Baylor University was established before Texas was a state – it is the oldest continuously operating university in Texas. From early governors and legislators to supreme court justices and state education leaders who championed the establishment of other institutions of higher learning in the state, Baylor's rich history has provided a firm foundation for its bold future.
Located in a revitalized Waco, Texas, Baylor University offers a vibrant and diverse community, evident not only among the students themselves, but also in the breadth of activities and opportunities for engagement across campus.
Though 15 years have passed since Dr. Linda Livingstone last served Baylor as associate dean of graduate programs in its Hankamer School of Business, she looks forward to cultivating one of the University's greatest strengths, a vibrant and inclusive campus, hand-in-hand with Baylor's nearly 17,000 students.
"The students are at the core of what we’re doing here. I look forward to meeting with student leadership and getting to know them because they’re a great conduit to understanding what's on students' minds, what they're excited about, what they're concerned about," Livingstone said. "I want to know which activities and events students are participating in, because I want to be present."
A long-time educator, it is no secret that Livingstone's heart belongs to students. And she believes that Baylor students reflect the intelligence, beauty and complexity in God’s creation.
"From a Christian perspective, our view is that all people are valued in God’s eyes," Livingstone said. "All people have unique gifts and talents that are brought to bear in God's eyes and we need to find ways to support and affirm all individuals who are part of our community."
Led by the mission of the University "to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community," Baylor is committed to supporting and celebrating diversity among its student population as well as its faculty and staff. During the 2016-17 academic year alone, speakers, artists and musicians from a vast range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds imbued student life with that spirit of inclusion and celebration. Students, as well as faculty, staff and community members enjoyed a robust calendar of events and programming surrounding Black History Month and Women's History Month, as well as cultural celebrations such as Gateway to India, Fiesta! and Chinese New Year.
"Wrapped around the academic endeavors are other important experiences that add to a student's ability to find and pursue their purpose in life and to grow into the person God intends them to be," Livingstone continued. "At Baylor, those experiences include interactions with world-renowned faculty, participation in hands-on research, opportunities to cultivate faith, and horizon-expanding ministry and service."
The University also is continuously working to make a Baylor education financially possible for all students, through judicious stewardship of resources as well as growth in academic scholarships and other forms of financial assistance. Moving forward, President Livingstone will continue to prioritize the recruitment and retention of students from wide-ranging ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and from every socioeconomic stratum.
"It has been an important effort of the University over the last several years to recruit and support low- and middle-income students and also students from diverse backgrounds," Livingstone told the Texas Tribune in a recent Q and A. "In fact, about 39 percent of this year’s incoming freshman class represent diverse backgrounds – the most diverse incoming class in the University’s history. Also, about 92 percent of our students receive some form of financial aid and even as a private institution, Baylor's tuition remains lower than that of our in-state peers like Rice, TCU and SMU and comparable private universities across the country like USC and Cornell. We’ve worked hard to try and figure out how to make Baylor financially possible for lower-income students. We are deeply committed to this and we will continue to look at ways we can support first-generation or 'First-in-Line' students here at Baylor."
This priority took another step forward with Baylor’s partnership early this year with other top universities such as Harvard, Duke and UC-Berkeley in the American Talent Initiative to enroll and educate an additional 50,000 high-achieving low- and moderate-income students by 2025. It is further evident in the investment in students and the nurture of a uniquely vibrant campus by the University and its alumni and friends. In the past few years, members of the Baylor Family have supported the construction and refurbishment of beautiful, state-of-the-art facilities across campus such as the $100 million Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation, dedicated in 2015; the $10 million renovation of Cashion Academic Center to house the Department of Communications Sciences and Disorders and its Speech-Language and Hearing Clinics, opened in 2016; and, the Beauchamp Addiction Recovery Center, located in the heart of campus, that will open in fall 2017.
"I have been sharing with parents and new students at Freshman Orientation that the campus itself has changed so much with new facilities and refurbished facilities," Livingstone said. "It means that the academic and campus life experience is just that much richer for students. The University has really expanded the types of programs students can engage in, and Baylor has hired faculty who are noted in their fields, great in the classroom, who are doing really interesting and groundbreaking research."
Dr. Livingstone says she will spend her summer getting to know and engaging with other administrators, faculty, staff and constituents of the University. And with the start of the fall 2017 semester on the horizon, she eagerly awaits her second "first day" as President.
"I started on June 1, but the first day of classes is in August. I plan to be out there with the new students when they arrive the week before classes, meeting them, meeting their families and helping them get settled," Livingstone said. "And on that first day of school, I expect to spend a lot of time out and about, greeting returning students and just enjoying that electricity and anticipation all across the Baylor campus."