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Baylor adjusts 2012 goals

Oct. 28, 2005

by TIFFANIE BLACKMON, staff writer

Four years into Vision 2012, the Baylor community has seen many of 2012's imperatives become visible realities. Now, people invested in the university are wondering where this blueprint for Baylor's future is headed.

"Some of the imperatives will be accomplished by 2012," said Will Davis, chairman of the Baylor Board of Regents. "But understand, it may be 2015, 2018, even 2020 for some of them. Everything envisioned under the blueprint won't be accomplished by 2012, but they are still very valid goals for the university."

Then-President Robert B. Sloan outlined Baylor's vision for its future in 2001 and introduced the university and its constituents to a detailed description of imperatives. Those imperatives would guide the reshaping of Baylor over the next ten years and beyond.

"Baylor 2012 remains the officially adopted direction of the university," Sloan said. "It was unanimously adopted in 2001 and has been unanimously reaffirmed by the regents since then and in addition to that, the Faculty Senate has unanimously endorsed it."

With that endorsement, Sloan began pushing 2012.

"(2012) was approved in September of 2001, but some of the imperatives included in 2012 were already under way and when it really kicked off in January," said Baylor spokesman Larry Brumley. "So you've got four years essentially that we are not quite halfway through it."

Others feared Vision 2012 would turn Baylor into an unrecognizable entity, too large to continue as the tight-knit Christian institution it has traditionally been.

"One thing that has made Baylor an attractive place is the close relationships between students and faculty, staff, and alumni, it's a quality that makes Baylor special," said Interim President William D. Underwood. "I am determined to see that quality preserved and nothing about 2012 requires us to lose that quality."

Underwood wanted Baylor to remain a student-centered university where "we measure our successes by impressing on the lives of our students and the impressions they leave in the world."

However, with six years left in the initiative, where are we in the process of moving toward tier one status institution?

"Last year Baylor tied in position for number 78 and 25 percent of the ranking score is in a category called peer assessment, which is a survey of presidents, provosts, and deans of admission in our same category," said Van Gray, Associate Vice President for Strategic Planning and Improvement.

While Baylor tied at 78 according to US News and World Report rankings with a score of 3.2 out of a possible 5, other schools currently ranked as first tier institutions had equal or lesser peer assessments than Baylor. However, top tier institutions have a 3.5 or better.

"If we could go from a 3.2 to a 3.4 or a 3.5 in this peer assessment, which is sort of like an external review, a reputation score within the industry, then things would be consistent with the mission we are striving for," Gray said. "If that occurs, our movement in the rankings is moving in a positive direction, though it definitely is a difficult task."

Members of the Baylor community, who uphold the components of the Vision 2012, should understand the projects behind the initiatives are well underway. However, much of the administration agreed adjustments to 2012's timetable were in order after taking a harder look at the universities monetary issues.

"The financial condition at Baylor is in much better shape than it was and we are in a lot better condition than we were when 2012 first began." Davis said. "2012's objectives are not being altered, but course corrections and timetables are being adjusted to fit in with the expenses."

Davis believed several factors contributed to Baylor's economic climate, but the imperatives outlined by 2012, were still attainable goals.

"No one is frustrated, no is not fully committed to this vision," Davis said, "We are just going down a more realistic road."

Commitments to the vision such as Davis' own seem to be widespread across university administration.

"Baylor has very strong commitments for Baylor's stated mission through the imperatives," Gray said. "The timetable is aggressive but visions should be of the stretched nature."

Four years into Vision 2012, where is Baylor University and where does the institution go from here?

"In some areas of 2012 we are ahead and in others we are behind," said Larry Lyons, Senior vice Provost and dean of Baylor's graduate school. "For instance, the student to faculty ratio is ahead of where we need to be and the ratio is reducing more rapidly than where we intended it to be."

Baylor intended to reduce the student to faculty ratio from 19:1 to 13: 1.

"We've reduced it now to about 16 (students) for every faculty member. That has been largely accomplished because the enrollment dropped a bit, which was anticipated by 2012 that our undergrad enrollment would shrink a little bit," said Brumley. "We had a couple of down years enrollment-wise, which has come up in recent years with student population and creating 70 new faculty positions."

Changes in enrollment and new faculty hirings are two means why this imperative has seen such progress in the two to three years since it was implemented. However, the money required to hire additional faculty could be the "most expensive component of 2012", Brumley said.

Expenses, which could possibly be cured by extensive monitoring and investment of university funds and how to handle them, has been on the agendas of much of the administration's meetings.

"In terms of the endowment, we are behind and if we continue building endowment at that rate, we will be behind in that effort," Lyon said.

Administration has been open about the financial difficulties of the university but stress efforts are being made to take a step toward improvement and out of debt.

Imperative 10, which focuses on athletic achievement and excellence at Baylor, is a major source of revenue and a significant avenue of visibility for the university.

"Our athletic programs greatly enrich student life as well as the overall visibility of the University," Sloan said.

"The unprecedented successes of Baylor athletics in the past few years highlighted by multiple conference championships, our first two NCAA team national championships with men's tennis and women's basketball, and multiple individual NCAA championships seem to be continuing as we are now witnessing the revitalization of our football program."

Nevertheless, as Baylor's athletic programs continue laying foundations toward tradition and success, so has Baylor's academic community.

Baylor refocusing the institution's academic environment and is enhancing the quality of students at Baylor by measuring student's SAT scores and entering freshman's high school class rankings.

Faculty and provosts have also worked to integrate student living and learning by moving faculty into some of the dorms such as the North Village for engineering students and Memorial and Alexander, which are reserved for students in the Honors College and the Interdisciplinary Core program, or BIC.

"Faculty members who live in those residences now bring academic elements into the residential experience along with more resident chaplains in all the major residence halls to help enhance student community life," Brumley said.

New academic programs have been implemented to enhance the institution's quality of education and the value of a Baylor degree.

Great Texts, a curriculum, which teaches from the works of western philosophical thinkers such as Plato and Socrates weighted against the human experience are courses now in place at Baylor.

Also, additional doctoral and master's programs are being developed alongside the push for more student and faculty research are raising the bar, academically.

"All of these successes, coupled with Baylor's increased visibility as a distinctively Christian institution committed to academic excellence have surely increased the demand for a Baylor education," Sloan said.

"However, we have to adjust the details and dates of Baylor 2012, as always happens with a ten year vision or plan, the broad successes of Baylor 2012 are clearly evident in the successes of our faculty, our students and in the obvious demand in the market place for a Baylor education."