BIC Faculty Updates — Fall 2016

cann_perry-chapelCandi Cann: Hello BIC Alums! This August marked my five-year anniversary here at Baylor, and Baylor’s campus keeps growing more beautiful every year. Maia is now in fourth grade, an avid reader of anime, and learning to play the cello. This past year I published several articles on death and dying, and my next book Dying to Eat (UKY Press) is in the final stages of production. In June, I participated in an NEH Seminar at UVA, in Charlottesville, Virginia, where Maia and I stayed for a month, while I began research on the first and oldest African-American funeral home in Virginia. Later I traveled to Brazil and gave the opening keynote at the VII International Conference Imagens da Morte in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and this fall over fall break, I am giving two invited university lectures—at FSU, and the University of Florida. Maia and I are hoping to sneak in a trip to Harry Potter World in between the lectures. As Dumbledore said, “Let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.” May your own adventures be worthy ones full of excitement and knowledge.

paul-carronPaul Carron: I just finished my second year on tenure track in the BIC, but my seventh year teaching Social World I, which I once again coordinated. I taught a revamped Biblical Heritage with Dr. Novakovic that spent a lot more time on ethical issues and the students really seemed to enjoy that focus. I also taught Social World II and had the opportunity to teach my first upper division elective in the philosophy department on contemporary issues in ethics. The course focused on the intersection of social psychology and virtue ethics. I am looking forward to teaching the course again this spring. My paper “Monkeys, Men, and Moral Responsibility” was accepted for publication, and I wrote two articles on Kierkegaard’s psychology that are currently under review. My children just keep growing! Ellie had her first piano recital this summer (pictured left) and just began the third grade. The twins have one more year before kindergarten, and Nora is talking our ears off!

sharon-conrySharon Conry: This is my 15th year to teach in the BIC, and it has been wonderful!  Each new semester brings a great new group of students who teach ME, more than I think I teach them.  I have also had the opportunity to develop, write, and try out new labs in Natural World.  Some have worked out fabulously, others not so much!  Luckily, BIC students are great about adjusting to new things, and it has worked out well for us.  After much thought, prayer and saving, we built a small home in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Georgia.  What a wonderful respite from the summer heat in Texas!  We also had the opportunity to take care of two of our three grandchildren for several weeks while their mother, father, and our oldest grandson went on a mission trip to Ecuador.  The time together was a great time to bond and create long-term memories with our grandchildren.  During our months in Georgia, we also had plenty of time to do our favorite things:  hiking and eating!   However, coming back to Texas and its 104 degree heat was a shock!  I can’t wait for fall to get here!

Stacey Hibbs:  Dr. Hibbs continues to teach in both BIC and Great Texts. This semester she is teaching World Cultures I and Social World I, and in the spring she taught a BIC Capstone, “Friendship: Happiness, Virtue, and Love,” with her husband, Dean Thomas Hibbs.

mark-long-2Mark Long: This year, my wife and I traveled back to the Air Force Academy, where I taught previously, and we took our 11 year old granddaughter to San Francisco and Monterey, California.  Of note, several BIC students aided in my quest to grow a blue beard. My joint work continues with Sam Perry on the rhetorical strategies of Daesh.  My focus now is on the rise of Daesh-sponsored, extra-territorial violence as its self-proclaimed caliphate crumbles.  In particular, I am interested in the neologism that Daesh uses to describe and promote suicide operations, inghimas.

mcdaniel-tellurideCharles McDaniel: My wife and I escaped the Texas heat long enough to breathe in some mountain air in New Mexico and Colorado (pictured left).  We stayed in a 7000-square-foot Sears kit house in Canyon, Texas, that was built in 1906 and was the boarding house where Georgia O’Keefe took most of her meals when she was teaching at West Texas Normal College (now West Texas A&M).  We also stayed with a nice lady in Ridgway, Colorado, who was the personal assistant to actor Dennis Weaver of “Gunsmoke” and “McCloud” TV fame and had some interesting stories about the Hollywood life and why Weaver came to be a committed ecologist.

As for research/publications, I’m working on a paper titled “Religion, Social Justice, and the New Eugenics: Transcending the Market for Human Enhancement” that will be presented at the annual conference of the Society for Ethics Across the Curriculum in October.  I’m also developing a grant proposal for submission to the National Endowment for the Humanities that could help bolster the academic connection between the Honors College and Hankamer School of Business.  A couple of BICers are lending support to this effort.

Sam Perry: I continue to research representations of violence in protest movements, and I am currently looking at the analogous rhetorical structures present in the anti-lynching movement, the Civil Rights movement, and current protests of racial violence. I am also coauthoring work with Dr. Long on Daesh recruitment videos and speeches. We are looking at the ways representations of violence are used to radicalize and recruit people to extremist causes. Additionally, Dr. Walden and I have completed one new rhetoric textbook and will be completing a second textbook in the spring. I will teach both rhetoric classes, Social World I, and World Cultures IV this year. When I take a break from all things BIC and research, my wife Mary and I love to travel, and this summer we took a road trip through the Southeast with stops in Atlanta, Tampa, and New Orleans. When in Waco, we enjoy time with family, friends, and our dogs (Seamus and Remy).

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Alumni Interview — Dr. Kiera Boyle (’09)

With each year that passes there are more and more BIC graduates doing great work all over the world. Each spring we publish brief “Alumni Updates” where our alumni can tell us some about their post-BIC lives. In addition to these annual updates, we post interviews with our alumni. Today we are excited to post an interview with Dr. Kiera Boyle (’09). We hope you enjoy, and if you are interested in being interviewed for a future blog post, email us at

dr-kiera-boyleWhat year did you graduate from Baylor? What did you study?

I graduated in 2009 with a B.A. in psychology and philosophy. I knew I wanted to study psychology when I started at Baylor, but I learned to love philosophy while there and added the major during my junior year. I went on to get my doctorate in clinical psychology from George Washington University in Washington, DC. Although I ended up pursuing a career in psychology, my philosophy and BIC courses were my favorites while I went to Baylor.


What are you doing currently for work/career? What do you enjoy most about your work?

I currently work as a clinical psychologist at a children’s hospital in Boston. I specialize in treating children and adolescents with depression, anxiety, PTSD, difficult family dynamics, and other emotional and mental health challenges. I also do psychological testing with kids and teens to help them, and those around them, understand their cognitive abilities and the underlying reasons for their behavior more fully. I love a lot of things about my job! I am able to do a variety of different activities throughout the day, including therapy, testing, writing, reading, supervising psychologists-in-training, and teaching seminars. My work involves complex and nuanced thinking, but also connecting emotionally with others. Of course the best feeling is seeing a child make progress in knowing, expressing, and regulating their emotions; those moments when kids feel proud of themselves for the work they have done are the most rewarding.

How has your BIC education influenced your life/career since leaving Baylor?

The main point that has stuck with me is that openness to new experience is an incredibly valuable thing to practice. It can be very challenging to separate from your own biases and beliefs at times, but when you can do so and see the “other” as someone to learn from and connect with, everyone benefits. We were challenged to do that both intellectually and experientially (going to the Mosque, Hindu temple, Synagogues, etc.) many times throughout our time in the BIC. I think that value of openness and genuinely attempting to see connections and meaning in things that initially feel very “other” from myself has influenced my desire and ability to empathize with people, including patients. It’s also made life a lot more interesting!

Do you have a favorite memory from your time in BIC?

It’s hard to choose just one. I loved the field trips in general, but my favorite was going to the Dallas Museum of Art. I followed Dr. Henry Wright around and learned a ton about the paintings and artists. It made me appreciate the art much more to learn about the people and historical/cultural contexts of the works.

Is there something you learned in BIC that still sticks with you today?

Honestly, I was very shy when I started attending Baylor. The most important thing I learned that still sticks with me is to speak up and not be afraid to share my thoughts and opinions with others. The small group class format in particular made this easier for me over the four years that I was in the BIC, and it’s something I’ve carried with me throughout my graduate training and career.  Even if my BIC classmates or professors didn’t agree with my points, the environment was one where we were allowed to explore and work through ideas out loud. I think that kind of setting is crucial for intellectual and personal growth.

What are your goals for the future?

What a hard question! Overall, I hope to keep growing as a person and as a psychologist. Balancing all the roles I’d like to play is likely to be challenging. I remember that during my capstone course with Drs. Hanks and Lenore Wright, we talked about how challenging it can be to develop a professional identity while raising a family and maintaining a home, particularly for women. I’d like to be able to feel that I’m fully participating in each realm of life and finding meaning by integrating those experiences. As for concrete goals, I’d love to write a children’s book one day!

Is there anything else would you like to share?

I can’t say enough how glad I am that I participated in the BIC. I hope my responses reflect how much I think it added to my experience while at Baylor, and that others continue to be able to have that experience. I am very grateful to the professors who went out of their way to create and maintain the program.

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Note from the Director — Fall 2016

“American culture, like Athenian democracy, is highly prone to authority and peer pressure, and to seeing political argument as a matter of boasts and assertions, of scoring ‘points’ for one’s side. That is why Socrates has so much to offer us, why Socrates is so urgently needed.” Martha Nussbaum

[W]hen we lose Socrates, we lose reflection, and when we lose reflection, we lose wisdom. And it is not only wisdom that we lose, although that is bad enough. When we lose Socrates, when we lose reflection, we lose a kind of closeness to reality, the ability to see the things that exist only in nuance, in hidden corners, in the uncommon details of life.” Stephen Carter

Hello BIC alumni,

As I mentioned in my previous note, I’ve been participating in a Yoginis for Social Justice reading group in Austin. Over the last year, we read Chris Crass’s Toward the Other America and Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. During our summer hiatus, I took it upon myself to read Cornel West’s Democracy Matters and most recently Ta- Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me. The readings and our discussions have led to some deep soul searching on my part about how I might bring what I’m learning into my more traditionally-oriented philosophy classroom. I’ve also been thinking about how various BIC classes might provide forums to talk about these important matters in more sustained ways.

One small thing I did was add the above quotes to my Plato Seminar Syllabus. I have always tried to use inspirational quotes for my syllabi, but when I looked at the quotes I was using more critically, I decided I could do better than Whitehead’s oft-quoted remark about western philosophy and footnotes to Plato. I want Plato and Socrates to matter today, not just because they are the patriarchs of the western philosophical tradition but because I believe that this legacy offers an inspirational model for living in our rather troubled times.

Cornel West certainly believes this is the case. In 2004, he wrote Democracy Matters, a sequel to his now classic Race Matters published in 1994. West argues that there has been a decline in civil democratic space and civic engagement aimed at mutual good. He maintains that “a narrow rant against the new imperialism or emerging plutocracy is not enough. Instead we must dip deep into often-untapped wells of our democratic tradition to fight the imperialist strain and plutocratic impulse in American life.”[i] He isolates three main threats to our democratic lives, “the dogma of free market fundamentalism, aggressive militarism, and escalating authoritarianism.” Throughout this book, West vividly describes the dark underbelly of violence that pervades America’s cultural history. He argues that we must find resources to expose our collective denial about the harm that our unreflective commitment to these three modes of engagement causes both individually and collectively. West locates three aspects of our democratic tradition that we must revive: a commitment to Socratic questioning and plain speaking (parrehesia), the prophetic voice from the Hebraic and Christian tradition, and the tragic comic commitment to hope as seen in the struggles to overcome racial oppression.

As I was reading West’s description of these communal resources, it struck me how BIC-ish it was. Throughout the four years of the BIC, we read and discuss works from each of these strains of our intellectual heritage.

I also realized that my work as a Plato scholar (alongside my interest in Platonic Narrative) could move into this conversation as well . So, I decided to do what all academics do: write an academic paper about it. Here’s a paragraph from the opening.

Given the current crisis of our nation, one even more critical than when West published Democracy Matters twelve years ago, I would like to take up the first of West’s remedies for our social crisis: a commitment to the Socratic art of plain speaking. To this end, I place Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me in conversation with West and with Plato’s presentation of Socrates in the Apology. I regard Coates as a contemporary American Socratic that the philosophical community should rigorously engage as a philosophical interlocutor, much in the way that thinkers like Cornel West have shaped the philosophical discussions on race. Further, Coates is an eloquent writer. In many ways this work functions as a Platonic dialogue does, leading readers through a process of engaged argument, reassessment and aporia, toward a refined understanding of the issues at hand. In addition, Coates’s position as a public intellectual offers a model of how philosophers might do more to engage the world outside the halls of the academy. His work should motivate us to enter the agora as Socrates did in his own world, a world shaped by a democracy in crisis.

May each of you find ways to continue to live out the examined life in your lives.

Anne-Marie Schultz
Director, Baylor Interdisciplinary Core

[i] West, Cornel. Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism (p. 3). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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2016 Homecoming Speaker — Sabrina Neff

Each year the BIC invites an alum to return to campus for Homecoming and share a lecture with our students, faculty, and alumni. We are very excited that Sabrina Neff (’02), an attorney in Houston, Texas, will be our featured alumni speaker. We recently interviewed Ms. Neff to learn more about her journey since graduating from Baylor. We hope you enjoy the interview, and we hope you join us for her lecture on October 14 at 2:30 pm in Marrs McLean Science Building, room 101. Ms. Neff will speak on the topic “Bursting the Baylor Bubble: Creating a Climate of  Meaningful Self-Critique.”


sabrinaneff0535bwsWhat year did you graduate from Baylor? What did you study?

I graduated in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts.  I was a Political Science major and Philosophy minor. In 2004, I earned a Master of Arts degree in Church-State Studies from Baylor.

What are you doing currently for work/career? What do you enjoy most about your work?

I am a consumer finance litigation attorney in Houston, Texas.  I love how my role challenges me to constantly learn.  My specific field has rapidly changed in the past five years and there are significant developments on at least a monthly basis that affect how my clients do business.  If you actually enjoy learning, become a lawyer.  The practice of law is also one big opportunity to utilize people skills.  I am outgoing and relish getting to know other people.  These skills are celebrated in my profession.  Most of all, I am a true believer in the importance of the rule of law.  Lawyers are who society entrusts as keepers of the law—both upholding the good laws and fighting to change the bad laws.

How has your BIC education influenced your life/career since leaving Baylor?

There are two important ways I was influenced by my BIC education.  First, BIC taught me to be skeptical of oversimplification.  Our BIC coursework required that we view the world for the multi-dimensional conglomerate that it is.  My BIC education made me unafraid to challenge oversimplification whenever I encounter it.  It also created an awareness of my own myopia; if I think a situation is clear-cut, then I probably need to ask for some perspective.

Second, BIC made me unafraid to admit that I’m not the smartest person in the room.  I should note that my fellow BIC students were ridiculously smart.  After faking it for a semester, I gradually learned that there was no shame in admitting when I didn’t know something.  I learned to use it as an opportunity to be taught, rather than be embarrassed.  In my current life, I try not to pass up similar opportunities in the hopes that some brave soul will enlighten me.  And people feel invested when they teach someone; it is one of the most effective ways to transform a detractor into your champion.

Is there something you learned in BIC that still sticks with you today?

Without hesitation—Myers Briggs.  We took countless personality tests our first year, but I will never forget the Myers Briggs test and the way we met as an entire class to acknowledge, learn about, and celebrate each personality type.  BIC helped me to become comfortable with the way I am wired.  Years (and many retests) later, I am still decidedly an ENTJ.  Know thyself.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time in BIC?

I have far too many great memories to count, but a standout memory would be my time on the BIC Leadership Council.  I was appointed to the inaugural Council in 1998 and served all four years.  Lenore Wright and Kirsten Escobar were the faculty advisors.  I’m certain we planned great events and organized service projects and designed t-shirts.  But mostly I just remember how much fun we all had.  We could not have asked for better advisors than Lenore Wright and Kirsten Escobar—each are great scholars in their own regard and also completely relatable.

Do you have any advice for current BIC students?

Take yourselves less seriously.

Make a few friends outside of BIC.

And sophomore year, when you think you’re able to slack off on reading, don’t do it.  You will regret it.  BIG TIME.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Selectively reread your BIC books again after college.  I reread Metaphors We Live By, by Lakoff and Johnson, while stuck for 14 hours in hurricane evacuation traffic.  It absolutely revolutionized the way I think about words and language.  I did not really process the message of that book as a freshman.  It turned my world upside down as a law student.  Much as the literature you read in high school will speak to you differently as an adult, open yourself to the possibility that the BIC reading list has treasures yet undiscovered.

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Realizing My Purpose At Baylor In A Small Village In Haiti — Courtney McFarland


Article by Courtney McFarland, current BIC student

Have you ever been lost at Baylor – feeling like your education is one with the masses, and you, alone, are not important? I sometimes do. The college environment is beneficial in multiple ways – but it lacks in one. While we are constantly surrounded and empowered by intelligent, curious minds working hard to get a degree in many different disciplines, we do not readily see the millions of people unable to have an education. This summer I was able to get a new perspective; I went to Haiti on a mission trip. The shock of experiencing a completely different culture and language broadened my perspective of a student’s purpose here at Baylor.

Charis4Haiti is an organization that focuses first on the unseen spirits in Haiti, and second on the physical needs of the people. Their mission trips are focused on building relationships and introducing Americans to this world we have never witnessed. Our primary goal is not to build a home, or donate some food and games, but to interact with the community and share Christ’s love. We attended many bible studies, with some members walking miles to attend. There we witnessed LaTique. LaTique is a former voodoo priest who has completely flipped his life around once learning about Christ. LaTique had been a very bad man throughout most of his adult life. Voodoo priests get instructed by their demons to do certain tasks, and they can be taken over by there demons at night and act in violent, dangerous ways that they have no memory or control over. LaTique stood up in this particular bible study, he attends most, and started talking loudly. He had his bible in one hand and and fist raised up in his other hand. He began speaking about how scared he once had been. His demon had haunted him since he was a boy. Nothing he could do could satisfy the demon, it was always asking for more. It became so unbearable he couldn’t sleep at night. LaTique had become so engulfed with emotion, his hands were balled up and his words were coming out as sharp and loud as an air horn. His eyes were open as wide as they can go. The seriousness in his stare was at first discomforting, but I later realized I misconstrued his passion for anger; his passion is nothing I have ever seen before. LaTique is illiterate and cannot read the bible, but lays with it under his pillow every night. Ever since then he has been able to sleep fully throughout the night. He now feels safe and comforted by the word of God, he never walks anywhere without his bible in his hand and is learning to read so he can read the Bible for himself.

LaTique’s passion has a lesson for us all. I have seen very few with a such life-or-death passion for anything in America. LaTique was saved by grace by missionaries who were able to get an education and pass on that information to someone unavailable to it. LaTique was able to better himself, his family, and his community from hearing Christ’s message. This missionary work can be reciprocated with any type of knowledge. As our favorite man, Plato, says, “knowledge is the food of the soul.” Many missionary teams are shuttling food to these poor countries, but who is feeding the soul? Every college student now holds a special gift, the question is what are we going to do with it?

Courtney McFarland is a sophomore BIC student majoring in business.

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Alumni Interview — Dr. John Erickson (’00)

With each year that passes there are more and more BIC graduates doing great work all over the world. Each spring we publish brief “Alumni Updates” where our alumni can tell us some about their post-BIC lives. In addition to these annual updates, we post interviews with our alumni. Today we are excited to post an interview with Dr. John Erickson (’00). We hope you enjoy, and if you are interested in being interviewed for a future blog post, email us at

ericksonWhat year did you graduate, what did you study?

I graduated in 2000 from Baylor with a Bachelor of Arts from the University Scholars’ Program. In addition to the BIC program, the scholars program further allowed me to study a broad variety of subjects from multiple departments within the university. I had a pre-medical focus to prepare me for medical school, but I also explored philosophy, religion, psychology, art history, and Spanish. I feel like I left Baylor with a solid foundation in science as well as humanities.

What are you doing currently for work? What do you enjoy most about work?

I am an orthopedic surgeon specialized in hand surgery. I was initially attracted to this field of medicine because of the beauty and complexity of hand anatomy, which fascinated me at an early age. I coupled this interest with my desire to help others, and this profession seemed to be a natural fit for me. We usually take our hands for granted – but when they are in pain or do not function well, it becomes very clear how important they are to us. I find great satisfaction in helping patients regain use of their hands, and knowing that I did my best to help someone in need.

How has your BIC education influenced your life and career?

BIC provided me with a good foundation for interacting with people from all walks of life. As a doctor, I try to help patients from various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Part of being a good doctor is getting to know the patient and assessing what might be the best course of treatment for him or her. Since everyone is different, both physically and mentally, what works well for one patient may not work well for another. This human-side of my job is the most interesting to me.

Is there something you learned in BIC that sticks with you?

I learned that you can understand a lot about people by walking in their shoes.

What are your future goals?

I hope to continue to become a better doctor and surgeon by learning from my patients and physician colleagues.

Anything else? 

I hope my daughter becomes a Baylor Bear one day! Sic ‘em Bears!

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Baylor in Greece — Mattilyn Egli


Article by Mattilyn Egli, current BIC student

When asked to explain the BIC, or any course in the BIC, I can think of no other way to do so than definition by negation. I can tell you what it’s not: The BIC isn’t a set of pre-recs. It isn’t a philosophy program. Nor is it a psychology, English, history, or sociology curriculum. It isn’t focused on teaching students logic, it doesn’t have an ethics course. And what do you even call the study of empathy? How can you tell a stranger (or your grandma, for that matter) that you’ve been studying how to be a person for the last two years?

Really—if someone can answer this, please get back to me.

The Baylor Interdisciplinary Core is magical in its ambiguity. Once I got lost in the twists and turns of nuance in World of Rhetoric, I knew there was no going back. But the BIC cannot live in Baylor alone; it was created for life far beyond the borders of Waco. This was finally impressed on me this summer when I studied abroad in Greece.

I remember the airplane ride from Philadelphia to Athens. A group of us met together for the first time, tremulously awaiting what would, for many of us, be our first venture out of the country. Those strangers with whom I had thrown my lot boarded the plane with me and, together, we flew halfway across the world. For the second time in my life, I knew there would be no going back.

The next month stands like a gleaming whirlwind in my memory. We read hundreds of pages of Plato, Aristotle, and Paul and we walked, literally, in their footsteps. Socrates changed from “an old grumpy Greek guy who couldn’t be quiet” to “an old grumpy Greek guy who had a few brilliant ideas.” Plato went from being his doting student to a man who lived through peace, war, and tyranny and longed to reestablish justice. We saw the very cities where Paul taught, spending rosy mornings on Mars Hill and star lit nights in Berea.

Over the five weeks we were in Greece, we grew close. We held late night meetings on the roof, at beaches, on hilltops overlooking Athens, and enjoyed just living in one another’s presence. We had dreamy conversations concerning the rise and fall of empires while we watched the moon rise over the acropolis, just as it had done for millennia. At once, our lives seemed infinitely small and more vibrant than we could imagine.

One moment is particularly special to me: we had the rare chance to spend the entire day swimming on Corfu, an island just west of mainland Greece. The water was a color that I didn’t believe existed. It was a mix of turquoise and the foliage of some great blue bird that only inhabits paradise. We had all spotted a rock in the middle of an inlet beckoning to us to join it. So, all of us swam out against the powerful waves and latched onto it, water beating down on us from the indifferent sea. One person kept watch while the others did their best to keep their grip, yelling “Wave!” about the roar of the surf—and the rest of us knew to grasp even tighter and hold our breath while a particularly monstrous wave attempted to pull us under. We played like children for hours that beautiful day.

It was in Greece, with strangers turned family, that I began to understand what education is meant to be. We worked hard, yes. Even after we got back, we worked. My mother loves to tell people that even for the week after I arrived home, my family didn’t see my face—I was either asleep or writing. But I never grew weary of the work that I had to do because I had allowed myself to stop caring about my grades. How could I consider a letter, when we were wandering down mountains and through castles and trudging between the margins of The Republic?

This is truly what the BIC aims for. We had no choice but to be entirely immersed in learning. We built relationships and worshipped together, pursuing truth while exploring history. We allowed our minds to wander along with our feet, watching sunrises and returning to breakfast, letting our conversations on theology melt into philosophy, which was melting into our morning cups of coffee. Somehow, in the midst of earnestly comparing gyro quality with my companions, I learned something that is now part of who I am. I began to pursue capital “T” Truth above all else. It was here that I really started to understand what it is to be a person.

Mattilyn Egli is a sophomore BIC student and University Scholar

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Alumni Interview — Flora Lee Peir (’03)

With each year that passes there are more and more BIC graduates doing great work all over the world. Each spring we publish brief “Alumni Updates” where our alumni can tell us some about their post-BIC lives. In addition to these annual updates, we post interviews with our alumni. Today we are excited to post an interview with Flora Lee Peir (’03). We hope you enjoy, and if you are interested in being interviewed for a future blog post, email us at

peirWhat year did you graduate from Baylor? What did you study?

I graduated in 2003 with a major in journalism, a minor in history, and a lot of science classes thrown in to a) please my parents by giving pre-med a shot and b) try to pick up a future doctor. (It did not work.)

What are you doing currently for work/career? What do you enjoy most about your work?

I am a night editor on the Metro desk at The New York Times and will soon be joining the team of editors dedicated to the print paper.

Gosh, what don’t I enjoy about my work? I love being around so many dedicated, brilliant colleagues and being able to learn something new every day. I enjoy the rush of breaking news and being able to absorb so much about the way the world works by just keeping an ear open.

How has your BIC education influenced your life/career since leaving Baylor?

I think BIC has been a huge influence on my career, beginning with that required subscription to The New York Times. Times writing isn’t academic, but it does force a relatively higher level of reader engagement than most print media. There’s no way I could have been ready for the job without that initial exposure.

And when I got here, there were references everywhere to what I’d learned about in BIC. From World Cultures 1 alone: the Lascaux cave paintings, Venus of Willendorf, Nike of Samothrace, Steven Pinker, Hinduism, Jewish history … the list could go on. All that cultural capital helped me stay afloat. Erik Eckholm recently retired. I used his articles on the 2000 Taiwanese election for a Rhetoric paper.  I never told him, because we didn’t work closely and I wasn’t sure how he’d feel about that.

I made some good friends through BIC, though I wish I’d been more outgoing and gotten to know more people. What a graduating class we were! (Just look through the list of homecoming alumni speakers. For a while it seemed like everyone was from ’03.) It’s been a pleasure following everyone on Facebook.

I think people who are naturally curious and open-minded seek a BIC education, and in return the curriculum lays out vistas that we did not know existed. It enhances the lives of people who were already interested in knowing more about the world.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time in BIC?

I think any time spent with Dr. Tom Hanks qualifies as some sort of favorite memory.  He leads that excellent spring break trip to London every year. It was a true delight to have him and Dr. Lenore Wright as my capstone teachers.

Is there something you learned in BIC that still sticks with you today?

Poverty is complicated.

I know, it seems to have nothing to do with everything I answered above. But poverty is a large part of life in New York City. If you’re not financially struggling, you’re near someone who is. I’m answering this question at the end of a mildly busy night in which a cleaver-wielding man was shot by the police. What was he doing with the cleaver before he decided to attack the police? Trying to remove a boot from his car – which happened to be his home. Not that anyone should be attacking anyone with knives. But his circumstances add another layer to the situation.

What are your goals for the future?

BIC, and academic decathlon before that, gave me a huge infusion of cultural knowledge that allowed me to hold my head high while operating in some tall cotton, so to speak. I’d like to be able to pass on that knowledge to my children and, more importantly, imbue them with the cultural curiosity that would allow them to do the same.

Is there anything else would you like to share?

Keep in touch with your professors, and get to know your classmates. They’re probably wonderful people. If you don’t get around to all your reading, remember the title or the author, and get around to it after graduation. It’s a way of extending the experience, if you will, and so often I’ve found the passages were chosen for excellent reasons.

And subscribe to The New York Times, obviously. It feeds my kids – but more relevantly, it’s a great place to see all the pieces of a BIC education come together.

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Faculty Interview — Sam Perry

Dr. Sam Perry is an assistant professor in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core and the coordinator of the World of Rhetoric sequence. In addition to Rhetoric, he teaches Social World I and World Cultures IV. Dr. Perry was a BIC student himself in his undergraduate career at Baylor. We hope you enjoy this interview with both a BIC alum and faculty member! 

sam-perryTell us some about your journey from BIC student to BIC professor. When you were a student in BIC, would you ever have imagined being in this role?

Honestly, I could not have imagined making it this far, and I certainly would not have imagined being colleagues with folks that I marveled at as a student. As an undergraduate, I was not focused in the way that I am now, but I still recognized that I was really fortunate to learn from such smart and compassionate people. Now, I work with many of the same people on a daily basis, and I am very thankful for that opportunity. I would not be where I am without the education that I received in the BIC, so I really try to take that into account every time I step in the classroom. While I could not have imagined being in this role when I was a student, I love my job and could not imagine doing anything else now.

Do you have a favorite memory from your time as a BIC student?

There are too many to choose from, but I do love the moments that carry over from undergraduate to present. Dr. Long called me The Dude during my freshman year (he still does, though now I think it is because I abide, not because I am lazy). In the opening monologue of the Big Lebowski, Sam Elliot describes “The Dude” as “Quite possibly the laziest in Los Angeles County, which would place him high in the runnin’ for laziest worldwide…” In a moment that lived up to that billing, I used the only paper I had in my dorm to print off an essay. It was pink paper that I had taken from my parents’ house. Dr. Long stared at the essay incredulously when I turned it in. If we fast forward ten years later, Dr. Long teaches many of the same students that I do, which is an opportunity not wasted on him. One of the first batches of essays that I received from students included many that were printed on pink paper supplied by Dr. Long. Every semester I get a few of these essays.

What do you find most rewarding about teaching in BIC and working with BIC students?

First, BIC students are endlessly enthusiastic about being in class. As an educator, there is nothing more helpful than having a class full of students that are excited about learning. You can have the best lesson plans and topics for discussion mapped out, but without students who want to engage the material it can all be for naught. My job is easy to enjoy because I have great students who want to dig into the material.

Second, I would say that BIC students form a community with their peers, the faculty, and the staff in a way that not all students have an opportunity to do. The BIC is nestled into the Baylor culture in a way that feels like a smaller school or liberal arts college within the larger university. It’s incredibly rewarding to get to know students who sustain that community. There are so many students going on and doing impressive things here at Baylor, in graduate school, in law school, in medical school, in their chosen professions, and the list goes on… I feel really lucky to be a small part of that community.

You currently serve as course coordinator for the World of Rhetoric sequence. What do you hope BIC students take away from these particular courses? 

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Baylor in Greece — Candace Woolverton

candace-woolverton-greeceArticle by Candace Woolverton, current BIC student

Athens, Thessaloniki, Corfu. These were all names I had heard before from movies or books, but that is all they were: meaningless names of far off places that I, a girl from small town Texas that did not even own a passport, would probably never see. However, the name Washington DC held a different connotation. It was a place I had been privileged to visit a few months before through Baylor Ambassadors and the place I was going to spend my summer with one of the incredible internships that I had applied for. Yet, despite my carefully-laid plan, the rejection emails came one by one over the course of the spring semester. Soon it was April, yet my summer remained empty. Then, I received an email about the Baylor in Turkey and Greece program, which happened to include two BIC courses I needed to take. The next thing I knew, all financial aid matters worked out with record-breaking time, six days total to be exact; I believe this can only be explained as a God thing. Soon enough, I was on my third ever plane ride, this time to Greece as the Turkey portion of the trip had been cancelled due to safety risks. I knew little of what lay ahead of me, but I knew one thing: this journey was a one in a lifetime opportunity to leap out of my comfort zone into a world I knew little about.

I was whisked away into a world where restaurant owners practically drag innocent tourists into their restaurant, offering us special “deals” because we were always their favorite costumers, just like every other tourists that happens upon the Plaka of Athens. This was the first of a few culture shocks, but the biggest one was living in a land where learning comes to life due to Greece’s incredible history. No longer did I read about the ancient world from some textbook with a few pictures of old rocks. Instead, I stood on the Acropolis as our tour guide, Nikos, told the mesmerizing tales of the many lifetimes of the Parthenon such as its time as a temple to Athena and even its time as a Christian church. To watch the civilizations from years past rise and fall before my eyes while gazing at arguably one of the longest standing symbols of the potential of all of humankind is an experience I will never forget. This kind of learning can never be accomplished in a classroom for there is no substitute for standing atop the Aeropagus while pondering Paul’s sermon in Acts with the Acropolis in the near distance. Then at times, it was back to the present: like eating my first, but definitely not my last, gyro in the streets of Thessaloniki while shopping with the Greek locals, which immersed me in a culture different from my own. Yet, despite our differences in appearance or food, this experience reminded me of the universality in human kind. We as a world are one and should treat each other as such. We are all children of God created in His image whether that image is black, brown, white, or any other color. I was also reminded of this as we served Middle Eastern refugees in Athens through a service project inspired by the Hunts: generous donors to the Honors College who made this trip a possibility for many of my classmates and I. It was hard to see the political chaos of the something like the Refugee Crisis as I served meals to parents simply wanting to feed their children after escaping the horrors of their homelands. I will never forget this experience, the many lessons I learned, or the breathtaking place I saw along the way. Greece was certainly not in my original summer plans, but little did I know at the time that God had a much better summer in store for me than I could have ever imagined. The BIC has changed my life not only through this trip, but also through the lessons I learn everyday back in the classrooms at Baylor.

Candace Woolverton is a junior BIC student majoring in History.

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