By Randy Fiedler
Four Baylor University faculty members are the inaugural recipients of the Core Curriculum Virtues Recognition Award from the College of Arts & Sciences. The Awards are given annually to faculty members who have inspired moral, intellectual and/or spiritual virtues through the process of teaching a course in Baylor’s Unified Core Curriculum during the previous academic year. The Core Vision identified 14 virtues –– humility, courage, rigor, integrity, respect, justice, empathy, compassion, responsibility, patience, wisdom, faith, hope and love.
Each recipient of the Core Curriculum Virtues Recognition Award is nominated by faculty members in their respective departments. The four inaugural recipients, recognized for their contributions during the 2021-2022 academic year at Baylor, are: Dr. David Bridge, associate professor of political science, cited for the core value of respect; Dr. Allyson L. Irom, director of undergraduate studies in modern languages and cultures, cited for the core value of compassion; Julie King, senior lecturer and undergraduate program director in environmental sciences, cited for the core value of courage; and Dr. Jerolyn Morrison, lecturer in art and art history, cited for the core value of humility.
Dr. Blake Burleson, associate dean for undergraduate studies strategic and enrollment initiatives in the College of Arts & Sciences, who played a major role in the creation of the current core curriculum, said he is grateful for colleagues such as the four Award winners who “examine, express, demonstrate and measure virtues in their classrooms.”
“The Unified Core Curriculum provides a shared foundation of knowledge drawn from the rich and diverse liberal arts tradition, develops various skills necessary for the completion of an academic degree, but also essential for personal and professional life beyond Baylor,” Burleson said. “It also inspires moral, intellectual and spiritual virtues. All three of these general education requirements –– knowledge, skills and virtues –– are of equal importance in our pedagogical efforts to transform students.”
Dr. David Bridge was nominated for the core virtue of respect by Dr. Rebecca Flavin, senior lecturer in political science.
“Dr. Bridge ends the semester (by) requiring students to write a mission statement that outlines their philosophy of informed civic engagement and their five-year plan for civic engagement,” Flavin said. “I can think of no better way to instill respect in a politically polarized environment than the methods he has chosen.”
For his part, Bridge believes that “respect matters when it is challenged. When we deeply, fundamentally disagree with others — that is when respect is needed most,” he said. “Before we can say, ‘I see it differently,’ we have to be able to say, ‘You know I respect you.’ And though this skill is desperately needed in American political discourse, it also translates in other fields, as well as in everyday life.”
Dr. Allyson Irom was nominated for the core virtue of compassion by Dr. Cristian Bratu, associate chair of modern languages and cultures and division director of French and Italian. “Dr. Irom is an excellent teacher and her students appreciate her pedagogical skills, as well as care and compassion,” Bratu said.
“Learning to communicate well in another language involves much more than memorizing vocabulary lists and studying the mechanics of forming sentences. Truly understanding how to engage with someone means knowing about their traditions, beliefs, and ideals. In the Spanish for Medical Professions course I teach, the entire first unit is devoted to exploring these dynamics,” Irom said. “Baylor students lead with compassion, and I hope that my classes continue to foster that quality in our future doctors and nurses.”
Julie King was nominated for the core virtue of courage by Dr. George Cobb, chair and professor of environmental science.
“Julie King teaches courses in environmental law, advanced environmental law and environmental policy. Learning of the resolve that communities or individuals faced to challenge authorities through legal channels inspires students to work courageously within institutional and community frameworks to improve current conditions,” Cobb said. “Her commitment to offering core classes is immense.”
The word ‘courage’ has its linguistic roots in the Middle English, French and Latin words for ‘heart.’ When considering applying courage in my courses and in life, I ask students to call upon their heart for others to put themselves in the places of the most vulnerable. This may be someone suffering from the environmental health effects of pollution or with the people of a small, less-developed country facing the most devastating effects of a problem they did not cause and do not have the resources to address,” King said. “I strive to inspire courage to act based on the heart that students have for the poor, oppressed, infirm, underrepresented and most vulnerable. Courage demands strong advocacy motivated by a heart for justice.”
Dr. Jerolyn Morrison was nominated for the core virtue of humility by Dr. Heidi Hornik-Parsons, chair and professor of art and art history.
Dr. Morrison moved from the island of Crete to be a full-time temporary lecturer in art history for academic years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023. Her new Spring 2022 (courses) were in Minoan art history and Mycenean cuisine,” Hornik-Parsons said. “Her willingness to take on this challenge exhibited her humility to review survey material that she had not looked at or studied in many, many years as a Minoan specialist. Nonetheless, she persevered and succeeded.”
“It is a joy to serve people by teaching, as it allows one to explore ways of communication and understanding. Skills learned in our department like critical thinking, creative exploration, communication and observation extend beyond the subjects taught in the classroom. I believe they are rooted in empathy and humility, and the arts and humanities are based on perfecting these qualities,” Morrison said. “In order to interpret works of art and place them into a meaningful context, one must practice humility and look beyond oneself to try to understand an artist’s intention. Teaching and learning these skills can be trying, and it takes patience, practice, and most importantly an ability to forgive oneself when there is much room for improvement.”