Baylor Honors College Eyes Start of HRC Renovation

April 1, 2023

Earlier this spring, the Baylor Board of Regents approved a budget increase of $22.75 million for the renovation of the Honors Residential College (HRC) bringing the total project budget to $57.75 million. The project, which is slated to begin in May, fulfills key commitments of Illuminate Forward to improve students’ residential campus experience and to improve the Honors College.

“Baylor Honors College supports 1,400 high-achieving undergraduates pursuing over 90 academic majors across the whole university,” Douglas Henry, Ph.D., Dean of the Honors College, said. “Long anticipated improvements in store for Memorial and Alexander Halls, and for Draper Academic Building, will strengthen our work with these exceptional students, whether in the arts, business, education, engineering and computer science, health and human sciences, music, nursing, sciences, or social work.”

A highly visible element of the capital project involves the construction of a new “connector” building, The Commons, that spans the gap between Memorial and Alexander halls. The three-story addition bridges the two existing residence halls and creates an architecturally elevated and attractive focal point for the HRC. On the ground level, The Commons provides new public access to Memorial Dining Hall and Alexander Reading Room, along with a new outdoor courtyard. On upper floors, it enhances residential life through a learning center, study rooms, gaming area, lounge spaces, and a community kitchen.

“Among the many benefits of the renovation of Alexander and Memorial will be the addition connecting the buildings on the second and third floors,” Jason Whitt, Ph.D., HRC Faculty Steward and Senior Lecturer in the Honors Program, said. “It will provide much needed common space for the HRC community, where our students can gather to study, play, relax, and prepare meals. This space, I anticipate, will be the thriving center of the HRC, in which students truly can share life together.”

Aside from the addition to Memorial and Alexander, opened respectively in 1930 and 1941, the residence halls are both in need of significant refurbishment. Not only will student rooms be improved, but beloved spaces like Alexander Reading Room and Memorial Drawing Room will see much needed enhancements.

“I have had the privilege of serving students in the HRC since 2010,” HRC Program Director Courtney DePalma, M.A., said. “This project will breathe new life into the spaces that hold dear memories for so many of our HRC alumni and give our current students modern living conditions. I’m excited to see how this renovation will impact HRC students for generations to come.”

In addition to improving students’ residential campus experience, a major project element is to create a centrally located home for the Honors College. While faculty and staff are currently scattered across campus, after the renovation they will be united, with offices for the dean and other administrative leaders in Alexander, and offices in Draper Academic Building for faculty and staff in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, Great Texts, Honors Program, and University Scholars.

“The Honors College’s new campus, nestled within historic Founders Mall, represents a wonderful stride forward for Baylor,” noted Dean Henry. “Better public visibility, improved access for students to professors and advisors, and stronger collaboration and community among our faculty are all at stake. These things, in turn, impact our commitment to transformational undergraduate education shaped by our Christian faith.”

With the project slated for completion by the start of the 2024-2025 academic year, the Honors College expects its upgraded spaces will make a difference in recruitment of premier high school seniors.

“Having a designated space that the Honors College can call home will make all the difference when recruiting prospective students,” Erin Stamile, MS Ed, Associate Director of Enrollment Management, said. “The new facilities, including community spaces, classrooms, faculty and staff offices, and more will make our already outstanding programs even more enticing to the country’s best and brightest high school students.”

To learn how you can support this project through current, pledged, or estate gifts, email David Cortes
or contact him at 254-710-8513 for more information.