Just the Bear Facts

To help you get your bearing in Grad School.

Month: October 2016

GradFocus: Stephanie Peek

In partnership with Baylor University, the IABCU began co-sponsoring the Baptist College and University Scholars Program in 2008. The BCU program sponsors Ph.D. and MFA students who completed degrees in IABCU schools and wish to serve as faculty members in Baptist schools. Scholars have a chance to maintain their ties to the larger Baptist community of higher education through focused study on Baptist identity and history, participation in events on faith and learning, and a chance to meet with the IABCU network of colleges and universities.

Many of us had a chance to meet BCU Scholar Stephanie Peek at our June gathering in Asheville. North Carolina.  Her paper, entitled “Christian Education: Turning Tourists into Pilgrims,” offered attendees a glimpse into her personal educational journey and its influence on her as an educator. She argued that great teachers attempt to cultivate intellectual, social, emotional, and spiritual growth in their students. Teachers and administrators must live whole, well-rounded lives in order to teach their students to do the same. She offered thanks for the multitude of faculty and staff throughout her education who provided an excellent example of what it meant to lead a faithful life and instill those values in students.


Dr. Laine Scales, Dr. Roger Ward, and Stephanie Peek at Oxford University

Peek, a graduate of Southwest Baptist University and PhD Candidate in the Religion Department is currently finishing her degree in New Testament. She joined the Baptist College and University Scholars in 2012, and in the years since she has participated in various seminars, offered presentations on Baptist history and theology, and attended Baylor’s annual faculty retreat focusing on communal development and pedagogy. This past year, Peek was selected to receive the Schmeltekopf Fellowship awarded to one BCU student annually. As part of the fellowship, Peek was mentored by Dr. Robyn Driskell, Divisional Dean of Arts and Humanities, where she learned about various aspects of university administration.

Peek participated with other IABCU member schools in the Seminar for Academic Leadership held annually at Baylor University. The BCU Scholars program also sponsored Peek’s attendance at the Young Scholars in the Baptist Academy Seminar at Oxford University in July. The seminar this year was devoted to papers interacting with the work of the Baptist theologian Paul Fiddes. There she presented a paper entitled, “Sacrifice, Service, and Radical Inclusion: Participating in the Divine Critique According to the Gospel of Mark.”

As Peek nears completion of her degree program, she offers her thanks to her undergraduate sponsor, Southwest Baptist University, Baylor University and the IABCU for their continued support and for the opportunities she has been given to learn and grow as an educator and an academic.

Uploaded by Matthew Doyen

The Fastest 180 Seconds in Grad School

The 3 Minute Thesis competition began in Australia less than a decade ago, but has already begun to spread internationally. The competition challenges students to present their research in a simple, yet engaging fashion. Over the past three years, the Graduate Student Association (GSA) has helped Baylor join the over two hundred schools now hosting the event. On October 18th, eleven graduate students, representing eight different departments, came together in the Incubator to share their research with family, friends, and colleagues.

There were two groups in the competition: PhD candidates and Master’s students. In each group, there were prizes for first ($300), second ($100), and third ($50), as well as, an audience choice prize ($30). The judges for the night were Dr. Larry Lyon, Dean of the Graduate School, Pattie Orr, Dean of the University Libraries, and Dr. C. Kevin Chambliss, Professor of Chemistry. They rated each presenter on two main categories: comprehension/content and communication/engagement.


The competitors were as followed:

Sarah Rude (English) spoke about her work of sight perception in Medieval Literature. Sarah is studying how the trend from extramission to intromission effected literature during the thirteenth century.

Su Jin Kang (Sociology) presented on her research on inequality studies. Su Jin is looking at the effects of social status on potential health outcomes in the United States, Japan, and South Korea.

Michael Spiegel (Chemistry) shared his findings on the new drug selenomaltol. Michael is researching the effects of the drug on heavy metal poisoning and its potential to be selective in that process.

Bethany Smith (Sociology) talked about her research into entrepreneurial success. Bethany is interested in finding the motivations for financial success in women and minority groups to eventually make their business plans more effective.

Andrew Cox (Biology) relayed information about his studies to develop a new genetically modified nectar in impatiens. With malaria affecting over two million people every year, Andrew’s nectar would be toxic to the parasite that causes the disease, but not to the plant nor the mosquito.

Bekah Burket (Environmental Science) displayed her research over the last year of looking at the waste water of Hong Kong. Bekah is gathering information to discover how healthy communities are during different seasons of the year.

Scott Prather (Religion) presented his research on the evolution of penance. Scott shows how different factions of Protestantism evolved in their own ways to use penance for social control.

Ian Anthony (Chemistry and Biochemistry) spoke about his exploration of chemical identification. Ian is using both a mass spectrometer and a vacuum ultraviolet spectrometer to more accurately and fully identify a chemical.

Tim Orr (Religion) introduced his examination of communities in sixteenth century Europe. Tim argues that different communities were both resonant and dissonant of each other, but eventually, because of their stubbornness, choose the latter.

Lauren Bagwell (Curriculum and Instruction) talked about her belief in adding spoken word poetry to social studies classes. Lauren believes that it can help with bettering the class’s curriculum, as well as, each student’s relationship to each other and with themselves.

Jared Hanson (Geology) shared his findings on the Marcellus Shale. Jared is researching the importance of how the Shale grew both laterally and vertically to help extract more of its naturally gas.


Everyone did excellent, but in the end there had to be winners. The Master’s student winners were Andrew Cox (1st), Lauren Bagwell (2nd), and Jared Hanson (3rd), while the PhD candidate winners were Ian Anthony (1st), Tim Orr (2nd), and Scott Prather (3rd). The audience choices were Andrew Cox and Bekah Burket. After the prizes were presented, Dr. Lyon admired everyone’s research and spoke about how important a skill it is to succinctly discuss it to someone with little previous knowledge.

While the 3 Minute Thesis is still in its infancy at Baylor, GSA hopes to keep building it and possibly send representatives to national and international competitions soon. As for now, it serves as a great way to support and celebrate fellow students and their research.

By Matthew Doyen

The Baylor-Palm Beach Atlantic Connection

Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) is located on the sandy shores of West Palm Beach, Florida, about an hour north of Miami. A small liberal arts institution with a total student population of 4,000, PBA strives to “offer a curriculum of studies and a program of student activities dedicated to the development of moral character, the enrichment of spiritual lives, and the perpetuation of growth in Christian ideals.” Despite being 1,300 miles from Waco, Texas and having a quarter of the student population of Baylor, PBA has a strong connection with this city and with our school.

This unusual linkage can be traced back over three decades to 1981 when Baylor hired Dr. Naymond Keathley. After graduating from Baylor with a bachelor’s degree in history, Dr. Keathley made stops at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, and Palm Beach Atlantic University before returning to his alma mater. Five years later, in 1986, Dr. James Kennedy, now an associate professor in the Department of Religion, also joined the Baylor family after realizing that teaching and studying the Bible was his passion during his undergraduate time as a Sailfish at Palm Beach Atlantic.


In 1999, Dr. Laine Scales, now Baylor’s Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Professional Development, came to Baylor as a faculty member in the School of Social Work. Previously, she was redeveloping PBA’s service-learning program, Workship. Around the same time that Dr. Scales arrived at Baylor, three students, who would, unbeknownst to them at the time, strengthen the BU-PBA relationship, enrolled in the university’s religion graduate program.

Kathy Maxwell and her husband, Nathan, came to Waco in 2002 to pursue degrees in New Testament and Old Testament, respectively. Of the twelve new students to the program that year, only two students would be studying Old Testament: Nathan Maxwell and Nathan Lane. “Through the forge that is first semester doctoral students,” Dr. Kathy Maxwell wrote, “we formed deep friendships with our colleagues and their families.” While graduating at different times, the group continued to meet at national conferences, plan visits to each other, and share academic postings. Then, without fail, the calming palm trees and soothing ocean breeze of West Palm Beach started calling them one by one.


It started in 2005 when former Bear, Dr. Kris Pratt, joined the PBA staff and taught in their MacArthur School of Leadership. With his support, Dr. Lane made the same move two years later. One short year after that, a faculty spot came open and, on the advice of her old friend, Dr. Kathy Maxwell applied because the “opportunity to work alongside a fellow Baylor Bear was impossible to resist!” She was hired and her husband, Dr. Nathan Maxwell, taught as an adjunct and worked in online learning for several years at PBA before coming on as full-time faculty. Two years later, Dr. Myles Werntz, who received his doctorate from Baylor in 2011, came aboard as an assistant professor. As Dr. Lane wrote, “For three semesters, we (PBA) had a religion department dominated by Bears!”

There are endless examples of the BU-PBA connection that have continued to this day. In 2016, Dr. Scales was invited to speak at Palm Beach Atlantic University during their annual Founder’s Day Chapel. The Workship program that she and her colleague, Dr. Hope Haslam Straughan, redeveloped from 1993-1996 was celebrating its three millionth hour of community service. While there, she reconnected with associate professors Nathan Lane and the Maxwells.

And so the relationship goes on.


By Matthew Doyen

Balancing Philosophy Homework with World Championships

In July, the USATF Mountain, Ultra, and Trail Running Council announced the team for the 2016 International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) Trail World Championships. The 52-mile race will be held at the end of October and will traverse the beautiful mountainous border between Portugal and Spain. Incredibly, one of the ten athletes (five male, five female) selected is not only an accomplished ultrarunner, but also a successful Baylor PhD candidate in Philosophy.

Growing up in the Appalachian Mountains of Northern New Jersey, Sabrina Little came to Waco after receiving her undergraduate degree at The College of William and Mary in Virginia. There, she raced competitively for the Griffins, but her love for running can be traced back even further. “My first ultramarathon was a bit of an accident,” she recalls. “My mom was in remission from cancer. I like grand gestures, so I ran 100 miles as a fundraiser for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition to celebrate her. It was published in the local papers and I received a lot of phone calls about it being one of the fastest 100-mile times in country that year. I actually had no idea it was a sport at that point.” Sabrina immediately enjoyed success in her new sport by winning both 50 and 100 mile races. At the 2013 World Championship, she even set the national record in the 24-hour run by traveling a little over 152 miles and helped lead Team USA to gold.


To compensate for spending 80+ hours a week training, Sabrina likes to intertwine her scholarly interests and personal goals with her athletic pursuits. For instance, training and racing is part of her overall approach to a well-ordered life. “I appreciate the discipline it offers, and it helps me to be a good steward of my body. I sleep, eat, and train intentionally. I try to be very present.” A healthy version of one’s self is important to a lot of the students and professors in the department. “It’s funny because I think the caricature of philosophers is that we can be a bit abstracted and adrift in the cosmos, but people in our department bike, run, rock climb, and garden. They’re not like what I might expect reading Walker Percy.”

Another way Sabrina combines academics and training is through moral pedagogy, or how we teach virtues. She explains, “It’s very easy to read in a book that perseverance is to ‘remain under a burden.’ It’s a very different thing to have those moments daily – in the middle of workouts, when I have to tell myself to remain. Virtues are hard. They feel awful to learn, and I don’t think we understand that just by reading about them. I think I am a more courageous person because I give myself the opportunity to be brave so often in running.”


Sabrina, and her husband, David, have made Waco home. They both attend Baylor and coach a local cross country team at Live Oak Classical School. Because of the city’s elevation of only 38 meters, which she calls “comical” when training for mountainous races, the ultrarunner has to do a lot of hill repeats. “I like them – up and down. It’s like Sisyphus.” She’ll keep training on those hills for the next few weeks before heading to Peneda-Geres National Park in Portugal for the big race.

We wish her the best of luck! Sic’em Sabrina!

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