Introduction to the Draft Strategic Plan from President Ken Starr

To the Baylor Family:

Warmest greetings of the season from the beautiful campus of Baylor University.

Here, along the banks of the Brazos, our students have just wrapped up the fall term and completed their final exams. Time naturally passes quickly, but even more so during this year which has been such a busy, challenging and exciting time for us at Baylor

In only a matter of days, the year of our Lord, 2012, will be upon us. A new year always brings excitement as we consider the vast possibilities which inhabit fresh beginnings. But 2012 is more than a new year at Baylor. It is the moniker that has represented for nearly ten years now the bold vision which has guided our institutional direction and progress over the last decade.

Baylor 2012 has ushered in one of the most dramatic periods of growth and transformation in Baylor's nearly 167 year history. Our progress during the past decade is reflected in nearly every area of university life. We have so much for which to be thankful, and so much to celebrate as a community committed to sustaining, strengthening and advancing the mission of Baylor University, Pro Ecclessia, for our God, and Pro Texana, for our world.

Throughout the development of Baylor's new strategic plan -- efforts which began over a year ago -- my colleagues and I have been committed to a process that is transparent and that is inclusive. We have hosted listening sessions with hundreds of alumni and friends nationally and reached out to those in the Waco community as well. We've received thoughtful insights from academic units, university staff and student organizations and read with interest comments and suggestions that have been put forth via our strategic planning website. We have also used the website, and other of our communications channels, to continuously communicate progress related to the on-going development of the strategic plan.

Our efforts have been informed by the very good work of a Strategic Themes Committee. This dedicated team of volunteers was skillfully led by Professor Mitchell J. Neubert, Chavanne Chair of Christian Ethics in Business, and Associate Professor of Management in the Hankamer School of Business. Under the leadership of Dr. Neubert, twenty-three faculty, staff, and students worked through the spring and into the summer, studying more than a thousand pages of valuable feedback that we had received on our campus, in our community, across the nation and through our website. The rich input is presented in the Strategic Themes Report. The Report synthesizes contributions made during our five month exercise to envision what Baylor could be in the future, and presents the findings in the form of theme-based summaries. The Strategic Themes report has proven indispensible as we have moved forward in the strategic planning process. I commend the full report to you: Strategic Input Report.

Our Executive Vice President and Provost, Dr. Elizabeth Davis, has done a masterful job leading our strategic planning effort. In a video that has just been added to our strategic planning website, Dr. Davis provides a brief introduction to our draft plan, thoughtfully describing the vision that has been put forward, and which has been guided by the input we have received from so many in the Baylor family. The video provides important context for our plan. I will not repeat our Provost's message. I hope you will take a moment to view the video yourself. I would, however, like to underscore several of the points that our Provost makes.

Dr. Davis reminds us that one of the many strengths of our Baylor 2012 plan is that it helped to clearly articulate the soul of our institution. What a profound blessing this is! As a community, we have many things to consider as the sun sets on Baylor 2012 and we look to the dawn of an emerging plan that will illuminate our path over the course of the next decade. But we won't be spending time, as so many other institutions do, arguing over our institutional identity. At Baylor, we know who we are, and the things that matter to us are clearly stated in our mission statement as well as the foundational assumptions, core convictions and unifying academic themes which inspired Baylor 2012. These bold and clear statements declare both what we have been and what we will be as an institution in the future. If you have not done so lately, I invite you to view on our website these important foundational statements, which we continue to embrace fully and which inform our new draft plan.

We are also reminded, in the wise remarks of our Provost, what our draft plan is and is not. It is, we are told, a plan that sets our course, establishing a vision that will provide focus as we fortify our position as a national research university occupying a unique space at the crossroads of rigorous scholarship, academic excellence and Christian commitment. It is also a plan that recognizes that once a vision is cast, many of the best ideas to drive the plan need to come from within the institution, where expertise, creativity and innovation thrive. Our draft plan is respectful of the vast reservoirs of expertise that are so prevalent on our campus. It does not set forth a narrow project list for the next decade. It anticipates that in a world so rapidly changing, the best laid plans needs to be flexible, and forward thinking institutions must remain nimble enough to be responsive to emerging opportunities.

Finally, Dr. Davis encourages all of those in the Baylor family to review the draft of our plan and to provide feedback. Allow me to second the appeal made by Dr. Davis and to extend my own invitation to you. Your feedback has been critical in the development of our draft and it will continue to inform our thinking as we move toward finalization of our plan this spring.

The entire draft plan can be accessed on our strategic planning website where you will also find a range of other helpful and informative resources related to our planning efforts (link). A copy of our draft plan will also appear in the December issue of Baylor Magazine.

Please do visit our strategic planning website, watch Provost Davis's video introduction, study our draft plan and share with us your thoughts as we prepare together for Baylor's bright future.

2011 has been a remarkable year in Baylor's illustrious history. We've faced challenges and overcome adversity, heralded significant academic discoveries, witnessed the extraordinary impact of Baylor students and alumni in our community, across the nation and around the world, and enjoyed the exhilaration of athletic achievement. In the coming year, we will celebrate the successful culmination of Baylor 2012 and, with your support and God's grace, launch the plan that will herald our next decade of remarkable progress.

C.S. Lewis reminded us that "Aslan was on the move." Those of us who rejoice at the birth of our savior will confirm that Aslan is still on the move today. How we rejoice to know that because He lives, and because His favor rests with those who know and proclaim Him, goodness will follow us, and Baylor University's impact in the earth will continue to grow.

With warmest wishes for a joy filled Christmas season,

Judge Ken Starr