Just the Bear Facts

To help you get your bearing in Grad School.

Month: June 2015

5 Celebrities With Graduate Degrees

Have you ever wondered how many of your favorite celebrities have graduate degrees, but simply couldn’t find the time to Google it and see for yourself?  Well, fret not, the Baylor Graduate School does have the time and we’re about to dish out some knowledge regarding Hollywood’s most knowledgeable figures.  It’s always good to know that if your grad school plans don’t work out, you can just move to Hollywood and hope for success there.  Here’s five celebrities you (maybe) didn’t know had graduate degrees!

  1. James Franco


Though Franco has a penchant for playing the happy-go-lucky stoner (Freaks and Geeks, Pineapple Express, Spring Breakers, etc.) he seems to sport a surprisingly big brain.  In 2006, Franco reenrolled at UCLA and received permission to take as many as 62 course credits per quarter (the regular amount is 19).  I’m pretty sure 62 hours is completely impossible to handle without some serious help or leniency from the university, but it’s still impressive that the guy even wanted to take classes in the first place.  He graduated in 2008 and went on earn his MFA in Writing from Columbia in 2010.  The most recent info I could find on him says that he is currently enrolled as a PhD student at Yale.  According to Mr. Franco, staying in school helps him stay grounded and he enjoys being around people who share his same interests.

  1. Shaquille O’Neal


For those who don’t know, Shaquille O’Neal (Shaq) is one of the most dominant centers to ever play the game of basketball.  His interests, however, are not limited to sports.  He’s also a rapper, actor, reserve police officer, and get this…doctor. He earned a bachelor of arts in general studies from LSU, received his MBA from the University of Phoenix in 2005, and earned his Ed.D in Human Resource Development at Barry University.  Shaq currently serves as the newest member of TNT’s halftime show along with NBA legends Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley.  Although Shaq’s commentary is somewhat lacking at times, he’s usually good for some slapstick humor which is only punctuated by his 7’1, 350 pound frame.  See here.

  1. Meryl Streep


Meryl Streep is one of the most respected and awarded actresses of all time.  It comes as little surprise to find out that she was properly trained for the profession.  She received her BA from Vassar College in 1971, earned an MFA from Yale’s drama school in 1975 and was given an honorary doctor of arts degree in 1981.  I won’t list all of her accolades here, but believe me, they are legion.  Suffice to say, furthering your education never hurts—no matter which profession you choose.

  1. Ken Jeong


You probably recognize this guy from his over-the-top roles in movies and television.  Jeong is best known for his parts in NBC’s Community and The Hangover trilogy.  But were you aware that he is a licensed physician?  Dr. Jeong graduated high school at 16, completed his undergrad at Duke and earned his M.D. from UNC Chapel Hill in 1995.  He then practiced medicine for a few years in Los Angeles before landing his breakout role in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up.  Jeong’s success proves that med school can indeed teach you to find the funny bone (I stole that gem from somewhere online).

  1. Rowan Atkinson


Who could’ve guessed that one of the dumbest characters ever created would be portrayed by one of the smartest actors?  Well, that’s exactly what happened with Rowan Atkinson.  He received his first degree from Newcastle University in Electrical Engineering and continued on to earn his M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from Oxford in 1975.  After appearing in several skits and programs throughout British entertainment, Atkinson revealed his breakout character “Mr. Bean” in 1990 and became a household name shortly after.

So, there’s five random celebrities with graduate degrees. Next time one of their names pops up, you can dazzle friends with your strangely specific knowledge of their education. Just make sure to give the grad school credit. We did all the Googling after all.

GradFocus: Dr. Michael Scullin


By Ben Murray

I recently met with Dr. Michael K. Scullin, Director of the Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory in Baylor’s department of Psychology.  Scullin is something of a newcomer to our university, arriving here last December.  He began his education at Furman University and graduated in 2007 with a B.S.  After finishing at Furman, he moved to St. Louis where he attended Washington University and completed his doctorate in the Behavior, Brain and Cognition program.  Scullin then worked on a post-doctoral fellowship in the Neurology and Sleep Medicine program at Emory University’s School of Medicine before finally landing at Baylor.

Our meeting was about a project that he actually started about five years ago.  During his time in graduate school, Scullin took on a leadership position with the American Psychological Association (APA)—the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the U.S.  They asked him to chair a new science committee at the school.  He says he was unsure of his role at the beginning, but after being told to “dream big,” Scullin began to plan for a new project.  He recalled some of the frustrations that he had encountered during the publishing process.  When he submitted papers to journals, Scullin often found the reviews from his future colleagues to be unhelpful and pedantic—frequently littered with arbitrary corrections and unnecessary edits.  He realized that the peer review process could be greatly improved, and with this realization he decided to start his own peer reviewed journal for graduate students, by graduate students.

Fast forward five years and TPS (Translational Issues in Psychological Science) is a full-fledged, critical issues translational journal, with each issue focusing on a different topic representing multiple viewpoints on psychological science.  Scullin says the journal’s road to completion was not easy.  At first the idea was met with substantial resistance.  He explains that “journals marked as graduate student journals are usually not considered to be reputable.  This is because they are always put on by small agencies and never sponsored by large, reputable publishers.” TPS is unique in that it is backed by the APA.  This basically acts as a stamp of approval and legitimacy for scholars.  Perhaps the most innovative element of TPS comes from its website where a training portal is available for those who are new to peer editing.  The portal begins with general info such as the peer review process and why it is important.  Then, it goes into depth on how to write an effective, constructive review.  For example, how to avoid unhelpful critiques, evaluate theories used, and frame constructive comments.

In the past, when people were asked to review papers, they would often mimic the types of responses they themselves received when their papers were reviewed.  Too often, these new reviewers would repeat the same bad habits as reviewers before them because they didn’t know any better.  TPS’s program is designed to break that cycle.  When a graduate student writes a review, their review is reviewed (ha) by experienced post docs who operate under an established professor.  This forces reviewers to watch what they write because they know that their work will be evaluated by a second set of eyes.  As Scullin says, “Peer review is essential to every scientific article that’s ever been published, and how the author’s results are finally reported can be greatly altered by their editors.  Teaching individuals at an early stage in their career to give effective, non-arbitrary reviews will not only improve the process but will also help to improve science in general.”

Dr. Scullin is excited to see Baylor students get published in future issues of TPS.  The journal is an excellent opportunity for them to gain experience and is surely a resume booster for anyone involved with the publication.  It’s great to hear about innovative ideas that can really change academics for the better.  As always, we’re grateful for Dr. Scullin’s time in explaining his groundbreaking work here at Baylor.

GradFocus: Lindsay Wilkinson


By Ben Murray

The coolest thing about working at the Graduate School is that it allows me to meet a variety of people who have dedicated themselves to an array of different passions. Talking to these people is a rewarding experience because their excitement is often contagious and directs my interest to areas I would have never thought to look.  The most recent example of this phenomenon? Gerontology.  For those who don’t know, Wikipedia (don’t judge, it’s a good source) defines Gerontology as the study of the social, psychological, cognitive and biological aspects of aging.  It turns out that studying the aging process can provide us with some great insights on how to live a healthy and fulfilling life.  I met with Baylor’s Dr. Lindsay Wilkinson to discuss this interesting topic in more detail.

Dr. Wilkinson hails from Rofford Illinois (not far outside Chicago for the southerners who know nothing about other states [me]).  For her undergrad, Lindsay went to Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa where she double majored in psychology and sociology and minored in gender studies. After much deliberation as to whether she should go the psychology or sociology route, Lindsay chose sociology and was accepted into the masters program at Purdue.  In her time there, she received PhD’s in both Sociology and Gerontology.  She says she was initially interested in studying inequality but didn’t know which direction to take it until her mentor mentioned that she could study health inequality.  Lindsay says that this was something of an “aha!” moment for her.  She had never thought of health in those terms before.  As she explained to me, health is really the ultimate form of inequality.  “Everyone is going to get older and die some day and so that carries a lot of significance,” Lindsay said. “If we can understand that better, we can improve our quality of life.”

As a medical sociologist, studying health inequality means a lot more than simply going over people’s medical records. For Lindsay’s most recent project, she looked at the great recession and its effect on adults 51 and up.  She wanted to understand the effect that money strain can have on an individual’s mental health (turns out it has a big effect).  Her work earned her the junior scholar award—a national honor handed out by the Gerontological Society of America. To gather data for her study, Wilkinson used the largest source of information on older adults: a massive 30,000 person study funded by the National Institute of Health.  The study has gathered detailed records on the same people’s lives every two years since 1992.  Thanks to the success of her previous project, Lindsay will now be able to take the next step in her research.  She plans to look at resiliency amongst the elderly during these difficult times.  This means analyzing participants whose mental health was unaffected by their difficulties and trying to discover which characteristics set them apart from the rest.  Answering this question could have exciting implications in learning how to maintain a healthy state of mind when challenges arise in our own lives.

Dr. Wilkinson currently teaches research methods, sociology of aging, and will soon begin a health class in the fall. When she’s not conducting research or teaching, she enjoys relaxing with her husband and two dogs Pax and Lexi (named after Chicago sports legends), going to sporting events and watching good movies.  We’re very thankful to Dr. Wilkinson for her time and look forward to hearing about the discoveries she will make on the next project!

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