By Matt Kyle | Staff Writer, Video By Alexandra Laurence | Broadcast Reporter
Baylor’s 2021 homecoming week began Tuesday with the Dinner with the Livingstones event. Students were invited to the lawn of the Allbritton House to enjoy free food from a multitude of local food trucks, visit with other students and the Livingstones and listen to live music performed by the alternative-pop band Apollo LTD.
Dinner with the Livingstones was first held during President Linda Livingstone’s inauguration week in 2017, and it has been hosted every homecoming since. Last year, the event was held at McLane Stadium in order to accommodate social distancing, but this year, the event returned to Allbritton.
Food trucks were situated around the president’s house, offering free food and drinks to students from several Waco restaurants, including favorites like Shorty’s Pizza, Vitek’s BBQ and Pop’s Lemonade. Over a thousand students gathered on the Allbritton lawn and around the house to mingle with one another, listen to live music and take pictures with the Livingstones and first pup BU.
Thirty minutes into the event, the alternative-pop band Apollo LTD began its concert. The band’s song “Sunday Morning Feeling” was used as the soundtrack for Baylor’s commercial this year. Band member Jordan Phillips said that they were honored that Baylor wanted to use their song for the ad campaign and that they were excited to perform at the event.
“It’s a lot of fun to get to do stuff like this,” Phillips said. “From what we hear, homecoming is a pretty cool time of year for Baylor. It sounds like it’s gonna be a party.”
Matt Burchett, director of Student Activities, said the event sets the tone of Baylor Homecoming week as the Livingstones opening up their home to the student body.
“Homecoming is all about welcoming everybody home,” Burchett said. “Whether Baylor is the home or, in this circumstance, the president’s home, welcoming everybody home is a means in which to foster connection and belonging. I believe this event is a beautiful articulation of the Baylor spirit in general, as we welcome students home in so many different ways.”
Auburn, Ala., senior Libby Hume said the event almost felt like a Baylor reunion because of the absence of in-person events in the past year due to COVID-19.
“I’d never been to one of these,” Hume said. “It was really fun. I got to see a lot of people that I know, and I feel like outside of class, there haven’t been too many events on campus like this because of COVID.”
Burchett said the event speaks to the “personality and warmth” of Livingstone.
“At the front end of her inauguration to now the front end of homecoming, we’re able to welcome students to her home for a free meal and some great hospitality,” Burchett said. “Her focus on students themselves and her willingness to be in their lives in such a thoughtful and personal way — it speaks volumes about our president.”
Geneva, Ill., freshman Sarah Carter said the welcoming attitude of the Livingstones helped her feel more at home at Baylor.
“The president being so nice and welcoming makes me feel a little bit better with transitioning into a new environment as a freshman,” Carter said. “I feel like I’m more a part of things, and I’m becoming a part of a community.”
Burchett said the accessibility of Livingstone allows students to connect with her and to trust her as a leader.
“The fact that they are so joyously willing to be with our students and to understand their experiences — to know them by name, where they’re from and what they’re majoring in, but even more so knowing what their experience is doing for them and through them — I think helps Dr. Livingstone lead but also helps our students trust that leadership in a really tangible way,” Burchett said.
Anacortes, Wash., freshman Nicole Romer said she came out to the event for the free food and to hang out with the Livingstones. She said Livingstone is good at making students feel heard and cared about — something that sets Livingstone apart from other university presidents.
“This is something other universities wouldn’t do,” Romer said. “That’s one of the reasons I came to Baylor — because I thought it’d be different and stand out. This was a prime example.”