Presidential Perspective - September 16, 2021

September 16, 2021

Baylor Students, Faculty, Staff and Parents:

I am officially declaring this week as “The Week of Good News” for Baylor! Beginning last Friday with the additions of BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston to the Big 12 Conference, we’ve been on a roll with several positive developments related to the University:

  • Baylor moved up a spot in the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings to No. 75 among national universities, ranking second in the current Big 12 and among the top five overall in Texas;
  • For the 10th time, Baylor has attained Honor Roll status as a Great College to Work For, receiving citations in six categories this year;
  • Baylor’s overall enrollment eclipsed the 20,000-student mark for the fall semester, coupled with rising diversity and graduation rates; and
  • Our Bears are off to a 2-0 start in football after hosting our first 100%-capacity crowd since 2019 at McLane Stadium on Saturday.

Baylor has been truly blessed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and our future is certainly bright as we move forward to being recognized as the preeminent Christian research university.

Some updates for this week:

  • With the continued high COVID-19 case/hospitalization numbers in Waco and McLennan County, we have extended our twice-weekly testing requirement for non-exempt students, faculty and staff and also extended our mask requirement inside academic classrooms and labs through Oct. 1. We will reevaluate these requirements in the weeks ahead. As we pray for our local community, I want to express my deepest gratitude to you. We are so fortunate to have a normal fall with classes, events and activities at 100% because you have done what we have asked, from getting vaccinated (our overall vaccination rate is above 75%) to faithfully completing twice-weekly testing. Our efforts are working!
  • One of the many things I value about Baylor is the way our faculty and staff foster a wonderful tradition of supporting our students in every aspect of their lives on our campus. The Faculty Senate and Staff Council have asked their peers to join them in support of our endowed fund for food security initiatives and help provide nutritious food that helps students thrive academically and personally. We estimate that 15%-20% of Baylor students are food insecure and utilize Baylor’s campus food programs such as The Store and meal scholarships. Please join me in giving to this important fund. As a special bonus, everyone who gives $25 or more will receive a pair of Sic ’em socks!
  • Congratulations to the 10 faculty members who have been selected by Provost Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D., to serve as 2021-22 Baylor Fellows for their excellence in teaching. Baylor’s Academy for Teaching and Learning began the fellowship program to recognize full-time faculty with a $1,845 award to implement new teaching approaches. This year’s theme is “Engaging Undergraduates in Scholarly Work.” This class of Baylor Fellows includes:
    • Holly Collins, Ph.D., associate professor of French
    • Sandi Cooper, Ph.D., professor of curriculum and instruction
    • Isabelle Demers, D.M.A., associate professor of keyboard studies
    • Shelby Garner, Ph.D., associate professor of nursing
    • Leigh Greathouse, Ph.D., associate professor of human sciences and design
    • Brianna Lemmons, Ph.D., assistant professor of social work
    • Jason MacGregor, Ph.D., associate professor of accounting
    • Coretta Pittman, Ph.D., associate professor of English
    • Michael Scullin, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience
    • Davide Zori, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core
  • Today we announced a $1.5 million gift from Jim and Tammy Snee of Austin, Minnesota, establishing The Jim and Tammy Snee Family Chair in Food Security to lead research efforts addressing food security through the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty. We are grateful to the Snee family for entrusting Baylor and the BCHP with this incredibly important and urgent effort to find solutions and best practices to address hunger at home and abroad. The Snee Chair is the 14th chair established through the Baylor Academic Challenge in the Give Light Campaign – which will provide a $1.5 million match for the Snee Chair – and supports the Health and Human Flourishing, Leadership and Ethics initiatives within our Illuminate strategic plan.
  • Seven centuries ago, one of the world’s brightest lights, Dante Alighieri, died. His finest achievement, the Divine Comedy, lives on, and I’m excited to see our Honors College celebrating this special work through 100 Days of Dante. Many students learn of both Dante’s “dark wood” and his glorious vision of heaven in their Baylor classes. Now, readers across the globe can check out the fabulous web resource presented by the Honors College and learn from renowned teachers as they guide us through the Divine Comedy. Brief uplifting videos explain Dante’s work and inspire us to walk in the light of God.
  • Baylor will join the observance of Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15-Oct. 15, as we recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino(-a) Americans and celebrate their heritage and culture. Baylor has planned events for the next several weeks as we recognize the month and celebrate some of Baylor’s Hispanic Heroes. I encourage you to join your fellow Baylor Family in the festivities, like the upcoming Neighbor Night dinner, open to all students, faculty and staff, on Sept. 21, at 6 p.m. in the Bobo Spiritual Life Center. For a full list of community events throughout Waco, click here.
  • Next Wednesday, Baylor’s Career Center will host Career Day. Students will have the opportunity to network with employers, research job and internship options and follow their calling toward their professional goals. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Career Center has been a valuable resource for all Baylor students, as the placement and success rates of our graduating students has increased more than 9%. I encourage all students to register for Career Day through Handshake and attend this event either in-person or virtually.

That was a long update for this week! But we have so many good things happening at Baylor. We are indeed blessed!

Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.

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