I chose Baylor’s graduate program for reasons that have attracted many others to Waco, TX. I was especially drawn to Baylor’s commitment to the Christian faith alongside a dedication to outstanding academics; to the institution’s size—a great blend of intimate community and generous resources; and to Baylor’s reputation, particularly within the Christian higher education landscape. Not surprisingly, these things proved to be resoundingly true of the Baylor I grew to know and love. Yet there was so much I experienced beyond what I imagined looking in. Here are some aspects I have most appreciated.
- Learning to see myself as an educator. If I heard this once in grad school, I heard it a thousand times. But the message is well worth repeating. As a recent college graduate and aspiring student affairs professional, I had lots of ideas as to how I hoped to impact and shape students’ lives. My own college experience had been incredibly enriching, challenging, and formative, and I was eager to have some part of giving that gift to others. But I hadn’t yet made the connection between those hopes and my sense of what constituted “education.” This was a subtle, ongoing shift that had dramatic implications on how I saw my role as a professional. In all aspects of campus life—academics, recreation, residence life, organizations, performances, ministry, etc.—there is tremendous potential for students to be deeply and powerfully impacted. Understanding myself as an educator gave me fresh eyes for the possibilities and purpose of each piece of the work we do and of each interaction with students.
- Opportunity to learn about and observe higher education within a unique, distinctive environment. Baylor is a fascinating place and a great case study for higher education. It occupies a unique position in higher education as the largest Baptist institution in the world and as a university with high research activity. Baylor also has a historically strong dedication to teaching undergraduates; its heightened emphasis on research has been a fairly recent development. My years in grad school were in the midst of Baylor’s pursuit of the goals of Baylor 2012, an ambitious 10-year strategic plan that set the university on a number of new trajectories. I was able to observe how the institution went about its pursuit of these aims, and how the process and outcomes affected Baylor’s culture and identity. The opportunity to learn about higher education administration by simply observing such a unique institution was one of the most beneficial aspects of my grad school experience.
- Cohort model built on relationships. Through the cohort model, the people I initially knew just through classes turned out to be one of the highlights of my Baylor experience. I learned so much through our conversations in class, from working on projects together, and from hearing about each other’s assistantship experiences. Even more enriching were the friendships themselves. The other students in my cohort provided such a great sense of security as we took our first steps together into the profession.
- Commitment to excellence. Baylor’s commitment to excellence was apparent in virtually every part of my experience. Faculty and staff were driven to excel in their work, to be knowledgeable and professional, and to be outstanding advocates and educators for students. There was a desire not just to put on programs or have activities, but to meaningfully engage students in purposeful experiences both as participants and as leaders. This desire for excellence is contagious and has been a challenge and motivation for me throughout my career.
There are many other things I could mention: faculty who challenge, encourage, and believe in the potential of students; relevant work and practicum opportunities; the chance to work with and serve exceptional undergraduates and much more. My Baylor experience prepared me for roles at a variety of institutions because it helped me clarify who I wanted to be as an educator. I also gained a richer sense of the kinds of places I would most enjoy working, which has brought me back to serve full-time at Baylor! Sic ‘em Bears
Assistant Director for New Student Programs