Baylor Board of Regents Focuses on Strategic Planning, Approves New Degrees

Regents proceed with funding for Memorial to Enslaved Persons, required improvements for Big 12 Conference broadcast capabilities

November 10, 2023
Baylor Sciences Building with fountain, blue skies and clouds

The Baylor Board of Regents approved four new graduate degrees, including the M.S.Ed. in Learning and Organizational Change, Ph.D.'s in P-12 Educational Leadership and Materials Science and Engineering, and an M.F.A. in Film and Digital Media. (Matthew Minard/Baylor University)

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WACO, Texas (Nov. 10, 2023) – During its regular November meeting, the Baylor University Board of Regents received a comprehensive update on the University’s Strategic Planning process, which will guide Baylor into the future as a preeminent Christian research university. The Board also approved four new academic graduate degrees and discussed Baylor’s position in the evolving higher education marketplace.

In her report, Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., focused on the University’s next chapter with an in-depth discussion about the work of the Strategic Planning Group (SPG), which has guided the Baylor community through the strategic planning process since last April. The SPG was tasked with delivering a new plan that builds on Baylor’s historic Christian mission and continues the growth and dramatic impact of the past six years, which includes achieving Research 1 status ahead of the projected timeline and eclipsing the $1.1 billion goal in the Give Light philanthropic campaign. Give Light, which currently stands at $1.456 billion, will sunset in May 2024.

“Baylor University has been transformed in so many positive ways during the past six years, and while we remain focused on our Christian mission and our commitment to undergraduate education, our new strategic plan must consider how we can impact the community and world around us,” President Livingstone said. “Based on feedback we have received so far, we anticipate a call to identify new ways to prepare men and women to be leaders with integrity and high character, to increase our focus on diversity and belonging and to grow our research enterprise. We have been truly blessed, and the time to prepare for tomorrow is today.”

The information shared with the Board derived from nearly 100 listening sessions, more than 100 white papers describing strategic, interdisciplinary and cross-functional ideas and nearly 300 feedback forms, all received from a range of Baylor constituents since the strategic planning process began months ago. The SPG will now evaluate the data and deliver a draft plan to President Livingstone early next spring for Board affirmation during its regular May 2024 meeting.

President Livingstone also provided a brief overview of the University’s research status following the recent announcement of changes in R1 designation metrics by the American Council on Education. She noted the R1 designation has been a springboard to great growth, and Baylor will be a strong R1 institution after the new metrics are established. Currently, Baylor is well above both revised R1 thresholds with $82.5 million in research expenditures and 227 research doctorates awarded.

New graduate degrees, higher education marketplace

Baylor Regents approved four new graduate degrees – each representing areas in high demand – in learning and organizational change, film and digital media, educational leadership and materials science and engineering:

Baylor chemistry professor Julia Chan with a student in her Materials Science lab
Julia Chan, B.S. ’93, Tim and Sharalynn Fenn Family Endowed Chair in Materials Science, provides multi-disciplinary leadership for Baylor’s materials science efforts. (Matthew Minard/Baylor University)
  • M.S. in Education – Learning and Organizational Change, a program for experienced educators and other professionals interested in leading and managing positive change in school systems, corporations, governmental or non-governmental agencies and community programs;
  • M.F.A. in Film and Digital Media, a new terminal degree program in the College of Arts & Sciences focusing on the growing field of narrative and documentary film production for students entering either industry or tenure-track academia;
  • Ph.D. in P-12 Educational Leadership, provides graduate students with a research-focused option alongside Educational Leadership research faculty in the School of Education; and
  • Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering, an inherently interdisciplinary degree in the Graduate School that will foster new collaborations across departmental lines.

Regents received a report on higher education enrollment and financial trends, Baylor’s unique position in the marketplace and the strategic importance of solidifying the institution as a best value among private R1 Universities.

Vice President and Director of Athletics Mack B. Rhoades IV joined President Livingstone in providing the Board an overview of the transformation taking place across intercollegiate athletics. The discussion included Baylor’s positioning in the Big 12 Conference and future strategic opportunities for the University.

“Baylor is in a category by itself in many ways – our size as a private institution, the level of research we conduct, our level of intercollegiate athletics and our faith-based mission. There are few true comparators, and demand remains strong for our distinctive education and educational setting,” said first-year Board Chair William E. Mearse, B.B.A. ’78, M.B.A. ’79. “However, the higher education landscape is dynamic and evolving, and we know we must be intentional to ensure Baylor’s place as the preeminent Christian research university.”

Memorial to Enslaved Persons

Artist's drawing of Baylor's Memorial to Enslaved Persons
Architectural rendering of the Memorial to Enslaved Persons at Baylor University

The Board also approved $6.3 million for construction of a Memorial to Enslaved Persons located on Founders

Mall. The Memorial was among recommendations in the final report of the Commission on Historic Campus Representations, and it will recognize the enslaved men and women who were instrumental in building Baylor’s original campus in Independence, Texas. The project also represents Phase 1 of the Campus Experience Master Plan, which includes updates to Founders Mall, Speight Avenue and the Quadrangle.

The Memorial to Enslaved Persons project scope includes:

  • A new wall and water feature that ties in the constructs of light and water with limestone representing the University’s original campus in Independence;
  • Updated landscape and grounds enhancements with signage and storytelling opportunities; and
  • A new “Resonance Garden” – to complement the iconic Sadie Jo Black Gardens – that provides accessibility improvements and connections to Draper Academic Building.

Groundbreaking for the Memorial to Enslaved Persons is scheduled for February 2024 during Black History Month with construction expected to begin shortly thereafter. Architectural renderings of the memorial were unveiled last year.

Additional Board action

Baylor Regents affirmed the University’s intent to apply as a full Member Partner of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). The Member Partner application is being developed collaboratively with the Office of Spiritual Life and Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary, which is currently an Associate Member. Baylor joined the BWA as an Associate Member in 2022 with the intent of seeking full membership as soon as possible. Founded in 1905, the BWA is a Christian Worldwide Communion with 253 member partners in 130 countries and territories representing more than 50 million Baptists.

In addition, and as required by the Big 12 Conference, Regents approved funding to improve Baylor’s athletics events broadcast capabilities. The Board allocated $24.25 million for construction of a broadcast production center in McLane Stadium and upgrades to its aging in-stadium video technology. Some components of these improvements will be supported by capital investment from PlayFly, which holds Baylor’s multimedia rights.

Finally, the Board approved the creation of a special contracts review committee of Board members for the limited purpose of approving certain contracts that require execution before the Board’s February 2024 meeting. This action is related to the University’s ongoing request for proposals in dining and facilities services.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 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 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.