Presidential Perspective - June 11, 2020

June 11, 2020

Baylor Students, Faculty, Staff and Parents:

I can certainly sense the enthusiasm and anticipation for the beginning of the fall semester on our campus Aug. 24. At the same time, I also understand the frustration and angst many of you have experienced regarding fall schedules. Planning for the fall semester in this COVID-19 environment – particularly as we manage guidance from the CDC and other health authorities – is indeed challenging. Be assured that our Project 8.24 team is closely monitoring COVID-19 data in the Waco area and across the state as our plans take into consideration the health and well-being of not only our students, but our faculty and staff as well. We also want our plans to be consistent with other institutions of higher education, which I can tell you at this stage they are.

As we consider social distancing guidelines in the classroom environment and accommodate many of our faculty, we simply are not able to host as many students in a classroom as in the past. This – along with providing maximum flexibility in the event of another COVID-19 outbreak – is why we are offering a mix of face-to-face, hybrid and online classes this fall – with the priority being placed on face-to-face classes. As evidence, 25% of our fall courses currently are scheduled for online delivery. Regardless of modality, all classes are taught by Baylor’s Christian faculty, who are deeply committed to their faith and to their students – truly at the core of what makes a Baylor education special.

Since the re-release of the Fall 2020 Schedule of Classes on Sunday, our dedicated advisors have worked tirelessly to help students adapt schedules and will continue to do so in the weeks ahead. Additionally, we are working to extend the classday into the late afternoons and early evenings, which will allow us to add additional face-to-face and hybrid course offerings and sections. Over the past three days, we have made adjustments that led to almost 1,500 “seats” being moved to face-to-face delivery, as well as more than 1,000 “seats” being moved to hybrid.

We ask for your patience and flexibility as we continue to put together this puzzle as the pieces continue to change on us. And I appreciate our academic leadership, faculty and staff, who are doing an incredible job of listening and responding to scheduling issues in order to better address the preferences of students.

A few additional reminders related to the fall semester:

  • Hybrid classes have a significant face-to-face classroom element. Students in these sections should expect to meet in-person with their faculty member at least once per week during the scheduled times. Research reveals that hybrid instruction delivers a strong and robust learning experience for students. In the event that classroom social distancing guidelines are relaxed by the CDC and other health authorities prior to or during the fall semester, please know that our plan will be to move hybrid classes to face-to-face offerings.
  • Classes in all formats will be Baylor-quality. The University is investing in hybrid and online classes to provide the highest quality learning that you would expect of any Baylor class. Faculty who will be teaching hybrid and online classes have dedicated the summer to redesigning their classes with cutting-edge practices to ensure that learning is student-focused and engaging. Faculty development opportunities include a five-week Summer Faculty Institute as well as developing online excellence in each of the following: faculty mentoring, course design and development, student engagement strategies and alternative methods of assessment.
  • Students should check the Baylor Schedule of Classes often as more sections and seats may become available throughout the summer.

Some other Baylor news to share ...

  • The dates for our Conversation Series on the role of the church and our responsibility as Christians on race, peacemaking and conciliation have been set. I encourage all students, faculty and staff to mark your calendars for Wednesday, June 24, and Wednesday, July 8, with both events beginning at 3:30 p.m. I will be joined by a distinguished panel of Baylor faculty: Malcolm Foley, Ph.D. candidate, Greg Garrett, Ph.D., and Mia Moody-Ramirez, Ph.D. We will provide access information for these virtual events in advance.
  • Will you all join me in applauding the latest achievement by filmmaker and Baylor theater graduate Channing Godfrey Peoples, BA ’99? She wrote and directed the new film “Miss Juneteenth,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year as one of only 16 selections in the U.S. Dramatic Competition category. Juneteenth is a celebration of when the message of the United States’ abolition of slavery finally reached Texas; today, it is celebrated across the South. A trailer for the film was released late last month. Congratulations, Channing!

The First Gent, Shelby and I have spent a lot of time on the Brazos River over the past couple of weeks, enjoying the beauty and the many recreational activities of the Waco area. Social distancing in this time of COVID-19 has definitely forced us to spend more time outdoors, even as the Texas temperatures heat up! I encourage you to spend some time outside and enjoy the splendor of God’s creation.

Praying for you daily,

Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.