Student Access at Baylor University: Development Opportunities for Women in the 1950s

Student Access at Baylor University: Development Opportunities for Women in the 1950s

The 1950s was a time on Baylor’s campus where women were becoming more integrated into life outside of academics.  The decades leading up to this time period consisted of the beginning stages of innovative trends to help women feel at home on campus through co-education, housing opportunities, and student organizations (Lowe, 2015).  As this decade continued, female students became more and more integrated into student organizations previously consisting of only males.  From class officer positions to special-interest clubs, women not only had the opportunity to participate, but to hold leadership positions as well.  Even so, the opportunities on campus between males and females were far from equal.  Although female students were becoming increasingly included in spaces previously segregated, there would still be a long way to go before reaching the equality students on campus experience today (Lowe, 2015).  However, strong female advocates from Baylor’s faculty and staff used campus recreation and physical education as a vehicle to increase access to personal and professional development opportunities for female students.

Olga Fallen and Kay Mitchell: Advocates for Women and Recreation

Baylor faculty member Olga Fallen and staff member Kay Mitchell were two advocates strived to provide female students development opportunities on campus.  With Fallen as a faculty member in the Physical Education Department and advisor for women’s intramurals, and with Mitchell as the Director of Intramurals for women, the two partnered together to use their passion for health and recreation to give female students greater access to campus opportunities.  Fallen and Mitchell played integral roles in providing spaces for female students to engage in personal and professional development opportunities through the use of recreation and physical education.  This was a novel idea, since Title IX had yet to be passed, and gender equity was not a requirement for programs receiving federal funding.

Together, Fallen and Mitchell worked collaboratively and independently to offer female students a space for growth at multiple levels, ranging from participating in intramurals, to holding leadership positions, to serving on committees for large all-campus events.  The work of Fallen and Mitchell allowed for personal and professional development via three major routes: academics, intramurals, and extramurals.  Through each of these central areas, various opportunities were offered, including unique programs, organizations, and leadership positions at various levels at with which females could engage.  With the vast breadth of programs provided by Fallen and Mitchell, large amounts of female students were able to take advantage of these campus opportunities.

Academics and Development Opportunities

Initiating the Physical Education major for the use of offering personal and professional development opportunities for female students was driven by Olga Fallen in this era.  Fallen was a faculty member for the program, and had a passion for recreation.  Within the Physical Education major, female students were provided with opportunities and incentives to participate in personal and professional development.  Programs shaping these opportunities included Major Point System, Class Points, and Delta Psi Kappa.

The Major Point System was designed by Olga Fallen to engage all female students majoring in Physical Education in activities outside the classroom.  The Major Point System spanned through the course of a semester, keeping track of points accumulated by each female student of the major.  Points for the competition were earned a variety of ways, which incentivized students to participate in events outside their day-to-day activities, and, therefore, opened up potential pathways for new development opportunities (Fallen, 1959, Box 6, Folder 12).

According to Fallen (1959, Box 6, Folder 12), the hope behind the Major Point System was

…that physical education students will be active, well-rounded individuals with professional minds, a sense of responsibility and an interest which extends to the improvement of self- in skills, in studies, and through extracurricular activities…attached to an honest attempt to become a good student and a better teacher. (p. 1)

The program encouraged students to be self-motivated in areas that best suited their interests, and inspired female students to take on greater leadership roles.

As part of the Major Point System, students were offered many potential activities to engage in to earn points.  Illustrating commitment to holistic development of participating students, the Major Point System was a program that awarded points for both activities to be expected by physical education majors and involvements outside of recreation and health.  Points were granted for participation in intramurals (with even more points for being team captain or winning), unorganized recreation with peers, and extramural events with other schools (Fallen, 1959, Box 6, Folder 11).  Faculty and staff encouraged participation in these activities to allow development through collaboration as part of a team and commitment to a group, among other interpersonal skills such as communication, reliability, and problem-solving.  Points were also given to female students for assisting in teaching a class or officiating a sports match.  In order to teach or officiate, students had to go through trainings to ensure they were adequately prepared.  Students were rewarded for investing time in pursuing building upon professional facilitation and communication skills (Fallen, 1959, Box 6, Folder 11).

Outside of recreation and play, students in the Major Point System were awarded points for membership and holding leadership positions in other organizations and activities on campus.  Points were allocated to those who were engaged as committee board members, committee chairmen for campus events, newspaper staff, student government officials, resident hall councils participants, community and church service project volunteers, club members (e.g. social, skills, professional), and organization members (e.g. band, choir) (Fallen, 1959, Box 6, Folder 12).  Fallen and the rest of her staff showed commitment to developing the student as a whole, not just within the areas of education or recreation, and enacted their commitment by advocating for well-rounded students.

Stemming from the Major Point System, Fallen also implemented the female Class Points competition through creating a friendly rivalry between classes (e.g. freshmen, sophomores, etc.) based off points awarded from the Major Points System.  According to Fallen (1959, Box 6, Folder 11, p. 1) the class point competition was “an integral part of the year’s activities…and serves to encourage participation in department activities, class spirit, and a wholesome type of competitive spirit.”  The use of competition among classes served to foster a sense of belonging in students through creating communities where female students could engage in a variety of opportunities.

The bulletin boards were a major component of the class point competition.  Each bulletin board had the purpose of showcasing each class’ earned points throughout the semester.  Students from each class were in charge of styling, creating, and constructing each bulletin board, and the boards were taken very seriously.  Much time was invested into the construction of the bulletin boards, averaging nearly eight to 10 hours on each new board (Fallen, 1959, Box 6, Folder 13).  Accepting the responsibility of designing the bulletin boards reflected strong commitment and reliability.

Delta Psi Kappa was an organization female students could participate in that opened up pathways for personal and professional development.  Delta Psi Kappa was the national honorary fraternity for females studying physical education or interested in recreation.  The purpose of the fraternity was to “promote a closer fellowship among women Physical Educators, and encourage a more professional attitude and a higher scholastic standing” (Round Up, 1958, p. 277).  Together, these women participated in service activities in the Waco and Baylor community, exercised the ability to hold leadership positions, and served on event-planning committees, all of which provided opportunities to develop personally and professionally.

Intramurals and Development

During the 1950’s, intramurals offered female students personal and professional development opportunities.  The popularity, easy accessibility, and inclusiveness of these programs allowed for large numbers of diverse participants regardless of major, other extracurricular involvements, or skill level.  Kay Mitchell, the Director of Intramurals, alongside Olga Fallen, developed a comprehensive program inclusive to all females wanting to participate, and even allowed the opportunities for greater leadership roles within the system (Fallen, 1959, Box 6, Folder 9).  From the various types of intramurals, the Intramural Board, the Intramural Executive team, Junior Advisors, and referees, the realm of intramurals was rich in spaces for access to development opportunities.

Intramural sports for females during the era were available for individual and team players in multiple sports.  Twice a week, female students would gather in the gym to participate in organized intramurals directed by Mitchell (Round Up, 1958).  Among the most popular intramural sports for individuals were tennis, badminton, and swimming, while the most popular team intramural sports were volleyball, flag-football, and basketball (Fallen, 1958, Box 6, Folder 9).  Team intramural sports also included spots for team captains and team managers.  The variety of sports available and the differentiation in leadership and supporting roles for the teams encouraged development for these smaller groups.  The diversity of sports and team roles available also provided access catered to each persons’ needs.

An integral piece of intramurals was the behind-the-scenes work done by the Intramural Board (IM Board).  The IM Board focused on marketing and recruitment for intramurals.  Female students were encouraged to join the IM Board by Mitchell and Fallen if they desired to spread the word of intramurals by hanging up flyers, communicating with the Lariat, and sharing information with students in residence halls (Fallen, 1959, Box 6, Folder 10).  Serving as another opportunity for female students to take part in contributing to their development, the IM Board was essential to the functionality and participation in intramurals.  Partaking in the IM Board opened up chances for female students to participate in leadership positions and tasked members with effectively communicating the logistics and information of intramurals to interested students, especially freshmen (Fallen, 1958, Box 6, Folder 8).

Another accessible way for female students to get involved and exposed to development opportunities were the Junior Advisor positions.  Junior Advisors essentially aided the structure and organization of each intramural team.  The advisors were paired with a team and would then assist them in electing captains, scheduling practices, receiving logistical information, and answering questions.  Junior Advisors were to be “on call for any questions or advice at any time from team members or team captains” (Fallen, 1958, Box 6, Folder 8, p. 3).

Mitchell and Fallen provided access to even more development opportunities through participation on the Intramural Executive (Exec) team.  The team consisted of one member from each class, the Intramural Director (Mitchell), and the Intramural Advisor (Fallen).  The Exec team would meet bi-weekly to discuss the overarching issues and organization of women’s intramurals.  From planning events, to selecting Junior Advisors and the IM Board, the Intramural Exec team oversaw a broad range of topics.  The leadership positions on the Exec team offered chances dive deeper into understanding how to run organizations and provided another perspective on recreation as a whole (Fallen, 1958, Box 6, Folder 8).

Extramurals and Development

In addition to using recreation as a vehicle to offer access to development opportunities through academics and intramurals, extramurals were another space where female students could engage in growth opportunities.  Extramurals differed from intramurals because they involved different colleges and universities around the area.  Access to development opportunities in this category took the form of traveling sports clubs, interschool activities, and the Baylor Olympics.

Similar to intramurals, extramurals were offered for a variety of sports, most popularly including badminton, tennis, and volleyball.  Students participating in extramurals would travel to other schools in the surrounding area such as Texas Christian University, University of Texas at Austin, and Mary Harden-Baylor (Fallen, 1959, Box 6, Folder 11).  As members of the traveling competition teams, female students were given access to development opportunities based on teamwork and collaboration, among other areas in a similar fashion toward intramurals.  The development of extramurals was driven by objectives to

furnish more advanced training opportunities for officials, to challenge and motivate the students toward the development of a more skilled performance in as many activities as possible, and to broaden the range of social contacts allowing students to view others education programs and departments. (Fallen, 1959, Box 6, Folder 11, p. 4)

Woven into the purpose of the program was a desire to support student development in novel ways such as expanding diverse social networks and equipping participants with greater knowledge of training.

The most extravagant and intricate extramural event offering access to development opportunities at Baylor during this era was the Baylor Olympics.  Each year, Baylor would host its own version of the Olympics where females from other institutions would come and compete in athletic events.  The event took on many characteristics of the actual Olympics, from naming the participating school teams with Greek names, to referring to different areas on campus as famous Greek locations.  An opening ceremony with the symbolic torch was even included in the programming (Fallen, 1959, Box 6, Folder 11).

The Baylor Olympics contributed to opening access to development opportunities outside solely participating in athletic events.  The event was intentionally and meticulously planned by a variety of committees of female students.  The committees students could serve on gave students ownership and responsibility for planning large events.  Committees assembled for the Baylor Olympics included “Correspondence, Decoration, Programming, Points and Scorekeeping, Facility Preparation, Awards, Hospitality, Publicity, Entertainment, Food, First Aid, and Opening and Closing Ceremonies” (Fallen, 1959, Box 6, Folder 11, p. 1-2).  With the broad range of committees necessary to orchestrate the event, students were given access to take part in engaging on a committee that best fit their interests.


Personal and professional development opportunities were abundant in the 1950s when looking at the offerings from physical education and recreation.  The work of Fallen and Mitchell to create access to development opportunities covered an array of involvements to meet the needs and interests of a diverse group of women.  Academics, intramurals, and extramurals were the three main categories offering space for personal and professional development.  Each category was clearly distinct in the unique opportunities accessible to female students.

Although physical education and recreation served as the medium of providing access to development opportunities, these opportunities extended far beyond solely participating in sporting events.  Physical education and recreation arranged development opportunities through leadership positions in professional organizations, broad-interest committees, facilitation and officiating, and advising.  Not only did these opportunities work to establish community among female students, it encouraged them to take ownership over their time at Baylor by taking advantage of what the university had to offer.  Fallen and Mitchell realized that developing the student holistically was integral to the university experience and sought to incorporate development opportunities in multiple unique ways in the realm of recreation.  While Baylor as a whole was making strides to be more inclusive in engaging females on campus, increased access to personal and professional development opportunities stemming from physical education and recreation truly sought to empower women at Baylor, and shaped the culture of campus in the future.


Fallen, O., (1958) Olga Fallen Collection, Accession #3797, Box 6, Folder 8, The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.

Fallen, O., (1958) Olga Fallen Collection, Accession #3797, Box 6, Folder 9, The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.

Fallen, O., (1959) Olga Fallen Collection, Accession #3797, Box 6, Folder 10, The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.

Fallen, O., (1959) Olga Fallen Collection, Accession #3797, Box 6, Folder 11, The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.

Fallen, O., (1959) Olga Fallen Collection, Accession #3797, Box 6, Folder 12, The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.

Lowe, A., (2015) Baylor University: Female advocates for education and access 1941-1950.

Round Up, (1958)