Let passion blaze in your pursuits — Ada Zhang

adazhangReflection by Ada Zhang, BIC senior

“Look behind you,” said Mike, a new friend I’d made only a month prior.

I wrapped my arms more tightly around his waist, afraid I’d fall off his mint-green Vespa, get run over and become a messy splat on the Brooklyn Bridge. But I trusted Mike, so I twisted around to look behind me.

The sky was violescent hues with splashes of orange and vermillion. Clouds like torn-apart pieces of cotton spread unevenly across the fiery backdrop. To my right stretched the vastness of the East River. A barge was meandering along, leaving behind rigid textures in the calm water. Tall buildings twinkled playfully, as though flirting with the sun.

“New York is so beautiful right now,” I said stupidly.

And before I knew it, a single fast tear ran down my cheek, drying quickly thanks to the aggressive wind. I was glad Mike couldn’t see.

How did I get here? I asked myself. Sunsets have a way of bringing out my introspective side. How did my 21 years of life lead up to this exact moment?

I entered Baylor as a business major because my freshman self had no clue what she wanted to do. After taking one writing course, I changed my major to professional writing. To most people, I went from a practical degree to a whimsical one.

“What do you plan to do with that?” was the question everyone kept asking.

At dinner parties, I spent most of my time defending my love of the humanities to my parents’ friends, acting confident in my decision to switch majors. I think I even inspired myself a few times. But truthfully, I was unsure and terrified.

During my summer internship at Sterling Publishing, a small but well-established publishing house in Manhattan, I suddenly remembered, with clarity and certainty, why I’d switched majors in the first place: I’m deeply in love with words and the stories they tell. Words appear simple and harmless, but they have such enduring power. Words have made me laugh, and words have made me cry. Words can inspire; words can destroy.

I worked with words every day at Sterling. It was fulfilling work that felt good and natural to me. And when I wasn’t working, I was enjoying the city. I tried exotic foods, swing danced at a jazz festival, attended rooftop parties, walked in creepy alleys where I thought for sure someone was going to cut off my limbs, and even shook Josh Lucas’ hand. Working or not working, I was living.

I’m proud of my confused freshman self for being whimsical, for daring to dream at an age where dreaming is no longer cool. One big life decision, more than a dozen rejections and 30 humiliating dinner parties later, that girl found herself in New York City, doing exactly what she wanted to be doing.

“I’m going to turn around and cross the bridge again,” Mike said, “so we can go toward the sunset.”

Sometimes you want to do what you’re passionate about, and everyone seems against it. You’re making a horrible mistake, they tell you, one that won’t get you far in the “real world.” But when you ignore those people, you just might find yourself flying across the Brooklyn Bridge, wind in your face, as the world — more real than ever before — sparkles around you.

Ada Zhang is a senior professional writing major from Austin. This article was first published by the Baylor Lariat (link).

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What I do on my summer vacation — Melanie Nogalski


Reflection by Dr. Melanie Nogalski, BIC Program Manager

For the past few years, my travels have taken me to a number of European cities for conferences and symposiums. Some of the places we visit are repeats from years ago when we lived in Switzerland. But I learned something a few years ago. When I go to these landmarks, you go with me. Correction, a particular BIC course goes with me. In my mind, I feel a group of BIC students around me and I think of how this particular place or exhibit would have been the perfect field trip for a particular BIC class.

Since I have had so many of these reminder moments, I’ll confine my observation to two sites related to World Cultures I. When we were in Rome, an archaeologist acquaintance of my husband’s urged him to take time to discover the Basilica of San Clemente. What we found was an eleventh century Basilica built upon an earlier Christian church used in both the 4th and 1st centuries. In the basement under the Christian church was 2nd century mithraeum (a temple to the cult of Mithras). Nearby was part of the original home of a nobleman and you could hear the rush of water in a nearby chamber.

As we descended the various levels at San Clemente, I couldn’t help but marvel at the ingenuity of the Irish Dominicans who have charge over the Basilica. They began excavating the layers of the site in the 19th century to uncover sacred sites from other times—all layered in meters of dirt through the centuries. I could see BIC students walking down the endless steps to the next level—dimly lit, musty, only to discover remnants of ornamentation and architectural elements from an earlier age.

My next World Cultures I site was a most unexpected find. There is an Egyptian museum in Munich, Germany that is extremely high tech in its presentation of artifacts. The first room we encountered had a large console of small artifacts (scarabs, etc.) in which a holographic presentation under the object radiated the image back to the surface. It is hard to describe but you get a 3-D projection of the image. In the middle of the next room, a console had a touch screen in which you could select language and topic to read much more about the history, arts, religion, and culture of Egypt. Room after room provided more of these consoles. You could spend lot of time looking at artifacts and reading more about Ancient Egypt.

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Reflecting on BIC — Dustin Lyles


Reflection by Dustin Lyles (’14)

Dustin Lyles graduated in May 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish, minoring in Political Science (Pre-Law). During his time at Baylor, Dustin served four years on the BIC Leadership Council, and was president his senior year. After interning for the BIC this summer, he will travel in September to the small town of Guardo, Spain where he will teach English for a year at an elementary school. After Spain, he plans to attend law school and eventually hopes to practice immigration law.

One of the most challenging realizations I came to in my time as an undergraduate is that change is constant; we are never again where we once were. After just four short years at Baylor, the perpetual pattern of change continued when I graduated in May, once again when I began interning for the BIC in June, and will strike again when I travel to Spain in September to teach English until the end of May 2015. Upon beginning college, I often thought that my experience would allow me to transform the uncertainty in life with knowledge and answers about the future through education. However, upon completion of my undergraduate experience, I find that I remain just as unclear about the future as when I began my educational journey. The recent sense of uncertainty that accompanied graduation is much different in nature, as the BIC experience enlightened me to think in an extraordinary way about the world around me and my place within it. The difference between the indecision I felt as a freshman and the uncertainty I now experience as a recent graduate can be defined by one important quality: purpose. A foreign concept as a first year college student, the sense of purpose I developed throughout my four years at Baylor now puts me at ease with regard to the future. While the many details of my prospective career and educational goals remain unknown, I am calm despite my inability to foresee the future because I believe there is a purpose for my life that is greater than myself. As a result of my BIC education, I am more comfortable with the notion of constant change, and I feel poised to tackle the mysterious unknown. The world feels smaller than ever before, teeming with exciting possibilities.

Throughout my time as an intern for BIC this summer, one of the most frequent questions asked by prospective freshman and their parents pertained to my overall BIC experience. The truth is I find that question quite difficult to answer, as I believe each student in the program has an entirely unique experience defined by discovering meaning in the curricula they value, establishing personal connections with faculty members, and being stimulated by readings, lectures and cultural field trips. To qualify my entire four year adventure into a few compact sentences initially presented a challenge because my distinctive experience was unique to me, as theirs would be too. I then realized that this quality is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the BIC program; its resiliency and flexibility allows students with varied interests to thrive in an environment that educates students about the surrounding world. My concept of the unknown transformed from fear and timidity into marvel and excitement, as I gradually realized that admitting to yourself how little you know liberates the mind and ignites a curiosity for discovery. With this in mind, the unknown becomes less daunting, instead posing a challenge to each of us to embark on a journey of self-discovery through exploring the unfamiliar. It is in this mindset that I finish my Baylor experience: eager excitement for whatever may come.

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BIC Faculty Updates — Fall 2014

Candi Cann:  I continue to enjoy my time at Baylor, and I am both excited and sad to note that the first class I taught at Baylor, World Cultures I, is graduating this year; I will miss them.  On a personal note, my daughter Maia and I explored the southeast this summer, visiting New Orleans, LA, Charleston, SC, Atlanta, GA, Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo, MS, his home in Graceland, and a diamond mine in Arkansas. (Read about Dr. Cann’s research interests in a recent interview about her new book)


Paul Carron:  After 3 years as a lecturer I am delighted to begin a tenure track appointment in the BIC this fall.  I will continue to coordinate Social World I and teach Social World II and Biblical Heritage. I presented a paper defending Aristotelian virtue theory using contemporary evidence from psychology and neuroscience at a conference in Porto, Portugal in August.  In October my wife and I will welcome our fourth child into the world, another little girl — name suggestions are welcome ;-).  Life is full and I am grateful!

Sharon Conry:  For academic year 2013-2014, I was fortunate to have a research student assigned to me, Flora Park.  During the fall we worked with a team from the McLennan County Public Health District, the City of Waco, and the Baylor Biology Department on the tracking of West Nile Virus (WNV) in McLennan County, Texas. The joint effort was such a success the study will be continued into 2014-2015. In the spring semester we worked on a microbiology study at the new state of the art Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF) water treatment plant. The study involved determining how effective the new treatment system is to eliminate even miniscule amounts of contaminates that might leach through the system. The research is on-going with the City of Waco and the results are in the process of being analyzed by outside sources.

Since Natural World is not taught during the summer terms, I am free to travel and enjoy my grandchildren. So, this summer I had the opportunity to travel to Georgia, Colorado, and Kentucky. What great places to go hiking and escape the Texas summer heat! However, I look forward to a fresh group of BIC Natural World Students this semester!

Stacey Hibbs:  Over the past two years, Dr. Thomas Hibbs and I have collaborated on two capstone classes for BIC.  Last year we taught a course that centered on the “American Dream.”  This year we taught a course entitled, “God, Nihilism and Beauty.”  “GNB” combined attention to philosophical, historical, literary and cinematic treatments of nihilism as well as responses to a world in which there is a lack of purpose or meaning. The course focused on discussion of a wide range of readings and films, from authors as varied as Nietzsche and John Paul II and films such as Tree of Life and Stranger than Fiction (among others). There is the possibility that the course may be offered through the Baylor in New York program in the near future!

Long (smaller)Mark Long:  I had hand surgery in early July and can’t shave presently.  That means I am now growing a beard and letting my inner Che Guevara come forth.  Apart from that, I have an article on deterring al-Qaida coming out in the Summer 2014 issue of International Security, and another article submitted on ISIS and the glorification of martyrdom.  It’s worth noting that Dr. Sam “the Dude abides” Perry, my former BIC student, is lead author of the second piece.

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Alumni Interview — Christine Gentry (’03)

With each year that passes there are more and more BIC graduates doing great work all over the world. At least once each year we hope to publish brief “Alumni Updates” where our alumni can tell us some about their post-BIC lives. In addition to these annual updates, we are going to start posting interviews with some of our alumni. Last month we highlighted the speaker for our upcoming BIC Alumni Homecoming Lecture, Megan Rapp. This month we spoke to Christine Gentry (’03). We hope you enjoy, and if you are interested in being interviewed for a future blog post, email us at BIC@baylor.edu.

Christine Gentry

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

I graduated in 2003. I was a University Scholar, so I didn’t have an official major or minor, but if I had they would have been English and Sociology, respectively.

What have you been doing since graduating from Baylor? 

After Baylor was a gap year when I was trying to decide what to do next. I was entertaining three ideas, each of which I started to pursue. Part of me wanted to be David Attenborough when I grew up, so I worked at Cameron Park Zoo (I was the person who went around to all the elementary schools with animals hanging off of me—“don’t touch the cloaca, kids!”); part of me wanted to be an actress, so I got an agent and did some work in Waco and Dallas (there’s a terrible movie floating around Netflix, but don’t even try to get the title out of me); and part of me wanted to be a high school English teacher, so I started substitute teaching in Waco and Midway and, since I knew I’d need a Master’s if I chose that path, I took the GRE. The day I sat for that test, I made a tiny decision that ended up changing my life: I stayed for the optional survey at the end. The vast majority of the room left; we had just finished taking a four-hour exam—who wanted to answer more questions?? But for some reason, I stayed. It was a simple survey. What do you want to do? What are you interested in studying? Is it okay if schools contact you? I thought nothing of it. But Harvard emailed me a few months later. “You might be interested in our Teacher Education Program.” I never would have entertained the idea of leaving Texas, much less applying to Harvard. But, thanks to that email, I did. The first time I saw Boston was in a U-Haul moving there. That 11-month Master’s program was intense. And wonderful. I fell in love with urban education. I stayed and taught in inner-city Boston for five years. During that time, I was lucky enough to mentor three student teachers. Watching them learn and grow inspired my next step, a Ph.D. in English Education from Columbia. In the four years I spent doing that, it became clear to me that I would never be happy in academia. I definitely wanted to teach future urban educators, but not if it kept me away from kids. I was so happy when I found a job where I could do both!

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

I am currently the Director of Certification for a network of public schools in Boston. I’m in charge of all the student teachers across the network, who are immersed in the school full-time from day one, learning how to teach apprenticeship style. I observe them, mentor them, and teach a Master’s seminar course to them, but I also get to teach a section of seniors, which is the delightful little cherry on top of a really dreamy job. If I didn’t get to interact with teenagers every day, I’d die.

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

BIC fosters a kind of wideawakeness about the world—a sense of how intricate and interconnected all of its parts really are. That kind of wideawakeness sticks with you and, I believe, makes you a better citizen of the world, no matter what field you settle in to.

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

Capstone presentations, for sure. And all-nighter studying sessions with friends for those brutal World Cultures finals. (NoDoz for the win!)

What are your goals for the future?

To help shape the next generation of urban public educators, to tirelessly work to close the achievement gap, and to build relationships with teenagers that will allow me to instill in them a lifelong love for literature, writing, and critical thinking.

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Faculty Reflection: Anne-Marie Schultz

anne“Learning is as much an art as teaching.” — BKS Iyengar

“Whenever we find stiffness in the body, our mind should be especially supple. It is never the stiffness in our bodies that limits our practice, it is always the stiffness of our mind.” — Geeta Iyengar

In some academic circles, like the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, we talk a lot about preparing students for life outside the classroom. We believe that students should leave college with the desire to be “life-long learners,” not mere holders of a degree. One of the delightful things about being a part of the BIC is seeing how life-long learning plays out for the faculty, staff and  students. This summer, I had the opportunity to spend two months  studying at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune, India. I particularly enjoyed the classes I got to take with Prashant Iyengar. Over and over again, Prashant exhorted us to become life long-learners. Just like Socrates way back in 399 BCE!

I really enjoyed my time there because I got to be so fully a student again. As a student, I found myself reflecting a great deal on just what it means to live an examined life as an educator. I was reminded that Plato depicts his teacher, Socrates, as a teacher, to be sure, but one of the many things that is so interesting about the dialogues, is that Plato also depicts his teacher as a student. There are many examples of Socratic studentship in the dialogues. The most obvious one is that he is a student of Diotima. There, and elsewhere, we see Socrates as a young student, “eager” to learn, “filled with admiration” for the wisdom of his teacher.

In a much less frequently read dialogue, The Euthydemus, we see a much older Socrates still “eager to learn.” The dialogue opens with Crito (Socrates’ oldest friend) asking him about an encounter he had with two teachers of eristic debate, Euthydemus and Dionysodorus. Socrates claims to be quite impressed with their expertise, so much so that he wants to become their student.

Socrates: Now I am thinking, Crito, of placing myself in their hands; for they say that in a short time they can impart their skill to any one.

Crito: But, Socrates, are you not too old? There may be reason to fear that.

Now, this is meant to be ironic, funny, weird, whatever you want to call it on many levels. Socrates has basically said he wants to learn how to sell Amway or take a course in “how to win friends and influence people,” but Crito does not respond to that undertone but merely suggests, “Aren’t you too old?” Plato Scholar, Harold Tarrant has an interesting article that talks about the trope of the “mature age student” in Athenian Comedy. Apparently, the Athenians did not value life-long learning. For them this was something odd, as one grew older one was supposed to “put away childish things,” so to speak. How unlike the BIC and its alums!

Read more about Dr. Schultz’s summer in India at her blog.

Dr. Anne-Marie Schultz is Director of the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core and Professor of Philosophy at Baylor University.

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2014 Homecoming Speaker — Megan Rapp (’07)

Megan Rapp - head shot 2

We are already starting to look forward to the BIC Homecoming activities coming up on October 31. As we have for the past few years, we will have a BIC Alumni Homecoming Lecture on the Friday afternoon of Homecoming weekend (October 31) and a reception that evening at the home of a BIC faculty member (more details to come). All alumni are welcome to join us for either of these events–we hope you will!

This year we are very excited to welcome Megan Rapp (’07) back to Baylor as our Homecoming speaker. We recently caught up with Meagan for a brief interview about her current work. You can read more below, and we hope you will make plans to join us for Homecoming this year. If you have any questions, you can always email us at BIC@baylor.edu.


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

I graduated from Baylor in 2007 and double majored in Economics and French. I was in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core (BIC) and the Honors Program and wrote my Honors Thesis on the microfinance models in Haiti, Brazil and Bangladesh. While at Baylor I became interested in domestic and international poverty, and I actively sought classroom experiences and extracurricular activities to expose myself to poverty alleviation.

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

I currently work for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which is the arm of the US Government that provides economic, development and humanitarian assistance globally in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States as well as seeks to improve lives in the developing world. Within USAID, I currently oversee the Development Credit Authority’s (DCA’s) Africa Team, which is responsible for structuring partial-credit guarantees to open up finance for underserved sectors and borrowers. My favorite part of my job is working with connecting talented businesswomen and men in Africa with finance so that they can pursue their ambitions. I love traveling and problem solving, all with the end goal of empowering borrowers to access finance for their enterprises and projects.

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

Quite significantly. BIC was a very formative experience for me, and in fact, continues to shape how I view the world, problems, and solutions. It was in BIC where I first started seeing connections across time, locations, and subjects. BIC helped me start putting puzzle pieces of history and current events together which I didn’t even realize needed to be put together. I still have many of the BIC texts and articles and like going back to some of my favorites, including Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak.

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BIC Faculty Publication — “Virtual Afterlives”

virtual afterlives

We are excited to announce that Dr. Candi Cann, assistant professor in the BIC, has a new book published through University Press of Kentucky. Virtual Afterlives: Grieving the Dead in the Twenty-First Century is an exploration of death and remembrance and how grieving in today’s culture is increasingly becoming a virtual experience. We recently interviewed Dr. Cann to learn more about her new book and to discover where she sees her research going in the future.

How did you become interested in the topic of memorialization and bereavement?

I first became interested in this subject because of our deep universal need to create narrative constructions out of lives after death.  My doctoral work centered on martyrs and examined how martyrs are manufactured in an intentional way to give meaning to death and also as a confirmation of political agendas—of the church or the state.  As I wrote on this subject, I also began to notice emerging bereavement practices creating a movement of Do-It-Yourself memorialization, such as tattoos, car decals, and Internet websites.

Why do you think these new bereavement practices are emerging in our current culture?

My book essentially contends that these contemporary mourning practices have emerged because of a number of reasons.  First, we are no longer comfortable with death or dead bodies.  Death no longer occurs in homes, but mostly in hospitals, and when people die, they are quickly cremated or embalmed.  So we never really confront the reality of death.  Second, grief, itself, is taboo, and people are not given enough time to grieve.  In addition, the DSM 5 classifies grief as mental depression if it lasts longer than two weeks.  That means that people who are rightfully mourning the death of a child have nowhere to talk about their grief, are not allowed the time off from work to mourn, and then are classified as mentally ill when they are actually going through a pretty traumatic experience.  This can make bereavement a really difficult experience, and this is why I see this trend of DIY memorials emerging.  People get tattoos, car decals, and form grieving sites online because they really have nowhere else to conduct the process of mourning.

Does your work offer any suggestions for how we might grieve in more healthy ways?  Continue reading

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BIC Graduate Nominated for Emmy Award


Baylor and BIC alum Allison Tolman (’04) has had a pretty incredible year. Not only did Allison catch her big break with a major role in the television mini-series “Fargo,” she also earned an Emmy nomination for the role and won a Critics’ Choice Award!

The Baylor Proud blog tells us a little more about what Allison has been doing since graduating from Baylor:

After graduation, Tolman helped launch Dallas’ Second Thought Theatre (alongside several other Baylor grads), then moved to the legendary Second City in Chicago. You may recognize her face from a number of commercials; she also appeared on the television show “Prison Break” and has starred on stages in both Dallas and Chicago. But doncha know, starring in a television show with Billy Bob Thornton, based on a movie by the Coen brothers, Ethan and Joel, is a huge step in her career. (read more)

We will certainly be cheering for Allison on Monday, August 25 when the Emmy winners are announced! We are proud of Allison and all our BIC alums doing good work across the US and the world.

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Fulfillment of a Dream — Olivia Mills

blog photo

Written by Olivia Mills ’15

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he or she grows up”
- Pablo Picasso

I am very fond of this saying by Picasso. In many ways, it summarizes the way I manage daily stress. Pottery has been an outlet for me ever since the fifth grade. I joined a pottery summer camp in 2003 and ever since then, playing in clay has been my passion. It is the one place I’m allowed to let my creativity loose and my insatiable curiosity explore art and form. Throughout my elementary and high school years, pottery was my stress reliever and creative outlet. My instructor, Anita Hughes, was and still is one of my most trusted mentors. Without her and that garage studio, I don’t know where I would be today.

Although I always loved pottery, I never imagined it would grow to be something more significant than a hobby. After only one semester of being away from the clay studio, I knew I could never leave it behind. It had brought me through the ups and downs of adolescence, and I knew I would need that safe place to retreat into when life got hectic. With this in mind, I worked with my advisor so that I could declare a concentration in graphic design and simultaneously take ceramics courses every semester.

By spring 2013, I completed my first successful show as a ceramic artist. That summer I made the decision to spend my break launching Olivia Claire Designs, a business where I could sell my pottery. This was more than a simply career goal, but also a fulfillment of a dream. To be able to work in clay for the rest of my life, no matter where my graphic design pursuits took me, was something I came to realize I wanted badly. This was and still is my career goal. I knew however, that I would need Olivia Claire Designs up and running before graduation in order to concentrate on building a graphic design client base. With a little convincing -on my part, my dad allowed me to convert our barn’s feed room into my studio and an old horse stall into my kiln yard. These are humble beginnings, but my favorite stories have always been about people who started their successful businesses in humble places. My father is one such example and he has been my source for entrepreneurial inspiration from the start.

My goal is to be working solely for myself by age 30, at which time Olivia Claire Designs will hopefully be selling both my ceramic work and graphic designs. I have done three official art shows to date, and I am looking forward to another summer investing in Olivia Claire Design. I still have so much to learn about business and art, but as with all entrepreneurial endeavors, time is the best of teachers.

Feel free to swing by my Facebook page for a look at my stuff! 

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