Phoebe Suy | Staff Writer
If you enjoy hot green tea and the original NCIS, you just might find your new best friend in Baylor President Dr. Linda Livingstone.
Today marks Livingstone’s 100th day as Baylor’s first female president. In her short time at Baylor so far, Livingstone has actively worked to engage members of the community and emphasize Baylor’s mission and calling.
Livingstone joined the Baylor family during what may have felt like an uncertain time. Unfolding sexual assault scandals, multiple lawsuits and major administrative changes left big shoes to fill for the next university president.
Board of Regent Chair Joel T. Allison said he believes Livingstone is the right person at the right time for Baylor University.
“I think she’s very collaborative, she’s a visionary…she’s a humble leader, she’s strong. She’s very qualified to lead Baylor University,” Allison said.
Dave Rosselli, vice president for university development, said one thing he’s learned from President Livingstone is patience.
“She didn’t come in and make decisions and changes overnight,” Rosselli said. “She’s in an ongoing stage of evaluation. She’s been very patient and I appreciate that.”
A significant number of Livingstone’s first 100 days as president were spent on the road getting to see the faces of the Baylor community and hear their stories.
“I certainly wanted to do a lot of listening and make sure that as I came in early, I was hearing the voice of the community and hearing what people were excited about, what they were concerned about,” Livingstone said. “Through that process you begin to frame what the priorities are that we need to focus on.”
President Livingstone’s efforts to reach out to the Baylor family took her across Texas–Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, East Texas–as well as to Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Nashville.
Rosselli said Livingstone made a point to go out and visit every single member of the Board of Regents, regardless of where they resided. Just last week, Livingstone drove at 6 a.m. from Waco to Marshall, TX just to visit one board member.
“She’ll continue to reach out her hand to show that she wants to have partnerships with everyone,” Rosselli said. “I think that’s what our Baylor family needs.”
According to Rosselli, Livingstone is a breath of fresh air.
“She has a very unique, down-to-earth style, but with a very strong perspective of where we’re going and credibility because of where she’s been at Baylor and where she’s been outside of Baylor,” Rosselli said.
As Livingstone immersed herself in the Baylor community, she said one of the things that truly resonated with her was that despite the university’s recent difficulties, there remained a deep and great love for Baylor among its constituents.
“There’s just a great sense of love, care and concern for the university,” Livingstone said. “[There’s] a real desire to look forward and a really hopeful perspective on where the university is and the opportunities that we have to look forward to.”
While she acknowledges there are hurts and concerns among members of the Baylor family, Livingstone said she hopes to bridge some of the differences and bring healing and trust.
“You don’t just do something and all of a sudden, trust is built. It’s something you have to earn over time and you have to continue to keep earning and maintaining over the long run,” Livingstone said. “It’s a day-to-day effort of seeking to do the right thing and being honest about what we’re doing and being honest when we have failings and then learning from moving forward.”
One of the things Livingstone said she is most proud of from her time at Baylor so far is the students. Livingstone said she was proud of how students stepped up in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, trying to find ways to engage in communities and with one another.
“I think it’s just a small picture of the broader heart and soul of our students who not only care deeply for each other and the university, but about the community they come from, that their friends come from,” Livingstone said. “They want to be engaged in a way that makes a difference in the lives of people–that makes me very proud as a university president.”
Student Body President Amye Dickerson said that working with Livingstone is an interesting dynamic. Dickerson said there aren’t that many women who have had her position, and Livingstone is the first to have her role at the university, so they have a lot to learn from each other.
“I think the one thing I have learned from her, and have been learning so far, is really how to strike that balance as a female leader of being kind and caring about the individual, but also not being afraid to make tough decisions,” Dickerson said.
One piece of advice Livingstone would give to incoming freshman is to actively engage in community. Being successful in college is about engaging with fellow classmates, faculty and the broader community, Livingstone said.
Livingstone encourages graduating seniors to stay connected with the Baylor family by coming back to campus now and then and engaging with alumni groups. The most important thing, however, is not to lose sight of the core of who you are.
“Stay authentic to who you are, don’t lose sight of your core values and the things that really matter to you. If you do that, then regardless of what path your life takes, you’ll be successful and enjoy the experience along the way,” Livingstone said.
Going forward, President Livingstone said that foundational to her mission at Baylor is for the university to lead as an unapologetically Christian university with a transformational undergraduate education, nationally competitive athletics and top tier research status.
“That puts us in a very unique place in higher education and I really do believe that we’re really called to that place and can have influence in ways that almost no university in the country can,” Livingstone said.