Alumni Update – Lisa Sawyer

Special Coordinator for Afghanistan

U.S. Department of Defense

Lisa C. Sawyer is a graduate of Baylor University with a B.A. in international studies and a BIC alumna, and holds an M.A. in international affairs from George Washington University.

Lisa C. Sawyer is the Special Coordinator for Afghanistan, reporting directly to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. The Office of the Special Coordinator for Afghanistan (OSCA) was established in April 2023 to manage all defense policy matters involving Afghanistan and to serve as the official DoD liaison to the Congressionally-mandated Afghanistan War Commission.

Ms. Sawyer joins DoD after two years at the White House, where she served as Special Advisor to the Vice President. In this position, she directly supported Vice President Harris on all matters related to Europe, Russia, and defense; including policy deliberations associated with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, foreign leader calls and engagements, multiple trips to Europe, and other efforts aimed at strengthening Transatlantic relations.

Prior to joining the Biden-Harris administration, Ms. Sawyer was the Vice President for International Policy at JPMorgan Chase, where she managed a global portfolio with an emphasis on China and the Middle East. From 2015-2017, Ms. Sawyer was a senior fellow in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) with a focus on defense strategy and European security.

Ms. Sawyer began her career as a Presidential Management Fellow in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) and has held a number of positions over many years of government service. Ms. Sawyer served on the National Security Council staff as director for NATO and European strategic affairs, where she led the U.S. government’s preparations for the NATO Summit in Wales and managed the development of plans and force posture adjustments to enhance readiness and reassure allies following Russia’s 2014 aggression in Ukraine. Within OSD-Policy, she previously served as Chief of Staff to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (ISA), NATO Policy Adviser, and Director for North Africa throughout the Arab Spring. She has also served at the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters in Kabul and at NATO headquarters in Brussels, among other assignments.

Ms. Sawyer has testified on security policy before committees in the House and Senate and her analysis has been featured in major news outlets such as the Financial Times, Foreign Policy, MSNBC, and others.

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Check Out Cheyenne Atchison’s Alumni Profile featured in Baylor Business Review, Spring 2023 Edition

A Higher-Level Problem Solver

Whether it’s resolving an ongoing campus parking issue or developing solutions for e-commerce retailers, Cheyenne Atchison often approaches challenges from an unconventional angle.

by Kevin Tankersley

When Cheyenne Atchison and her classmates were assigned a group project in a Management Information Systems (MIS) class, they decided to address what seems to be a never-ending problem on a college campus: a lack of parking. But instead of adding more parking space, the group instead looked at “a higher-level issue, and that’s how students are getting to campus,” Atchison said.

Cheyenne Atchison, BBA ’20
Senior Consulting Analyst; Accenture
Dallas, Texas

“What’s the transportation issue? How can we eliminate this problem by simply eliminating the amount of people who need their cars to get to campus? Essentially, we created a reward system to incentivize students to get to campus through walking or biking or taking the Baylor-provided buses instead of using their cars,” she said.

The rewards would be based on the number of steps a student walked to get from home to campus, or how far the student rode a bike or how often the student took a bus. And, based on those numbers, students would accumulate points and earn rewards from local businesses.

“You could get a free pizza pillow from Shorty’s Pizza Shack, something like that,” Atchison said.

The assignment was part of the Accenture Innovation Challenge in Hope Koch’s MIS 3305 class in the fall of 2018.

“The project is actually a good way for them to put into practice all the technology topics that I teach them,” Koch, the Godfrey Sullivan Associate Professor of Information Systems, said. “And those topics are also very similar to the technologies that Accenture uses.”

Accenture is “one of the best and biggest consulting firms in the world,” Koch said, and students present the results of their project to Accenture managers, who choose the best project in the class.

While Atchison and her teammates didn’t win the Accenture challenge—they finished third, but still earned an A—it did bring her to the attention of the company’s representatives, and she was offered an internship with Accenture for the summer after her junior year. During her internship, Atchison, who studied marketing, was paired with an MIS major from Texas A&M.

“As far as understanding the project that we were assigned from Accenture, we were very much on par,” she said. “The foundational understanding that I gained from 3305 was immensely helpful in my internship.”

On the last day of her internship, Atchison signed a contract for a job after graduation, which she started in November 2020.

“I came into my senior year with a full-time offer,” Atchison said. “That allowed me to not only focus on my studies during my senior year, but also just to relax and enjoy my senior year instead of focusing on the job market.”

Atchison is now a senior consulting analyst in Accenture’s Dallas office.

“Right now, a lot of my work focuses on customer experience and innovation and how we’re able to provide our clients and their customers the best online experience, especially with our retail clients,” she said. “In my current project, I strategize a lot of the issues that customers are seeing in our retail client e-commerce sites, and then I’m helping to pitch and prototype solutions and test them out and validate our hypotheses.”

Fortune may have been smiling on Atchison as she landed what was the perfect internship for her. But even a less-than-ideal internship has its benefits, she said.

“Any experience is better than none,” Atchison said. “Not every internship or first job will be ideal, but even learning what you don’t like is helpful in the long run. I truly believe you can learn and grow from any experience. Whether you enjoyed it or not, that experience can eventually lead you to better opportunities.”

Baylor Business Review, Spring 2023

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Alumni Interviews — Noah Ward (’19)

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 Noah Ward (’19). We hope you enjoy, and if you are interested in being interviewed for a future blog post, email us at

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

I graduated in 2019 majoring in Political Science with a minor in philosophy

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

After graduating from Baylor I went on to earn my Masters of Divinity (MDiv) degree from Emory University as a Robert W. Woodruff Fellow. During my time in the program I studied pastoral care and practical theology using these fields to gain a deeper understanding of the history and care of nonreligious communities. Through this program I served as an interfaith chaplain in a hospital ICU, retirement living community, and cancer center. The program and these experiences gave me great insight into the nature of community building, interpersonal care, and crisis management.

Since finishing my master degree I have stayed in higher education now serving as the assistant director of admissions at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business wherein I oversee the Booth Scholars Deferred MBA program. Through this program I engage with undergraduate students as they begin to plan their postgraduate career journey. I also work to foster a sense of community among the hundreds of students in deferment as they work through the first few years of their career.

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

One of the biggest influences the BIC has had over my life and work is the importance of collaboration.

We live in thought worlds that naturally bend toward our own experiences, which never shows the whole reality. Whether we are working, learning, or simply living, we do so in community. This means our default position is to understand other people’s actions according to our personal experiences. This can present a number of pitfalls ranging from simple miscommunication, to the danger of treating others as objects rather than full persons (Think Martin Buber’s I/Thou, or David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water”). Above all else it can trap us in our own traumas and struggles, making it difficult to imagine a world where we are free of those experiences.

Through the collaborative nature of the BIC program we learn how to look beyond our own worlds. Whether it is in the curriculum where we jump into different cultures and times, or in the pedagogical method of the classroom wherein we listen to one another’s interpretations of these texts, we are constantly challenged to hear a perspective other than our own.

I have taken this perspective into my work as a care giver in medical and higher education spaces. In such work I inherently cannot know everything my careseekers have experienced. Yet, this does not mean that I cannot be there to provide support for them. Rather, thanks to the BIC, I am able to challenge myself to see my interactions with patients and students not as a one way relationship wherein I come and solve their troubles, but rather as a as a collaborative work in which we determine together what, if anything, is needed. This is not an easy thing to do. I have fallen short of this goal more times than I can count. Yet those moments where we have been able to bridge our differences and see one another are some of the most beautiful and impactful of my career. I am told by careseekers in those moments that it really made a difference for them, and I certainly know those moments made a difference for me. I have the BIC to thank for that.

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

I have tons. As my last answer highlighted they often have to do with the community I fostered in the BIC. From big events like the first BIC at Cameron Park and the BIC bowl, to the more personal moments sitting with professors like Dr. Nogalski and Whitenton in office hours, it is the human connections which I remember most. I think some of the strongest memories are the ones I made with the BIC Leadership council, as we began to carve out more intentional time to get to know one another and become friends. This led to the creation of a D&D group with some of them my senior year which still gets together to this day!

Do you have any advice for current BIC students?

Ask professors for book recommendations during the summers.

During the two summers I worked for the BIC as a student recruiter, I was seeking some sense of meaning to life (I know it’s very dramatic, but it is true). I took the risk of asking Professor Moore for some recommendations of books to read to help me with some of the questions I had. He went over to his shelf of books and pulled out Christ on Trial by Rowan Williams and handed it over. I would come in to his office at least once a week and we would talk about the book. To this day it is one of my favorites. When I finished reading it he went and pulled another from his collection, and then another. Through each book I felt myself not finding answers so much as becoming more comfortable with the questions that troubled me.

Professors often have had similar questions and more time to collect different people’s answers. Don’t be afraid to hear what they have to offer.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I look forward to meeting with the BIC students and if they have any questions about divinity or business school, I am always happy to chat.

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Casey Cook (’10)

Since its inception, the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core has helped many Baylor students prepare for the rigors of law school. One of our many pre-law graduates, Casey Cook (’10), recently contacted us with the following update:

My name is Casey Cook and I graduated from Baylor University and BIC in the winter of 2010. My experience in BIC was nothing short of life changing. From discussions of Plato’s book: The Republic to sifting through countless New York Times’ columns searching for the perfect article to write about, the BIC continuously challenged my personal beliefs and helped strengthen my philosophy and perception of life. I took these experiences and decided to attend law school. Shortly after attending my first few classes in law school, I quickly realized just how much BIC had prepared me for this academic environment. I feel that having to learn such vasts subjects and subject matter in BIC greatly contributed to my abilities to understand different areas of law and how they were to interact with each other. If I had to do college over again, I would not change a thing. The BIC opened my eyes to a whole new realm of understanding, I am so thankful for my professors, counselors, and instructors that contributed to my growth. 

After law school I decided to start my own firm which focuses on estate and business planning. After a few years of practice my firm has serviced over 1,000+ clients and has quickly grown into multiple firms throughout Texas. My firm has helped all types of clients, from those with few assets who need help qualifying for governmental assistance, to multi-million dollar clients wishing to establish a trust and structuring the ancillary succession planning. I have no doubt that my experiences from BIC have helped shaped my logic and reasoning skills, in addition to my ability to effectively communicate complex or perplexing information to my clients. I can not imagine where my life would be without the education and experiences that BIC provided me. Sic’ em!

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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

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

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

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

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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