Presidential Perspective - June 25, 2020

June 25, 2020

Baylor Students, Faculty, Staff and Parents:

I want to open this week’s email by recognizing and celebrating our faculty. As I’ve mentioned previously, our faculty stepped up significantly in the spring as we quickly switched to online course delivery due to COVID-19. And over the past several weeks, the faculty have responded yet again to prioritize face-to-face instruction for our students this fall, while also introducing hybrid class models and enhancing the flexibility of our course delivery with online classes.

Many of our faculty have done this while also continuing their research and other scholarly activity. In fact, Baylor’s research momentum continues to accelerate in some exciting ways. As an example, a school-record four professors have received prestigious CAREER awards from the National Science Foundation this spring. These awards are the most prestigious honor NSF offers to early career researchers, and come with significant funding to boost the research endeavors of this year’s winners: Kenneth Befus, Ph.D., assistant professor of geosciences; Elyssia Gallagher, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Stanley Ling, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical engineering; and Michael Scullin, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience.

Our previous Baylor high was two NSF award winners in a semester. Meaningful research grants like these and others earned by faculty across campus continue to raise the profile of the University and advance our Illuminate goals.

Some other news to share ...

  • Speaking of our research, a new Baylor psychology study found that people felt less gratitude when they read about receiving a favor along with many other individuals, as opposed to a favor given only to themselves. Study participants also were more likely to have a higher opinion of a benefactor who singled them out for a favor rather than giving a group benefit. This is because they thought that the benefactor who helped them as individuals cared more about them, said study author Jo-Ann Tsang, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience. Also, when the motivations of the benefactor were revealed, participants felt more gratitude and indebtedness to a compassionate benefactor than they did to a selfish one.
  • On the COVID-19 front: A reminder that face coverings are now required in all Baylor buildings. This precautionary measure is in response to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the Waco area. Based on projected trends, our face covering requirement will extend into the fall semester as we continue to prioritize an on-campus educational experience beginning Aug. 24. We are Family First!
  • Two items also related to fall: Over the next week, we will have a significant number of seats moved from hybrid to face-to-face courses, as well as new seats available in face-to-face course offerings. Students, be sure to check your fall schedules frequently in order to maximize your preferences. Also, I will email some important information to you later this evening regarding the fall academic calendar.
  • During protests following the senseless killing of George Floyd, people began joining together to sing an array of old freedom songs and protest spirituals, hundreds of which can be heard in the digital collections of the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project at Baylor. I want to share project founder Robert Darden’s list of 10 of the most influential, enduring and beloved freedom songs and protest spirituals, including the history behind them and links to listen to all 10 songs in the digital collections. Please take a moment to learn about – and listen to – these powerful musical pieces that continue to inspire and encourage us today.
  • A special thanks to faculty members Malcolm Foley, Greg Garrett and Mia Moody-Ramirez for a thoughtful and engaging Conversation Series event yesterday on race, peacemaking and conciliation. If you weren’t able to join us live, please take the time to listen to the archived video online – you won’t be disappointed. Mark your calendar for July 8 at 3:30 p.m., as I invite the same panelists back to answer many of your questions from yesterday.
  • It’s vital – and our civic duty – to ensure that we, including Baylor students, are all accurately counted in the 2020 U.S. Census. Even though you may have returned home after spring break, we are asking those who lived in off-campus housing to complete the Census using the address they would have traditionally been staying at on April 1. It takes about five minutes to fill out the Census with your household information and can be done online at my2020census.gov. If you have any questions or need assistance, please email census2020@wacotx.gov or call 254-750-5745. Remember that Census data affects many things that college and university students rely on – including financial aid – with more than $800 billion in overall federal funding to be distributed annually for the next 10 years. In addition, getting counted is an important way to contribute to the Waco community. More information is available at whyicountwaco.org.
  • After extended conversations with and consultation of seminary faculty, alumni and friends and with enthusiastic support from within Baptist life and beyond, Baylor’s Truett Seminary has announced the formation of a Wesley House of Studies, meeting a need for students and churches from Wesleyan traditions who in recent years have increasingly turned to Truett for theological education. The new initiative will be led by founding director Dr. William J. Abraham, a gifted teacher and renowned theologian who will provide the spiritual, practical and intellectual resources for students as they prepare for the gospel ministries to which they are called.

As we continue during these uncertain times, I focus on the one thing that’s true and certain: Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”—Proverbs 3:5-6

Praying for you daily,

Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.
President

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