Fall at Baylor: An Update from the President

August 30, 2012
August 30, 2012

Fall at Baylor

The fall semester is once again under way at Baylor. Already, our beautiful campus is a veritable beehive of energy and activity. Nearly 15,000 students, including more than 3,200 freshmen, have taken their rightful place in that Good Old Baylor Line. Our students are beginning — or resuming — the transformative educational experience that will prepare them to be life-long blessings to our hurting world.

This summer, a record number of incoming students attended Baylor Line Camp, an initiative that introduces first-year students to Baylor's traditions and mission. That introductory journey culminates with an inspiring visit to the village of Independence, birthplace of our beloved University. With six on-campus sessions, coupled with a separate outdoor adventure session in Colorado, we are filling every session of Baylor Line Camp as rapidly as we are able to increase capacity. Our Vice President for Student Life, Dr. Kevin Jackson, and his able and hardworking staff are once again considering ways to expand this wonderful program to accommodate ever-increasing student demand.

Over the course of the summer, our incoming students were also welcomed in smaller, more intimate settings. At send-off parties from coast to coast, the Baylor Parents League brought together incoming students and their families to help build relationships, celebrate this exciting new chapter in their lives and welcome everyone to the Baylor family. In total, 65 send-off parties were held in 20 states and the District of Columbia. Nearly 4,000 incoming and returning students -- and their families -- participated in these enormously popular Baylor family events.

Then, as families arrived on our campus for the launch of the fall semester, Move-in Day provided a vibrant example of the caring community that is at the heart of Baylor's mission. As vehicles (some with trailers in tow) ferrying our excited freshmen and transfer students pulled into campus, they were warmly welcomed by a friendly army of energetic volunteers. This year, an extraordinary cadre of 2,700 Baylor students, faculty, staff and local church members moved the arriving students' belongings into their respective rooms and immediately made these incoming Bears feel an integral part of the Baylor community. In offices across campus, and on the University's Facebook page, we've heard from grateful families who experienced their inaugural Baylor move-in.

Here are examples of what we heard:

  • "Not only was this a pleasant experience, my wife and I were amazed at how smooth and quick the move-in process was for our daughter. We feel very comfortable with our daughter attending a University that cares!"

  • "Everyone at Baylor was so positive, helpful and enthusiastic!"

  • "Truly the smoothest college move-in we have experienced. Thank you to all who helped and gave of your time! What a blessing!"

  • "Everyone made it so easy today! All the help was very much appreciated. Baylor was definitely the right decision!"

  • "Thank you, volunteers and students, for making the move-in for my son such a great experience! Did I lose a son or gain a Baylor Nation as our new family?"

We are deeply grateful for all those who answered the call to volunteer in support of this extraordinary effort.

Great Colleges to Work For

In light of Baylor's welcoming community, it is no surprise that for the second consecutive year — and for the third time in four years — Baylor University joined an elite group of 30 national universities named to The Chronicle of Higher Education's 2012 Honor Roll as one of the country's "Great Colleges to Work For." Indeed, this year, Baylor was one of only two universities to achieve recognition in 11 of the Chronicle's 12 categories. These heartwarming results demonstrate the high sense of calling and dedication that our faculty and staff bring daily to their service in the caring community that is Baylor.

For the World

In this context, we continue to consider the vital contribution that Baylor can make to the international conversation. In June, I had the privilege of accompanying three of our faculty members to Hong Kong and China to explore expansion of existing partnerships and to discuss future collaborations with universities in that pivotally important part of the world. We are thankful that Dr. Greg Leman, one of the founders of our outstanding i5 program (Immersion Into International Interdisciplinary Innovation) in the Hankamer School of Business, and Dean Shelley Conroy and Dr. Lori Spies from our Louise Herrington School of Nursing in Dallas are deeply respected in Hong Kong and China. Our delegation was warmly received by the City University of Hong Kong, The Chinese University, the University of Macau, Renmin University, Peking University and the University of International Business and Economics. Our hosts were exceedingly gracious as we examined various opportunities for increased global collaboration.

While in Hong Kong and China, we were grateful for the opportunity to meet with distinguished international alumni, including Dr. James Sai-Wing Wong and Dr. Daniel Chi-Wai Tse. Having graduated from Baylor at age 20 with a degree in mathematics and physics, Dr. Wong has enjoyed a remarkable international career in both higher education and business. It was a high honor for our delegation to present Dr. Wong with the Distinguished Achievement Award, the University's highest medal bestowed on Baylor graduates who have made a distinctive contribution to their particular profession, business or vocation.

For his part, Dr. Tse earned his bachelor's degree in mathematics from Baylor in 1960 and added a master's degree in physics in 1962. He served as president of Hong Kong Baptist University from 1971-2001, and introduced a student-exchange program with Baylor that remains vibrant to this day. The recipient of an honorary doctorate from Baylor in 1981, Dr. Tse continues his important work in higher education as Chair of the University Council of the University of Macau.

Welcoming New Faculty Members

With this global mindset, we are thankful that outstanding scholars from all over the world are drawn to Baylor by virtue of its special mission. They come to us — as is so beautifully articulated in our new Pro Futuris vision — "to search for new knowledge, not simply for the sake of knowledge, but for the love of all truth illuminated by our Christian faith." Earlier this month, we welcomed 55 new faculty colleagues from a variety of disciplines who have joined us from prestigious universities around the globe. Eager to contribute to the University's growing momentum, these new colleagues are supportive and enthusiastic additions to our strong community of teachers and scholars.

Among the new faculty is Dr. Dennis O'Neal, who is serving as Dean of our School of Engineering and Computer Science. Dr. O'Neal joins Baylor after an already-distinguished career, including serving as associate dean of research in the Dwight Look College of Engineering and deputy director for the Texas Engineering Experiment Station at Texas A&M. We are blessed to welcome Dr. O'Neal to Baylor.

Looking to the Future

These faculty members and our new students join us at a significant moment in Baylor's 167-year history. With Pro Futuris now in place, we begin the extraordinarily important work to advance the University's new strategic vision. The Baylor family came creatively together to provide critical input to our visioning process, but the University's future success will require continued hard work on the part of an active and engaged community dedicated to the realization of our vision. From the aspirational statements of Pro Futuris to areas of specification to acts of determination that will become the operational plans to guide future actions, we have erected a deliberate structure that enables everyone in our community to contribute positively to Baylor's forward progress.

We invite you to visit the website that provides information about Pro Futuris and the context in which our vision will flourish in the years to come.

The Growing Baylor Campus

Here on campus, progress over the course of the summer has been little short of astonishing. We have moved rapidly forward on the construction not only of the East Village Residential Community, but of our academic entities, the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC) and Marrs McLean Science Building. The latter will serve as the future home of our School of Education. We are also moving forward energetically with a variety of new athletic facilities, including the Jim and Nell Hawkins Indoor Tennis Center — for which the "Topping Out" ceremony was held this past Wednesday — and the Carlile Equestrian Building. To the delight of our student body, we have added new retail options in the SUB, such as Panda Express. We are also celebrating our strong community partnership with Waco and McLennan County as they have made a significant financial investment in the new on-campus Baylor Stadium project. Baylor Stadium, in turn, will serve as a powerful catalyst for future economic development along the Brazos River and bring positive national recognition to both Baylor and Waco.

We are deeply indebted to our generous alumni — Elizabeth and Drayton McLane Jr., Sheridan and John Eddie Williams, and Sheila and Walter Umphrey — who have stepped forward as founders to support this new stadium facility. With early construction activities already under way, Baylor Stadium will serve our student-athletes, our alumni and the greater Waco community for decades to come. We have every expectation of continued fundraising success, including a soon-to-be-announced campaign to engage the extended Baylor community. We are moving forward expeditiously to bring this soaring vision of the future to reality.

Fall Athletics

While we are excited about the future, our enthusiasm is firmly rooted in the present. Joining our outstanding women's soccer and volleyball teams, Coach Art Briles and our Baylor Bears kick off the 2012 football season against the Mustangs of SMU this coming Sunday (Sept. 2) at 5:30 p.m. at Floyd Casey Stadium. Throughout the season last year, Baylor Nation powerfully displayed its enthusiasm and support. At last year's season opener, more than 43,000 fans — the largest home-opening crowd since 1975 — spurred the Baylor Bears on to a thrilling win over TCU. Capturing the nation's attention, that victory jump-started a record-setting 10-win season for the Alamo Bowl Champion Bears.

This Sunday evening, wherever you are, proudly sport your green and gold. If you can, please join us at Floyd Casey for the traditional March of the Bears (three hours before kickoff) and then cheer the Bears on to their opening victory of the 2012 season.

We'll also be gathering for a community-wide Traditions Rally on Friday, Aug. 31, at 7:30 p.m. at Floyd Casey. Free and open to the public, that electrifying event will feature a pep rally with our student-athletes and coaching staff, a performance by country music recording artist Cory Morrow and a fireworks display. Please join us for both the Traditions Rally on Friday and the football game on Sunday.

Those unable to make it to Floyd Casey — and later in the year, to the Ferrell Center or any other of our athletic venues — will be pleased to know that our athletic teams will be showcased more than 50 times in the coming year when Baylor games are televised regionally and nationally. In addition to the wonderful exposure that this provides Baylor athletics, it offers us the chance to showcase the University during a 30-second television commercial. Our own Division of Marketing and Communications, under the leadership of Vice President for Marketing and Communications John Barry, has created a new spot for the coming year that will air for the first time during Sunday night's broadcast of the Baylor-SMU game. Featuring outstanding alumni, distinguished faculty, and remarkable undergraduate and graduate students, the television spot highlights the memorable Heisman acceptance speech of our beloved Robert Griffin III and shines a light on numerous areas of excellence and tradition across our campus. You can preview the commercial here: www.baylor.edu/beginning.

The Big 12

What a difference a year makes. Only a year ago, we were among the Big 12 Conference members fighting to secure the promising future of this great conference. Today, the Big 12 is stronger and more unified than ever. For this, we are deeply thankful. And so, we begin anew with the additions of TCU — with whom Baylor shares a 107-year-old football tradition — and West Virginia. Coming off its historic Year of the Bear achievements, Baylor is now, by God's grace and hard work, a powerful presence in intercollegiate athletics in our country.

* * * *

As we begin the new semester, we rejoice with the Psalmist who penned the mighty words, "The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." (Psalm 126:3)

May the Lord bless and keep you in the days and weeks ahead, and may God's favor continue to rest on Baylor University.

Ken Starr
Baylor President
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