Presidential Perspective - February 25, 2021
Baylor Students, Faculty, Staff and Parents:
The challenges of last week’s Winter Storm Uri placed a tremendous burden on our state, city and campus. Loss of power and water, property damages because of burst pipes, families bunkering down in warming shelters and interruptions to the food supply chain added to the collective traumas we continue to endure as a community in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, the resiliency shown by our students, faculty and staff in caring for our neighbors – both inside and outside the Baylor Family – continues to inspire me. Stories from across campus and throughout our community showed how we were able to extend Christ’s love to take care of each other and get through the storm. We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to our faculty and staff, and particularly our diligent Baylor Dining and Facilities teams, who worked throughout the week to ensure our students were fed and damage across campus was repaired. As you may have seen in last Friday’s recap of the Board of Regents meeting, the Board passed a resolution recognizing these essential workers, and I hope you will join me in thanking each of them for their commitment to serving our campus community.
An important update on the Spring Academic Calendar: Provost Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D., communicated with the faculty yesterday that we face a challenge of addressing the lost instructional time due to last week’s winter storm. After consultation with many academic groups, we have determined that the best approach is for us to reclaim March 9 (previously held as a Wellness Day) and April 29 (previously scheduled as a Study Day) as instructional days. Our plan is to not schedule any make-up instructional days beyond these two. Students should pay close attention to instructions from their respective faculty members.
Some additional updates for this week:
- As expected after the winter storm, we have experienced an uptick in COVID-19 cases as we resumed regular testing. As our Health Management Team closely monitors the trends, we must keep our guard up against this virus: Get tested weekly, wear your face mask (especially indoors around others), watch your distance and wash your hands. I did notice how busy the testing tents have been this week as everyone gets back in the routine of weekly testing. That’s a testament to our students, faculty and staff, who continue to exhibit a positive attitude and appreciation of the focus on keeping our campus healthy and in-person.
- Next Tuesday, March 2, will mark the beginning of “Perspectives on Our History,” a three-week program being held as part of the Baylor Conversation Series. These online discussions come in response to the final, independent report of the Commission on Historic Campus Representations, which was officially accepted by the Baylor Board of Regents last week. As members of Baylor’s leadership engage in considering the Commission’s recommendations — and preparing for the public release of the Commission’s full report by the end of March — I am inviting the Baylor Family to join together in three conversations that follow the same journey through history undertaken by Commission members and on which the Regents and Administration are traveling today. I believe engaging in civil discourse, and forthrightly and fully addressing Baylor’s history, will lead to a season of renewal and new beginnings on our campus as we take measures to address all historical aspects of the Baylor story and celebrate the value of all members of the Baylor Family in fulfillment of our Christian mission and in keeping with our Christian witness. You can find more information, including a Zoom link, here.
- We announced an exciting new initiative this week in the partnership between Baylor and Compassion International to bring about global human flourishing for children and families in poverty. The Christian Collective for Social Innovation (CCSI) will create a trusted Christian platform where innovators will receive the capital, know-how, relationships and publicity they’ll need to solve the world’s most significant challenges. The first phase of the CCSI is the “Social Innovation Challenge,” which invites innovators and entrepreneurs across the world – including Baylor students and Compassion International youth and alumni – to focus specifically on problems introduced into the educational systems in Central and South America during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Baylor anthropology research offering fascinating insight into the global childhood obesity crisis was featured prominently yesterday in The New York Times. Samuel Urlacher, Ph.D., assistant professor of anthropology and a co-director of the long-term Shuar Health and Life History Project, has spent many months since 2011 living with the Shuar, an Indigenous population in Amazonian Ecuador. The National Science Foundation-funded study, led by Dr. Urlacher, found that rural Shuar children who run, play and forage for hours, are leaner and more active than their urban counterparts. But they do not burn more calories day-to-day, a surprising finding that supports the view that diet change is likely the dominant factor behind the global rise in childhood obesity.
- Each year, the University publicly acknowledges a group of outstanding alumni who represent the contributions of the Baylor Family around the globe. Many of our alums are working in the public eye; others are working behind the scenes in ways that may never be visible to us, but all impact our world in significant ways. This year, we honor six individuals for their lives of leadership and service. Our 2021 Baylor Alumni Awardees are:
- Alumnus of the Year: Dr. Gary J. Sheppard, BA ’87 – a physician partner in Southwest Memorial Physician Associates in Houston;
- Young Alumna of the Year: Jessica Cope, BFA ’15 – co-founder and resident director of The Hopeful Theatre Project in Dallas-Fort Worth;
- Pro Ecclesia Medal of Service: Daniel Roby, BA ’04 – chief executive officer of Austin Street Center in Dallas;
- Pro Texana Medal of Service: Timothy Head, BA ’98, MSW ’04, JD ’08 – executive director of Faith & Freedom Coalition in Atlanta;
- Contributions to the Professions in Media & Arts: Brett James, BS ’91 – award-winning songwriter, singer and producer in Nashville; and
- Alumni by Choice of the Year, a new award this year: Merrie Beckham, ABC ’86 – the first person ever awarded the Alumni by Choice decree, of Dallas.
I consider it a blessing to be a part of such a wonderful University and around such impressive members of the Baylor Family!
Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.