Editorial: Specific goals would enhance strategic plan

Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist
Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist

How’d we do?

A look at BU’s progress on a few of Baylor 2012’s imperative goals*

$2 billion endowment
• Slightly more than $1 billion as of May 31, 2011

50 percent undergrads living on campus
• 38 percent as of 2011
• 4,730 beds occupied out of 4,818 total available beds

At least 10 doctoral programs in the social sciences and humanities; 20 total doctoral programs
• 12 social sciences/humanities Ph.D. programs
• 23 total Ph.D. programs

Increase international programs
• Increased from 50 in 2002 to 93 in 2010 (fiscal years)

Provide outstanding academic facilities
• Baylor Sciences Building built in 2004
• Paul L. Foster Success Center founded in 2007
• Construction of Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative began in 2010

*This list is not exhaustive and only cites examples of Baylor 2012’s goals. Baylor provides a full list of imperatives and a progress report on each imperative at

Baylor released its first public draft of its strategic plan on Dec. 12, and, as expected, its goals mirror that of the Baylor 2012 vision. The draft plan’s new approach, however, varies from Baylor 2012 in that the initial plan lists six broad goals but does not list specific measures to be taken toward those goals.

We commend Baylor on its new plan and understand the difficulty and potential problems with drafting a new list of specific goals as Baylor 2012 did. There are several positives, however, of setting such goals, and Baylor can benefit from striving toward those goals in the future.

The strategic plan’s six goals, called aspirational statements, essentially address the following:

• Committing to continued development as a research institution
• Seeking excellence in the classroom
• Addressing community problems through research and service partnerships
• Increasing alumni engagement
• Increasing funding for student financial aid
• Building new donor-funded facilities

Each of these objectives comes with a set of bulleted areas of focus, called “areas of specification.”

This is where the new strategic plan proposal stops. Unlike Baylor 2012, which set explicit benchmarks such as 50 percent of undergraduates living on campus and an increase of doctoral programs from 14 to 20, you won’t see any marks set in the new strategic plan.

Instead, the areas of specification say “recruit, retain and graduate an academically excellent and culturally diverse student body” (listed under academic excellence) and “increase the degree to which the cost of a Baylor education is met by endowed scholarships” (listed under increasing student financial aid).

Dr. Elizabeth Davis, executive vice president and provost, said the university will keep track of numbers that measure Baylor’s progress on the strategic plan, and those figures will go into next year’s annual report both presented to the board of regents and made available to the public in July 2013.

The reason the new strategic plan does not mandate specific actions, Davis said, is because “the goal is not to tie our hands; the goal is to provide us with the greatest level of opportunity to adapt to the state of higher education and the state of the world.”

Davis made a legitimate point about setting too many specific goals. By definition, the future is unpredictable.

Perhaps the best example relating to Baylor 2012 was our endowment goal of $2 billion.

Baylor’s endowment as of May 31, 2011, stood at slightly more than $1 billion, barely half of Baylor 2012’s goal but understandable given the unfortunate state of the economy in the last decade.

It’s this uncertainty, we believe, that kept Baylor from repeating Baylor 2012 and moved the new strategic plan in a broader direction.

That should not keep Baylor, though, from challenging itself and being honest with itself by creating objective progress marks.

In other words, we don’t need a long checklist of goals like we saw in Baylor 2012, but we will need certain measures as we go forward. Otherwise, how will we truly know how far we’ve gone and how much more work we need?

As we read the “areas of specification,” we would agree it’s good, for instance, to “engage all Baylor alumni in the life and aspirations of the university” and “utilize technology strategically and selectively to enhance the university’s learning environment and education offerings.”

But then our next question is, “How do we do this?”

Baylor 2012 set forth 12 imperatives and used varying methods to answer the “how” for each imperative.

To “create a truly residential campus,” Baylor wanted 50 percent of undergraduates living on campus by 2012. The numbers fell short at 38 percent.

To “provide outstanding academic facilities,” Baylor aimed for several building projects such as a science building, a success center and improved engineering and computer science facilities. Ten years later, we have the Baylor Sciences Building and the Paul L. Foster Success Center, and phase one construction of the Central Texas Technology and Research Park, which includes the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC), should be finished in April.

Not all of Baylor 2012’s imperatives featured such discrete goals, but our point is that great things came from lofty expectations. Although we didn’t reach all of them, we know where we stand and where we want to be.

It’s with this mentality we should approach our future. Having a broad idea of our aspirations is good enough for now, but we look forward to seeing exactly how Baylor will use its vast resources to improve the university for students, faculty, alumni and all those associated with the Baylor family.