The past year has been one of exciting changes. In September 2014 the College of Arts & Sciences released the comprehensive strategic plan A&Spire to provide a 10-year vision for our major initiatives. Since then, 12 task forces have been assessing various aspects of the plan, and we have produced our first annual report of accomplishments.
The work performed by these task forces has been paramount to our achievements so far –– and I’d like to share a few of these accomplishments from A&Spire’s first year.
Theme 1 – Advancing Liberal Education in the 21st Century
The Arts & Sciences core curriculum is critical to the general education of our students. Complementing a student’s major field of study, the core curriculum provides the fundamental underpinnings of a liberal arts and sciences education.
A faculty task force has been formed to study best practices and national trends of curricular offerings, but with certain inviolable foundational assumptions unique to Baylor’s mission. Another task force, the enrollment management committee, is working to improve strategies to better manage the increased size of our incoming freshman classes. Improving retention rates is another important goal of Arts & Sciences as this benefits both students and the University alike.
Another task force has made good progress towards assessing the current status of the technology we use in teaching, and will soon provide recommendations on how we can adapt to the changing landscape of information delivery.
Yet another task force is assessing best practices and resources for our fellowship and merit scholar programs, as these opportunities are very important to students wishing to advance into the health professions or graduate school.
Theme 2 – Becoming a Nationally Recognized Research Institution
Task forces have been studying ways to advance our scholarly reputation in both the sciences and the humanities. This includes a reassessment of departmental tenure guidelines, the need for additional faculty positions (with their associated start-up requirements), goals for producing more doctoral graduates, the need for more research centers and plans for acquiring more clerical and technical staff.
In light of an institutional emphasis on doctoral programs, an evaluation of the master’s programs in Arts & Sciences is underway to find ways to strengthen and incorporate those programs into our future goals.
Our research initiatives are important for the overall reputation of Baylor, and are tied to benchmarks in the Carnegie classification system to enable Baylor to achieve its goal of becoming a Carnegie “Very High Research Activity” institution.
Theme 3 – Strengthening Community Engagement
This task force is assessing strategies to improve: 1) internal communications within Arts & Sciences regarding seminars, speaker series and other special events, 2) communications between Arts & Sciences and other Baylor academic units, and 3) communications with the Waco community and Baylor alumni outside Waco.
The task force has recommended creating the position of “events coordinator” to help meet the needs arising from the complexities of special events occurring within Arts & Sciences.
Theme 4 – Investing in the Health Sciences
This theme overlaps with the undergraduate and graduate initiatives in Themes 1 and 2. While these themes emphasize strengthening the sciences at Baylor, a strong subset of that must be to strengthen the health sciences –– because of the importance of health to the Baylor brand, to our science reputation, and to a student body that demands excellence in its prehealth programs for entry into the medical professions.
The health science task force has recommended greater collaborative efforts among the various health constituencies internal to Arts & Sciences and with other academic units at Baylor, as well as with the broader health community beyond the University. The task force recommends appointing a “health science coordinator” to help manage and lead efforts across the collective health spectrum in Arts & Sciences and beyond.
Theme 5 – Building the Financial Foundation
Resources to fund initiatives proposed in A&Spire will come from a combination of fundraising, judicious stewardship and University contributions. Three key upcoming fundraising initiatives are for the creation of the Arts District (including the renovation and expansion of the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center), to increase the number of our endowed professorships and continue efforts to increase student scholarships. We also seek to endow additional academic programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels as the need arises.
Stewardship initiatives cover a broad spectrum of operational activities as we find ways to work more efficiently with what we already have. The University has and will continue to provide resources each year based on strategic arguments proposed by Arts & Sciences (with A&Spire serving as a basis for those requests).
We look forward to much success in Arts & Sciences in the coming years as a consequence of A&Spire. I encourage you to examine all of the strategic plan documents, including the first year’s accomplishments.
Dr. Lee C. Nordt
Dean, Baylor University College of Arts & Sciences