President Sloan Addresses National Science Foundation Education Summit

April 18, 2003

On March 26, 2003, President Robert B. Sloan Jr. presented the following remarks to National Science Foundation Director Dr. Rita Colwell in Washington as part of a Texas education summit sponsored by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Senator Hutchison, Director Colwell, and distinguished Texas colleagues, thank you for your attendance at today's summit.

My name is Robert Sloan, and I have been president of Baylor University for nearly 8 years. I want to thank you for allowing me to join you in describing the commitment of my institution to the research priorities enumerated by the National Science Foundation. I am pleased to join my fellow Texans in expressing a collective commitment to scientific inquiry and discovery that I am confident can rival that of any region in the country.

Baylor is the oldest university in our state. It has been in continuous existence since its chartering by the Republic of Texas in 1845. For over a century-and-a-half we have delivered high-quality undergraduate education from a distinctive faith-based perspective, and our commitment to that unique community of learning remains even today. Yet, our future is defined not merely by our rich heritage, but by the heightened aspirations of our new ten-year vision--an expansive project that we call Baylor 2012.

Baylor 2012 pushes us to embrace fully the challenge of research--not merely to synthesize and transmit existing knowledge, but to actively engage in its discovery. This marks something of an institutional change for us--but one that we believe is both consistent with our mission and achievable through targeted investment. Much of the investment we will make over the next ten years in the development of a robust research culture will be in areas particularly germane to our discussion today: math, science, and engineering.

Even as we speak, our commitment to increasing levels of scientific inquiry is being exemplified by the emerging structure of our new sciences complex. A half-million square-feet in size with a price tag of $103 million, the sciences building represents our most visible recent investment in the future of research at Baylor. The careful articulation of our vision and the tangible moves toward its realization have yielded several early successes in science faculty recruitment. Taken together, our significant investments in infrastructure and intellect portend future excellence in the sciences on an order heretofore unknown at Baylor University.

Please allow me to address myself directly to several of the six National Science Foundation priority areas and briefly describe pertinent activity within each area. First, with regard to the priority area of "Information Technology Research," The University is currently leveraging an NSF grant to establish Baylor's connection to Internet2. Coupled with our pursuit of a 128-node parallel computer, the university will exploit this connectivity for productive collaborative research efforts with institutions throughout the state.

Second, within the priority area of "Mathematical Sciences," Baylor has moved ahead swiftly in the first year of the vision to hire several accomplished junior and seasoned faculty members. These strategic recruiting successes have strengthened our capacity in both pure and applied mathematics and provide a strong basis for further interdisciplinary research.

Third, the NSF area of "Biocomplexity in the Environment" presents significant opportunity for the university to exploit its historical research strengths in a number of fields. For example, research into the development of ethanol applications is a long-standing and successful venture for our Institute for Air Sciences, and Baylor faculty are developing an emerging research expertise in atmospheric chemistry. Additionally, the university's expertise across a number of fields in water research has led to innovative developments in modular, mobile water treatment units--useful not only in securing water treatment facilities in the event of national disaster, but also for use in such transient testing environments as fields of battle. Further, a collaborative initiative with Texas A&M University currently leverages the power of quantum optics in a vital national security role--the detection of anthrax spores. Taken together, these examples speak to the university's breadth across a number of environmental disciplines and the potential for contributing to the nation's prosperity and security.

Finally, within the priority area of "Work-force for the 21st Century," Baylor maintains an abiding commitment to preparing technologically capable workers.

The facts about scientific preparedness are well-known but bear repeating. Stanford economist Paul Romer estimates the cost of not providing sufficient math, science, and engineering graduates in the trillions of dollars in economic growth by mid-century. Baylor is particularly well-positioned to address our critical shortage of future scientists because of on-going success with initiatives like the U.S. Department of Education's GEAR-UP program. A collaborative effort between Baylor University and several Central Texas governments and non-profits, the program covers the range of educational development from kindergarten through the doctoral level, providing outreach ranging from an undergraduate research program to a summer initiative for secondary school teachers. This successful program addresses the express objectives of the National Science Foundation while pursuing the goals of President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" initiative.

As we ramp-up our research efforts, Baylor will be pursuing a highly-targeted, niche-based scientific agenda with the potential for broader real-world application. I am pleased that so many of the areas that we have chosen to target accord with the priority areas of the National Science Foundation. It was truly an honor to share some of our efforts with you today.

Thank you.

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