Baylor Regents Focus Discussion on Christian Environment, Research Aspirations
Board hears update from President Livingstone; members commit personally to funding The Store for next year, approve new Student Regent and closure of two aging University-owned apartments
WACO, Texas (Feb. 22, 2019) – At its regular February meeting, the Baylor University Board of Regents focused the majority of its discussion on the first pillar of the University’s academic strategic plan Illuminate, which focuses on Baylor’s unambiguously Christian educational environment.
Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., and Regent committees from Academic Affairs to Student Life discussed the ways in which the University will maintain its Christian heritage and commitment while expanding institutional focus on research, scholarship and discovery.
“There is a reason why an unambiguously Christian educational environment is the first pillar of our Illuminate academic strategic plan. It’s important that we ensure that this area of distinction will not be lost as we pursue our higher aspirations in the area of research,” President Livingstone said. “Our Christian heritage and Baptist roots form the backbone of who we are as an educational institution. Our distinct Christian mission frames and really gives purpose to all of the work we are doing at Baylor, from the faculty and staff we recruit and hire, to the research we engage in, to how we encourage our students as they discover their unique calling to offer their gifts and talents in the service of God and others.”
In her regular report to the Board, President Livingstone updated Regents on the University’s goals for the year, among them the implementation of Illuminate and progress on Baylor’s $1.1 billion Give Light philanthropic campaign.
As Baylor aspires to achieve “R1 status” among universities with the highest level of research activity, President Livingstone said faculty have submitted 26 innovative and strategic proposals during the first round of project solicitations for Illuminate. The proposals address one or more of the five signature academic initiatives in Health; Data Sciences; Materials Science; Human Flourishing, Leadership and Ethics; and Baylor in Latin America. They range from small seed-funding internal grants to suggestions for new institutes, centers or multi-year cluster hire programs to provide partnerships across specific research interests or disciplines.
“I am excited to see how we will continue to flourish as an institution through Illuminate as we grow our influence, not only in higher education but in the world, as a preeminent Christian research university,” Board Chairman Joel T. Allison, B.A. ’70, said. “These signature academic initiatives will amplify and expand our Christian commitment and position Baylor for leadership in fields of national and global importance.”
President Livingstone reported that the Give Light campaign – the public phase of which was launched in November – already has passed the mid-way point of fundraising, as of Jan. 31, at $563.3 million. The campaign undergirds Illuminate and impacts every aspect of campus life, from academics and athletics to student life and global engagement. The University hosted its first regional campaign launch event with the Baylor Family Feb. 1 in Washington, D.C., and will hold additional events in other cities throughout the year.
In other business, the Regent’s Student Life committee heard from a panel of undergraduate and graduate student leaders on student financial well-being, including a discussion on food insecurity, which can impact the student experience from academics to health. At Baylor, researchers have estimated that between 15 percent to 20 percent of students are food insecure, meaning they do not have reliable access to nutritious food. For at-risk populations such as first-generation, transfer or international students, the research showed that more than 92 percent had experienced at least some level of food insecurity. Researchers also found that it was difficult for students to admit being hungry at an institution where it appeared that other students had abundant resources.
To address this, the Paul L. Foster Success Center-Student Success Initiatives opened a free student food pantry in December 2017 called The Store, which provides students in need with access to supplemental, nutritious food, normalizing food resources so students can fully thrive in their personal and academic achievements at Baylor. Other initiatives in place to help students include The Fridge, a series of mini-fridges throughout campus where students who need it most can access quick snacks and healthy meals, and free mobile food pantries and free farmers markets available to students each semester.
The student panel discussion led the full Board to commit personally to funding The Store for the next year.
“This is a great example of the Board’s care and concern for our students and the selfless service that embodies our Regents,” Allison said. “We are certainly appreciative of our student leaders bringing this transformational program to the Board’s attention, and the continued leadership they provide for the student body.”
The Board also heard updates on how the University is continuing to address and improve the campus climate and on recent visits with members of the Texas delegation in Washington, D.C., and members of the state Legislature who are either Baylor alumni or represent the Waco area.
Board approves new Student Regent
Action taken by the Board included the approval of a new Student Regent. Beginning June 1, Cassidy Parshall, a junior Baylor Business Fellow and finance major on the premedical track from Colleyville, Texas, will serve a two-year term on the Board. She will serve her first year as an Honoris Causa (non-voting) Student Regent, while current Student Regent Malcolm B. Foley, doctoral candidate in religion from Rockville, Maryland, will serve his second year as a voting member of the Board. A new Faculty Regent will be announced during the May Board meeting.
Additional Board action on facilities
In other action, Regents approved the closure and demolition of two aging Baylor-owned apartment complexes. Cottonwood and Baylor Plaza I, both built in 1977, and Baylor Plaza II, built in 1979, are being closed after the spring semester due to declining occupancy and increasingly expensive repairs and high maintenance costs. Current residents have been informed of the closure and offered assistance, including a $250 moving credit, in selecting a residence in other Baylor-owned properties. After demolition this summer, the areas along South Second and Third Streets – approximately 8.4 acres – will be transitioned to green space.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.