Baylor Regents Hear Progress Report on University’s R1 Goals, Illuminate Strategic Plan

July 16, 2021
Orientation Waco Hall 2021

Baylor University welcomed incoming Baylor students for in-person Orientation and Line Camp sessions as the University prepares for a normal fall. (Robert Rogers/Baylor University)

WACO, Texas (July 16, 2021) – During its regular summer retreat meeting, the Baylor University Board of Regents focused on Baylor’s strategic positioning for the future as the University enters the final year of the initial Illuminate strategic plan. The discussions spotlighted the extraordinary progress that has accelerated the University’s aspirations of joining the nation’s top Research 1 universities as the world’s preeminent Christian research university.

While Baylor is currently classified as an R2 institution with high research activity, the significant strides made over the past four years on Illuminate has the University projected to achieve its R1 goals by 2024. Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education updates its classification of research institutions every three years with its next update at the end of this year.

“This is an incredible opportunity that God has given us to do what very few, if any, universities have achieved: maintaining our foundational Christian mission while reaching R1 status as a top-tier research university,” said President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D. “Through the dedicated work of our faculty and staff, we have made remarkable progress over the past four years on our Illuminate strategic plan, which has provided the framework to build on our historic strengths and strategically invest in new areas of research and service. Through top-tier research, scholarship and external funding support, R1 universities bring their voice to bear in addressing our world’s most meaningful challenges. And as a Christian research university, Baylor can infuse the quest for solutions, at the highest levels, with the University’s distinct voice and mission.”

The Board also heard an update from Provost Nancy Brickhouse, Ph.D., and Vice Provost for Research Kevin Chambliss, Ph.D., on the significant progress on Illuminate and R1 goals, including:

  • Increased research doctorates from 110 in 2016-2017 to 167 in 2020-2021, with a goal of 286 research doctorates awarded by 2022-2023;
  • Growth in research expenditures from $29.4 million in 2017 to $47 million in 2021, with external research expenditures currently growing at 28%. The University’s goal is to reach $52 million in research expenditures in FY 2023;
  • Increased awarded research dollars from around $11 million in 2017 to more than $27 million so far in 2021; and
  • Increased research staff (STEM, social sciences and health) from 47 in fall 2016 to 68 in fall 2020. The University’s goal is to reach 100 research staff by fall 2022.

“Our progress on Illuminate’s research pillar has been extraordinarily positive to date,” Dr. Chambliss said. “However, R1 should not be considered a finish line, but rather an important first step along our path to becoming the preeminent Christian research university.”

In addition, the Provost presented a comparison on the 65 universities that make up the “Power Five” according to athletic conference affiliation. Baylor is one of only 12 private institutions among the Power Five universities and one of only three – along with TCU and Wake Forest – classified as R2 institutions by Carnegie. The rest are considered R1, demonstrating a correlation between academic and athletic excellence and underscoring the impact of Baylor’s R1 aspirations and continued strategic planning across the University, including graduation and retention rates, tuition, endowment and enrollment.

Supplementing the R1 Power Five universities is the University of Notre Dame, which provides an example of R1 achievement while maintaining its mission as a faith-based institution. Notre Dame is ranked No. 19 nationally by U.S. News & World Report, with a similar overall enrollment and tuition cost as Baylor.

The Provost also led a panel discussion with students and their faculty mentors about their decisions to come to Baylor, the importance of the University’s mission and the relationships between students and faculty on campus.

President’s report, normal fall plans

In her regular report to the Board on Friday, President Livingstone reviewed her annual goals and updated freshman enrollment projections for the fall semester, which begins on Aug. 23. The President also shared Baylor’s preparations for a normal fall as the University continues to emerge from the recovery phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. The plans include:

  • 100% capacity indoors and outdoors;
  • In-person classes with no social distancing;
  • Normal in-person events, activities and traditions;
  • No mask/face coverings requirement, although face coverings are recommended indoors for unvaccinated individuals;
  • Weekly COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated students, faculty and staff, with plans to revisit the testing policy early in the semester and make adjustments based on effective containment of the spread of the virus; and
  • COVID-19 vaccinations not required but strongly encouraged.

President Livingstone shared that currently more than 60% of employees and nearly 40% of students have confirmed they have been fully vaccinated with one of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the FDA for emergency use. Through 10 Orientation/Line Camp sessions this summer, 60% of the more than 3,000 incoming students who have attended these sessions have been fully vaccinated.

“We all are highly anticipating returning to normal this fall – from in-person classes to the events and traditions we missed last year – and we are preparing daily to welcome back our returning students as well as a very enthusiastic and record-breaking freshman class of new Baylor Bears,” President Livingstone said.

Earlier this week, the University announced that alumni, parents, faculty, staff, students and friends combined to provide more than $161 million in given and pledged philanthropic support as part of the Give Light campaign during Baylor’s recently completed fiscal year, which ended May 31. To date, the Baylor Family – including 16.37% of alumni – has contributed more than $1.04 billion in gifts and pledges toward Give Light’s $1.1 billion goal.

Also on Friday, Mack B. Rhoades IV, vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics at Baylor, provided the Board with an overview of key strategic issues for college athletics programs as part of his annual presentation to the Regents.

Board approves recommendations from Historic Commission

The Board approved four recommendations from the Campus Experience Project Team, which is responsible for reviewing recommendations from the University's Commission on Historic Campus Representations to reflect the complete history of Baylor and prioritizing next steps in concert with the President’s Council and Board of Regents. The approved initial recommendations include:

  • Adding new historical findings from the Commission to the University’s existing history on
  • Placing interim signage at Founders Mall and Burleson Quadrangle that describes the University’s examination of its history and includes QR codes that link to
  • Using a historic Bible to lead the academic procession at Commencement and place the University Mace on permanent exhibit at the Mayborn Museum.
  • Reimagining Founders Day to become a more inclusive celebration of all who have contributed to Baylor’s growth and success throughout the years.

The University announced in May that it had secured Sasaki, a renowned architecture, planning, landscape and design firm to assist in historical master planning tied to the Commission recommendations. Baylor also has begun the process of seeking artists and foundries to create life-sized bronze statues of the University’s first Black graduates – the Rev. Robert Gilbert, B.A. ’67, and Mrs. Barbara Walker, B.A. ’67. The statues will reside in front of Baylor’s historic Tidwell Bible Building.

Welcoming new Regents

The July meeting is the first for seven new members who participated in new Regent orientation, which included governance training based on Association of Governing Boards (AGB) best practices.

The new Board members are:

  • Jay A. Brown, B.B.A. ’95, of Houston, At-large Regent, president and CEO of Crown Castle International Corp.;
  • Michael Heiskell, B.A. ’72, J.D. ’74, of Fort Worth, At-large Regent, attorney and partner, Johnson, Vaughn & Heiskell;
  • The Honorable Don R. Willett, B.B.A. ’88, of Austin, At-large Regent, Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit;
  • Tyler C. Cooper, B.B.A. ’94, of Dallas, BGCT-appointed Regent, president and CEO of Cooper Aerobics and preventive medicine physician at Cooper Clinic;
  • Diane Dillard, B.A. ’76, J.D. ’79, of Houston, BGCT-appointed Regent, attorney;
  • Brian Raines, D.Phil., Faculty Regent, associate dean for research and strategic planning, College of Arts & Sciences, and professor of mathematics; and
  • Ally Perkins, Student Regent (voting member in the second year), a sophomore political science major from Tyler, Texas.

Katie Jo Luningham, B.A. ’11, of Fort Worth, returns to the Board after being re-elected as an Alumni-elected Regent.

“We welcome these new Regents, who have joined the Board at an exciting time in the University’s history, as we see the significant progress on Baylor's vision under President Livingstone of becoming the preeminent Christian research university,” said Board of Regents Chair Mark Rountree, B.B.A. ’86, M.T.A. ’87. “We are grateful to our Board members, who love and care for Baylor and deeply support our Christian mission while bringing a variety of backgrounds, ideas and perspectives for the betterment of Baylor for all students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the University."

Retreat discussions

In addition to its strategic discussions about Illuminate and the University’s progress on research aspirations, the Board’s annual retreat on Thursday welcomed special guests, including Jeffrey M. Harris, a partner with Consovoy McCarthy, who provided an overview of the religious liberty landscape during a discussion on Baylor’s Christian commitment. President Livingstone also led a conversation about the future of higher education with E. Gordon Gee, J.D., Ed.D., president of West Virginia University, who has 40-plus years of presidential leadership experience at private and public universities, each with distinctive missions and high research profiles.

All Board members also participated in annual compliance training, including Title IX, SB 212 and NCAA.

On Thursday night, Regents celebrated student international award winners with a dinner at Milo All Day in downtown Waco.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 19,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.