Baylor University Spirit Shop

From Bookstore to Community Destination: The Rise of Spirit Shops 

May 24, 2024

Campus stores have long served as the metaphorical front porch of campus, reflecting the spirit and energy of a college’s community. Today, these vibrant spaces are transforming from a destination for textbooks into dynamic spaces that offer stunning merchandise displays, fan-driven experiences, communal spaces, and even games to foster a deeper sense of community and school spirit. 

As the shift toward digital course materials frees up physical space in stores, campus leaders are reclaiming the space formerly used to house books and filling it with new ways to engage all members of the campus community, from students and parents, to fans, to staff and alumni.  

Read on to discover how three campusesBaylor University, Robert Morris University, and Illinois State University—have created spirit shops to engage their community and elevate the campus experience. 

Baylor University: Hurd Welcome Center and Spirit Shop

Baylor University’s new spirit shop at the Hurd Welcome Center, completed in September 2023, is a great example of a spirit shop that inspires connection and welcomes visitors to campus. This project was tailored to meet the evolving needs of their unique student body while fostering community spirit. As Baylor’s campus magazine described, “The Hurd Welcome Center is a multi-faceted facility to foster meaningful opportunities for connection and serve as a launching point for activity on campus.”

“We were truly inspired by the distinctive architectural design of the Mark and Paula Hurd Welcome Center,” said Traci Gambino, Follett’s Senior Director of Visual & Store Design. “We wanted to create a space that seamlessly flows within the entire building while standing out as a destination for all things Baylor University.” 

The layout features pavilion-like structures housing popular brands and Baylor-themed gifts designed to engage students and alumni alike. 

Innovative additions like interactive kiosks, a selfie photo booth, and tabletop games enhance the shopping experience, making it a gathering place where customers can meet up, shop, or just relax. These features bring Baylor’s school spirit to life, inviting alumni and students to interact and enjoy the campus culture together.

Ross VanDyke, assistant vice president of enrollment management marketing and recruitment at Baylor, sees the store as a valuable part of every campus tour: As prospective students select their spirit wear and take a moment to enjoy their drink and reflect on their tour, they will likely see current students and alumni engaging with spaces in the Hurd in a similar way. “I love the mixture of having not only prospective students, but also current and former students in the same building. That’s pretty powerful to be able to see as a new student.” (Baylor Magazine).

Robert Morris University Spirit Store

With the RMU Spirit Store, formerly known as the RMU Bookstore, the RMU team wanted to create a store that thrives on school spirit year-round. 

Through RMU’s digital-first Equitable Access program, RMU Book Bundle, students benefit from improved access, affordability, and convenience for their course materials. All required textbooks and resources are provided digitally through the campus learning management system, ensuring that students can access their materials on or before the first day of class. This streamlined distribution process not only enhances accessibility and affordability but also provided Robert Morris University with an opportunity to re-allocate space for a more engaging and community-focused spirit store environment.  

With a central location in the heart of the student center, the RMU Spirit Store offers a curated selection of RMU-branded merchandise and apparel easily accessible to the RMU community. Additionally, the store operates a game day location in the basketball arena and a kiosk during football games, providing an exciting venue for students and alumni to celebrate school spirit during sporting events. The store has also helped with several events around campus, including book signings, RMU Hockey games at Neville Island, Halloween events, BotsIQ Nationals Invitational, and more.

“Since the rebranding of the RMU Spirit Store, the response from students and the community has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Liz Feret, Market Leader at Follett. “People are eager to explore the fresh offerings in our three locations and revamped atmosphere of the RMU Spirit Stores. RMU staff continuously mention how they have never seen so much RMU gear being worn around campus.”

The transformation of the RMU Spirit Store serves as a vibrant hub where students, faculty, and alumni can come together to celebrate their shared school spirit. “What’s most exciting is witnessing the sense of pride and connection the community feels,” said Feret. “Whether it’s sporting the latest apparel or picking up unique RMU-themed items, there’s a renewed sense of identity and belonging that permeates through the stores’ atmosphere.”

Illinois State University: Redbird Spirit Shop

Illinois State University rebranded its campus bookstores to the Redbird Spirit Shop in June 2023. This strategic transformation enhanced the selection of school-themed merchandise and academic resources and made the Redbird brand more visible and integral to student life. 

The Redbird Spirit Shop now operates from two locations on campus, making daily necessities and convenience items more accessible. These sites do more than supply course materials and merchandise; they act as community hubs where students, faculty, and alumni can gather to celebrate their Redbird pride and connect over shared experiences. 

Additionally, the Redbird Spirit Shop extends beyond the campus through its revamped online store, making campus pride available for all Redbird fans, and boosting a sense of connection among the university’s network of students and alumni.

Larry Ernat, Market Leader at Follett Higher Education, said, “The Illinois State campus community has already come to love and appreciate The Redbird Spirit Shop, a retail experience that honors and celebrates our school tradition. Our ‘one store two location model’ has improved customer service, increased our campus presence, and broadened our apparel and gift offerings.” 


The transformation of campus bookstores into spirit shops marks a shift in how colleges and universities engage with their communities. As highlighted by Baylor University, Robert Morris University, and Illinois State University, they enrich campus life by blending tradition with modernity, highlighting school spirit, and building community on campus. 

Want to learn more about spirit shop transformation? Watch a video of opening day at Baylor University for more about the recent store updates — or, get in touch to chat about your campus’ needs.