The Waco Tribune-Herald: Baylor leaders say new strategy is ambitious, but provides flexibility

May 14, 2012

Article reprinted with the permission of the Waco Tribune-Herald


Saturday May 12, 2012

This is the last of a six-part series examining the progress of Baylor University's 10-year growth and visioning plan known as Baylor 2012.

Baylor University leaders touted the school's newly adopted strategic vision plan as an adjustable and ambitious framework that allows the university freedom for future growth and expansion.

Baylor's board of regents unanimously approved the plan, dubbed Pro Futuris, or "for our future," during its quarterly meeting in Waco this week.

The plan seeks to further Baylor's goals of merging its Christian values with academic excellence, building on the main goals of the previous 10-year plan, Baylor 2012.

It includes five aspirational statements defining the overall future direction of the university, such as providing transformational education that cultivates student leadership and dedication to service, and initiating compelling scholarship and research that address global challenges.

Each statement is accompanied by broad objectives.

For example, goals listed under "transformational education" include emphasizing health-related professional programs and increasing funding and support of engineering and science programs.

"You want it to be specific enough to give you guidance of where to go, yet broad enough for you to figure out the best way to get there," regent board chairman Buddy Jones said Friday. "So it may not be as specific as (Baylor) 2012 was, but it still gives strong guidance of where we need to go. How you get there is up for debate."

In contrast, Baylor 2012 included specific benchmarks like growing a $2 billion endowment and increasing the number of annual faculty research publications in major journals from 200 to 800.

Time frame

Also, Baylor 2012 was designed as a 10-year vision, while Pro Futuris is not tied to a specific time frame.

Elizabeth Davis, executive vice president and provost, said that gives the university wiggle room to re-evaluate the vision plan, if needed, or continue operating under it.

"It has the great strength of flexibility, but the flexibility is pointed to a continuing collaboration," Baylor President Ken Starr said. "We will therefore be able to respond to opportunities as they arise as we continue the conversation, beginning here on campus with faculty, staff and administration . . . to identify the specific goals that we then set out to accomplish."

Davis said the decision not to set specific objectives in the strategic vision does not mean the university won't have a tangible way of measuring progress.

She pointed to standard performance measurements like research spending and class size, which will help gauge Baylor's academic growth.

Also, the next step with the new vision plan in place is for each of the different academic units and departments on campus to develop their own individual objectives that mirror the major goals outlined in Pro Futuris.

"Those plans are going to be collaboratively determined, and we'll set out the plans and then the right metrics we should achieve," Davis said. "(For example), what should our 10-year plan be for research dollars, and what milestones would we look to and what infrastructure would we continue to put in place to be sure we're achieving that?

"But we know, again, that if something happens, we have the flexibility to alter the plan because the vision gives us that flexibility."

Davis said Pro Futuris should not be viewed as a timid contrast to Baylor 2012. The new vision plan continues Baylor's aggressive goal of transforming into a top-tier research university.

The university is currently rated as an institute with "high research activity" by the nationally recognized Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Pro Futuris, like Baylor 2012, aims to move the university into the "very high research activity" category.

"That's going to require a lot of discipline and focus, without losing the mentoring and the kind of education that our students deserve," Davis said.

"So really, in fact, it's not safe. It is ambitious."

Community feedback

The university collected feedback from students, faculty, and alumni in developing the new strategic vision. The full plan can be viewed on the university's website at

The regents also approved a $444.3 million operating budget for the 2012-13 school year, an increase of $15.8 million from the 2011-12 school year.

It includes an additional $19.6 million for merit and need-based scholarships, graduate assistantships and scholarships for graduate and professional students, according to university officials.

The budget also adds $12.7 million in personnel costs, which will cover eight new full-time faculty positions, 22 new faculty slots, merit raises and competitive stipends for graduate assistants, among other needs.