Baylor Board of Regents Approves Ph.D. in Anthropology, Hears Updates on University Initiatives, Discusses Current State of Higher Education

Fountain Mall Tents
Baylor University has invested in 16 premium portable tent structures located throughout campus, including six on Fountain Mall, to provide space for studying and dining in compliance with COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. Tents include A/C and access to Wi-Fi. (Morty Ortega/Baylor University)
Nov. 6, 2020

Regents updated on Illuminate, Commission on Historic Campus Representations, student well-being and Lab to Market Collaborative

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-709-5959
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WACO, Texas (Nov. 6, 2020) – During its regular fall meeting, the Baylor University Board of Regents approved a new Ph.D. in anthropology and heard reports on the Illuminate strategic plan and Give Light comprehensive fundraising campaign, the Commission on Historic Campus Representations, student well-being and the Lab-to-Market Collaborative. The meeting also included retreat-related discussions, including on the current and future states of affairs in higher education and strengthening the University’s support for students of color.

The Board held a hybrid meeting with some Regents meeting in person in one of the University’s portable tent-like structures on campus and others joining via Zoom. Before arriving on campus for the meeting, Regents were required to undergo rapid COVID-19 testing at the University's Respiratory Clinic. The in-person meetings also followed University policy requiring the wearing of face masks and social distancing.

Board approves Ph.D. in anthropology

In Board action, Regents approved a Ph.D. in anthropology that specializes in the anthropology of health. The degree program will capitalize on Baylor's strong academic reputation for health studies and its commitments toward healthcare-related research globally as part of the Illuminate strategic plan and its aspirations as a Tier 1/Research 1 university.

President's update

President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., presented a mid-year report on her presidential goals, particularly those related to the impact of COVID-19. She reported that the budgetary actions taken in June through a combination of cost avoidances, cost reductions and revenue reallocations helped secure the ongoing academic operations and financial stability of the University entering the fall amid the pandemic. However, she said that COVID-19 expenditures are running higher than originally budgeted, particularly related to testing, campus infrastructure modifications, technology and other unbudgeted expenditures.

"The prudent budgetary actions that went into effect in June were difficult but also necessary given the many unknowns and uncertainties due to COVID-19. They have provided us with the continuity to fulfill our core academic services and historic Christian mission in an on-campus educational environment," President Livingstone said. "With that said, we continue to experience significant uncertainty as we head into the end of the year and prepare for the spring semester. We recognize that this semester has been incredibly difficult on our students, their mental health and overall well-being, which could have future impacts on retention and student success. We must remain judicious as we face continued economic pressures, which are impacting all of higher education."

To assist in addressing many of these financial challenges, the Board previously approved a tuition increase of 2% for the 2021-2022 academic year during an October teleconference. The overall increase for students living on campus will be 1.58% once room and board are factored into the cost of attendance, as there will not be a cost increase in those areas. Additionally, there will not be any increases in lab fees and other ancillary fees, summer school rates or Law School tuition.

In recognition of the economic challenges that many families face due to COVID-19, the tuition increase is the lowest for Baylor in at least 20 years and significantly less than the five-year plan of 4% annual increases. Baylor also eliminated the distinction between tuition and the general student fee by combining both into a single tuition rate.

President Livingstone also reported on the University's public COVID-19 dashboard, which continues to show a relatively low number of active cases and a low overall positivity rate as compared to the beginning of the fall semester, when Baylor experienced a high number of positive student cases. The lower rates have allowed Baylor to create more student events that balance COVID-19 risks with the mental health of students. Like most of the country, however, Baylor has experienced a slight increase in cases over the past several days, but the University believes the current situation is manageable based on its comprehensive processes and lessons learned from earlier in the semester.

"We were able to respond quickly to reverse that early fall trend by providing a comprehensive educational, testing, contact tracing and treatment program on behalf of student health and well-being," President Livingstone said. "I commend our multidisciplinary Health Management Team for helping effectively manage the virus on our campus, and I thank our students, faculty and staff for participating in COVID-19 testing, following recommended actions in isolation or quarantine to take care of themselves and others, and diligently wearing face masks and practicing social distancing to allow us to have a safe, healthy and in-person fall semester."

President Livingstone also shared additional mid-year updates on other goals, including:

  • Strengthening the connections of Baylor graduates to the University during the pandemic in various ways, from leveraging technology for virtual alumni events to improving relationships with alumni constituent groups inside and outside the University; and
  • Fostering an environment through which racial equality is inextricably linked to the University's mission and in which students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of color know they are valued and loved throughout the Baylor community. Among steps taken is Baylor's first mandatory diversity educational program for all students, faculty and staff, which is aligned with the University's Christian mission and values and will be released next week for completion by the end of the semester.

Retreat discussions

The Board moved its annual retreat from July to the November meeting, which featured a strategic discussion of Illuminate and the University's goal to be recognized as the preeminent Christian research university, which includes reaching Tier 1/Research 1 status. President Livingstone provided an update for the Board on Baylor's progress on the four Illuminate pillars (Christian Environment, Transformational Education, Research and Scholarship, and Arts and Athletics) and the five academic initiatives (Health; Data Sciences; Materials Science; Human Flourishing, Leadership and Ethics; and Baylor in Latin America). She also presented an update on the Give Light campaign that undergirds the strategic plan. More than $905 million has been raised toward the $1.1 billion goal as of Oct. 31, 2020, including 11 endowed chairs through the Baylor Academic Challenge.

Regents also brought in EAB – a nationally known firm that uses research, technology and consulting to address strategic and operational challenges within the education industry – for a broad discussion of the current landscape in higher education, including COVID-19's impact on enrollment, technology and campus life, as well as the mission of equity in higher education.

Commission Update

In July, the Baylor Board of Regents appointed 26 members of the Baylor Family – faculty, students, staff and alumni – to serve on the Commission on Historic Campus Representations and “develop a set of observations for consideration by the Board about how to best communicate and reflect the complete history of Baylor University for current and future generations.” As communicated previously, a change in the name of the University is not being considered.

Over the past four months, the Commission has faithfully carried out its charge, undertaking a complete historical review of the University’s founding and early years in Independence and Waco, and analyzing the symbols placed on campus in recognition of this history. Board Chair Mark Rountree, B.B.A. '86, M.T.A. '87,  provided a brief update to the Board on the Commission’s progress, which will culminate with a full report from the Commission provided to the Chair and President in mid-December outlining key facts and recommendations based on the group’s review. In January, the Board will consider the report and expects to release the findings and actions steps in Spring 2021.

“The work of the Commission has been marked by mutual respect, humility and a deep desire to recommend to the Board for consideration actions that will unify and strengthen the entire Baylor Family and ensure that Baylor’s students, faculty and staff of color more fully and completely feel welcome and a part of the Baylor Family," Rountree said.

Other campus updates

  • Provost Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D., provided an overview of the University’s tenure process and led a discussion on academic freedom.
  • The Regents took part in a facilitated discussion on strengthening the University’s support for students of color.
  • Leadership of the Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA), the University's first Employee Resource Group, provided an update on its strategic initiatives and efforts to engage and support Black faculty and staff on Baylor campuses.
  • The Regents heard reports on the fall semester undergraduate student experience amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which included results of the New to BU survey for freshmen and reports from Student Body President Sutton Houser and Graduate Student Association President Katie Adair.

Lab to Market Collaborative

Regents also heard an update from Kevin Chambliss, Ph.D., vice provost for research, and Todd Buchs, assistant vice provost for technology commercialization and industry engagement, on the growth over the past year of Baylor's Lab to Market Collaborative, an innovative technology commercialization initiative within the Office of the Vice Provost for Research that translates research into products and services that have real-world impact. L2M supports Baylor’s Tier 1/R1 research vision through a partnership between the University, Blueprints Lab and Waco Ventures that leverages the unique strength of each organization to efficiently translate research ideas into products and services that address meaningful challenges. Also presenting were Terry Maness, D.B.A., dean of the Hankamer School of Business, and Bradley Norris, senior lecturer in entrepreneurship and corporate innovation and L2M operational lead in the business school. 

Transformative sources of funding will further enhance L2M’s ability to move products to market. For example, Norris recently received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to support L2M. The grant funds a prototyping function that moves technologies into the marketplace and funds the necessary labor force to analyze which technologies are worthy of such investment. Waco and McLennan County community leaders, the Waco Industrial Foundation and the Waco Chamber of Commerce lent letters of support for the grant.

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 19,000 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 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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