost office. It's a familiar name, Dr. Steven Reed. We've visited with him when as he's been on the faculty Truett Seminary. He's serving as Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Belonging. Could you take us inside that role, what he brings and how this will serve Baylor and our faculty?
Nancy Brickhouse:Well, Steven Reed is just exactly the right person for this role. He has really hit the ground to running, as you mentioned. He comes from Truett and he studies the Psalms, by the way. But he understands how diversity is important to our overall Christian mission. He understands the importance of us living our faith in a way that supports faculty who come here, faculty from all walks of life. And so I think that he is, first of all, that's very involved on the recruiting side as we're interviewing faculty. He's helpful to the search committees in terms of an assisting them and assuring that they have diverse candidate pools as they hire. And he also is being very proactive in terms of assuring that all of our faculty have a sense of belonging. He's created some interesting events for faculty. For example, last week we had a special session in the library on digital humanities that focused on Black History Month and the kind of resources that we have for faculty who are doing work that's engaged with African American history and other kinds of topics related to that. And so he's working to help faculty find a place here. I sense that there are other people like them that care about the same things and that really embrace the mission of Baylor. So anyway, we're so excited to have him in the office and I know we're going to continue to see great things from him.
Derek Smith:Absolutely. Will have to visit with him in the weeks ahead on Baylor Connections and get to dive in even further. Very exciting as we visit with Dr. Nancy Brickhouse. And another area I want to ask you about is, you talked about our research continues to grow. There's been a lot of numbers 30% annually. That's a pretty big number. It's scope and it's the complexity, because our faculty are competing for bigger and better and more competitive grants and they're winning them. So what challenges, what opportunities does that provide for a university and how are we growing with that in serving faculty as that scope and complexity grow?
Nancy Brickhouse:We really are kind of a university in transition. We're still working on developing all the policies that we need in place to make sure that we're fully compliant with federal regulations. So that is work that's very much underway. There's also staffing up the research office. There's a national shortage of research staff right now. And so we are working to try to figure out how to be more competitive in terms of being able to get research staff that are so important to help us manage a lot of these federal grants that we're now getting. So we're finding, right now, that we are making a lot of these positions, virtual positions, because they don't actually have to be in Waco. And that's helping us in terms of being able to recruit. So we're making good progress and I think we're going to be implementing a new electronic compliance and research administration system this spring and throughout the summer. That's also going to help us a great deal in terms of managing these grant proposals. Right now what we have is it's very manual, the way that we manage grants. It's like paper folders. It's time to get more sophisticated in the way that we manage our grant approvals. The new system will also allow for greater transparency in terms of the management of the grants. It will also provide some guardrails. There are things that you can't do within the system and that actually helps us be compliant within federal regulations. So it may not sound all that exciting to talk about a new electronic grants and management system, but it's actually really important.
Derek Smith:Well, Dr. Brickhouse, final couple of minutes in the program here. There is a lot of growth, whether it's a new electronic system, whether it's looking at old policies, or ways of doing business, it's a lot of change in higher education really broadly and certainly at Baylor. What does it mean to you to see people even with so much going on pitching in and engaging in that, and showing some flexibility to drive Baylor forward?
Nancy Brickhouse:Well, it just reminds me how committed our faculty and staff are to Baylor and to the mission of Baylor. I think if this were just your garden variety public university, some of that change might be a little different. But here, I think people believe in what it is we're doing. They understand the purpose of Baylor and they're here because they believe in it. And so sometimes that comes with a certain amount of change can be painful, and sometimes that change can be a challenge, that if you're working for a purpose bigger than yourself, I think that makes it easier to get on board with it and even find it exciting at times. The other thing that's really different about change here at Baylor then, a lot of places, the change that people are dealing with is one of constriction or contraction. Here, the change is coming from growth. If you're going to have a change management issue at a whole lot rather be managing growth than managing contraction.
Nancy Brickhouse:And so I think that helps as well.
Derek Smith:It's exciting to see some of the exciting initiatives and growth taking place, Dr. Brickhouse. And with that, my final question for you is, ask you what you're doing this semester so far. You talked about faculty hiring and recruitment, but looking ahead, is there anything on the horizon about which you're particularly excited about as we head into the late spring or summer?
Nancy Brickhouse:Well, I'll tell you that later today I'm going to an awards, a celebration of our recognition as a Fulbright top producing institution. So that'll be fun. Tomorrow we'll be recognizing staff who are celebrating milestones in terms of their tenure here at Baylor. But the thing that I really look forward to the most is commencement. I love celebrations. Everybody's in a good mood, but it also just reminds us why we're here and seeing our students walk across the stage. You also get a sense of the everybody's at graduation, and so it gives you a sense of who our people are, what the Baylor community looks like. And so I always enjoy our commencement a great deal.
Derek Smith:And so we'll look forward to that and exciting spring leading up to that here at Baylor. Well, Dr. Brickhouse, thanks so much for your time. Thanks for sharing with us today.
Nancy Brickhouse:You bet.
Derek Smith:Dr. Nancy Brickhouse, Baylor University Provost, our guest today on Baylor Connections. I'm Derek Smith. A reminder, you can hear the ascent of the programs online, baylor.edu/connections, and you can subscribe to the program on iTunes. Thanks for joining us here on Baylor Connections.