Presidential Perspective - May 20, 2021

May 20, 2021

Baylor Students, Faculty, Staff and Parents:

What a year it has been here at Baylor! The end of the spring semester provides a good time to reflect on all the Baylor Family has accomplished, despite the many challenges we’ve faced. Last week, in my President’s Report to the Board of Regents, I had the opportunity to share the top moments of the past year. With apologies to David Letterman, I drew upon a top 10 list to highlight it all. I’ll be honest, thinking through all that our wonderful students, faculty, staff and alumni have done together, I got a little emotional:

  • Supporting and adhering to COVID-19 safety measures to protect our campus;
  • Receiving the deeply meaningful work of our Commission on Historic Campus Representations;
  • Advancing Illuminate and research progress in the midst of a pandemic;
  • Winning the men’s basketball national championship; and
  • Reaching the $1 billion mark in Give Light.

And, that’s only half the list! To hear the entire rundown, tune in to the Baylor Connections radio program Friday morning at 11 a.m. on KWBU-FM, or download the podcast after it airs. As we share in celebrating these moments, please know everyone in the Baylor Family has my deepest appreciation and gratitude for the many ways you’ve helped us advance Baylor’s distinct Christian mission over the past year.

Some updates for the week:

  • I love the tagline for our summer school offerings this year: “Wherever the road takes you this summer, you can still BU.” Our faculty and staff have put together many course offerings – both virtual and in-person – for current students, incoming freshmen as part of Summer of Discovery, and current high schoolers through our Accelerate program. All classes will be taught by Baylor faculty in the supportive Christian environment that is a hallmark of a Baylor education. And, as an added bonus, courses are discounted from regular tuition, and students receive greater discounts the more classes you take. It’s not too late to register – Summer I starts June 1!
  • In line with new CDC mask guidance – which allows more freedom while encouraging vaccination against COVID-19 – our Health Management Team recently updated our summer mask guidance, and we’ll soon update the signage across campus. Face coverings are optional outdoors for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status. For fully vaccinated individuals, face coverings are optional indoors, but we ask that those who have not been vaccinated to wear a face covering indoors at this time. This is critical especially in large indoor gatherings such as Orientation, given our current campus vaccine adoption rate of 34%. We recognize that everything is a choice – wearing a mask, getting vaccinated and social distancing – but we also know there are members of our campus community who, under their physician's recommendation, cannot receive the vaccine or are otherwise vulnerable. As we care for our own health and well-being, let us also extend grace to one another. I assure you that our health experts are closely monitoring local conditions and CDC recommendations and are prepared to update our guidance throughout the summer as we ready for the fall semester.
  • A reminder that Baylor will host a Family COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic this Saturday from 1 to 4:30 p.m. in the McLane SLC gym. The clinic will offer the Pfizer vaccine and will be open to faculty, staff and students, as well as spouses and dependents 12 years or older. Be sure to register in advance.
  • Over the past year, I’ve been so thankful for the dedication and hard work of our faculty as they excelled in their teaching — both in-person and virtually — and their research. Baylor recently shared that our own Steve Forman, Ph.D., professor of geosciences, was part of a Yale-led study that found the earliest evidence to date of humans significantly altering an ecosystem using fire. Stone artifacts from the shores of Lake Malawi in eastern Africa show early humans were ecosystem engineers. Thanks to Dr. Forman’s work, Baylor had a place amongst the 27-member team of researchers from all over the world. It’s rewarding to see our faculty involved in such high-level research and collaboration, and I look forward to more exciting research news.
  • I was honored to join Waco Mayor Dillon Meek and our External Affairs team yesterday in celebration of our Solid Gold Neighbor Initiative honorees, which included the inaugural Champions of Change, our outstanding community and faculty partners, and our first class of SGN Research Fellows. Our 2021 Champions of Change – Dr. Liz Palacios, Dr. Lakia Scott and Dr. Dominque Hill – embody the character and commitment to equity we seek in reflecting Baylor’s Christian mission at the University and within our community. In also honoring our community and faculty partners and our student research fellows, we joined with Waco in celebrating the beautiful and intentional connection between the University and City as Solid Gold Neighbors.

If you had an opportunity to read the recap from last week’s Board of Regents meeting, heavy equipment will soon return to the Baylor campus as we begin construction of the Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center this summer and prepare for future renovations to Collins and Memorial/Alexander Halls. I truly appreciate the dedication and support of our Regents as they exercise their fiduciary responsibilities on a wide range of topics for Baylor and safeguard our Christian mission and values.

Until next week,

Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.

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