Leadership Perspective: Linda Livingstone

Fostering a Culture of Ethics at Baylor University

By Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D.
President, Baylor University

Baylor University’s trustees adopted “Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana” (For Church, For Texas) as the institution’s motto on June 18, 1851, at the suggestion of then-Baylor President Rufus Burleson. This motto defined the dual emphases-upon Baylor’s role as a Christian institution and its role as an institution of higher education serving society-that have served as pillars of Baylor’s identity and practices over the decades.

Our distinctive approach to higher education, one dedicated whole-heartedly to service, is animated by a culture of strong ethics. In dedicating ourselves to serve others, whether institutions or individuals, we are inspired by the ethics embodied in and preached by Jesus Christ. Like all others, however, we fall short of that perfect standard. And that is why we must be diligent in guiding our ethical walk as a university and purposeful in institutionalizing our ethical principles through the creation and support of internal programs that deter unethical behavior and reward positive actions.

Of course, the primary people we serve are our students. At the heart of Baylor’s mission is an unwavering dedication to providing students with a transformational education. We strive to prepare students to make a difference in our world as citizens and leaders who have the faith and integrity to do what is right in the face of competing pressures and to have a passion to apply their knowledge to ends that transcend mere self-interest.

The importance of ethical decision-making permeates Baylor’s curriculum, both undergraduate and graduate, across all 12 of our nationally recognized academic divisions and Baylor’s extensive student life programming. In addition to this global emphasis, there are a number of programs on campus specifically devoted to ethics, ranging from the Medical Ethics Seminar sponsored by the Institute for Faith and Learning and the Dyer Ethics Workshop in the Garland School of Social Work to the Dale P. Jones Business Ethics Forum in the Hankamer School of Business.

We also strive to practice what we preach. The University itself is founded on the principles of honesty and ethical practices. A number of offices and protocols are in place to ensure Baylor does not deviate from this path. In particular, we are supported in this commitment by the Tax and Compliance Office and the Office of Internal Audit and Management Analysis, which promotes integrity and compliance in all University operations and includes a Risk Management team.

Every day as I walk across our beautiful campus, I am reminded of the loving care that so many people have given to this remarkable institution over the decades. Baylor has been blessed, during its more than 170 years, with leaders who have served the University with great distinction and, at times, with significant sacrifice to themselves. The names of past presidents, including Rev. Burleson, adorn several prominent building on campus in a fitting honor to their legacies as ethical and innovative educators.

I consider it a deep honor and privilege to serve as Baylor’s 15th president. It is a position to which I bring expertise as a scholar in organizational behavior and experience as a seasoned academic administrator, having previously served 15 years as the dean of The George Washington University School of Business and the dean of Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management.

In an article on cultivating leadership integrity that I contributed a few years ago to the book Business and Corporate Integrity: Sustaining Organizational Compliance, Ethics and Trust, I noted there are three particularly fruitful opportunities for business schools to develop students’ ethics, values and practices, and these opportunities also are applicable to universities as a whole:

  • Strengthen business curriculum to more fully emphasize and integrate issues of social, environmental and ethical responsibility throughout coursework and programs.
  • Encourage and support, with appropriate resources, faculty research and the development of communities of scholars focusing on the cultivation of leadership integrity and on responsible business practice.
  • Engage more fully with the business community to ensure that research is relevant to the ethical issues facing business and to more effectively embed in student learning experiences the opportunity to apply knowledge acquired in formal learning experiences to real-time business situations.

The Baylor story is one of transforming lives and changing the world for the glory of God. As we pursue our goal to be a tier-one research university that is unambiguously Christian, we are building upon the noble vision of our founders to write the next chapter of excellence in higher education and service to the surrounding world. A strong ethical foundation and ongoing ethical decision-making are of paramount importance to that endeavor, both in our practices as an institution and in how we prepare our students for worldwide leadership and service.

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Baylor Business Review, Spring 2018

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