From 1921-1930, Baylor University sought to develop the personal identity of its students as well as the identity of the campus as a whole. The ideation behind orientation efforts, the cultivation of Baylor’s campus environment, and community’s response to unexpected tragedy each played a unique role in Baylor’s pursuit of this goal of developing identity.
These events collectively marked a significant turning point in Baylor’s history. Each forced Baylor to make choices about its identity. The formation of Orientation Week and the Orientation Course demonstrated a proactive approach toward educating students to become engaged citizens both within the Baylor community and beyond. With President Brooks leading these advances, Baylor became the first college in the state of Texas to implement new first-year orientation efforts. Brooks used orientation to cultivate the image he desired for Baylor students to become and was better able to communicate this aspiration to them. It also provided the occasion to welcome students to the campus community as well as express the seriousness with which students should pursue their academics.
Baylor’s identity was further shaped through growth within campus housing, student organizations, and student curriculum. Baylor, under the leadership of President Brooks, was proactive in opening two new residential buildings in the 1920s and early 1930s, Brooks Hall for men and Memorial Hall for women. Additionally, Baylor students had the unique opportunity to shape the culture of their campus through the student self-governance association and the creation of student organizations. Concerning student curriculum, President Brooks set the stage for Baylor to become a competitive academic institution through the creation of The Baylor School of Commerce and Business Administration as well as The Baylor School of Law. Each of these unique student services worked together to shape the identity of Baylor students as well as Baylor’s campus climate.
These advancements were accompanied by the horrors of the deadly Homecoming brawl of 1926 and the loss of The Immortal Ten after the Round Rock Bus Collision of 1927. Instead of allowing these devastations to overshadow the excitement of this era, these events were used to exemplify the Baylor Spirit. With news of these tragedies, especially the Immortal Ten, students and members of the greater community bonded together to honor those who had died and seek refuge in Baylor’s eternal values of friendship and sacrifice.
Even in the wake of tragedy, Baylor was able to cultivate a campus environment that unified the student body as a whole, provided opportunities for the growth of the individual student, and increased Baylor’s prestige as an institution of higher learning. With each of these advancements, the 1920’s allowed Baylor to solidify her university values and craft an institutional narrative that further defined the Baylor Spirit.
Baylor Tragedy and the Institutional Narrative (by Taylor Balch)
The Educated Student: A Baylor Perspective (by Joshua Donath)
A Desire for High Prestige: The Symbiotic Relationship between Baylor University and her Students in the 1920s (by Melissa McLavain)