Nancy Brickhouse and Tiffany Hogue
Season 6 - Episode 638
Baylor has started the process to pursue the University’s next strategic plan. Provost Nancy Brickhouse and Chief of Staff Tiffany Hogue serve as co-chairs of the Strategic Planning Group, whose members will walk with the Baylor Family through the comprehensive, year-long process. In this Baylor Connections, they take listeners inside the goals and process of strategic planning, examine the success of Illuminate as Baylor pursues its successor, and examine the pillars that Baylor will follow to elevate the University’s mission and impact on the world.
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 on the program we are talking about Baylor's strategic plan. This fall, Baylor is taking steps to shape the next strategic plan for the university. Baylor's approaching the end of Illuminate, the strategic plan that's guided Baylor since 2018. In that time period, the university has achieved R1 research recognition, completed and eclipsed the goals of the Give Light campaign, funded 22 endowed faculty positions and much more. Baylor will now develop the next strategic plan to build on the university's historic Christian mission and continue that momentum. This spring, President Livingstone named today's guests as co-chairs of Strategic Planning Group that will guide the Baylor family through the year-long university-wide process. Our guests today are Provost Nancy Brickhouse, and Chief of staff Tiffany Hogue. They'll serve in this role as co-chairs working with a diverse group of faculty, staff, and students. In the months ahead, they will listen and interact with Baylor family members throughout the university to think more broadly about Baylor's future. It's a busy time, it's an exciting time, and this is an exciting process to begin. And Dr. Brickhouse and Tiffany, really appreciate you taking the time to join us today.
Tiffany Hogue:Thank you, Derek. We're glad to be here.
Derek Smith:Wonderful to have you here. Well, it's a monumental undertaking that you all are about to begin. Multifaceted topic of conversation as well. So let's start off with something I hope is simple. Dr. Brickhouse, I'll start with you. What excites or intrigues you most about beginning this process?
Nancy Brickhouse:I think the thing that's really exciting about working on a strategic plan is it gives you the opportunity to kind of step back and look at both the work that you've been doing and the future directions of the university. So much of what we do on an everyday basis is just execute, execute, execute, execute on the strategic plan. And what it really does is it gives you an opportunity to step back and look at where were our successes and failures in the prior strategic plan and how does that inform how we're going to move forward, as well as how has the environment changed since the last plan was written? What are the external factors that have an impact on the work that Baylor should be doing? And so it is just a great time to... I like the big picture stuff, and it gives you an opportunity to stand back and look at the university as a whole and look at how the different parts connect to one another and what that means in terms of our steps forward over the next five or so years.
Derek Smith:What about you, Tiffany?
Tiffany Hogue:Oh, I would echo everything Provost Brickhouse said and add: we are doing a series of listening sessions this fall. We will have more than 90 listening sessions that will conclude by November 3rd. And we've invited every faculty member, every staff member, every student, and a number of external groups to share their ideas on Baylor's strategic priorities for the next few years. And we have had some really nice feedback from those sessions. When people leave the sessions, they say, "Thank you. It means a lot that you wanted to hear my ideas." And we do need to hear them. So it's just really wonderful to be a part of this process.
Derek Smith:Going to hear a lot of interesting things, and of course a lot of great people in the Baylor family to interact with as well. And Dr. Brickhouse, every strategic plan is distinct in its own way, but what are some of the key structural pieces that each one contains? And maybe particularly for people who have paid attention to Illuminate, they can see some of that as we move into this one.
Nancy Brickhouse:You're absolutely correct that strategic plans vary a lot depending on what it is you want to achieve. But I think one of the things that you'll see in every strategic plan is a statement of mission. And when we started this process, we looked at our mission statement and actually decided we want to keep it, that it does pretty well describe who it is we are and who we aspire to be. So every strategic plan is really fundamentally about how do you execute on your mission? Most strategic plans will describe particular actions that you want to take over the next five years. A lot of the times, it'll be metrics. But the one thing that I guess they all have in common is some sort of a statement about mission.
Derek Smith:That's great. And I failed to mention this at the top of the show: I know there's a timeline that you all are working on as you think about the Board of Regents meeting next spring, in May of 2024, that you sort of a hard deadline, if you will, on a lot of this. So a lot of what you're describing, these things will take place over time over these next few months.
Derek Smith:Tiffany, as we mentioned Illuminate, I think listeners to this program are really likely familiar with it. We could list a rundown of great successes that the university's enjoyed over the last five years or so. So as we embark on a new strategic plan, how does it consider the successes of past plans while charging that course forward?
Tiffany Hogue:Sure. That's a great question, Derek. Our next strategic plan will certainly build on the many successes of Illuminate and frankly on the two plans that proceeded Illuminate, which were Pro Futuris and Baylor 2012. Each of these three plans have helped position Baylor to be a preeminent research university with a Christian mission. And we would not have achieved our R1 status without the big goals articulated in each of those three plans. So our new plan will build on the successes of Illuminate and will remain committed to the four pillars that we articulated in Illuminate, which would be maintaining faithfulness to our Christian mission, remaining committed to transformational undergraduate education, continuing to build on our R1 status and devote resources to our research and scholarship done by our faculty, as well as continue to perform in nationally recognized programs and human performance through arts and athletics.
Derek Smith:You just mentioned those four. I don't know if those are, would you call them pillars or guides? But I think sometimes people wonder, well, when there's a new strategic plan, is that a new direction? So what you're saying is these are these guidelines that make sure that it's a path forward but not a new direction.
Tiffany Hogue:That's exactly right. Those are the four pillars that will not change with our next strategic plan. Any initiatives that come out of our new plan will enhance the four pillars I just named.
Derek Smith:That's wonderful. As we visit with Tiffany Hogue and Dr. Nancy Brickhouse here on Baylor Connections, and Dr. Brickhouse, I mentioned some of those successes at the top of the program, R1 research recognition, Give Light. I mean, those are two things that really, in a lot of ways, speak for themselves. Were there are other successes, or are there just aspects of that success, as we begin this strategic plan process, that you'd like to elaborate more on?
Nancy Brickhouse:Well, I do think that perhaps the big achievement that people will point to in terms of Illuminate was the achievement of R1 status. However, I also want to point out it's never explicitly called out in Illuminate. What Illuminate did was express ways in which we could move forward in terms of research and graduate education. And President Livingstone has always been very consistent in using very aspirational language in terms of what we wanted to achieve in terms of research and scholarship. And it just became apparent that that was a metric we wanted to achieve because as an external metric, it's not something that we can just claim. It's something that is recognized by an external organization that yes, you have achieved this high level of research and scholarship that puts you in top-tier universities across the country. You mentioned the campaign. I think the fact that Illuminate was so aspirational was one of the ways that made it possible for us to achieve a $1.3 billion and counting campaign, was that it inspired our donors to come alongside us because it's a way for them to root for us in very tangible ways. It was a success of the campaign that then in turn enabled us to find interested donors for 24 endowed chairs and counting, which then, again, drives that research engine that will enable us to continue to elevate what we're doing in the way of both research as well as in terms of education. So it's a loop that feeds on each other. And I hope that we can do this again. I feel like what was done with Illuminate... And I have to also point out Tiffany's being very modest, but she was part of the Pro Futuris, which laid the groundwork that provided us to have the celebrations today that we're having around our academic achievements. Those achievements really accumulated over a decade, not over just a few years.
Derek Smith:Compound interest almost, in a lot of ways. You can't reach for R1 after 2018 without that work that was done beforehand.
Nancy Brickhouse:That's right.
Tiffany Hogue:Well, thank you for your kind words. I would add one of the successes that has been meaningful for me has been to learn of the stories of Christian faculty around the country who are now keenly interested in what we are doing at Baylor because of our R1 status. That has brought us to new conversations that are really exciting for us. These are very faithful Christians who are also preeminent scholars in their field. And Baylor's interesting to those scholars in ways that it may not have been a few years ago.
Nancy Brickhouse:It used to be the case that Christian scholars would have to choose between being at a Christian school and being at a school that can support their research aspirations. And the real power of Baylor is that they no longer have to make that choice.
Derek Smith:That's great. And you mentioned the 24 endowed chairs. There's great new positions. And there's even beyond that, a lot of positions that have been open and filled by great people here, yeah.
Nancy Brickhouse:Absolutely. It's not just the endowed chairs. At all levels, we're hiring really, really well in terms of our faculty. And that's because of the faculty that we have here that are able to recruit them and attract them. Talent attracts talent.
Derek Smith:Absolutely. This is Baylor Connections. We are visiting with Baylor University Provost Dr. Nancy Brickhouse and chief of staff Tiffany Hogue, talking about Baylor's process to shape the next strategic plan for the university. And I'm curious, you're interacting with the Baylor family, you've started, there's plenty more to come, but are there common questions or thoughts you hear beyond those you've already mentioned?
Nancy Brickhouse:I think the most common one is, "Are we going in the same direction?" That's the one that I hear a lot. I don't know about you, Tiffany.
Tiffany Hogue:I would agree. It's really delightful to assure them we are not deviating from the four pillars we articulated earlier. We are just helping to bring our Baylor family together to talk about what our strategic priorities should be for the next five years that fit within those four pillars.
Derek Smith:You mentioned so many listening sessions. Obviously that's part of the answer to this question, but this is a pretty massive undertaking. So I'm curious, as you begin to undertake this, where do you begin? What are the levers that, if you pull those first, it starts to open up the path where you want to go?
Tiffany Hogue:Sure. I'll be glad to start there. President Livingstone named Provost Brickhouse and me as the chairs of our Strategic Planning Group. And we have a wonderful group of faculty and staff and students who make up that group. So we couldn't do this massive work without the help of some terrific colleagues across campus. We have our undergraduate student body president, the Graduate Student Association president, so there are student voices at the table. And we think that's very important. And we spent the summer planning the strategic planning process. So of course now we are well underway. We're about a third of the way done through these listening sessions. And then we have two other ways for folks to contribute their important ideas. I'll name one and then maybe ask the provost to name the third. All of our Baylor family constituents will attend a listening session, and then they're also invited to complete a survey that's available on our website. The survey asked the same four questions that we cover in the listening session, and the survey is open to anyone. So if parents want to complete one, if an alum wants to complete one, we welcome their great ideas.
Nancy Brickhouse:We also will be soliciting or are soliciting, I should say, white papers, which are 500-word summaries of work that is going on across campus. This is a place for big interdisciplinary ideas to be put down on paper for the Strategic Planning Group to consider as a potential direction for our plan. So this is for cross-cutting ideas, and we're simply asking for a high-level description of what the initiative is that's being proposed. Why should Baylor do it as opposed to some other school, and who's involved? And so that will be also a way for us to think about, more broadly across the institution, what are some areas where there is some energy around moving a particular initiative forward? One thing we know for sure is that the strategic plan won't be implemented if we don't have support from the people that are going to do the work. And so that's one of the reasons to look towards these white papers as a source of ideas of work that is either going on or people are beginning to think about where there's some energy around that idea that would make it potentially powerful for Baylor.
Derek Smith:And correct me if I'm not thinking this the right way, but I think of the signature academic initiatives like health data sciences, these interdisciplinary areas where it looked like we had momentum to build. Is it along that line of thinking?
Nancy Brickhouse:That's exactly right. That's exactly right. And we have a lot of people that have developed initiatives within those academic initiatives in Illuminate that are now going to come forward in this iteration of our strategic plan. I shouldn't call it an iteration. In this strategic plan, some of the work that came out of Illuminate is likely, I think, to rise to an initiative that we'll want to pay even more attention to in the new strategic plan.
Derek Smith:This is Baylor Connections. We are visiting with Provost Nancy Brickhouse and Tiffany Hogue, and there's at least two key elements to a strategic plan. One, there's the vision that comes from it, but then there's also the process, a good process that helps get you where you want to be. And Tiffany, I'll start with you. Let's talk about the process. What are some things we learned from Illuminate or Pro Futuris that, for lack of a better term, best practices for going about this?
Tiffany Hogue:Sure. Well, we learned from both of those plans that we have terrific faculty and staff and stakeholders who have great ideas. So we were very intentional about creating a listening phase that invited ideas and input from our Baylor family around the world. So we began the listening phase with a listening session with our Board of Regents at their July retreat, and then we will conclude the listening sessions in November. Then we will go through a period of discernment where we're looking through all of the data that we receive from the white papers, from the surveys, and from the listening sessions, and we begin to make recommendations to the President's Council about the initiatives that we think we should include in the new plan. The provost and I serve as liaisons between the President's Council, which is the senior leadership group at Baylor, and the Strategic Planning Group. And I always say, "If we're doing our job well, no group will ever be surprised." Everyone always knows what's happening. We'll be making decisions about what should be included. The Strategic Planning Group will be writing the plan. And then our charge is to deliver the new plan to President Livingstone by mid to late April of next year. She will in turn present that plan to the Board of Regents at their May meeting in 2024.
Derek Smith:You mentioned the word discernment. Obviously, you're going to be sifting through, really, just a massive amount of, probably a lot of really good ideas, a lot of really great thoughts, and try to figure out what's the best for either one of you. What does that process mean to you, and what do you anticipate as you think about that? I know there's a long way to go to get there.
Nancy Brickhouse:I think that one of the things that we're also doing is listening not just to internal constituents, but also to external constituents. So one of the questions that we're talking about in our listening sessions is drawing on President Livingstone's inaugural remarks, where she came out with the phrase that we now hear a lot: "The world needs a Baylor." And it's just such a beautiful statement of the aspirations of Baylor. But we're now asking kind of the follow-up question, and that is, "What does it need Baylor for?" What is it that Baylor is uniquely positioned to deliver on that is something that would meet the needs of the world? And so our discernment process will be both about looking at what is desired within the Baylor community, but also how it fits with the pain points in the world. And I guess I have to also say, I think it'll take a lot of prayer. It's going to be difficult decisions because you're making decisions between competing goods. And those are the hard decisions. Give somebody a choice between good and bad, and that's usually not that hard. But that's the kind of decision-making that will take place. But I think with the good guidance of my colleagues, and with alignment with our mission, that we can make some good decisions. And by the way, a strategic plan, it shouldn't tie your hands. Things can come up that you see as an opportunity that you don't necessarily have to walk away just 'cause it wasn't in the strategic plan.
Derek Smith:That makes sense.
Tiffany Hogue:I think an example of that would be who could have ever predicted COVID?
Tiffany Hogue:We launched Illuminate in 2018, and COVID wasn't, thankfully, on anybody's radar at that time. But through COVID, of course, we've all learned so much about resilience and also about online teaching and new ways of working. And all of that was not articulated in COVID, but we're learning from those experiences now, and we're working and teaching and forming our students in new ways because of that experience. So our new plan will try to be specific enough to provide direction while also remaining flexible enough to help position Baylor well to be available to meet needs that we don't yet know about.
Derek Smith:Well, to that end, you use the COVID example. Obviously that wasn't anywhere mentioned in Illuminate, but when you're dealing with complex issues, does it give you a framework to start thinking about these things? Is that the way you'd describe it?
Tiffany Hogue:It absolutely does.
Nancy Brickhouse:I think one of the things that we've done over the last several years that has been most impactful was instigated by COVID, and that was changes in the way that we did chapel. When we could no longer put all of our students in Waco Hall and give them a single chapel experience, we developed multiple ways of delivering a chapel experience, and we're retaining that because we think it's better for our students.
Tiffany Hogue:That's a great example. I think we have more than 40 different chapel opportunities now. They can be grounded in your major, if you've articulated a major. They can be centered on your home faith tradition, they can be grounded in your residence hall. And none of those options were available to the provost or to me when we were students. So I think we've become more willing to try big ideas and to, as we say, "fail quickly" and acknowledge that and move on. But I think we're a little more creative in our thinking as a result of what we've all had to learn through CVOID.
Derek Smith:This is Baylor Connections visiting with Tiffany Hogue and Dr. Nancy Brickhouse. And as we head into the final few moments on the program, I want to revisit a couple of these thoughts here as you visit with the Baylor family and then look towards next spring. Would you mind, Dr. Brickhouse, again, just sharing that timeline? Just the key spots on the timeline with us?
Nancy Brickhouse:The listening sessions should be complete before folks go home for Thanksgiving. And we'll be analyzing the results over the next few months to decide what will go into the plan. The Strategic Planning Group will be meeting to look at the data that's coming out of our various forms of listening and making recommendations to the President's Council. Then the writing will be done in the spring in order to be ready to present to the board in May. So by May of 2024, the plan should be completed and affirmed by the board. And then the important stuff happens, and that is the execution.
Derek Smith:Absolutely. That'll be here before we know it, for sure. Well, as we wind down, too, I'm asking, as the Baylor family has their opportunity to speak into this, like you said, whether it's listening sessions, whether it's online or even, I'm sure, as you get probably people come up to you with informal thoughts and ideas, those four pillars, again. People can use those to really shape their thoughts that they put down on paper or that they talk about with others.
Tiffany Hogue:Absolutely. First and foremost, we remain committed to our Christian mission. Nothing in the new plan will alter that. In fact, we think we'll come up with initiatives that even strengthen the way in which we live out our Christian mission. Number two is our commitment to transformational undergraduate education. That is a hallmark of Baylor, and that will continue. Number three is our commitment to remain R1 and to support our research and scholarship in the ways that our faculty need. And the fourth is to maintain our commitments to human performance through the arts and athletics.
Derek Smith:That's wonderful. Great ways to think about that as people consider different ideas to share. Well, Dr. Brickhouse, Tiffany, I really appreciate you taking the time. I know it's a really busy stretch with a lot of great things happening here at the university, but I know you all are busy, and I appreciate you taking the time to share with us today.
Nancy Brickhouse:Thank you so much, Derek.
Tiffany Hogue:Thank you Derek.
Derek Smith:Wonderful to have you both. Tiffany Hogue, Chief of Staff, and Dr. Nancy Brickhouse, Baylor University Provost, co-chairs of the Strategic Planning Group, guiding Baylor through the year-long process in shaping the next strategic plan. I'm Derek Smith. Thanks for joining us here on Baylor Connections. A reminder: you can hear this and other programs online at baylor.edu/connections, and you can subscribe on iTunes. Thanks for joining us here on Baylor Connections.