From the Dean

April 6, 2023
Fall 2022 Dr. Lee Nordt

This special issue of Baylor Arts & Sciences magazine examines the importance of teaching at Baylor University. As it has since the first classes were held in 1846, good teaching remains at the core of what it means to be a Baylor professor.

What has changed at Baylor over the years is that in many instances, faculty now teach fewer courses each semester because of heightened research expectations, although the expectations for excellence in the classroom remain as strong as ever. Many aspects of the research our faculty members perform still involve teaching, through the mentorship they provide for their undergraduate and graduate students involved in their own research.

We take teaching so seriously at Baylor that all potential candidates for faculty positions must demonstrate that they will contribute to the teaching enterprise with the same high expectations as always. And once we hire faculty members, we continually evaluate their teaching –– through both student assessments and by assessments done by their faculty peers. In addition, we expect our faculty to engage in continual self-evaluation and reflection as formative ways to improve.

It’s vital that we recognize great teaching at Baylor and encourage constant improvement in the classroom. The College of Arts & Sciences offers Teaching Innovation Awards for our faculty to allow them the resources to revamp existing courses or to develop new ones. Also, we confer a number of teaching awards each year, and the winners come from all faculty ranks, including from some of our best researchers.

Baylor’s Academy for Teaching and Learning (ATL) — which is profiled on page 26 of this magazine — provides a variety of opportunities each year for faculty to bring their teaching portfolios up to speed. Each year, a group of Baylor faculty are designated as Teaching Fellows, who provide their expertise to offer the enrichment programs provided by the ATL.

Baylor also designates a select number of distinguished faculty members across campus as Master Teachers, and the majority of those are in the College of Arts & Sciences. Please see the article on page 36 of this issue for a full list of Master Teachers as well as a history of the program.

All of these efforts to reward and encourage great teaching are important because the expectations and needs of our students today are much different than in the past. Having flexibility in providing multiple ways of delivering key information in the classroom is critical to success of our students.

Not all learning takes place within a classroom, however. The Office of Engaged Learning (OEL) in the College of Arts & Sciences has become critically important to our students as the nexus between the learning they do in the traditional classroom and the learning available outside the classroom that can help them along their career path.

The OEL provides students with important practical learning opportunities through undergraduate research, internships, competitive national and international fellowships and scholarships, and civic engagement projects. To be equipped to enter into the professions or graduate school, our students need to have some combination of these activities during their time at Baylor to better prepare themselves for the future.

When talking about great teaching at Baylor, I would be remiss if I did not mention the crucial work being done by our lecturers. While all Baylor faculty teach, our lecturers carry much of the weekly teaching load, especially at the introductory level when undergraduate students are at their most formative stage. The demand for a Baylor education has never been greater. Our lecturers do important work on the front lines, guiding students through a vulnerable period that often impacts just how successful they will be in life.

Let me reiterate that teaching at Baylor University, while different in some ways from the past, has never been stronger. I can assure you that the faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences take seriously Baylor’s mission “to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service.” Our students are our future.