Candi Cann: Hello everyone! I hope this finds you staying safe during these strange pandemic times. Last year found me busy with a research leave, which allowed me to attend a couple of conferences and give two invited lectures at Rutgers University and Columbia University. Maia went with me on the last two trips, and we got to check out Independence Hall, catch up with family, and see New York City in its Christmas splendor. Good thing too—since we haven’t travelled at all since the pandemic started in March. I have published a few articles on African American deathways, and most recently, I collaborated with about eighty other scholars in the field to put together this paper and website on Death, Grief and Funerals in the COVID era: https://www.covidpaper.org/. Additionally, I’m working on a couple of cool projects—one is a study with a cremation diamond company on grief attachment in material objects, and the other is developing some software with a Virtual Reality company to help people process loss. Meanwhile, Maia and Milo (our doodle) help keep me grounded, and I’m enjoying all the extra time we get to spend together. Stay safe, and know that you are in our prayers.
Paul Carron: Well it’s been a year! I coordinated a (once again!) revamped Social World I. We added a fair amount of moral and social psychology, and Nietzsche on Thucydides and Socrates. The students really get a kick out of Nietzsche’s merciless mockery of Socrates! In the spring I taught a special section of Social World II for pre-health students. Unfortunately, that was not fully realized as we went online for the second half of the semester. Meeting over Zoom wasn’t quite the same, but most of my students were diligent with their assignments and it was great that we could stay connected and continue to have class in the virtual world! The summer was especially busy, as I taught two summer courses for the first time (both online – also for the first time!). One of those summer courses was a brand-new philosophy course on isolation, alienation, and community. We examined the ways that technology has led to an increasingly fragmented and alienated form of life since the dawn of the industrial revolution, and what we can do to build community and live more authentic lives. I had seven rising high school seniors (hopefully future Bears!) and they handled the weighty material admirably. In the world of research, Dr. McDaniel and I had an article on teaching in the BIC published: “Fostering Inclusivity through Social Justice Education: An Interdisciplinary Approach,” and with a little luck I will have another article on Aristotle and moral habituation out by the end of the year. The next major project is a book on Kierkegaard’s social psychology. The biggest professional news of my year was receiving notification of tenure. I will now be in the BIC for many years to come! My children are back in school, and its hard to know who is more excited about that. Ellie just started middle school, and Bennett, Mikaela, and Nora are still in elementary school.
Mark Long: My wife Lisa finished her MBA in healthcare administration in December and is now on the Covid-impeded job market. I ran the virtual Austin American Statesman Capitol 10K in April, 40 years after running it the first time with 25,000 others. This year, I was the sole finisher (but only entrant) in a course that began at Fountain Mall, went to Jacob’s Ladder in Cameron Park, and ended without the roar of crowd back at the starting line. There was no crowd, actually, but our youngest granddaughter, Miss Pippa, was there to share in the moment. The bib is that from the race 40 years ago when I was, ah, well, 40 years younger. And thinner. I completed research on an article comparing the jihadist narrative with that of the Christchurch shooter, and I am now writing. We still build pyramids. And can you believe it? They actually pay me to teach and write and build pyramids with the most incredible people.
Chuck McDaniel: As with everyone else, COVID has impacted the McDaniel household in myriad ways this year. My wife Diane and I were scheduled to join the World Cultures II faculty and friends’ trip to France in May but, sadly, that event was cancelled. Dr. Tatum and others crafted a highly educational and undoubtedly enjoyable agenda and we are hopeful it can be rescheduled at some time in the future. For a family vacation, we attempted Plan B, which was a brief getaway to Ruidoso, New Mexico; however, the governor there declared a quarantine for all visitors a few days before we were to arrive, and that trip had to be cancelled as well. Thus, the “year without vacation” left a little more time for research on a book I am writing that looks at American conservatism and its possible response to what is being called the new “consumer” eugenics. The book will observe challenges to traditional understandings of the human person that are emerging in markets for human genetic services and will show how American conservatism, having granted substantial “moral” authority to market outcomes, is poorly positioned to defend traditional conceptions of the person. I hope to have a publisher secured by the end of 2020 and have the book in print (and/or pixels) by the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022.
Back on the home front, our youngest son Austin has taken a sabbatical from teaching in the public school system to get accredited in “wildland firefighting” and is working on a crew fighting the Dolan Fire in Big Sur, California. He’s also worked fires in Oregon and is actually stationed with his outfit in Eugene where, in those brief periods when he’s not working 12-14 hour shifts on a mountain somewhere, he lives a largely homeless existence, using his 24-hour Anytime Fitness membership to escape detection by the local police (please don’t rat him out). As you can imagine, the work is both physically and emotionally demanding. The crews work 14 days straight for every 2 days off. As of yesterday, his crew was attempting to save a small mountain town in California that has been evacuated for several days already. They work tirelessly in building fire breaks and taking other preventive measures to save these places, and they only find out after moving on to escape the fire themselves whether they have been successful or not. He sends back pictures and videos regularly that cause a few heart palpitations for his parents, but we are very proud of what he is doing. Diane and I are keeping his dog, Rafa, while he’s away. Here’s a pic from many months ago of Rafa posing next to the firepit at our little “country place” in Aquilla, Texas. He’s much larger now but just as “cute,” though he prefers to be called “handsome.”
Ivo Novakovic: Dr. Novakovic continues to teach across multiple BIC courses throughout the year. He is currently teaching World Cultures I, World Cultures III, and Biblical Heritage. In the spring he also taught Social World II and World Cultures II.
Sam Perry: In the last year, my book Rhetoric, Race, and Religion on the Christian Right: Barack Obama and the War on Terror was released. An article on the news coverage of the killing of Eric Garner and a book chapter on the Charleston Church shooting were also published. This year I am starting a new book that builds on the examination of conspiracy theories in the previous book and continuing work on several article collaborations with folks. Dr. Walden and I are continuing to work with our graduate students in the BIC’s Graduate Fellowship in Interdisciplinary Rhetorical Studies. This year I am teaching World of Rhetoric, a graduate course in Communication, and will be team teaching a capstone in the Spring with Dr. Zori, on outlaws, rogues, and villains.
Mary, Louisa, and I are spending more time than ever with our dogs Seamus and Remy, as we continue to socially distance during the pandemic. Mary continues to write and bake amazing macarons for the business she started last year, Violette Bakery. We are ready to be able to travel again and go in search of great meals, art, music, and of Louisa’s favorite thing- dessert.
Anne-Marie Schultz: Even leaving aside the global pandemic, the life of Anne has been quite eventful of late. Not long after the initial shelter in place orders, I found out that I received the designation of Master Teacher, the highest teaching honor at Baylor. Here is a link to the press release.
I am particularly honored to join the ranks of other legendary BIC professors such as Robert Baird and Tom Hanks. Not long after that, my second book, Plato’s Socrates on Socrates, came out with Lexington Press.
I am also thrilled to be a part of the edited collection, Called to Teach. A couple years ago, the Academy for Teaching and Learning held a conference honoring its tenth year in existence. As you may know, Dr. Lenore Wright is the Director of the Academy of Teaching and Learning and she co-edited the volume along with World I BIC professor Christopher Richmann. Any graduate of Baylor would really enjoy reading this collection of essays about teaching at Baylor. Many BIC current and former professors are represented: myself, Candi Cann, Robert Baird, Tom Hanks, and Andy Arterbury. On a personal note, we welcomed a third dog into our household. Our newest Rhodesian Ridgeback just turned five months old. We named him Guthrie, after Woody Guthrie. We call him the Plan B puppy because we would never have gotten him if we had done Baylor in Greece and Turkey as planned, but instead we were around when the liter arrived and he joined the pack this summer. He is a delight. Dante and Milo continue to thrive. Milo, the official BIC comfort dog, just turned twelve on September 11. My Dad relocated to Waco after three years living in Colorado with my sister and brother-in-law. He lives right next door to my cabin in Cameron Park (The Lyceum — yes a Platonist lives in the Lyceum, the Academy was already rented out). Anyway, it has been really great spending more time with him on the days that I am in Waco. Be well. Stay safe, strong, and exercise your civic responsibilities.
Lynn Tatum: Well what have I done over the last year or so? Hmmm… Summer of 2019 was interesting. I headed over to Oxford and taught a course on Henry VIII and the English Reformation at Christ Church College, Oxford. Christ Church was originally called Cardinal College and was founded by Cardinal Woolsey who played a key role in the divorce of Henry from Catherine of Aragon. It was wonderful eating at the high table with portraits of Woolsey and Henry looking over our shoulders. The classroom was just a few yards from where many of the important events of the English Reformation took place. Two former BIC’ers (my kids), joined me in England—Road Trip!!!. We rented a car, drove on the wrong side of the road down to Tintagel (the home of King Arthur [BIC Capstone]). We visited the Harry Potter studios where I taught Dobie the House Elf how to do a “Sic-em-Bears.” We headed up to Scotland. Then over to Ireland by ferry. We rented another car and spent several weeks of trekking around Ireland and Northern Ireland—great food, great pubs, great scenery, great music. Fall 2019 was pretty normal. Except I decided to have a mid-life crisis and take SCUBA lessons. I’m now a certified SCUBA diver. That was fun. If I’ve got a SCUBA license and Christmas holidays are coming up….. Road Trip!!! My fellow-diver and son met me for a couple of weeks in Cozumel, Mexico for a combination coral-reef-diving, visit-Mayan-pyramids, cenote-diving, eating-great-food, Christmas trek. We split our time between some of the world’s most beautiful coral reefs, cave diving (cenotes), and climbing and visiting Mayan pyramids and cities at Chichen Itza, Coba, and Tulum. The New-World-Encounter material from World Cultures II came alive. Spring 2020— What’s there to say except COVID! World Cultures II and Biblical Heritage went “online”. To make matters worse, Baylor shut down Tidwell for a multi-year restoration. And so, during a pandemic, I had to sneak up to my office of thirty-plus-years and pack it up and move out. I’m just now beginning to move into my new digs on the third floor of Morrison Hall—boxes of books everywhere. And one other tragedy: the World Cultures II faculty had planned an-end-of-semester trip to France (Gothic architecture, Bayeux Tapestry, Mont St. Michel—remember Dr.-Rust’s-visual-poem). France had to be cancelled; and I’m still in mourning over that. Summer 2020: Did nothing but sat at home—sad! The only thing that preserved my sanity was a Biblical Heritage and a World Cultures V—Middle East Zoom class. And here’s the only positive, silver-lining aspect of COVID. Because the Middle East class was entirely by Zoom, about half-way through the course, I realized we could invite others to our course. So our small WC V group “met” with the U.S. State Department’s top anti-ISIS operative (who had to miss one of our meetings because of in-coming mortar fire in Baghdad). We met with an Ambassador from Yemen; and we met with the former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq (a Baylor graduate). So WC V was a delight. BIC courses, BIC experiences, BIC students, and BIC connections are so absolutely enriching to my life. COVID is a pain, but BIC keeps me sane—sort of.
Sarah Walden: This is a hard update to write. Like so many of us, I’ve been sitting in my house every day since March, trying to scrape together time to work while doing my best to make sure everyone is okay when, let’s face it, most of us really are not okay. Some great things have happened this year: I received a research leave this fall to work on my second book, which studies maternal rhetoric on social media. I’ve been working on this project for awhile now, but when COVID hit the US and schools and businesses began to shut down last spring, my project changed dramatically, because the way mothers talked about their experiences on social media changed dramatically. I spend each day of my leave working to understand how mothers (and all parents/caregivers) are making sense of this event in light of the extreme changes to their daily routines of school, work, etc., and the effects these changes are having on women in particular: mentally, emotionally, physically, financially. I received a University Research Committee Grant last spring (Spring 2020) and an URSA Grant this year (2020-2021) to fund this project by allowing me to work with two excellent BIC undergraduate research assistants. I have been working closely with the Baylor Digital Scholarship Office and the Digital Humanities Initiative, and they have provided excellent support for my work. I was named a Baylor Fellow through the Academy of Teaching and Learning for the 2020-2021 academic year, and as a result I will be able to pilot some digital research projects in my spring BIC classes. I’m excited for the work I’m able to do and the potential to make a difference through my scholarship, but it also shows me daily what a toll the pandemic environment is taking on mothers, fathers, caregivers, and children, and the weight of that can feel overwhelming. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that we have a responsibility to care for one another, and that social media can facilitate that. But that responsibility requires us to be far more reflective and intentional about how we use it, and how we understand the worlds it constructs for us.
Mike Whitenton: This fall marks a big shift for me as I transition to my new role as full time permanent BIC faculty. A dream come true for me and a family! I continue to teach across the World of Rhetoric and Examined Life sequences, including a capstone, “Life at the Intersections,” co-taught with Dr. Sarah Walden. I have also begun teaching a special interest section of Biblical Heritage & Contemporary Ethical Issues, focusing on interfaith engagement, that supports the newly minted Civic Interfaith Studies minor, housed in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work. In that course, we explore biblical paradigms for working together intentionally with other faith groups on the basis of shared values, such as hospitality & service, as a means of addressing urgent needs, such as food insecurity & forced migration, while also strengthening our own religious identities. In terms of publications, my second book, Configuring Nicodemus: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Complex Characterization (Bloomsbury) came out last year and received a very positive review in the flagship review journal for my home discipline, Review of Biblical Literature. This book—which also just came out in paperback!—articulates a new way of thinking about ancient literary characters that integrates Hellenistic rhetoric and the cognitive sciences, focusing on the characterization of Nicodemus in John’s gospel as a test case. I am currently working on a series of articles building a framework for understanding narrative worldmaking in light of cognitive blending theory. The Whitenton family is doing well, despite the challenges of this difficult season. Last year, Rachel became a registered Music Together® teacher for Tiny Treble Makers. She’s had to take her music classes online and is doing incredible work pioneering best practices for teaching littles music and movement, from birth to age six. Our kiddos, Felicity & Reece, are now five and three, respectively. Felicity loves to draw, put on impromptu musicals, & ride her bike. Reece is curious about everything and loves taking stuff apart and putting it back together. He also loves making messes (and sometimes cleaning them up). Both of them have also been known to enjoy popping into my Zoom classes unannounced to wax eloquent about the True, the Good, & the Beautiful!
Jason Whitlark: The pandemic significantly cut down on travel this year. I was looking forward to giving two paper presentations in Australia at the international SBL meetings, but the conference was canceled due to COVID-19. Instead, my garage is now immaculately organized with the time at home. I am enjoying the Fall semester being back in the classroom and engaging with students, though at times the technological adaptations we have developed can be glitchy. Some of the most exciting news I have received recently was the announcement of a marriage engagement between two students who went with me on Baylor in Italy. I continue to write on the Letter to the Hebrews with several essays either at press, under review, or in the works. Hannah has returned to school and is loving being with her friends again, and Jennifer continues to oversee the elementary campuses at Rapoport Academy—no small task for anyone in primary school administration these days.
Lenore Wright: Greetings BIC Alumni! I hope you are well despite the social unrest and isolation that marks our collective life. Let me begin my update on the research front. COVID-19 put a serious wrinkle in this year’s conference plans. I rededicated anticipated travel time to reviewing submissions for Feminist Philosophy Quarterly and the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics. Reading scholarly essays is a close approximation to hearing conference talks (minus the engaging dialogue), and I find reviewer work a deeply gratifying way to support active scholars. My personal scholarly energy resulted in the recent publication of a co-edited book (Called to Teach), the re-publication of a revised article (“Becoming a Wonder Woman”), and the commissioning of a forthcoming article. I am also entering the final stretch of a book project on pregnant subjectivity. In brief, I argue that in ways both subtle and obvious, pregnancy bears paradoxical meanings; it has negative and positive valances. But pregnant subjectivity—the codified understanding of being a wombed person—is stubbornly unchanged. Woman as womb is not a fixed, univocal idea, however. She emerges in my book through four archetypal figures and the performances of pregnancy they authorize: Mary & Womb as Sacred Space, Athena & Womb as Political Space, Venus & Womb as Erotic Space, and Barbie & Womb as Material Space. The book will appear in print in 2021. Stay tuned for publication details.
COVID-19 also disrupted class plans. I continue to teach World Cultures III and Philosophical Issues in Feminism regularly, two courses that challenge me in all the right ways. Both courses have integrated increasing amounts of non-Western texts over the years, and the opportunity to learn new, important material enables me to grow in perspective and appreciation for the rich diversity of our world. I welcome your book recommendations and guest appearances, a plus side of Zoom and Teams, so don’t be shy! You would be a sure sight for sore eyes. I continue to serve the University as Director of the Academy for Teaching and Learning (ATL). COVID-19 also altered my administrative work substantially. Since March, ATL has joined with other University units to support and prepare faculty for remote, online, hybrid, and face-to-face teaching. You won’t be surprised to know that BIC faculty are excelling in all modalities. BIC faculty also recognize the disruptions to students’ lives and educational experiences. They remain, true to the BIC way, compassionate and caring.
Finally, Henry and our children H.W. (14) and Carl Haze (6) are managing relatively well, all things considered. We have appreciated a slower pace of life during the pandemic, but the loss of freedom weighs heavily on us all.
Colleen Zori: Dr. Colleen Zori joined the BIC faculty as a Senior Lecturer in fall 2020. She coordinates and teaches in the BIC Natural World sequence, while also teaching in World Cultures II and in the Anthropology department.
Davide Zori: The academic year of 2018-2019 certainly had its ups and downs. I was granted tenure (promotion from Assistant to Associate Professor) in the BIC, which means that I get to keep my job teaching and researching in this great community for the foreseeable future. This stability means a great deal to my family; and with my wife, Colleen Zori, also now permanently teaching in the BIC, we feel truly at home here at Baylor and in Waco. After we had another extraordinary field season of archaeological discovery in Italy in the summer of 2019, I returned to Italy in the fall of 2019 to open a new museum exhibit in collaboration with the local town and the Italian heritage agency. The museum features the findings of our ongoing project’s excavation that Baylor students (and many BIC students!) have helped to uncover. We managed to send a Baylor delegation to the opening, including our Provost Nancy Brickhouse and our Vice Provost for Global Engagement, Jeff Hamilton. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to share our discoveries, the work of our students, and the Italian countryside with Baylor leadership. I feel that we are really building a meaningful partnership with the people of Barbarano Romano in research and preservation of their magnificent archaeological heritage. In the picture taken after the inauguration of the museum in Barbarano Romano, I am accepting an award on behalf of all of our project members from the President of Virgil Academy (Rome) in recognition of service to Italian cultural heritage protection. See more information about our project, the San Giuliano Archaeological Research Project, on our website: www.sgarp.org.