The Blessing of Baylor

Waco (and Baylor) feel like home to our daughters.
Real-life sisters and now sorority sisters. Baylor is home for our family.

Many of you are in the middle of deciding on a college for your student for the fall of 2017. You have spent the past months applying to and now hearing from top universities all around the country with acceptances, deferrals, and perhaps even a few denied admission emails. So many emotions.

I have spent the past month in an East Asian country with my boarding school roommate who founded an orphanage some 25 years ago to rescue children out of the government welfare centers from a life unimaginable to a life of hope. She is dying of cancer and we went to tell her children goodbye.

After almost a month of being far away from home, I traveled 9,000+ miles back home last week, unpacked, repacked and within 24 hours of arriving in the United States after a month in East Asia, I flew to Waco to see my freshman daughter at Baylor. Within those 48 hours of travel halfway around the world ending on Baylor’s campus, I saw more contrasts than I can recount and yet after being on campus at Baylor for less than an hour, I came to appreciate The Blessing of Baylor on a deeper level than I had ever known before.

I saw young adults in East Asia enslaved to government tyranny that rules over every aspect of their life and at Baylor, I saw young adults thriving, with a strong sense of purpose, a fresh new generation free to choose…everything from coffee to classes to careers. Their joy in life was reflected on their faces and the way they carried themselves on campus and how they interacted with every person they met. The difference was palpable and I was deeply moved when I saw the contrast so clearly, though I have been on Baylor’s campus many, many times before.  And so I began to write down what kept ringing over and over in my head and heart, “The Blessing of Baylor” as observed from one short weekend on campus.

The purpose of my trip to Baylor was ostensibly, to watch my second daughter be initiated into her sorority, the sorority that her older sister had pledged four years earlier. But my real purpose was much bigger. It was to relay something to you, as parents and potential Baylor students and to encourage anyone who reads this, that Baylor is unique among college campuses. What happens at Baylor is indeed…A Blessing. I saw my joyful daughter come to the luncheon proudly wearing her older sister’s pin, the pin that belonged to her sister, now passed down to a new generation of Kappas. I saw mothers and grandmothers, godmothers, friends, all surrounding these 106 young newly initiated women who will make a difference on their campus. I listened as the sorority faculty sponsor, who had also pinned her granddaughter that morning, a 5th generation sister, open our luncheon in prayer and who prayed beautifully for these girls, praying sincerely in Jesus’ name, not just to a random higher power. I know this lovely woman well and she represents all that is good about Baylor. Her faith, her integrity are genuine. She is The Blessing of Baylor and a blessing to me.

I walked through my daughter’s house in which she will be living next fall, met her new roommates from Texas and from California, all who sought out my freshman out-of-state daughter and asked her to live with them! Upperclassmen who want to pour into my daughter’s life and shepherd her. As I walked around the house, beautifully decorated, warm and inviting, there hung on the walls scripture after scripture, intentionally placed, words that reflect the core of who these girls are. Sprinkled throughout this house are plenty of indications that this house has a ton of fun but this house also has a ton of faith. This house is The Blessing of Baylor.

Earlier in the week, as I was traveling home from East Asia, I received a text from our daughter regarding a meeting with one professor. Catherine had commented to him that costumes are her favorite part of any film or production. He offered to show Catherine and a friend all of the Baylor costumes, how they are made and “It was incredible! I was amazed. I told him I’d love to see one of the rehearsals and watch it all come together and he said, “I think I can arrange that.”” A professor who goes above and beyond to encourage a student. This professor is The Blessing of Baylor.

Later, in a class in which our daughter is struggling, she emailed the professor with a bit of a cry for help and immediately, Catherine received this response and shared it with me: “He is eager to meet with me and see what help I’ll be able to get for his class, and gave me reading tips. He was so encouraging, Mom!”

These are just two examples of two professors. I could share more. They are examples of The Blessing of Baylor.

Finally, the most tender example, the blessing for which I am most thankful, arrived in a text from my daughter accompanied by a picture just this week. Catherine sent a picture of an item from a recent care package I sent to my daughter and her dear roommate (another Blessing of Baylor). In the care package, I placed two crosses with the girls’ sorority name inscribed on each. Catherine sent a picture of the cross hanging on her closet door and this is the message she wrote to me:

“The Kappa cross will be a good reminder of a wonderful accomplishment and of a great blessing. It will remind me of the One who enables me and that He will forever be by my side to help me.” There is an incredible joy watching your daughter mature in an environment that nourishes this type of thinking and philosophy of life, a daughter who has chosen to embrace The Blessing of Baylor. That perhaps is The (most wonderful) Blessing of Baylor to a parent.

So what is The Blessing of Baylor? Simple. It’s the lifeblood of Baylor’s history that is present today. You see it is as you walk around campus and find scripture inscribed on building after building. You see it too, inscribed on the hearts of the students. You see it in the excellence coupled with deep joy exuding from not only the students but in the faculty as well. It’s in administrators and top staff members who remember that all they do, they do in Jesus name. It’s in the life of the professors who go above and beyond to help students at any level. The Blessing of Baylor is evident up and down the residence halls where our sons and daughters live, on the bulletin boards, in the encouraging conversations that take place all through the day and night. The Blessing of Baylor is found in new friends, new sisters saying, “I want you to live with us and we’ll show you the way home!” The Blessing of Baylor is tangibly found hanging on the door of a freshman who is reminded every time she looks at it that “He brought me to Baylor and He has a plan for my future and my success as I keep my eyes on Him.”

The Blessing of Baylor. You need to look no further than this amazing place to see it. Like the picture says, “Waco (Baylor) feels like home.”

Our family certainly believes it. And we hope you will too.

We hope you’ll call Baylor home next fall and experience it for yourself! You will not be disappointed.

And that, as I have said many times before, is the Baylor difference.

These are a Few of My Favorite Things: Reflections from First Semester Freshman Year

By Bernadette Cooper

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your mind in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

It’s Christmas season. That time of the year where the temperature changes from cool to cold, nightfall comes earlier and earlier with each passing day, excitement about heading home for the holiday, anxiety over upcoming exams, compassion in this time of giving, reflection on the end of the year, anticipation at the beginning of a new year, humility for blessings, seen and unseen.

My favorite bear cub has been away from home for 15 weeks now—all of first semester. Folks get amused when they realize I’m still keeping count. I’ve missed her. More than I thought I would. While I’ve become used to the idea that she’s away at school, I think of her all the time. But the marked difference is I don’t worry about her as I used to. I lift her in prayer and trust God is taking care of her and I trust that she’s doing what she’s at Baylor to do: God first, studies second and sports enthusiast last.

We communicate often and the underlying theme of each conversation is how grateful she is to be a student at Baylor. She shares often that she’s fully vested now. That makes me giggle. I reply, You’re one semester in with seven more to go, how vested could you be? It’s more than just the classes, she explains. She’s embedded into the culture of Baylor and the community of Waco. And she couldn’t be happier. She is firmly planted and up for the challenge. And challenged she’s been. She made it through her first semester of exams, earned excellent grades in order to maintain her scholarship and before I knew it, she was walking out of the airport and ready to head home.

It may sound slightly cliché to mention how she’s matured over this short time at school. But she has. She looks the same and sounds like the Savannah that I left outside her dorm back in the Texas heat in August. But something happened during those 15 weeks of living away from home. I questioned her about her favorite things at Baylor. Her first reply is the uniqueness of Baylor—people in the library studying with you and praying for you; going to the professor’s house for dinner with her peers; having access to keep in touch with current professors, even after their classes are no longer part of her daily schedule.

The university’s interim president, Dr. David Garland, is wise…and kind. He made time in his undoubtedly full schedule to meet with me, last minute, above the 15 minutes I’d requested. Words cannot express how thankful I was for the opportunity to sit and chat with him but more so I was moved at the invitation to have my student reach out to him as well. A few of my favorite things about Baylor: Accessible.

Two semesters of Chapel participation and two semesters of religion classes are mandatory for Baylor students to graduate. My student enjoys the variation of Chapel topics, guests and experiences. Seek and ye shall find. A closer walk with God is there for the taking although not forced upon students who may not be believers.

While Baylor is not abundantly diverse, the school is certainly aware of this and working to add students of different backgrounds and racial makeup to its student body. In the meantime, the students of color are making things work for them. During my first visit back to campus—Family Weekend in September—one of the first comments my bear cub shared was about the group of students that look like she does. “Mom, it’s cool. We look out for each other and in turn, the school looks out for us”. That pretty much made my day. After hearing several stories about some of her friends, I know that my daughter has found like-minded sisters and brothers and I pray they will continue to be there for one another. The compassion extends through the parents. Savannah was unable to make it home for Thanksgiving and a family in Allen, Texas, opened their home to her for the holiday. A few of my favorite things about Baylor: Family.

My young lady has been home for nearly a week now. She’s been very vocal about the plans she’s working in order to pursue her degree. Her dreams and her hopes are lofty, and I couldn’t be more excited for her. She has learned her way during this first semester and assures me the discipline and focus is still very much at play. While she rests and recharges her batteries, she’s enjoying catching up with family and high school friends and sharing her experiences.  A few of my favorite things about Baylor: My bear cub is content.

As we prepare to celebrate this holiday around a very beary Baylor-themed Christmas tree, decked out in nothing but green and gold bulbs, a handful of Baylor ornaments and one Baylor stocking hanging from the fireplace mantle, I give glory to God for placing her exactly where we both believe she should be.

A few of my favorite things about Baylor: Being in God’s will.

The Test

By Frances George

I have three children. One went to university in New York City. Mary Scott, our second, is a Baylor alumna, Class of 2016 and thriving in Dallas. Our youngest, Catherine, is finishing her freshman first semester at Baylor, Class of 2020.

If you have multiple children, you know how each child has individual strengths and individual struggles. Our family is no different. Whereas school came rather easily and with success for our oldest two, our youngest had to work extra hard for every grade. She reached each goal but with much labor. From time to time, there would be the discouraging query to me, “Mom, why did God make me the way He did?” (Meaning, “Why was it all so easy for Benjamin and Mary Scott?”) She was the hardest worker of the three and yet from time to time would grow weary in ‘doing good’…

As college options happily came to Catherine from across the state and nation during her senior year in high school, Catherine felt God very specifically calling her to Baylor and her admission in early December on her Baylor portal reading “YOU’RE ACCEPTED!” was the single happiest moment of her senior year and the best Christmas present ever!

Going to Baylor, we knew would be an academic challenge, as Baylor is a top tier academic university and the Class of 2020 was on track to be not only the largest incoming freshman class but also the brightest in the school’s history. But Catherine was determined that Baylor would be her school!

Hard work does not begin to describe Catherine’s first semester. Many late nights, many meetings with professors, academic advisors, taking advantage of the writing center and helpful teaching assistants, along with learning how to “do” college through networking with new friends, peer mentorships with Catherine’s older sister’s friends still at Baylor working on advanced degrees… it was a semester that challenged Catherine on every level. All the while, Catherine’s older sister was a great cheerleader from Dallas and their relationship strengthened as only happens through sharing college life, past and present. Catherine’s church was a highlight of every week and provided the much-needed perspective and challenge to keep her focus upward and to trust God and work hard!

Catherine charged ahead in her classes and found success but as is the usual course of things in college freshman year, one class was particularly difficult. Through tireless perseverance and an exceptionally encouraging TA, Catherine found herself facing the final test before final exams. To say it was a very significant test is an understatement. Study, eat, sleep, study, eat, sleep, study, study, study…Then, The Test.

Early this morning, a text came in from Catherine to her older sister, Mary Scott, and to me… “Do you want to know my final grade in the class?”

After seeing the (happy) grade, I got down on my knees and began to pray silently in my mind, “Thank You, Lord.” And then, since my nest is empty and my audible prayers wouldn’t bother anyone in the house, I prayed out loud and said, “Thank you God, for making Catherine the way you did,” (recalling as I prayed, her perseverance, her complete confidence in knowing God had called her to Baylor, her great anticipation for how she will be involved in Baylor life and give back to Baylor… “I know God has me here for a purpose.”). Suddenly it was as if I heard God saying to me, “Fran, did you hear your own words? Remember the words Catherine spoke from time to time as a child, struggling in school, “Why did God make me the way He did?” Now you are saying the same words but through My prism, “Thank You God, for making Catherine the way You did”.

I learned a very important lesson this morning: God made Catherine the way He did to show that His plan is higher than mine. And then a secondary but equally significant realization hit me: God made Catherine for Baylor and Baylor for Catherine. All that she has worked her entire life for is coming to fruition on this campus. Catherine’s gentle spirit and loving heart is reflected in her baskets of candy placed outside her dorm room door, to encourage the girls in Collins Hall as they go about their everyday college life, or her basket of thanks, also beside her door with little pieces of paper and pen for the girls of Collins to write down the things for which they are thankful. It is the way God made Catherine. And now it is a blessing to many… her purpose. Catherine’s beautiful and kind roommate who writes her notes on hard days (a roomie she only met this summer), her thoughtful hall mates on “The Collins Cul-de-sac” as they call their totally decked out for every holiday end of the hall, her CL who drove Catherine to the airport in Dallas for Thanksgiving… a 7 hour completely out of her way trip, her professors’ emails of encouragement to Catherine – yes, Baylor professors write encouraging notes to their students! – a campus now decked out in full Christmas attire and an upcoming Christmas choral concert, all celebrating unashamedly the birth of Christ… All of this and more, has made for a more than successful first semester on every level. “The Test” was just one of many freshman year tangible rewards for diligence and hard work appreciated and recognized at Baylor. Baylor, as it did for our elder daughter, is shaping the life of our youngest in a most meaningful manner and celebrating the way God created her in unique fashion, all leading to an incredible future at Baylor and in life. The world may spell SUCCESS in different ways. But today, I spell not only success but also joy and confidence:

B-A-Y-L-O-R!

And that’s the Baylor difference.

Just One Call: Connections that Count

By Bernadette Cooper

Be willing to help and care for each other because of Christ. By doing this, you honor Christ. Ephesians 5:21

Per the Baylor University website, the Baylor Parents Network serves to link Baylor parents with the Baylor Community. Baylor parents are an integral part of the Baylor family, so we strive to improve your Baylor experience by serving as an information and communication link between parents and the university and helping you get involved with Baylor.

Yes, they do all of the above…and so much more.

Two weeks into her freshman year, my daughter hurt herself in her dorm room. While she didn’t think anything of her injury that evening, it became apparent by the following day that she wasn’t alright. She reached out to me very nonchalantly, asking for her insurance information. I reminded her that I’d left the cards with her upon my departure back home. A few minutes after she texted me about the insurance coverage, I thought, wait one moment…why does she need this? I called her and learned that she was in the medical center with an injury from hitting her head on her wooden desk. I asked that she keep me in the loop and got off the phone.

I reached out to a fellow Baylor parent, another momma bear, and simply requested that she pray for my bear cub as she waited in the medical center and that the injury wasn’t too severe. She responded back right away that she would indeed pray. One telephone call. One text message. Connections that really count: communication link between the parents and the university. Baylor Parents Network in action. Little did I know that the one call to the head of my local North Carolina Baylor Parents Network chapter would result in such galvanized action. Next thing I knew, I received a call from Gail Offringa, Director of BPN. She was calling to check on Savannah and whether or not she’d received a diagnosis (she had – a mild concussion).

Gail and I kept in touch for the remainder of the day. I’d not met Gail prior to that phone call. I recall being at a parents-only event during Welcome Week in August as she spoke to the general crowd of freshman parents. At that time, I remember vividly, she was nine days new to her position at Baylor. To say she’s jumped in with both feet would be an understatement. She was caring, helpful and professional. She not only kept in touch with me and the medical center, she also checked on Savannah and brought soup and a sandwich from Savannah’s favorite restaurant. How Savannah’s peers and the school came together to assist her brings tears to my eyes as I write this nearly three months later. Being 1,100 miles away didn’t feel so helpless as other momma bears stepped in and went above and beyond the call of duty.

Community. It’s more than a word at Baylor. They care about each of their students. The staff I’ve encountered are willing to help and care for each other and the student body population, to honor Christ.

I had the pleasure of meeting Gail during my next visit to campus on Family Weekend in mid-September. I gave her a hug of thanks for taking care of my girl. Gail is warm, genuine and is handling things with a professional ease that belies her short time at Baylor.

In the several months that I’ve been actively involved in the NC chapter of the Baylor Parents Network, I have formed quite the bond with other parents. When any of us heads to Baylor to visit our child, we also reach out to the children within our network. Offers to drive them to the store, take them to dinner for an off-campus meal, fellowship and just offer an ear to listen to their concerns and issues are common place.

On my most recent Baylor visit a few days prior to Thanksgiving break, I received a text from a Baylor parent living in Connecticut. I’d met her once during student drop-off in August. We both have freshman daughters. She was on her way to campus and reached out to me to ask if my child needed anything during the weekend she was in town.  I immediately called to let her know that we were both in town at the same time, to our mutual delight. We attended the last home football game of the 2016-2017 school year catching up and enjoying our time in Waco.

Connections that count–my daughter knows that she has adults praying for her, cheering for her and always available to help her even when her own mom is miles away.

My advice to new parents? Reach out to the Baylor Parents Network. Get to know them. Become involved. You’ll be glad you did.

Campus Tours 101

By Bernadette Cooper

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

Greetings prospective Baylor parents! I joyfully write this blog to assist you and your child in navigating college visits and campus tours. Below are some pieces of advice/insights/encouragement that I can recall from the 50+ campus visits that I’ve done with my daughter — the last being our trip to Baylor Nation in April 2016.

  • Seems quite obvious but a campus visit is a mandatory first step. It will be confirmed if this is the future home of your daughter/son. Believe that.
  • Plan ahead! We scheduled visits while my high schooler was on spring break and summer vacation (make sure the campus will be open and receiving visitors/conducting tours during this time). If time and money allow, visit a second time to discount any ‘honeymoon’ feelings during the first visit.
  • Attend the tour and stick around for the financial aid presentation. Most schools offer a walking tour followed by a Q&A portion that provides information on what the school is seeking in a prospective student, how to apply and get accepted, and financial/scholarship aid information.
  • Ask questions, lots of them, of everyone you meet. Many folks are willing to share their experiences. Ask the typical ones (# of tenured professors, class size, teacher/student ratio, campus safety) as well as the off-script ones (retention rate of the freshman class, diversity, graduates with employment offers). Chat with students, and not just those providing the tour. Politely ask the student sitting in the quad or in one of the buildings what his/her experience has been. More specifically, ask what brought them to that school in particular. And take notes — this will help down the road when all the schools begin to blend together. You’ll want to know what stood out about each one.
  • Visit the department(s) of your child’s intended major(s) — Talk with everyone you can, from the department chair to professors to students. Collect and read ALL THE LITERATURE you can on the school, the area, etc.
  • Attend a class as that will provide first-hand experience with regard to class size, curriculum and expectations.
  • Connect with at least one person on the staff (i.e., admissions counselor) and get their business card — they will serve as your liaison for any additional questions you may have post-visit.
  • Respect the dates!! This is not the time to procrastinate. There are tasks that must be completed by student and parents. Don’t delay when it comes to the deadlines.
  • Enjoy the experience. Can you envision your child thriving in this community, calling this campus/community home for four years while earning a degree and living on purpose, both academically and socially?

Where did summer go?! MOVE-IN DAY, Baylor style

Our Packed Car

By Bernadette Cooper

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”  1 Peter 5:7

The first day of college is but a week away. The epic trip to Waco to drop off my favorite college freshman, my bear cub as I’ve affectionately nicknamed her after she committed to Baylor in late April, is underway. In the blink of an eye, college went from being a few months away to next week.

Baylor had us biting our nails up to the last minute as we waited (not so patiently) for dorm assignments. Granted, Savannah committed to Baylor on the last day of the deadline, May 1st, but why weren’t they more prepared for the incoming freshman class? Each correspondence from housing was met with a sigh as she thought it would be the email stating the dorm and roommates she’d been waiting weeks and months for. But God. I encouraged Savannah to give her worries and cares about her dorm room to God in prayer. He cares about every aspect of you…including your room assignment in college. I knew with an assurance that God (and Baylor) would come through. And come through they did! God was all in it: she would land herself in a sweet dorm with two wonderful girls. East coast Savannah, Texas native and West Coast were represented. The girls touched base via texts prior to the start of the school year, making sure they had everything necessary for their triple room.

Trip number two to DFW airport felt much, much different. I travelled down with her, knowing that I would be travelling back home without her. I’ve never been away from her for more than two weeks.

Savannah and I arrived in Waco a full week before classes began. Two large suitcases filled with clothes and memories from home and high school were all she packed. We visited Walmart every day for the next 6 days loading up on personal hygiene items, blankets, munchies for the roommates and above all, cleaning supplies.

Move-in day for freshmen is unlike anything I’ve seen. I’d heard the stories but was a little skeptical. It rained each day that first week in Waco. Liquid sunshine, as my friend Fran likes to call it. It was all good.

The process of moving in was nothing short of engineering genius. Time slots for every freshman student in every dorm were issued. Countless fellow Bears and staff are on hand. We pulled up to her dorm…her new home for the next year. We’d visited the day before to get a sneak peek of what we were dealing with. We were pleasantly surprised at this triple room. It was clean and as spacious as a triple could be. Savannah stepped out the car to a cheering section welcoming her to Baylor and her dorm.

This place has class. The momma bear in me was so impressed and excited for the new adventures that awaited Savannah. In about two minutes, literally, the student helpers – dressed in matching shirts, some wearing hats or rain jackets to ward off that liquid sunshine – had emptied out all her belongings as they made their way to her room. Their attitudes were as bright as the sun hiding behind the clouds. I did a double-take because just like that, the car was indeed empty. I went to park the car and took the shuttle back to her dorm. By the time I reached her room, she was already unpacking the first of her boxes and luggage. We came, we cleaned, we conquered.

Roommate #1 showed up a short time later, by which time we were hanging clothes in the closet and chatting it up with the one young brother we’d met on one of our Walmart runs.  John, from Atlanta, was among the movers and shakers on move-in day. He not only remembered Savannah but came in, greeted us and gave us the run down as to what to expect in the coming days. He and Savannah talked church, upcoming “welcome week” events and freshman year. It did my heart good to see that. The CL (community leader – Baylor’s version of RA), Kathryn from Michigan, showed up with words of wisdom and just the warmest of welcomes. My bear cub was ready to ditch her mom and check things out on her own.

Once Roommate #2 showed up, the girls bonded quickly. They took pictures (at the insistence of the parents) and began to learn about one another. The parents swapped phone numbers and attended the parent-only events together. I relish in the diversity of Savannah’s new friends – Savannah is African-American, while one of the roommates is Asian and the other is Latina descent.

Baylor hosts an event for freshmen and their parents. The Thursday before classes is known as the Ice Cream Social on the Fountain. It is designed for the students to gather together to celebrate the upcoming school year and say farewell to their parents. Parents, in turn, are expected to say ‘so long’ for now. Savannah had jumped into dorm life and Baylor life with both feet. While that was a little sad, it was alright because I wanted her to be independent. I just don’t know that I was ready quite so soon. Between her NC Baylor sisters and several new friends, I saw less and less of her with each passing day. I’d transitioned from full-time parenting for 18 years to parenting long distance in the blink of an eye. Sigh.

I found solace in commiserating with other parents, some who were new at this like me and others who were on their 2nd or 3rd child. But again, thank you, Baylor for making this moment one she’ll never forget. The best is yet to come.

BAYLOR CHOSE ME—and we’re so thankful they did

By Bernadette Cooper

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

August 2015: senior year in high school.

This was the year I promised my daughter Savannah that I’d work even harder at not saying “we” each time I described an experience that was solely “hers”:

We’re a senior in high school, graduating in 180 days.

We’re applying to colleges up and down the eastern corridor.

We’re majoring in journalism and French, wherever we land.

Although I’m her biggest cheerleader and along for (most of) the ride, this experience was and would be uniquely hers and ready or not, I was going to have to come to grips with that.

Savannah visited her share of colleges and universities. As a matter of fact, the count was lost sometime after campus visit #50. She had the idea of starting her college search during the summer before her freshman year of high school (in order to get ahead of the game). Learning what the schools wanted and getting a glimpse into the respective admissions process prior to starting high school allowed her to proactively become the ‘master of her fate’. Instead of scrambling in her junior year of high school to fit certain classes, interests or extracurricular activities into her schedule, she was able to focus instead on honing her likes, enjoying senior year (and enjoyed she did) and planning accordingly.

When crunch time arrived and it was time to apply to colleges after all those visits, she was ready. Almost. Enter Baylor University. I vividly recall when I first heard those words. At the beginning of senior year. Baylor University.  Where is that? Texas. Oh no, ma’am. Not even a contender. While we are big travelers, both domestic and international, the deal was Savannah would attend college no more than 6 hours from home by car. My rationale—if she phoned me at 6 a.m. with a crisis, I could easily be to her by lunch time. Perfect. Baylor University. They found Savannah—due to the number of lists she landed on as a minority student with competitive grades and a rigorous course load.

February marked the arrival of the first of many acceptance letters. College interviews came and went. Things calmed down for a month or so and then seemingly out of nowhere, more information from Baylor kept flooding our mailbox. Alright, Savannah, I said. Let’s talk about Baylor. I began doing my own homework on what this school and town had to offer my only child. My female child. I was instantly turned off by the distance, the price tag, the lack of diversity and the scandal. Sigh. However, I was most impressed that my teenager was considering a Christian institution. Upon further research, I learned the school had quite a bit to offer. She was looking for a strong program in journalism, a Division 1 school that enjoyed sports but didn’t worship them, a mid-sized student population and far enough from home to spread her wings.

After reading testimonies from students and continuing to comb through the website, I thought that at the very least, we could pay Baylor a visit. I also received my first contact, a letter, from the Baylor Parent Network, who introduced me to Frances George of Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s the Baylor liaison in the Tarheel State. I immediately reached out to her and she phoned me back shortly after I left a message. Our initial conversation lasted 60 minutes. I found her to be delightful, upfront, enthusiastically Baylor and a lover of Christ. I liked her right away. At the conclusion of the phone call, I still had a few questions that Fran couldn’t answer. I phoned the Baylor Network folks looking for another Baylor parent that was a little more like me: a minority, single parent, and one who might benefit from the school’s payment plan for tuition payments. The Network didn’t have anyone that fit my criteria, but I was sure I’d find someone in the coming weeks….

A few weeks later, Savannah and I landed at Dallas-Fort Worth International airport, rented a car and headed down I-35 toward Waco. It was Thursday, April 28th and Savannah had until May 1st to let Baylor know if she would accept their offer of admission for the Fall 2016 semester.

As expected, the Baylor staff were on their game. Based on prior campus visit experience, we expected the red-carpet treatment. The school tells the prospective student what they want to hear while simultaneously trying to sell the parents on what they are while glossing over what they aren’t. The Welcome Center had fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies. I’d not eaten since I boarded the flight at 5 a.m. so that was a sweet plus. Cookies aside, the staff spoke to us and answered all of our questions. The students hosting the tours were mature and seemed genuinely fond of Baylor. Again, quite willing to answer any and all questions. The campus was well kept and looked magnificent.

As I looked around, I came to the sudden realization that I could see Savannah here in another four months and for the next four years. Beyond the tour, Savannah had tried scheduling appointments with the head of the departments she was most interested in—Journalism and French. There was no one available from the Journalism department but the French department chair was on hand. He not only met with us for a full hour but invited us out for the evening to a local eatery with him and some of the students. He provided the best of advice to the soon to be graduating senior on how to wrap up senior year and how to prepare for classes in the fall. Even prior to her commitment, he invited us to sit in on a 2nd level French class the next day. We accepted.

The next day we met with Financial Aid and the admissions counselors. It was a full two-day visit and by the beginning of day #2, we already knew that Savannah would become a Baylor Bear and join the ranks of the class of 2020. Meanwhile, back in North Carolina, we were able to connect to some African-American Baylor alumni through LinkedIn. Still asking the hard questions of race relations, scandal, and life on this predominantly white campus, everything came back positive. Yes, Savannah was heading to Baylor.

The NC Baylor Parent Network hosted three “meet & greets” this summer. Savannah met nearly two dozen NC Baylor sisters and brothers and real friendships were forged in the living room of the George home as well as the Henry home in Charlotte. I met scores of families with several things in common—a love for this school, the school community, our children….and foremost, Christ. She hadn’t yet started her first day at Baylor and had only visited campus once, but we both knew this was the place, the best fit for my little bear cub.

High school graduation came and went. Savannah enjoyed a summer vacation with some of her high school class in Europe and returned to Charlotte to work for the remainder of the summer to save up spending money for school.  Before we knew it, she was saying farewell to friends and family, near and far and receiving all sorts of well wishes for this new adventure she would soon be starting.

Stay tuned for more stories from “our” Baylor journey. My hope is that I’m able to speak to you—parent to parent—and offer encouragement and insight from having just gone through the process you’re embarking on now.

Sic’em Bears!

The Intangible Transformation

By Frances George

One daughter graduated from Baylor last May and is successfully launched in Dallas.

One daughter is a freshman at Baylor, finding her way in this wonderful new world called college.

And I? I am in North Carolina learning that the best lessons in life happen to our children when they are on their own. I am watching and learning much from afar.

A few weeks ago, we traveled from North Carolina to Texas for Family Weekend at Baylor. The weekend also dovetailed with our elder daughter’s birthday…in Dallas. Mary Scott, the elder, had requested dinner at the top of Reunion Tower in Dallas, where an iconic restaurant sits 50 stories high, slowly rotating a full 360 degrees while you eat, offering spectacular views of Dallas and beyond. After having the dinner reservations arranged, we were excited about a family dinner in Dallas with our two girls! One problem, our younger daughter had her first concert at Baylor in the Women’s Chorus that same night. Oops. I made the (hard to secure) reservation before checking the calendar.

Catherine, the younger, said, “Mom! It’s college. I’m okay. I’ll get one of my friends to record the concert with me singing in it and I’ll show you Saturday. Have fun celebrating Scottie (the elder).” Catherine? Is that you? Our youngest, you see, really revealed in the reality of a few years at home as the “OC”…Only Child…when Mary Scott went to college. We never missed anything she did. And now this? But we will take it! So, my husband and I traveled to Dallas Friday night and with the thrilled Mary Scott, rode the elevator to the stratosphere while Catherine sang notes in the stratosphere at her concert… but as a first, without us in the audience. Mmm. Something is happening here. I can’t quite see it but a transformation seems to be taking place in our new Baylor freshman.

Meanwhile, as Catherine sang, we enjoyed dinner with Mary Scott and as the restaurant slowly turned, telling the story of Dallas, we heard the story of post-graduate life, her amazing job in marketing and events (thank you Baylor Corporate Comm degree!), the new church she’s found in Dallas and how the transition from college life to “real life” is a transition more significant than that from high school to college and one for which no one can really prepare you. She told us of how she treasures her now golden friends from Baylor and the supper club in Dallas they enjoy each week. She told us how her time at Baylor was the season that defined the person she is today and that she has no regrets of the time she spent at Baylor and how she spent it. “It made me who I am and my faith, it’s mine! Who I am, is uniquely me!”

As the night progressed and the restaurant high above the Dallas skyline continued rotating its slow 360 degrees, not only did I find myself enjoying the exquisite sunset, the birds-eye view of the place where part of our country’s history unfolded, where highways intertwine like ribbons below, and where the faint outline of the new Cowboy stadium highlights the distance, now I found myself enjoying something new and even more exquisite in my Dallas view: a young Baylor alumna who will make a difference here as she did at Baylor.

Over dessert, as the evening began to wind down, Mary Scott asked us for the one best piece of parenting advice we would give her to file away for another chapter in life yet to come and the one best piece of general advice we would give her for right now. After we gave our advice, I then asked Mary Scott what would be the one piece of advice she would give us about our parenting and about life in general. And as the sun set on our unparalleled view of Dallas, Mary Scott answered our query and I realized that the real unparalleled view was not the cityscape on the other side of the glass but the daughter sitting right across from us. She told us, “Mom, Dad, you taught us well. But now as you let us go and you look back on the life we had together at home, don’t beat yourself up over the 1% or even the 5% you did wrong. Be grateful for the 99% you did right. You did so very much right. I am grateful. I am half of you (dad) and half of you (mom) and all me and I like who that person is.”

And suddenly I saw it. A lovely transformation had taken place. An intangible transformation.

The next morning, bright and early, we headed to Waco to see our younger daughter. First sighting since August and move in, first return trip to Target with Mom and Dad for just a few more things, fill up the car with gas, get the car washed, meet new friends and more new friends, treating Catherine to dinner along with a few of her friends from NC and Georgia whose parents could not make the trip, church on Sunday, brunch and before we knew it, time to say goodbye. A few tears? Yes. Confident that Catherine had made the right choice? Without question. But, is there an intangible transformation taking place among this one too, I wondered?

The answer came a few days later in a text. It had been a week of tests and meeting with professors and still settling in academically. Catherine texted, “My devotion was so great this morning. It was about priorities. It’s easy to think about all that some have and compare it to what I have or don’t have. Now I know to just be myself. I’m really loving I can just be me at Baylor! Oh Mom, thank you for sending me to this place, my new home, where I can just be me.”

“I can just be me.” Don’t you wish you had known that the first month of college? How grateful we are that our youngest has found the key that will unlock so many doors. Our daughter is just beginning her journey, traveling the first few degrees of her own “Reunion Tower” experience, and the view is lovely so far. Not without tears. Not without disappointments. But her sights are properly set, thanks to Baylor.

I realized when I read Catherine’s text, that in our youngest, an intangible transformation had taken place, just as the transformation had begun in her big sister just a few short years before when Mary Scott was a freshman.

Parents, are you looking for a place where students graduate with a sense not only of who they are but with a deep appreciation of who you are as parents and are grateful? Then look no further than Baylor. In a world of universities where so many students graduate with a degree in ‘dismissing parents’, Baylor is unique. At Baylor, parents are held in high esteem all four years and beyond!

Parents, are you looking for a place where students are encouraged to look in the truth of the Word and find that they are fearfully and wonderfully made and that the priority is knowing Christ and in knowing Him they find themselves? Then look no further than Baylor. At Baylor, students are encouraged to be the young men and women God created them to be.

So the next time you drive through Dallas, look up at Reunion Tower on the south end of town as you head to Waco. And think of Baylor. Think of the slowly turning sphere that represents the slowly turning chapter in the circle of life that happens in college, when young students look out in this big new world and explore the question “Who am I?” and discover, “I can just be me” and watch the world unfold before them as they settle in this newfound confidence. Look at Reunion Tower and think of Baylor, where they grow into men and women who, when they come full circle, are not only confident in who they are but are grateful for who you are, and are ready to live well, thankful for a place where this lovely intangible transformation took place. And to think, it all happens in a place called Baylor.

And that’s the Baylor difference.

Welcome to Baylor! And this is only the first week …

As the Baylor Class of 2020 arrived on campus last week and began settling in for their first week of class, I knew I could write about many things.

I could write about the phenomenal Move-In Day experience, where there were no fewer than 2000 students, faculty, staff and administration on campus, greeting new students, with 200 of the 2000 at our daughter’s dorm, waiting on the sidewalk as we drove up, surrounding our car and unloading everything (and I do mean everything – I carried up a lampshade), taking every box up to Catherine’s room, all the while saying, “Welcome to Baylor!”.

I could write about the countless sorority young women who volunteered their time, stopping by my daughter’s room and every other room on the hall at two to three minute intervals, asking if there was an empty box they could carry away for us (there were about 40 in our room alone!) and then happily carting them away only to return a few minutes later for a quick picture with Catherine and then taking down another load. We didn’t carry a single box up or down a single flight of stairs.

I could write about the way top administrators stopped by our daughter’s room (and the rooms of many others) just to say “Welcome to Baylor” and hug our daughter’s neck, asking if Catherine needed anything, genuinely grateful she was there.

I could write about the third generation Collins Hall freshman who made cookies for the girls in my daughter’s dorm, wrapped them beautifully, put her room number and name on the cookies and said, “Be sure and come visit!” Those cookies said to me, “I’m at home here and I want you to feel at home, too!” And yes, the cookies were delivered by all three generations!

I could write about my new friends Nana and Afia, a mom and her Baylor freshman daughter, stranded at the DFW airport with no way to campus from Dallas except via a Greyhound bus, as every single car at the airport was rented! The mom saw my Baylor Parents Network bag on my shoulder and asked if I was going to Baylor. Yes! And suddenly I had new friends in Baylor Nation and we had a delightful ride to Waco!

I could write about the ice cream social at the Fountain and the food trucks and the music and banners and signs printed for students and family to hold up in pictures – “First Day of College” and “Sic’em!” and the hundreds of freshmen meeting new friends, taking pictures, NC Baylor Nation gathering for a Fountain Photo, and the joy that was permeating the air and the rain that stayed away.

I could write about a big sister, just graduated in May from Baylor, who drove down from Dallas after work,  just to stand beside her freshman little sister and say, “Welcome Home to OUR campus!” and then turn right around and head back to Dallas in the driving rain. Or that she had asked her six best friends, also Baylor graduates, to give one piece of advice to her little sister and then took the time to come back to campus two days later and take her little sis out for coffee and read the advice, and then hang the requisite twinkle lights in little sis’s dorm room…

Yes. I could write about all of those things and more but the most outstanding memory I had that brought the biggest tears of joy came when I returned home – 1200 miles away – as I read a text on Sunday afternoon from our freshman daughter, Catherine. You see, on Sunday evening just before classes began on Monday, the freshman class gathered in the Ferrell Center for a final “Welcome Week Worship Service”. Catherine had texted off and on about events of the weekend and the new friends she was meeting at every turn. I hoped all was well but you know, you can’t really read emotions in texts but this one came through loud and clear:

“I love my family and am so grateful for your support and prayers and now I am so pumped for the service tonight. I might call you sometime later….”

Those words and the happy emotion came through loud and clear, saying to me, “Mom, I’m grateful and Mom, I’m ready and Mom, this place is now my home and a place where I will easily encounter Jesus coming and going in the lives of my friends and the faculty at Baylor.”

How do I know this to be true? Because I saw it at the airport when I met a new member of Baylor Nation in need. I saw it on Move-In Day with countless students and staff showing us something very unique and wonderful in their welcome. I saw it in my alumna daughter who took the time to be with her little sister and remind her that she chose well and Baylor will be the most wonderful home for her too.

As I flew home and read my devotion from The Daily Light, there was a sense of calm and “right” about leaving our youngest at Baylor. I looked out the window at 30,000 feet and saw the vast expanse before me and then I read this: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love him.”

An amazing, vast, and unfathomable experience beyond what we can imagine awaits our Baylor students in the days, weeks, and four years to come. How great is our God? How blessed we are to have Baylor being woven into the lives of our students.

So, for all of those reasons and a million more to come, that is the Baylor difference. Welcome Baylor Class of 2020. It’s going to be (another) amazing year.

The Perspective from 33,000 Feet

By Frances George

When you fly on cloudy days, isn’t it amazing the dramatic perspective shift you experience from the moment just before take- off, when you look up, seeing nothing but dark foreboding clouds above and within just a few short but “cloudy” moments after take- off, you break through and find yourself happily looking down on the same sea of clouds? When I fly from North Carolina to Texas (which I do multiple times a year with one May 2016 Baylor graduate and now with a new freshman Class of 2020 arriving this fall) I still marvel at this spectacular transformation. As the plane takes off, the ceiling seems so low, the sky so overcast, the future a little uncertain. And then you “pass through” and suddenly, there is nothing but blue sky. And all of those dark ominous clouds, are under your feet, a veritable sea of harmless white marshmallow fluff. “Mmmm,” you think, “not quite as bad as I thought. Quite lovely, in fact. We made it through.”

Perhaps this somewhat describes the emotions your son or daughter may be feeling right about now. Orientation is either right behind you or just ahead and Line Camp is coupled with a lot of “news”: a new roommate and a new campus in a new town and perhaps a new state. Even for the most confident of students, there is probably a tinge of Julie Andrews’ emotions playing in their hearts and minds from “The Sound of Music” as the character Maria walked out of the Abby, boarded the bus, singing with more than a little anticipation mixed with hesitation… “What will this day be like? I wonder. What does my future hold? I wonder”…

But just as Julie Andrews sang and just like the plane bursting through the clouds, those clouds, which at one time seemed so intimidating and perhaps a bit scary – the unknown almost always is, at least to some degree – there stretches before you a vast blue sky ahead (well, let’s pretend it’s green and gold! Sic’em!) with endless possibilities all waiting to be discovered and explored. “I have confidence!”

How do I know this? Because I’ve seen it over the past four years with our elder daughter, Mary Scott and now I am excited to watch it unfold for our younger daughter, Catherine, Class of 2020.

For me, I’ve always said I like having a daughter who will graduate in 2020…when all things become perfectly clear, like 20/20 vision. I feel this will be true for this class. The Class of 2020 will be a special one and many things in their world will become clear over the next four years.

They may enter feeling a bit like they are in the clouds, trying to find their way in the haze but I know from experience that there are faithful friends (called upperclassmen) ready to greet them and unlock doors and mentor this new class. Because at Baylor, we do all things – even the cloudy things – with eternity in view, knowing that all things –even the first cloudy days of freshman year – work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called. You see, doing all things with eternity in view is the Baylor key – even with the clouds – a hopeful eternity still stretches before them with endless possibilities.

The next chapter of Baylor will unfold for the class of 2020 in full force in the fall of 2016 and with it will come 3,000+ new students, ready to find out just what the Baylor difference is. They will come with high expectations, some trepidation, and a little anxious anticipation. They will bring new notebooks (the kind that need charging each night) and new sheets (the kind that never need ironing). They will come with hopes and dreams, some to be reached, others to be modified along the way as they grow up and discover new likes and loves, but all with a desire to make a difference, find their life’s calling and perhaps even a life mate. There will be friends, new and old, there will be heartbreaks and joys unimaginable that will shape young lives and grow mature young adults. There will be new beginnings that soon will become beloved old traditions that will bring happy tears to their eyes and warm memories to their hearts whenever they hear the strains… “That good old Baylor Line…”

All in a few short weeks. What will they remember from Baylor Day 1 on August 17, 2016 that will stay with them until that day Baylor Day Last in May 2020 when they walk across campus one final time donning cap and gown, preparing to say goodbye to a place they will happily call home. In a few short weeks, your son or daughter will begin what will become, in a few fleeting years, a season of life that will leave an indelible mark on their minds and hearts. It will shape them into better and stronger and wiser people. It will mark you too, as it has me. I know. I just graduated my first Baylor Bear and am preparing to head to Orientation with my second Baylor Bear next week. She can hardly wait for the chapter to begin.

Just a few weeks ago at her older sister’s graduation, I snapped a picture of the Pat Neff building and sent it to my daughter, as she prepared to fly down to meet us for graduation. I sent the picture via text with this message, “Your school. Your beautiful university is waiting for you! Hurry down to Baylor!” She replied, “Mom, “You called this ‘my university!’ For the first time, you called it mine. I can hardly wait to be there!”

And so we begin again. Baylor 2.0… New and old, mingling with goodbyes and hellos, firsts and more firsts. Steps, though timid at first, will grow confident with time and mentoring and learning life lessons will begin from those older and wiser who will walk alongside our freshman, the Class of 2020 and the beautiful transformation will begin.

Get ready Baylor! Here they come with hopes and dreams. Walk beside them upperclassmen, and teach them the way, remembering someone did that for you. And why? Because storm clouds may gather but breaking through on the other side is a vast blue sky with endless possibilities. New beginnings. At Baylor they are beginnings that start with taking the long view, one full of hope. That’s the way we do things at Baylor. It’s the way it’s always been done. It’s the way it will continue to be in cloud or sun, we always remember that just on the other side, not far at all, is an endless beautiful horizon.

And that is the Baylor difference.