Just the Bear Facts

To help you get your bearing in Grad School.

Month: September 2015

GradFocus: Brian Rundle

Brian Rundle wasn’t too surprised when his latest publishing started to gain international attention. “Contagious yawning is something that everyone experiences,” Rundle explains, but there is more to his study than just those familiar involuntary movements. His research was focused on who is catching these yawns, or rather, who is not.

It has been theorized that the contagiousness of yawns is due to empathy. We understand that the yawner is tired and, in an attempt to console that person, we yawn, as well. It makes sense. It is also recognized that psychopaths suffer from a disorder that causes them not to feel empathy, hence their often violent social behavior. Again, makes sense. If these were indeed true, Rundle hypothesized, then it should also be true that psychopaths would not be victim to the same contagious yawning.

Rundle and his team, which included his mentor Dr. Matthew Stanford, evaluated a sample of Baylor students in the aggression laboratory to find the answer. First, they tested the group to see if they displayed psychopathic traits. Then, they put the same group in an environment to study if there was a difference in yawn catching between those who displayed psychopathic traits and those who did not. The results were published and began to rapidly spread across the Internet with the speed of a Kardashian scandal (poor Rob). People were intrigued at this new information that could help them determine if someone could be a psychopath and the author has been enjoying his “short limelight.”

Rundle, a San Antonio native, came to Baylor as a psychology undergrad in 2006 and returned a few years ago as a doctoral candidate in the behavioral neuroscience program. After almost a decade in Waco, he is excited to see that the city is continuing to improve.  The downtown area has become safer and has seen an uprising in diversity among the activities and restaurants it offers. Rundle agrees that it has become “significantly better” because of the amount of money being pumped into cleaning up the area and he has been a part of that revitalization. In his free time, he works at a vegetable stand at the popular Waco Farmer’s Market and enjoys experiencing and working in the city’s “unsaturated” artisan scene.

When asked if he could give one piece of advice to prospective BU graduate students, Rundle responded, “Baylor is great. They are real supportive of people. It’s a very warm culture here. People are very interested in getting to know you. And, in a positive way, they are very Texan.” He continued, “The academics are great, and they are improving. You won’t regret having a degree from Baylor.”

But you may regret the next time you yawn, and your date across the table doesn’t.

By Matthew Doyen

Going Home Brings a New Perspective

In an effort to become a healthier version of myself, I have recently started taking yoga classes through BU’s Bearobics program. As much as I enjoy the stretches and the planks (ew) and the poses, my favorite part of the session has become the last ten minutes of corpse pose. In an effort to enter a deep relaxation of both body and mind, we lay flat on our backs with our left hands on our hearts and our right hands on our stomachs. To help with this process, it is suggested that we envision a peaceful place. I’ve been picturing the past moments when I would sit on my porch at home with the company of the cool breeze and the stubbornly changing leaves of early autumn.

I was excited to get an opportunity to return home last week, even though it was under very somber circumstances, to once again return to my peaceful place. I very much missed it. Every day, the disappointment of not being able to experience it for the first time in my life was slowly swelling and constantly lingered in the back of my mind. So there I found myself: porch, breeze, sprinkles of yellow, orange, and amber in the nearby mountain range. It didn’t take long for the memories of the upcoming fall festivals, high school football games, and Hocus Pocus marathons to be quickly recollected. It was everything that I envisioned, everything that I wanted.

But then I suddenly came back to reality because I started to miss something. I started to miss Waco. I started to miss Baylor. I started to miss my friends, my co-workers, my professors. I even started to miss how the Texas sun makes me feel like a turkey roasting over a crackling fire. It was then that I realized that this porch will always be here and that these September days will always feel the same. But if I stay obsessed with recreating these purely comfortable moments, then I’ll become stagnant and the opportunities to find, appreciate, and enjoy other peaceful places will be forever lost.

When I go to yoga tonight, I will envision a different place during the last ten minutes of corpse pose. I will think of a special place that I was taken to during one of my first days in Waco and that I immediately visited upon my short hiatus. It lies on the top of a cliff, beyond the barriers and echoes of voices. The tranquil Brazos River flows powerfully below while the foliage of Cameron Park sprawls effortlessly out behind. In the distance, McLane Stadium’s rafters and Baylor’s elegant spires peek through and even further, water and electrical towers loom. It is beautiful. It is Waco. I know that this once foreign spot, will (sooner than I could ever imagine) bring back a wave of new memories that are in the process of being made. I know that this will be my new peaceful place.

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By Matthew Doyen

 

Blazing a Trail at Baylor: How One Student Pioneered and Pursued her Passion

In the fall of 2013, I started my senior year as an Elementary Education major. Senior year is the year of your internship as a teacher in a classroom. My intern experience started off fairly similar to everyone else… full of excitement and joy around the students, yet while everyone else was figuring things out and getting more comfortable, I began to discover that the classroom did not seem to be a good fit for me. Slowly my teaching and planning started to suffer and I began to have anxiety problems surrounding school, because I could not quite figure out what direction to pursue. Luckily I had great professors to talk to and help me through this time. Dr. Barbara Purdum-Cassidy and Dr. Sandi Cooper spent lots of time with me, giving advice, providing encouragement, and working to explore other possibilities. My whole world shifted when one of them suggested the idea of Informal Education.

I spent the rest of the fall semester researching “informal education” (education in museums, aquariums, libraries, zoos, etc.) while my professors were looking into possible internships in Waco. Before we left for Christmas break, I had interviewed and agreed to do an internship at Cameron Park Zoo with the education department in the Spring 2014. During my time at Cameron Park Zoo I worked closely with the Education Curator, Connie Kassner. She taught me how to handle animals and gave me responsibilities with the care of the education animals. I helped update/ lead outreach programs and on grounds programs, I wrote new scavenger hunts, helped coordinate volunteers and also assisted in organizing events at the zoo. The outreach programs took up most of my mornings. A partner and I would take a group of the education animals to a school where we would present different lessons we had created and connected to TEKS before we would present the animals. I loved getting to see children react to the animals. It made the ideas and concepts we were talking about so much more meaningful and tangible. Students could actually see and feel the differences of reptiles and mammals rather than just talk about them or look at pictures. Cameron Park Zoo has several education programs and events throughout the year. Events such as National Amphibian Day, Bear Awareness, Big Cat Day and many others that spotlight different animals. Another event I participated in was the Poison Safety Safari, a collaborative event with the Poison Control Center, where visitors learn about poison hazards and venomous animals. These events are intended to add to visitors experience and education.

During my internship, I was able to take two classes in the Museum Studies program at Baylor– Museum Educational Programming and Introduction to Museums. I loved the opportunity to take these courses while working at the zoo, because many concepts overlapped and I was able to discover lots of connections. Connie and I would have lots of discussions that stemmed from ideas we learned in class and I was able to see how it differed in a zoo setting.

During the semester I was working at the zoo, I had the great opportunity to lead a group of Education students in a collaborative project with the Baylor Chamber. The Baylor Chamber is a group of students responsible for the bears on campus. They also lead presenations for area school children when they make a campus visit to see the bears. Chamber wanted to make their programming more educational and more marketable to teachers. My team took the previous information chamber presented to groups and wrote them into age/grade appropriate presentations. The project also included connecting TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) to the different presentations so that Chamber could market their presentations to schools as more relevant to the state standards.

Even though my work at Cameron Park Zoo has ended, my connections are still strong. I try to volunteer and help out with events as much as possible. I was able to help organize and participate in the Texas Aquarium and Zoo Educator conference in January 2015 at Cameron Park Zoo. There I got to meet and learn from informal educators all over the state of Texas.

I am currently a graduate student about to complete my Masters of Science in Education in the department of Curriculum and Instruction, with a cognate/specialization in informal education. With help from my professors, I was able to individualize my program to fit my area of study by taking several courses in the department of Museum Studies. The Curriculum and Instruction classes have been very easy to connect to museum education as well as connecting the Museum Studies courses to education. I believe Baylor University has provided me a well-rounded knowledge of informal education through the individuality of my degree program and the support of my professors.

My hope is that the Baylor School of Education and Museum Studies could partner to create an official program for students like me. Amazing professors who truly care about their students and their success have blessed me and helped me get to where I am. Without their guidance, I might not have graduated college or would not have the hopes of a future career.

Top 4 Worth Waking Up For: Best Brunch Destinations in Waco

If you like brunch and crave it at least three times a day, then we have something in common. It’s kind of sad, but all week I look forward to the weekend where I can enjoy a nice brunch with even better company.

Brunch truly is the best of both worlds. Deciding on whether you want breakfast or lunch is the only tough question and then you can embark on the side of the menu that fits your craving. Am I making you hungry yet?

Fortunately for Baylor students and Wacoans, there are quite a few options when it comes to brunch cuisine. Since there are so many, I decided to seek out the top establishments and find the top four worth waking up for.

  1. The Olive Branch

Olive Branch WTX

Tired after all that shopping at Spice Village? Just walk downstairs to The Olive Branch for a cozy brunch. With the old wooden beams and brick model it’s hard not to enjoy the atmosphere of this unique spot.

Along with the typical breakfast foods, The Olive Branch offers exquisite quiche and amazing croissants. If you’re looking for a snack later on, I hear that the cupcakes are pretty divine as well.

P.S. If you’re looking for a venue for a special event, you can rent out the Express Café!

  1. Waco Farmer’s Market

Farmer's Market WTX

I know what you’re thinking. Is this really a brunch place? Absolutely. If you haven’t had coffee and crepes at the Waco Farmer’s Market then you need put this on your calendar for next Saturday. Plus, think about all of the fresh produce that you can stock up on for the upcoming week!

Did I mention that the Waco Farmer’s Market is also pet-friendly? Yep! Bring your furry friend and adventure away. I mean, cute dogs are always an excuse to go anywhere, right?

  1. Lula Jane’s

Lula Jane's WTX

Looking for a quiet place to enjoy some good food with good friends? Lula Jane’s is the perfect place for you. Everything is made from scratch, in-house and with the best ingredients.

The breads and scones are amazing, but my personal favorite is the baked oatmeal with blueberries and a cup of coffee.

1. Café Cappuccino

Cafe Capp WTX

I bet you’re really hungry now. Yes, Café Capp is where you can get these to-die-for pancakes. Honestly though, everything here is simply amazing. I enjoy the caramel mocha lattes and every pancake they offer.

Bring your appetite and a large group of friends for a brunch you’ll never forget!

If you haven’t ventured out to try one or any of these brunch hot spots then you must go soon! Waco truly is a wonderland filled with all kinds of unique places to explore.

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By Caroline Jerome

 

Five Things I Learned during My First Week of Grad School

After a week of attending graduate school at Baylor, I actually did learn a few things and was told to write them down before everything was forgotten.

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1.  That Baylor Is Very Much an Undergraduate Campus

I should’ve realized this from the get-go, but despite my impressive graduate school status, I am still young and naïve. It all started when I visited campus during the summer when only the faculty, staff, and a handful of students were present. It was so incredibly peaceful. I moved into my apartment two weeks before the start of the semester, while the campus was still ever so serene. A week later at orientation, I was listening when Dean Lyon said that undergrads outnumber us six to one and that this is primarily an undergrad campus. Oh, Dean Lyon, I thought. He doesn’t know that this is what it feels like going to a school that doesn’t have over 35,000 students, that this is so nice.

Then, my first day of class came and along with it my first lesson learned. I walked through campus and found students everywhere. They were sitting in my swinging chair, standing in line at my Starbucks, and trying to run me over with their overzealous mopeds on my cross-campus path to class. What was going on? I wondered. Where did all of these students come from? Why was everybody dressed to go to the gym, how do large groups of students have time to “play ultimate,” and how were the parking lots littered with fancy cars with blasting sound systems? Don’t they have to go class, or to their jobs, or to their apartments to wash their clothes and clean their dishes and feed their cats?

No, they don’t. Because they are undergrads. Because this is primarily an undergraduate campus (my apologies, Dean Lyon). But that is not necessarily a bad thing. Because of the large number of undergrads, we, graduate students, have access to a massive and comprehensive library system, a well-equipped gym (complete with a rock wall, swimming pool, indoor track, and my favorite: yoga classes), over two hundred campus organizations, and plenty of comic relief. I take advantage of these FREE resources every day, while I watch the undergrads as they take me back to a simpler time.

2.  To Start Budgeting (Stop Spending) Money

Throughout my undergraduate career, I was fortunate enough to have a job around the holidays, during summer break, and on the weekends when I ventured home. This job provided a decent-sized check that I could put in the bank, while also providing a healthy sum of cash I could pocket. Because of this, my budget was always based on the amount of money that I had in my wallet (and the amount of times I visited my grandparents). And it worked pretty well. But then a strange thing happened to me before I came to graduate school, I was accepted for a credit card. That tiny, plastic rectangle could account for hundreds of dollars and my slowly diminishing wads of ones and fives seemed more trivial than ever.

Now that I’m in graduate school, I’m still working the same amount of hours, but one hundred percent of my income is direct-deposited. I pay my rent, my utilities, and my internet bill online and Vitek’s (the local BBQ joint with the appropriately named Gut-Pak) takes cards so there is no need to have a significant amount of cash on me at any time. But that resulted in my card being used for everything, all the time, no matter the place, no matter the price. Even after just one week, it started to accumulate. I realized that the next time I go to the store I will have to use coupons and only buy things that H-E-B has on-sale; that going out to eat every night was a lifestyle that I wanted, but could not afford; and that I need to give my grandparents my new address so they could send their favorite grandson more money.

After that fateful first week, I find myself doing boring, adult things like budgeting (and going to sleep before the clock reaches double digits). Each day, I write down my expenditures because a visual of the money I am spending, something that a plastic rectangle cannot offer, is often helpful. I set a budget each week for groceries and gas, going out to eat or drink (once during the weekday and once on the weekends), emergency costs that may arise, and Shorty’s pizza (where an extra-large pepperoni pie is only $9.99!). And it’s working pretty well.

3.  That the Professors Truly Care

I think that this one may be uniquely personal. I was a history major (after switching my major twice). I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do after I walked off that stage with my degree. I had no passion for the field. I had no relationships with the professors. I didn’t even know that I wanted to be in the museum field until my last semester when I accidentally signed up for the only museum class at the university. After a few weeks though, I found myself visiting the professor’s office (on purpose) and a few months later asked him to write a letter of recommendation that may have tipped my application into the accepted pile. I enjoyed that relationship, but learned that they get even better.

Graduate school is very intimate. The programs are small, which leads to the professors knowing all of our names and their willingness to always help out. They are interested in our success and treat us as professionals. And I thoroughly enjoy that, even after one week, I can both joke with them (I’m looking at you, Dr. Hafertepe) while also having intellectual conversations about the current challenges that face our field. They say, and believe, that we are the future of museums and make us feel like we are important, intelligent, and respected. It is refreshing and gives us the confidence we need to succeed.

Because of this, we come to class with every line read and challenging questions in mind. We don’t want to disappoint the people who believed in us so much that they personally chose us to be in their program. They share personal experiences that strengthen our bond and contacts that will strengthen are resumes. They are scheduling to take us to see their friends who work as directors, curators, and educators in museums and at historical sites that are successfully evolving with the twenty-first century. They truly do care and I’m excited to continue our relationships for the remainder of the program and for the rest of our lives.

4.  To Embrace the Uncomfortableness

Embrace it! Believe me, I know as much as any other introvert that meeting new people can be awkward and uneasy. I always liked to (and was content with) staying with my family and my friends and never actively sought to enlarge my social group. But being in Waco presented a specific challenge: I was 300 miles away from my closest friend and over 1500 miles away from my family. Essentially, I was all alone and that was really scary. I could (and maybe did) wallow in my room and listen to Dashboard Confessional while downing half-gallons of ice cream, but I don’t want to be that person. I decided that I wanted to be the person that takes full advantage of my two years at Baylor. I decided to look at my situation not as a challenge, but as an opportunity.

As previously stated, I went to a large university for my undergraduate degree, but it still seemed like ninety-five percent of the people were from eastern Pennsylvania. It was comforting that we all shared that in common and could talk about the Phillies or the Flyers, but after a while I got tired of the routine, of the expected. That is exactly why I came to Baylor and to Waco. I wanted to meet new people from different corners of the country and I wasn’t going to accomplish that by staying at home in a pile of mint chocolate chip sludge.

All of the first-years met during orientation (and awaited the Sorting Hat). Despite it being pretty awkward, everyone seemed welcoming and we quickly became friends on Facebook. It seemed that this was going to be easier than I reckoned. But then when the call came in to physically hang out again, only a handful (four) decided to answer. Did that stop the four of us from getting a drink at Dancing Bear? Nope. Were there times when it was disturbingly silent before someone would say something? Yep. Did I say stupid things that were embarrassing? You bet. Are the four of us best friends after only the first week? Absolutely.

There are no (very, very, very few) excuses. One of my new best friends went to Baylor as an undergrad and still has friends around campus as well as a significant other and a family that is less than three hours away. Did she use any of those reasons to not go through the often agonizing, tortuous process of making new friends? No! Believe me, I know it would be easy to avoid, especially if you have a legitimate excuse or enjoy being a successful introvert, but making the next two years a whole lot more comfortable starts by embracing the uncomfortableness. It is worth it.

5.  That I Can Do It

During orientation, the theatre department acted out sketches and one of them addressed a fear that I thought only I had: that I didn’t belong here. My undergraduate grades were alright, but not perfect; my experience in the museum world was limited; and I didn’t know if I was ready for the gauntlet known as graduate school. I spent countless nights over the summer wondering if they made a mistake accepting me, if I over-exaggerated too much on my resume (never), if I was going to disappoint everyone that had become so proud of me.

The first week we were given upwards of 150 pages to read. I hate reading anything that doesn’t start with “Harry Potter and the…” I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do it – my days were full of classes and jobs, while my nights were spent juggling the gym, housework, friendship, and Netflix – but I had to. I spent most of Saturday afternoon with my phone and TV turned off. Six hours later I was half-way through the assignments – the fact that I wanted to have insightful things to say during class discussions made my reading slower – and I knew I needed a break. I texted my friends and hung out with them for the remainder of the night without a single word about museums spoken. Sunday came and went with more hours spent reading and taking notes, but also featured watching the ‘Stros game on TV.

There is a weight that needs to be balanced with extreme caution: too much work and your mind will slowly wither away, but too much play and your mind will slowly wither away, as well. At one point, this balancing act seemed like a daunting task, but now I know that it is totally manageable. I learned that I can do this grad school thing, but only with great friends, kind professors, daily(ish) exercise, and a little money saved for Saturday night.

By Matthew Doyen

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