Alumni Interviews — Shanna Van Wagner (’07)

With each year that passes there are more and more BIC graduates doing great work all over the world. Each year 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 Shanna Van Wagner (’07). We hope you enjoy, and if you are interested in being interviewed for a future blog post, email us at BIC@baylor.edu.

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

I graduated from Baylor in 2007 with a B.S. in Forensic Science and minors in Biology and Chemistry.

Tell us some about your career and journey since graduating from Baylor.

After graduation, I moved back to California and tried to get a job in the field of forensics. The field was incredibly competitive. I remember testing for one job as a criminalist with Orange County and there were over 100 people testing for one position. At that point, I knew I needed a back-up plan.

I had enjoyed some of the texts we had read in BIC and I thought law might be an interesting area to explore. I signed up for a condensed paralegal certification course through University of San Diego, which I completed in three months. Shortly after completing the program, I was hired by a small firm where I ended up working for nearly ten years. While I enjoyed working as a paralegal, I quickly grew bored and wanted more of a challenge. I had capped out in my current position as a senior paralegal and realized I was doing everything an attorney was doing in terms of preparing the cases, I was just unable to officially appear for the clients.

I ended up going through the part-time program at University of San Diego, School of Law. Because I had to work to support myself financially, I was working a full day while attending school at night and commuting. For four years, my days began at 5:00 a.m., I drove an hour to the office to start work at 6:30 a.m., worked until 3:00 p.m., and then attended classes until 9:00 p.m. and then drove another hour back home. To this day, I do not know how I did it.

After graduating law school and passing the bar, I got a job with an international law firm where I stayed for about a year. The managing partner I was working for asked me to join him and open up the San Diego office of another firm and I gladly accepted. I have been working there since 2019 and was promoted to senior associate last year. I am also now on the partnership track.

How has your BIC education influenced your life and/or work since leaving Baylor?

My BIC education actually led me into my current field of law, an area I was not previously considering. The texts and discussions we had in social world stuck with me more than I thought! Additionally, the emphasis on going to the source documents themselves as opposed to any secondary authorities has been particularly appropriate in my law practice. Why read about something when you can go directly to the source? Similarly, if you are looking for legal support for an argument, go to the cases themselves versus a secondary publication that contains only snippets of information. Having a thorough understanding of the background of a case as well as context for the holding of that case is so much more beneficial.

Do you have any favorite memories from your time in BIC?

I enjoyed the field trips. Sure, you can read about other cultures, but actually immersing yourself into the culture provides a firsthand experience that is unparalleled. I met many lifelong friends in the program and continue to keep in touch today – 15 years after graduating. I loved being able to meet so many different people in different majors that I ordinarily would not have met, simply because we were on different career paths. I believe that further enhanced my education because it exposed me to different perspectives and different ways of thinking that I would not have received had I stayed only in chosen major of science.

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

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” It sounds very cliché, but it is true. I am in a high conflict field and often deal with incredibly difficult opposing counsel on tough cases and the BIC experience has helped me. I have a greater appreciation for differing opinions, which has been helpful in getting along with other attorneys, finding common ground, and working cooperatively. Being able to understand and respect someone’s position goes a long way, even if you do not agree with it.

Do you have any advice for current BIC students?

Do not limit yourself and be open to the experience. I was very nervous and hesitant coming to Baylor from Southern California, simply because I did not know what to expect. It ended up being such a rewarding experience and in hindsight, I should have embraced wholeheartedly.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Give new things a chance. Take risks. You never know what could end up happening or where something may lead you. Ask questions and enjoy this time. You will meet lifelong friends in the program who will continue to impact your life long after graduation.

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Alumni Interviews — Matthew Pierce (’09)

With each year that passes there are more and more BIC graduates doing great work all over the world. Each year 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 Matthew Pierce (’09), who is also a member of our inaugural BIC Alumni Advisory Board. We hope you enjoy, and if you are interested in being interviewed for a future blog post, email us at BIC@baylor.edu.

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

I graduated from Baylor in the spring of 2009 with a degree in Finance from the Hankamer (business school).

Tell us some about your career and journey since graduating from Baylor.

Beginning in the summer after my freshman year through the start of my senior year, I had the opportunity to intern with Chevron in Houston. This experience and the relationships I built within the company were essential in me getting a job offer my senior year. This was just as the financial crisis hit and removed me from a lot of the stress my classmates were feeling.

At Chevron, I spent most of my career in the Global Supply & Trading group. I started in the international products finance group supporting gas and jet fuel traders. I then made the switch to accounting for deepwater exploration. It was during this time that I took advantage of Chevron’s education reimbursement benefit and got my Master of Finance degree from Tulane University. I ended my career at Chevron working on the natural gas trading floor in downtown Houston before taking a leave of absence to accept a full-tuition fellowship at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School to study full-time as a graduate student in the Accelerated One-Year MBA program in 2014/15.

While a student at Emory, I specialized in data analytics and corporate finance, made life-long friendships with my classmates, especially the international exchange students—from France, Germany, Mexico, Sweden, Italy, and Denmark. So deep were these connections that I delayed my graduation to study abroad at Copenhagen Business School in Denmark. I got the opportunity to make even more lifelong friendships and travel across Europe to reconnect with my old friends. To this day, I make a point to go to Europe once a year to reconnect.

After graduating from Emory, I joined a management consulting firm ScottMadden in Atlanta, where I worked on a wide range of projects both in the United States and internationally. This is where a good portion of my BIC experience came into play—research, analytical methods, and critical thinking skills. The early part of my work was working with utility companies as they reviewed major capital projects, evaluated executive performance, and developed competitive strategy plans. Much of my later work at the firm was spent in Boston working on billion-dollar rate cases.

I left ScottMadden in 2017 to take a role at Delta Air Lines, Manager of Financial Analysis. My role centered on developing a valuation methodology for jet engine trading and brokerage. In my time there I valued well over 500 million USD in assets around the world and developed a series of white papers on best practices in circulation at Delta today.

My next role took me into banking with Citigroup in Atlanta. I served as a Vice President in private label credit products. This role, like my time at Delta, was focused on financial analysis and modeling. I was responsible for coordinating with a marketing team to evaluate their interest rate programs and promotional financing. I developed Pro-forma financial statements, return on capital analysis, and special initiative valuations—with an annual budget of 90+ million USD.

Late last year, I left Citigroup for an exciting opportunity in a newly formed bank: Truist—the result of the merger between SunTrust and BB&T banks. The company created a new, very specialized executive leadership program under the CFO and executive vice president of the bank. In this new accelerator program, I enter the bank at the Senior Vice President level. Most of my initial assignments involve working on the strategy for key industry banking consulting and further shaping cross-functional strategic priorities curated by our Executive Leadership Team.

How has your BIC education influenced your life and/or work since leaving Baylor?

It’s been over ten years since I graduated from Baylor, and the most valuable things I learned while at Baylor came from my time in BIC. I truly believe that my preference to critical thinking in a diverse world started in classes like Rhetoric and World Cultures. In the workplace when dealing with clients and coworkers, even the most basic of perspectives in understanding the roots belief and culture have been critical in building relationships—especially leading teams and working internationally. And the practice of critical research and reading past the noise has become the true advantage I’ve seen in myself and my classmates.

Do you have any favorite memories from your time in BIC?

My favorite experiences and the ones I still talk about today are our excursions to the religious centers (the Hindu temple, synagogue, and the mosque in World Cultures). Like I said before, being exposed to so many different perspectives and even things like having a meal with someone creates an appreciation of diversity.

The second, most grueling part of my BIC experience: the two-semester game of assassin the entire 2005/6 BIC played my freshman year in Alexander, Memorial, and in large-group. It got so intense that the professors had to establish large group as an immunity zone.

Do you have any advice for current BIC students?

1) Stick with it

You’ll be tempted when the classes get harder and your friends in other programs seem to have it easier—but don’t quit! The family you develop in the BIC will be greater than most any other connections you’ll make at the university. The very exercise you’re giving your mind through your writing and reading of primary texts are leaps and bounds more constructive to you long-term.

2) Embrace the Socratic method

Another temptation for you might be to sit quietly in class (large or small group) because you feel you have nothing to add to the discussion or just want to relax—but don’t. Embrace the discussion and the Socratic method. Even stating the obvious is better than saying nothing—it’s the practice of speaking up that’s most important.

3) Don’t be afraid to adjust your plan

Part of the reason I joined the BIC was because I thought it would be good preparation for my ultimate goal—law school. Almost everything I did up until my first master’s degree was with that intent. Then, I realized that wasn’t something I wanted to do—and this was after accepting admission to University of Houston Law Center and being 2 months out from the first day of classes. I realized I had enjoyed the life I built and the career path I started in business more.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Don’t be afraid to start something (a project, a job, a leadership role) when you don’t know what to do or how to do it. One thing I learned being in the BIC was that you grow in a role more than before it. If you think you’re highly prepared for a job, you’re probably overqualified and undershooting.

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Alumni Interviews — Arianna Gomez Lopez (’18)

With each year that passes there are more and more BIC graduates doing great work all over the world. Each year 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 Arianna Gomez Lopez (’18). We hope you enjoy, and if you are interested in being interviewed for a future blog post, email us at BIC@baylor.edu.

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

I graduated from Baylor in May 2018. I studied Public Health with a minor in International Studies. I was part of the BIC and Honors Program and a participant in Model Organization of American States (MOAS).

Tell us some about your career and journey since graduating from Baylor.

I started my Master’s in Public Health (MPH) at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health in the Global Health Department the Fall following my graduation.

As a student at Rollins, I concentrated in Community Health Development and did a graduate certificate in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies, offered through their close partnership with the Emergency Response and Recovery Branch (ERRB) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

During my time in Atlanta, I gained experience in the vast field of public health as a health educator at the Consulate General of Mexico in Atlanta, a communications intern at the Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET), and as a Central and South America Case Manager for Childspring International, a non-profit dedicated to providing life-changing surgeries for children from lower and middle-income countries.

The two-year program went by in a blink, and come my last semester, I wasn’t entirely sure what life would look like after I graduated in May.

And then the pandemic came.

As for most of us, the world as I knew it and all the plans I had changed one Wednesday afternoon during the Spring Break that never ended.

I finished my master’s thesis and graduated in the haze of the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic and bought myself a ukulele and a ticket home thinking I’d have some time to spare as I began my overdue job search.

But I never quite got to pick up the ukulele, because before I knew it (and in a way that makes for a story better told in-person), I was appointed as an ORISE Fellow and joined the newly formed Emergency Response Capacity Team (ERCT) at the CDC as a Response Capacity Coordinator in June 2020.

My team sits within ERRB at the Center for Global Health and it is tasked with providing our foreign partners with the technical support and collaboration necessary to strengthen in-country health systems and build enduring emergency response capacity that will enable them to effectively and efficiently respond to public health emergencies. As a Response Capacity Coordinator, I work with an array of partners in Latin America and the Caribbean to coordinate emergency response strategies and priorities.

Joining the CDC at such a time and serving in the response to COVID-19 has been, of course, an absolute honor and an incredible learning experience.

Despite the rollercoaster the last two years have been, I remain passionate about health diplomacy, health equity, and global public health and I am excited to discover where this career path will take me.

How has your BIC education influenced your life and/or work since leaving Baylor?

As a student at Baylor, I had so many contrasting passions, including public health, foreign policy, theology, and Latin American cultures. I often felt like having to choose one over the other. But the philosophy of BIC was one that encouraged me to live out all of my passions in a thoughtful and deliberate manner.

As a public health professional, an appreciation for multidisciplinary collaboration has been a cornerstone of my career and I have found my biggest passion within this vast field–global health diplomacy–at the intersection of public health and foreign affairs, loves that I fostered through my time as a BIC student at Baylor.

Personally, aside from the fact that the phrase ‘the unexamined life is not worth living,’ lives rent-free in my brain, BIC provided an incredible learning space and supportive community which was critical to my development as a person who still continues to strive to live a life in full pursuit of Truth, Good, and Beauty.

Do you have any favorite memories from your time in BIC?

I don’t think there’s a better bonding experience at Baylor than being a BICer at the Honors Residential College (HRC), where a lot of times you feel like part of a renegade group of idealists.

I definitely miss the camaraderie of the endless nights of our first semester, the passionate debates that would ensue in and outside of the classroom, and the many stories brought to life by professors and classmates who are acutely aware of the power of story to change the world.

Do you have any advice for current BIC students?

1) For current allied health students interested in public health who are on the fence about pursuing a master’s in public health, I’d highly encourage it. It is a versatile professional degree that can be customized to your individual interests in public health and can be marketed in infinite ways. It’s definitely a must-have for a lot of jobs that would be considered entry-level.

2) This is a piece of advice that I’ve heard numerous times throughout my short public health career. And that is, to be open to new opportunities. A lot of my favorite people in the field got to where they’re most fulfilled through a series of happy accidents and scenic pathways.

3) On the practical side, I’d highly recommend taking an Excel course. It’s very basic, but you’d be surprised the number of times top-notch epidemiologists with state-of-the-art data analysis tools get stumped out in the field over Excel.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I wish so much I wouldn’t have spent so much time during junior and senior year at Baylor worrying about what came next. Take some time to slow down and take it all in. Get a blanket and have so many wonderful picnics in the lawn in front of Memorial. It’s the best way to enjoy the beautiful spring weather.

Everything will work out in the end, and you’ll end up exactly where you’re meant to

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2021 Homecoming Speaker — Dr. James Saucedo (’03)

Each year the BIC invites one of our outstanding alumni to return for Homecoming and share a lecture with our students, faculty, and alumni. This year we are thrilled to welcome back Dr. James Saucedo (’03), an orthopedic surgeon at Houston Methodist Hospital and a member of the BIC Alumni Advisory Board, as our distinguished guest. We recently interviewed Dr. Saucedo to learn more about his journey since graduating from Baylor. We hope you enjoy the interview, and we hope you will join us for the BIC Homecoming Lecture on Friday, October 15 at 2:30 pm in Marrs McLean Science, room 101. Dr. Saucedo will speak on the topic “Living the Examined Life at Baylor and Beyond.” Learn more.

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

I graduated in 2003 with a BA degree and a major in University Scholars with BIC and Pre-med.

Tell us some about your career and journey since graduating from Baylor.

After Baylor, I attended Baylor College of Medicine; somewhere along the way, I forgot why I wanted to be a doctor and really struggled to stay motivated. Some classmates/friends of mine had enrolled at Rice as part of the MD/MBA track and encouraged me to check it out. After watching Motorcycle Diaries (I can explain the inspiration another time), I decided to apply. It was one of the best decisions I ever made! I found a new perspective, made new friends and was re-energized for a career in medicine. I went on to train as an Orthopedic Surgeon at Northwestern in Chicago and then did a fellowship in Hand, Wrist and Microvascular Surgery at the University of Washington in Seattle. I practiced in San Antonio before moving back to the Houston area where I practice now with Houston Methodist.

How has your BIC education influenced your life and/or work since leaving Baylor?

I think I see the world differently, with more compassion and understanding. The BIC taught me to try to see through other peoples’ eyes before making conclusions and not to judge too quickly. Even if I am caught up in the passion of a moment, I feel that BIC taught me to take that proverbial breath, step back and reassess. In terms of work, I feel that I am much better able to connect with patients, to read between the lines when a patient is carrying more than they may at first communicate. Whether it is connecting concretely on a shared love for The Brothers Karamazov or a general interest in their story, the BIC taught me to love and appreciate others.

Do you have any favorite memories from your time in BIC?

Too many to list! Some of my best friends to this day were BIC classmates. A few specific moments that come to mind: “samsara” (Dr. Bennett’s grand presentation); the poverty simulation; Dr. Tatum’s introduction to our section on Islam and Arab culture; the big group-small group setup; the study groups; etc. I can still remember a lot of my classmates and cherish those conversations and small group discussions, too.

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

This is a hard one because there are many moments and quotes that pop up with this question, so I’ll share the first one I remember as a freshman. “Truth, if it is truth, has no fear of being found false.” This gave me the freedom to ask questions. It helped me not to feel guilty as I explored and examined my faith. It also gave me a deeper respect for Truth and the pursuit of it.

Do you have any advice for current BIC students?

Enjoy it. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to speak up or of what others will think. Be honest, authentic and open-minded. Join a study group. This isn’t fight club – it’s okay to talk about these things outside of class. Some of our best insights were discovered outside the classroom.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

In a way, the BIC spoiled me. I don’t know if people still discuss the Baylor Bubble as a phenomenon to recognize and resist (not sure if that’s the right word), but looking back, I think we were also in a BIC Bubble where ideas could be shared openly, even fearlessly, and we accepted one another as worthy and beautiful, even if we disagreed. While we did not come out having the same ideas and agreeing all the time, we could generally find common ground and respect each other’s differences. Unfortunately, I don’t know that everyone has had access to that environment growing up or even in their educational journeys. Meeting folks that may not be as open-minded has been a little bit eye-opening for me and at times, admittedly disappointing and frustrating. But it has also helped me to identify my own biases, which as painful as that can be, is good. It has been challenging, but what has helped me is to step back and remember that we all have our stories and that while it’s nice to have that open-mindedness and respect reciprocated, it doesn’t have to be. Reciprocity is not a prerequisite for kindness.

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Alumni Interviews — Andrew Salinas (’16)

With each year that passes there are more and more BIC graduates doing great work all over the world. Each year 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 Andrew Salinas (’16). We hope you enjoy, and if you are interested in being interviewed for a future blog post, email us at BIC@baylor.edu.

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

I graduated in 2016 with a major in History and a minor in Rhetoric and Argumentation.

Tell us some about your career and journey since graduating from Baylor.

Immediately after graduation I began working as a congressional intern with my local Representative in Houston, TX. In addition to acting as a case worker for constituent issues in the district, I also attended many community events throughout the City on the Representative’s behalf and occasionally as an aide when they attended the event itself. Simultaneously, I began working with a local educational non-profit as a Community Engagement Manager through the Americorps program. The non-profit served Houston’s at-risk youth and operated a mentorship program for first generation college students.

After 8 months in Houston I began law school at the Washington and Lee University School of Law in Lexington, VA. In law school I actively competed in and coached teams for national moot court competitions. During my second year I was a student attorney for the Immigrant Rights Clinic, where a fellow student attorney and I litigated and won asylum for a Central American domestic violence victim and her two daughters (learn more). We also had the chance to file legal briefs before the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals for a stateless Ethiopian client who had been fighting for legal status for over two decades.

During my first-year summer in Washington, D.C. I worked as a law clerk for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund where I had a hand in drafting legal arguments for various civil rights litigations throughout the country. At Ayuda, a non-profit based in the D.C.–Maryland–Virginia locale, I drafted various motions and legal memoranda in service to Central American clients seeking asylum here in the U.S.

For my second-year summer I was a law fellow at the New York County District Attorney’s Office in Manhattan. There, in addition to drafting various motions on criminal cases, I served as a second seat assistant on a three week felony Assault in the Second-Degree trial that resulted in a conviction. Ultimately, I accepted a position as an Assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn, NY where I currently work and reside.

How has your BIC education influenced your life and/or work since leaving Baylor?

My BIC education has had a profound effect on my life. Having the opportunity to engage with so many facets of the humanities, literature, history, and philosophy engendered a deeper appreciation for our place in this era of history.

Do you have any favorite memories from your time in BIC?

Probably the time we went on the field trip to a mosque, synagogue, and a Japanese garden in Dallas. If I remember right, I almost missed the bus and had to change clothes and sprint from out of bed from Alexander to Moody Library in five minutes. Fun times!

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

That the unexamined life is not worth living. Maybe it is because that phrase is one of the first things I read in BIC that it comes so quickly and repeatedly to mind. What Socrates meant by that phrase is that a life spent not thinking about the capital “T” Truth and not questioning basic societal presumptions is wasted, because it is a life lacking in basic intellectual rigor that ultimately informs the soul. Personally, I would expand that to also mean that life should be spent doing things worth being examined by others. That doesn’t mean you should spend your time and energy clout-chasing or becoming the next big Tik-Tok star – though if it pays these student loans off quicker then more power to you. What I do mean by that is that you should be conscientious of what type of life you’re living. Even if the historians of the future forget our names when writing on our times, you should strive to live a life that would make your children and grandchildren proud of the type of person you are.

Do you have any advice for current BIC students?

Enjoy your BIC education while you can. I know not everything you’re assigned to read or study will particularly interest you, but in the real world it is rare to find other people that have ever heard of the philosophers and histories that you learn in BIC, let alone those who would appreciate the richness of that knowledge and its implications.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I haven’t been back to Waco in years, but if Dichotomy is still open, make sure you patronize it as much as you can. From Washington, D.C. to San Francisco to New York City, in my opinion, Dichotomy still makes the best drinks of any place I’ve been to. Cheers.

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2021 Senior Banquet Speech– Dr. Eric Rust

Remarks to Graduating BIC Seniors, April 8, 2021- By Eric C. Rust

Thank you, Dr. Schultz, for the kind invitation to speak to our graduating BIC seniors today.  Students, you may remember me from your freshman year as that crazy history guy in World Cultures II who would begin every lecture with a picture essay on some weird place far away, let’s say on a lake in China with a bunch of pagodas in it, or on a monastery off the coast of France, on the islands Columbus ran into on his voyages in the Caribbean, or on Jewish synagogues and cemeteries from Hamburg to Mandalay.  I will return to the theme of travel in a bit.

But first and foremost, I congratulate you on your accomplishment, hoping it was much more than an endurance contest and instead a special Baylor experience only you as a group could have enjoyed and presumably will treasure for the balance of your lives.

I am presently in my 25th and last year of teaching on the World Cultures II faculty team before retiring soon from Baylor after 38 years as a Professor of History.  In looking back, I wish to thank not only you BIC students and the BIC staff, but also my faculty colleagues in World Cultures II, for a wonderful ride.  Dr. Larson will soon become the last still teaching founding member of our course since when we started it back in the mid 1990s, while others like Dr. McGlashan, Dr. Tatum and Dr. Wang climbed on board early to lend our course a continuity in terms of personnel and subject coverage–and above all in friendship and collegiality—that probably no other BIC course can rival.

The BIC was born as a revolutionary innovation at the same time that Baylor’s History Department, for instance, scrapped all its courses on Western Civilization and has taught World History in its place ever since, the first and for a long time the only university in Texas to do so.  We rejected the notion that only the West, the privileged Occident, was worthy of study and admiration.  Instead, we have for the past quarter century embraced the persuasion that the cultures of all of humanity deserve, indeed demand, as much understanding and examination as feasible on their own terms.

In pursuing these goals, the BIC relied in the beginning entirely on volunteer faculty like myself who would teach BIC courses while on loan from their home departments all over campus.  Only gradually would the BIC gain the standing to hire at least some faculty for the exclusive purpose of teaching in the BIC.  The Zoris are a fine example of this.

Allow me to lay out briefly the three considerations that attracted me to the BIC. They all had to do with the central letter in our logo, the “I” in BIC:

First, we understand the world and its affairs to be inherently Interdisciplinary and Integrated–to be examined with faculty and students from across all academic disciplines while addressing issues and experiences in all fields and forms of human knowledge and activities.

Second, the BIC is Intercultural and Multicultural.  We cover not just the West, but all of humanity past and present, not as we would wish it to be, but as we find it.

Third, the BIC is International and Transnational.  Our focus is global and we are proud of it.  We take issue with insularity, parochialism, and narrow nativism.  We are proud citizens of the world, no matter whether our passports are blue like most of yours, or maroon (as mine is), whether we were born in Texas or 10,000 km from here (as I was), or whether our DNA differs markedly from those around us.

For my sixth birthday, my parents gave me a present I have cherished more than any other in my life-–a big, round, colorful globe–turnable, shining from within, tilted at 23.3 degrees, as it should, and emphasizing physical features rather than political divisions.  I played with it and studied it and experimented with it endlessly.  I measured distances and great-circle angles with a string.  I could figure out the time zone in Timbuktu and the depth of the ocean off Tahiti.  The ice cover of Antarctica was immense then—quite different from today. The globe found a place of honor and prominence on my desk and I looked at it constantly when I did my homework for school.  So kindly make a note of this.  When you have children of your own, do for them on their sixth birthday what my parents did for my brothers and me, and as my wife and I have done for our children: get each of them a beautiful globe.  There would be no need for instructions.

And that brings me to my last topic: Travel.

At the beginning of his lovely story “Honolulu,” my favorite short-story teller of all times, W. Somerset Maugham, declares, “The wise man travels only in his imagination.” And in his earlier travelogue on Spain, he had concluded, “It is much better to read books of travel than to travel oneself; he really enjoys foreign lands who never goes abroad”–meaning, of course, that the reality one would encounter on the ground would be forever disappointing, as it could rarely match the splendor and purity and romance of what one had imagined it to be from afar.  Yet the strength of Maugham was also that sometimes he would not listen to his own advice.  He does, after all, go to Hawaii, and to a thousand other places besides, and there meets a Western traveler whose story, perhaps, he would never have listened to, or heard, if he had met the man in London or Paris or New York. On his 90th birthday—he had enjoyed Japan and Italy while in his 80s—Maugham confessed that perhaps his greatest wish now was to go back to the Orient from his fancy villa in France. “I have one desire left,” he wrote, with his powers failing, “which is to return to that lost village in the jungle I had encountered so long ago in the Far East.” In truth, as every reader of the man knows, he had never really left that place at all.

We in the BIC and especially in World Cultures II travel much in our imagination. Through our readings or crazy picture essays or visits to churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, museums, restaurants with and without belly dancers, theater performances and concerts, we seek to offer a glimpse and taste of that wider world out there.  But nothing can rival or replace the real thing.  We faculty of World Cultures II have been blessed with being able to travel to faraway places and cultures as a group for the past 25 years, about once every second or third year: twice to China; once each to Andalusia in Roman and Islamic Spain; to Reformation Germany, Bohemia, Switzerland, and France; to Renaissance Italy; to Celtic, Visigoth and Christian Spain and Portugal; to what’s left of the Viking culture in Denmark, Sweden, and Iceland; and to the world of the Incas in Peru, including Cuzco, the Sacred Valley, and, of course, Machu Pichu. A scheduled trip recently to medieval France fell victim to the virus.  Baylor has been helpful in picking up some of the tab, but every dollar, euro, crown, yüan or sol that we spent out of our own pockets was a minor sacrifice to make compared to the rich experiences we carried home to our students and the treasured friendships we could form and deepen as colleagues.

Follow our lead!  You are young and energetic.  By the time I was your age, I had visited virtually every free country in Europe, had plowed the waters of the Baltic, the North Sea, the English Channel and the Eastern Atlantic while serving in the German Navy, and had been to South Africa, modern-day Namibia, and Angola.  Save up your money; don’t spend it frivolously or mindlessly!  Become a little like my parents who never spent their savings on a house of their own, even though they could have afforded one, and who never bought a car with more than 36 horsepower.  (I am told the average horsepower of student vehicles at Baylor is about 350.  One would suspect the possibility for some savings right there.)  My father, by the way, always paid cash for his cars and had the dealer remove the car radios as unnecessary and distracting ballast.  With all the money we saved our family would travel wide and far, summer after golden summer, usually for six or more weeks at a time!

Be imaginative!  For example, lend a global dimension to your honeymoon.  Instead of embarking on some brain-constricting cruise on the Love Boat or shaking hands with Mickey Mouse in Disneyland, begin your married life at the majestic Alhambra Palace Hotel in Granada, Spain, or at the Bayerischer Hof on the island of Lindau in Lake Constance, or at a quaint hotel overlooking West Lake in Hangzhou in China, or at the Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba in Peru’s Andes.  You will be amazed to discover how breathtakingly magical such places are and yet amazingly affordable if you plan it right.

Yes, we will have to sit out the Corana crisis for a while longer, but remember, you can always start your journeys in your imagination before actually hitting the ground.  So, do get vaccinated, but not against the travel bug.

Bon Voyage!

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Alumni Interviews — Amanda Roark (’08)

With each year that passes there are more and more BIC graduates doing great work all over the world. Each year 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 Amanda Roark (’08). We hope you enjoy, and if you are interested in being interviewed for a future blog post, email us at BIC@baylor.edu.

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

I graduated in 2008 with a degree in Journalism with an emphasis in public relations and a minor in business administration.

Tell us some about your career and journey since graduating from Baylor.

I am a senior analyst in the corporate communications division at Toyota, providing support and counsel to Lexus product communications, advertising and brand initiatives.

I began my marketing communications career at Great Wolf Resorts in Grapevine before taking a senior communications role at the Madison, Wisconsin headquarters. After this role, I moved back to Texas to work on media relations and brand strategy with the Allison+Partners Dallas office. Working with clients in B2B and B2C industries such as automotive, technology, public affairs and healthcare, I also completed my Accreditation in Public Relations with the national PRSA Accreditation board.

I am currently in the process of pursuing a Master of Science degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University. I live in Denton with my husband, two children and dog, Molly.

How has your BIC education influenced your life and/or work since leaving Baylor?

It provided a good foundation for critical thinking used in the real world. I’ve also maintained relationships with people I met through the BIC program now that we have pursued various paths after undergrad.

Do you have any favorite memories from your time in BIC?

I enjoyed the field trips freshman year to the mosque and Hindu temple. The world religion courses helped with a foundation for understanding of those with different backgrounds and life experiences.

Do you have any advice for current BIC students?

Focus on the big picture. It’s easy to get weighed down by a major assignment or Plato’s cave. Remember to bring it back to current events and other big ideas to build on the connections. The combined courses in BIC help to provide a solid foundation for any career you choose.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Build the relationships with those around you, and be open to different careers and industry changes once you graduate. Best of luck this semester!

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Alumni Interviews — Dr. Stephanie Guarino (’07)

With each year that passes there are more and more BIC graduates doing great work all over the world. Each year 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. Stephanie Guarino (’07). We hope you enjoy, and if you are interested in being interviewed for a future blog post, email us at BIC@baylor.edu.

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

I graduated from Baylor in 2007 with a BA in University Scholars with concentrations in
Neuroscience and Art History.

Tell us some about your career and journey since graduating from Baylor.

I was part of the Baylor-Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) program, so after graduation I attended medical school at BCM then moved to Delaware for a residency in Internal Medicine-Pediatrics (after getting married 2 days before graduation) and a fellowship in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. I finished fellowship 2.5 years ago and currently split my time between running the Adolescent/Young Adult Oncology Program and the Adult Sickle Cell Disease Program in Delaware.

How has your BIC education influenced your life and/or work since leaving Baylor?

Although I was already accepted to medical school when I came to Baylor, my participation in the BIC has truly made me a better physician. The focus on primary texts, critical thinking and observation, and the rigorous writing and speaking, gave me communication tools that I didn’t learn anywhere else. Plus, I made some of my best friends in the BIC. It also helped me early on to hone my focus on health care disparities, which informs much of my research today.

Do you have any favorite memories from your time in BIC?

I particularly enjoyed the field trips and the senior banquet.

Do you have any advice for current BIC students?

No matter what you think you want to do, you will always be more successful if you can communicate. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or mentorship from people who are doing what you want to be doing.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Enjoy this time to read and write and think while you can–there is plenty of time for working after college.

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Alumni Interviews — Raymond Panneton (’10)

With each year that passes there are more and more BIC graduates doing great work all over the world. Each year 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 Raymond Panneton (’10). We hope you enjoy, and if you are interested in being interviewed for a future blog post, email us at BIC@baylor.edu.

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

I graduated from Baylor in 2010 with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Church-State Studies. When I started Baylor in 2006, my original focus was pre-med; however, first semester chemistry did not agree with me, and I had to pivot my focus. It was during this time that I started to focus on law school. At this time, there was no “pre-law” designation, so it required a lot of self-study on developing a path forward.

Tell us some about your career and journey since graduating from Baylor.

Since graduating from Baylor, my career has taken some pretty interesting twists-and-turns. I cannot speak to other career paths, but early in my career, I was told my a more senior attorney that the legal career path is not linear. Indeed, it is more like a lattice. A lattice has many bends and forks in the road that must be navigated to propel yourself forward. This has proven true for me.

During my first year in law school, I started as a law clerk for a plaintiff’s firm, practicing in the area of medical malpractice, pharmaceutical, and medical device litigation. Upon passing the bar in 2013, I was hired on at this firm as an attorney and practiced there until 2016. There is a certain fear in practicing medical malpractice that the Texas legislature could enact a change in the law which could effectively shutter your practice. This was the driving force behind my move in 2016—the need to diversify.

In 2016, I joined the litigation section of a commercial/business litigation firm in Houston. This was a complete change from my previous experience; however, the base skills translated. In this new role, I represented business owners in all aspects of their business, including entity formation, contract disputes, litigation, arbitration, and partnership disputes. Unlike medical malpractice, where there are certain aspects of a case which remain the same, such as the applicable area of medicine, each business dispute is unique.

In late 2019, an opportunity presented itself which I could not turn down. I was offered a position with a firm to be its managing partner, overseeing all day-to-day operations of the firm. As a relatively young attorney, this was an exciting and new challenge which I was happy to take-on. I accepted this position in November 2019, and am currently the Managing Partner of the Ted Smith Law Group, PLLC in Harker Heights, Texas. Our firm is a boutique litigation firm, focusing on business litigation, personal injury litigation, family law, estate planning and probate, and Social Security Disability benefits.

How has your BIC education influenced your life and/or work since leaving Baylor? Do you have any favorite memories from your time in BIC?

As much as I hate to admit my BIC professors were right, BIC has profoundly affected my career. While I may not be citing the Ramayana on a daily basis, the core concept of World Cultures remains—go to the original text when possible. There is a tendency in our daily life, and especially in the practice of law, to rely on commentators to interpret certain information and data for us, and we never actually review the original text ourselves. BIC ingrains in your thinking to consider the commentators, but always rely on the original text.

There is no one-particular memory that stands out for me regarding my time in BIC. The friends I made and the experiences I had were so unique from other Baylor friends, that I feel that the whole BIC experience was a favorite memory.

Do you have any advice for current BIC students?

Explore everything while you can. Once you get into your profession, your learning becomes hyper-focused on your career. In turn, your desire to learn about things outside of your practice area/career diminishes. The broad-base you get exposed to in BIC is so valuable in relating to the world and people around you—enjoy it!

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Don’t worry if you’re not the best student. As many of my BIC professors may (or may not) remember, I was never at the top of the class. Frankly, I’d be surprised if I was in the top 50% of my class. That being said, I was never afraid to work hard. I knew that I was not the best/smartest student, but I also knew that nobody could outwork me. Don’t let poor grades or an inability to understand difficult concepts discourage you to the point of not trying. Giving up is easy, but success after perseverance is a high you will love chasing.

Since graduating from BIC (despite my less-than-stellar performance), I went onto law school. In law school, I made Dean’s list 3 out of the 6 semesters. After graduating, I passed the bar on the first attempt. Since becoming licensed, I have been published in national journals, been interviewed for NPR on multiple occasions, obtained one of Texas’ top jury verdicts in 2016, been named one of Houston’s Top Attorneys multiple years straight, serve as the Marketing and Communications Director for the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division, and served as the Chair of the American Bar Association Medicine and Law Committee. I do not tell you these things to brag, but to remind you that past failures, and to some degree past success, does not define your future. You owe it to yourself to keep fighting.

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Note from the Director — Fall 2020

Greetings extended BIC family,

I always look forward to writing these “Notes from the Director.” They give me the opportunity to think of all the wonderful BIC students I have had over the years and imagine that I am speaking directly to each of you. I guess that would actually be possible in the World of Zoom.

This semester, I am teaching the BIC Yoga and Philosophy Capstone course. In addition to reading the Bhagavad Gita, we are reading Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, a classic text about the philosophical background of yoga postures, asanas in Sanskrit. Patanjali defines yoga as the practice of stilling the fluctuations of the mind. He goes on to say that when that happens, “we come to dwell in our own true splendor.” I am always reminded of Psalm 46:10 when I read that passage, “Be still and know that I am God.”

Later in the first chapter, Patanjali describes nine obstacles that we will encounter on the spiritual path: “These obstacles are disease, inertia, doubt, heedlessness, laziness, indiscipline of the senses, erroneous views, lack of perseverance, and backsliding.”

I have been very struck by this verse, sutra in Sanskrit, during the COVID Pandemic. Everyone in the entire world is dealing with the first of the obstacles: disease. In a sense, we are all encountering a spiritual obstacle together and that places us on a spiritual path together. I find that a rather hopeful thought to hang onto in the midst of the great divisions and divisiveness of our contemporary landscape.

I also find hope in all the amazing work former BIC students are doing out there in the world. Please know you are why we do what we do and that we are very proud of you.

BIC’EM,

Anne-Marie Schultz

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