A Message from Dr. Lee C. Nordt, Dean of the Baylor University College of Arts & Sciences:
Recently, Baylor President Linda Livingstone posted her Top 10 list of things that took place at the University during the past academic year that she is especially proud of. In that same spirit, I would like to share a similar Top 10 list of some of the accomplishments that the faculty, staff and students in the College of Arts & Sciences made happen during 2020-2021.
- Strategic plan After years of dreaming, discussing, researching and planning, in the fall of 2020 the College of Arts & Sciences rolled out A&Spire to Illuminate, our new strategic plan created to undergird and help implement Baylor’s academic strategic plan –– Illuminate. The new Arts & Sciences plan contains 34 goals and 127 action steps, spread across five Pillars and numerous Signature Initiatives.
- Research gains The new Arts & Sciences strategic plan will help elevate Baylor’s research profile and propel the University toward an R1 ranking. The College’s commitment to research continues to deepen, with a record $9.9 million in external research expenditures recorded in 2020.
- Engaged learning The College’s investment in creating the Office of Engaged Learning two years ago paid off well during the 2020-2021 academic year with a record number of Baylor applicants for major fellowships and awards, as well as a record number of wins. In addition, for the first time in history, Baylor students were among those nationwide to win prestigious Churchill and Mitchell Scholarships.
- Faculty excellence During the past year, faculty from the College of Arts & Sciences won the majority of the annual awards given out by Baylor for superior teaching or research. These include: the Collins Outstanding Professor award (Dr. Paul Zinke, chemistry); the Cornelia Marschall Smith Professor of the Year (Dr. Mia Moody-Ramirez, journalism, public relations and new media); one of two Centennial Professor Awards (Dr. Michael-John DePalma, English); as well as three of the Outstanding Faculty awards presented by Baylor at commencement (Dr. Julie Sweet, history; Dr. Yuko Prefume, Japanese; and Dr. Daniel Romo, chemistry). In addition, Professor Robert F. Darden (journalism, public relations and new media) was honored as a Piper Professor of 2021 for the state of Texas, and Dr. James Curry (political science) was recognized by the Texas Legislature for his longtime service to Baylor.
- Endowed chairs Thanks to the generous support of our loyal donors, we welcomed three new endowed chairs in Arts & Sciences –– The Michael E. DeBakey, M.D., Selma DeBakey and Lois DeBakey Chair for Medical Humanities, with Dr. Lauren Barron as inaugural chairholder; The Eula Mae and John Baugh Chair in Physics, funded through a Baugh family estate gift; and The Jackson Family Chair for Baylor in Latin America with an emphasis on water research, which will advance the priorities of the University’s Latin America initiative within Illuminate.
- New degrees During the 2020-2021 academic year, Baylor Regents approved a new PhD program in anthropology. Other academic changes within Arts & Sciences were approved during the past year to take effect beginning in the Fall 2021 semester. These include the creation of a Certificate in Bioethics and the reactivation of the BA degree in Museum Studies.
- Summer school success During an academic year that called for creative thinking and changing delivery methods of instruction, our faculty and administrators responded with significant strides forward. Arts & Sciences played the leading role in Baylor’s robust online summer school offered in 2020, in which record numbers of continuing students, incoming freshmen and high school students earned academic credit. A total of 3,005 students were enrolled in summer Arts & Sciences courses, occupying a total of 6,399 “seats” when the multiple online offerings were totaled. At a time when many universities were having trouble keeping their students enrolled, we had a strong summer.
- Wintermester Later in the year, in partnership with the Hankamer School of Business, the College of Arts & Sciences introduced the University’s first Wintermester in December 2020, allowing students to take selected courses online during the Christmas break to keep on track with their credits.
- Creative Arts Experience Despite the challenges presented by having to switch most events from in-person to online because of COVID-19 precautions, Baylor was still able to offer 284 Creative Arts Experience events for the new core curriculum during the 2020-2021 academic year, which were attended by 11,101 students. This was truly a monumental achievement during a pandemic.
- Rising to the challenge Finally, I can’t adequately express just how much of an accomplishment and a blessing it was, the way that our Arts & Sciences faculty, staff, students, alumni and donors rose to the challenges we faced. They made possible a satisfying conclusion to an academic year spent dealing with the trials and tribulations brought about by COVID-19.
I want to thank all of those in the College of Arts & Sciences who had a part in making these wonderful things happen. I look forward to even greater success for Baylor University in the coming academic year.
Lee C. Nordt
Dean, Baylor University College of Arts & Sciences