Global Baylor looks to promote world-wide engagement among students

Photo Courtesy of Baylor University

By Thomas Moran | Staff Writer

Exciting initiatives designed to enhance Baylor’s global engagement will begin this spring through a new Quality Enhancement Plan.

Dr. Wesley Null, vice provost for undergraduate education and institutional effectiveness, said Baylor is evaluated and reaccredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools every 10 years.

“They look at approximately 100 different areas that all accredited institutions are expected to uphold, ‘principles of accreditation,’ as they’re called,” Null said.

One of the principles that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools evaluates is new creative ideas and programs the school is working to implement. To fulfill this standard, Baylor’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness announced this 10-year cycle’s Quality Enhancement Program, “Global Baylor: Addressing Challenges to Human Flourishing.”

The Global Baylor Quality Enhancement Program was designed to promote internationalization and global engagement among the Baylor community. Global Baylor looks to reach these goals through four primary initiatives: Global Challenges, Enhanced International Travel Experiences, Diversity Abroad and Global Baylor.

The first initiative, Global Challenges, seeks to increase student exposure to and understanding of global equity and human flourishing. The Quality Enhancement Program will focus on particular world-wide issues to promote student engagement with global challenges, starting with global health.

Dr. Jeffrey Hamilton, vice provost for global engagement, was closely involved with the process. In his view, global health is a pertinent topic for all academic disciplines and will hopefully promote student involvement in every department.

“In fact, there were discussions that started initially with deans across campus, faculty senate and a lot of different constituencies about what would be something that fit into Baylor’s mission and enhance academics and learning on campus,” Hamilton said.

Enhanced International Travel Experiences, the second initiative, will provide more travel and missions opportunities with a greater emphasis on experiential learning and for now, global health.

For example, Hamilton said the anthropology department will lead a trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand this summer to study illnesses that can transfer between animals and humans, also called zoonotic diseases. The group will focus primarily on elephant populations.

Students who attend any study abroad trip will be required to take a one credit hour on intercultural competence during their program at no additional cost to them, Hamilton said.

“The idea is that while you’re abroad, whether it’s your whole semester or a faculty-led program in the summer, we want you to be processing your experience while it’s happening,” Hamilton said. “We want them to be thinking about what’s happening while they’re there. What’s happening to them in terms of, perhaps, their career choices? What’s happening to them in their understanding of other cultures and their own culture?”

The third initiative, Diversity Abroad, will make travel and mission trips more accessible to first generation students, students of color and students from other diverse or underrepresented backgrounds. Scholarship opportunities and innovative models for international experiences will support the initiative.

Global Baylor, the final initiative in the new Quality Enhancement Program, is geared to highlight international events and opportunities on Baylor’s campus while supporting a more consistent narrative of global engagement throughout the community. Global Baylor will help promote speakers and events coming to campus to advocate for intercultural competence and understanding.

Global health will be the primary focus for the next four years, Hamilton said. Whatever pertinent issues are present at the end of that period will be considered for the next emphasis.

The new Quality Enhancement Program has been under development for the past several years. Once the Office of Intellectual Effectiveness chose Global Baylor the topic, Hamilton headed the process of gathering a steering committee and drafting the Quality Enhancement Program plan during the 2015-16 school year. The first draft was later made public to gain input and hear critique from the larger Baylor community. In December 2017, the Provost endorsed the proposal and Global Baylor has now been submitted to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ for their on-campus review in April.

Null was integral to the broader, campus-wide evaluation process and helped plan campus reports for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools reaffirmation of accreditation. Global Baylor is one of many factors that Null helped develop and coordinate in preparation for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools review.

The lengthy process will ultimately provide a more transformational education for students who are actively engaged in the Global Baylor initiatives.

“We want to provide educational experiences that go beyond academics,” Hamilton said. “You do have to face the fact that the world is complex. There are different cultures, different languages. The world isn’t going to adapt to you. You have to adapt to it. But by doing that, you’ll become a stronger individual in a variety of ways academically, socially, spiritually.”

Null and Hamilton hope that Global Baylor will have a lasting impact on Baylor University and that global engagement will become a more integrated part of Baylor’s identity.