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Students' character crucial to Baylor 2012's success

March 20, 2003

By Dana White

A top-tier university requires a top-tier student body, and through its 10-year vision Baylor wants to attract and guide that student body to a Christian understanding of stewardship, vocation and calling.

The vision's call for a student body with 'high academic merit, Christian character, commitment to service and potential for leadership' is a crucial factor achieving top-tier status.

According to James Steen, director of admission services, this does not mean Baylor only will want to have freshman classes with average SAT scores of 1300.

'That's not what we're trying to do,' Steen said. 'We are making small incremental changes in the qualifications of the incoming freshman classes.'

Steen said the small steps are proving to be immediately successful.

The freshman class' mean SAT score this year was 1180, the highest since Baylor began tracking test scores for incoming classes. Although many Tier One schools have higher averages, Steen said students at The University of Texas have a mean SAT score of 1200.

The vision calls for students who not only are qualified academically, but also possess more subjectively measured leadership and character qualities, particularly Christian character.

'The goal is not to recruit only Christians to Baylor,' Steen said. 'We are committed to recruiting students who ultimately want to, need to and should be at Baylor.'

This means that Baylor would not reject qualified students on the basis of faith, but would instead have programs and values that would be more appealing to students of Christian faith while maintaining a high academic standard.

Carrie McCurdy, a prospective student visiting campus, said this combination of Christian values with good academics is exactly what attracted her to Baylor.

Steen said an average SAT score of 1250 would be a long-term goal that depends on many factors.

'You don't just go find better students,' Steen said. 'Everything is built upon these changes. As Baylor improves, we will go out and present a much more exciting college opportunity to students.'

Steen said this means students, who 10 years ago would have gone to an out-of-state university or another top-tier school, can consider the new advantages Baylor will offer like the Baylor Sciences Building.

Alice Ann Spurgin, a prospective student who also is considering top-tier schools The University of Texas and Rice University, said her interest in Baylor stemmed from family ties to the school and not necessarily from the 2012 vision.

The sixth imperative in the vision calls for these top-tier students to learn to discern their calling to a Christian vocation and the importance of stewardship to society.

'Baylor 2012 emphasizes the desire to care about work as a vocation and life as a stewardship,' Dr. Douglas V. Henry, acting director of the Institute for Faith and Learning, said. 'In the Christian tradition there is a calling by God to serve the church and the world.'

Baylor Horizons is a program funded through the Lilly Endowment that is designed to encourage reflection about vocation. Henry said the program oversees vocation specific missions, the Crane Scholars Program and other programs that concentrate on the Christian concept of vocation.

According to Henry, these programs will help to maintain the top-tier student body.

'Students will see a richer and enriching, challenging, worthwhile education motivated by a view of life that is committed to larger things, spiritual things ... that you can't find at any institution up or down the road,' Henry said.

University ministries has created a strategic team to examine existing programs at Baylor and facilitate this integration of viewing life and careers. The team has been making changes in programs like Chapel and Welcome Week while working on creating new programs like the Baylor Line camps that will begin this summer.

Steve Graves, director of student missions and ministries, said the idea of a 'calling' is broken down into two areas. The primary calling is to be a disciple of Christ that goes to everyone, while the second calling is the to the individual to particular areas of service or careers.

'Hopefully, students will graduate with a sense of their calling -- an immediate calling for the next few years and also the tools to discern a calling for the rest of their lives,' Graves said.

This is already in place and will continue to develop in the coming years.

Chapel is designed to allow students to hear speakers who have answered their Christian calling and have achieved success in both secular and Christian fields. Graves said the plan to expand to include Chapel Fridays would definitely aid the application of the concepts of vocation discussed in chapel.

Dr. Todd Lake, dean of university ministries, said the current format of Chapel does not offer students the chance to reflect upon the guests and discuss issues raised in their speeches. This new program will offer students a chance to sit, reflect and talk with other students and a faculty or staff member about important issues like vocation and calling.

Reflection is going to be an important factor in implementing this idea of calling.

'We will teach students to cultivate the art, the practice of reflection,' Graves said. 'We want them to not just be involved, but to be stopping and thinking about their lives and actions. It will lead to a sense of fulfillment.'

Graves said the university is planning to build places on campus that would cater to this emphasis on reflection and would make existing places like Miller Chapel and Armstrong Browning Library increasingly available to students and faculty seeking relief from the stresses of college life.

'People are searching for purpose and meaning, and when you add the spiritual aspect it makes the importance of the search even greater,' Graves said.