“Higher education is in a critical stage right now. We believe the future of higher education depends on the thinkers, scholars, and leaders in higher education. Because of Baylor’s focus on research and faith, we thought it was in a prime position to produce these future scholars, thinkers, and leaders,” says Dr. Rishi Sriram, assistant professor and graduate program director of Educational Administration.
Dr. Sriram is one of the leaders of Baylor’s brand new PhD program in Higher Education Studies and Leadership. This new program is in its first year and is off to a great start, offering students a unique balance of hands-on professional experience and academic research to produce scholars and leaders in higher education.
Jessica Robinson is currently in the first cohort of graduate students in this program. After earning a master’s in Higher Education and Student Affairs at Baylor, she decided that the new PhD program was perfect for her continued studies.
“At Baylor I found a connection between ideas that I was passionate about and Christian formation. I think by and large across the PhD and higher education world there are a lot of secular institutions where those things just aren’t talked about. Here that connection is very well and alive, with Baylor being a highly faith-based and highly research-oriented university,” explains Jessica.
In addition to the emphasis on integrating faith with research and practice, the Higher Education faculty is passionate about working closely with their students. The PhD program is restricted to three to four students per year, which allows professors to give students plenty of support and guidance while still allowing students the flexibility to customize their degrees.
“One of the benefits of it being a small program is that I receive a lot of individualized attention. My classes are small, which means that discussions go really deep,” says Jessica. “That individualized attention makes me feel very supported, like I have four or five advocates helping me through this academic journey.”
All students in the program are also assigned an apprenticeship based on the student’s background and interests. This allows them the opportunity to get hands-on experience working in higher education.
Some examples of apprenticeships are at Baylor University Press, The School of Education, The Vice President of Student Life’s Office, and McLennan Community College.
Jessica Robinson, for example, was assigned to work at McLennan Community College, a rewarding experience that has allowed her to learn about the unique challenges and opportunities at community colleges.
“I appreciate being slightly removed from Baylor, because it gives me a different perspective and a different context to apply the things I’m learning in class,” says Jessica. “To help Baylor and MCC align in the larger Waco community is really cool.”
After graduating from Baylor, Jessica plans on becoming a faculty member and professor at a university. With the great support of Baylor’s Higher Education professors, that dream is sure to become a reality.
If you’d like to learn more about Baylor’s new PhD in Higher Education Studies and Leadership click here.