Just the Bear Facts

To help you get your bearing in Grad School.

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Talking to Bears: Porter Ellett

Talking with Bears is a series where we take a few minutes each week to talk to some of the current graduate students at Baylor and discuss their experience at the university and in Waco.


Hometown: Loa, Utah

Undergraduate Degree: Economics

Undergraduate University: Brigham Young University

Graduate Degree: M.A. in Sport Management

Expected Year of Graduation: 2017


What was the biggest factor that persuaded you to attend Baylor for graduate school?

They have the structure necessary to support my program. I came and visited the campus along with Dr. Petersen, and everything exceeded my expectations. I was really leaning towards attending another university, but the visit sealed the deal. The people of Waco were very kind and genuine, so it eased the tension of being halfway across the country from home. I also like the family values that seem to flow through the culture of Waco. That was big for my wife and me.

What is one thing that has surprised you about graduate school at Baylor?

How engaging the learning process is. Almost every single student in my program is working outside of class in a sport management related field. It is a great plus to the program.

If you had to describe your graduate school experience (so far) in three words, what would they be?

Stretch, manage, and understand.

If you were Dean Lyon for a day, what would be two things that you would change?

  1. Allow students to handle aspects of attraction more. I think student led tours and things are great, but adding student led marketing campaigns could boost the profile of the grad school. Youth would aid in being in tune with social media and other modern marketing thoughts and trends.
  2. He is really cool so getting him in front of the student population more could do wonders. If undergrads heard him speak or interacted with him, I am sure some would be swayed to pursue a grad degree.

What activities are you involved with outside of the classroom?

I work for SMG McLane Stadium and am active in the Sport Management Association. A few less official things include exercising at the SLC and attending athletic events.

What does your average Saturday look like?

My wife and I get up around 6:30 or 7:00 head to the gym and we usually spend the day enjoying sporting events either on TV or in person. The evenings we usually try to go somewhere new for dinner then catch a movie.

How has the city of Waco impacted your time during graduate school?

It is fun place to explore with its own unique culture, but I think the people have impacted me more than anything. I have yet to meet an unkind person in my time here. It sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s the truth. It has made me a kinder person and helped me appreciate the important things in life a little more.

What is your go-to lunch spot in Waco?

We have tried a lot of new stuff, so I haven’t repeated too many meals. Torchy’s Tacos may have recently become my go-to.


If you could give one piece of advice to prospective graduate students that are interested in Baylor, what would it be?

Join us!

Compiled by Matthew Doyen

SET: Bad Sleep in Good Students

Baylor’s Academy for Teaching and Learning (ATL) holds a series of lectures every semester titled “Seminars for Excellence in Teaching.” These seminars help graduate student teachers, tenured professors, and everyone in between to meet the university’s historic expectations for teaching in the classroom. These are my accounts.


After a long morning that included a trip to West for some freshly baked kolaches (and resulted in me wearing a beanie all day), I attended an afternoon seminar entitled “Bad Sleep in Good Students: Costs to Learning and Recommendations for Instructors.” This particular session caught my eye not because I have a class of sleepy students, but because I’ve recently found myself yawning along to their same undergrad tune. Dr. Michael Scullin, who came to Baylor two years ago and started a graduate student peer review journal, was my host for the afternoon.


There have obviously been a multitude of studies researching sleep and its effects on the human brain, a good number of them done by Dr. Scullin and his Baylor associates at the campus’s Sleep Lab. Because of these studies, we now know more about this vital organ than ever before and continue to uncover its amazing abilities. Despite contrary belief, the brain does not shut down when we are sleeping. During our dreams, the brain is restoring and preparing for the next day. Memories that are made during the day are replaying subconsciously as the brain tries to remember their important details.

The talk was actually less about what the brain does while we are sleeping, but more about what it fails to do without a good night’s rest. Sleep loss, which is when someone doesn’t make it to the recommended sleep duration of 7-9 hours/night, primarily affects the prefrontal cortex. If you forget your high school anatomy class like me, I’ll remind just as Dr. Scullin did that the prefrontal cortex is directly behind your left temple. More importantly, its main functions are reasoning, concentrating, problem-solving, and encoding memory – essentially, everything that makes a good pupil. Without a proper night’s shuteye, the prefrontal cortex will be just as tired and as unable to perform as us.

Dr. Scullin went on to discuss different problems that college students face when trying to go to sleep (some their own doing and some evolution’s doing). Most of us, not just college students, get into bed, turn off the light, and grab our smartphones or tablets. This is a big no-no. The bright light from these devices, including TV screens, tells the brain that the sun is about to come up and that we should, as well. In scientific terms, the light decreases melatonin production, which then in turn unsynchronizes our circadian cycles, which then in turn forces us to stay up all night finishing season 5 of Game of Thrones for the sixth time.

It has been proven that young adults are on a different biological clock than their professors. This makes complete sense when I think about how I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning during my undergraduate years watching the antics of Craig Ferguson on late night TV, but now can barely make it to the evening news. Dr. Scullin suggested eliminating 8:00 am classes, which an approximate 40% of BU students are enrolled in, because of this very reason that is no one’s fault but our evolutionary process.

Dr. Scullin then provided tips for professors to give to their students and signs to look for in a tired pupil. He reminded us that students may not be doing well not because they are unintelligent, but because their poor sleep habits are finally catching up to them. He concluded by saying that it is nearly impossible for someone to catch up on sleep on the weekend, that we should stay far away from coffee after lunch, and that when you wear a beanie everyone knows it’s because you didn’t shower.

Even with a lifetime of sleeping experience, it seems that I still have some learning to do!

Check out the full schedule of ATL’s Seminars in Excellence for Teaching.

By Matthew Doyen

Bears v Longhorns


On Monday night, I tuned into ESPN (because a Monday night tip-off is not ideal for graduate students to attend) to watch the much anticipated Baylor-Texas men’s basketball game. As I listened to Brent Musburger skillfully narrate the intense action and to a full house fervently cheer on our boys in green and gold, I became curious as to why these two schools form one of the biggest rivalries in the country.

My first thought was location. BU and UT are located less than 100 miles from one another and it seems that every school that falls within that radius is a rival to Baylor (TCU and Texas A&M). The close proximity means that fans can easily travel on I-35 to any and all away games. The cities that the two schools call home are also vastly different. UT is located in the state capital of Austin. The city is known for being very hip (and “weird”) and has a great selection of parks, shops, and music venues. Waco, on the other hand, is the little brother of sorts. It is about half the size of its larger counterpart to the south and is just now coming into its own by being “wacko.” A lot of what Waco strives for, even down to its slogan, can trace its roots to Austin, which can account for some of the spite.

My second thought was academics. These two schools are the largest in central Texas and are ranked 52nd (UT) and 71st (BU) in U.S. World News Report’s most recent rankings. UT has been labeled as one of the “public ivies,” which implies that one can get an Ivy League education there for the price of a public school. Baylor, meanwhile, is strictly private and doesn’t have to create such titles. Over 50,000 students are enrolled at UT, while we have a little over 15,000, which creates a cozy atmosphere. Despite the disparity in the student population, both schools are known for their current research with Texas accruing a large research endowment and Baylor opening its BRIC operation just a couple of years ago; both also have general endowments over one billion dollars. The academic rigor that is paralleled at both institutions can only add fuel to the rivalry fire.

My final thought, and probably the one that should have come first, was athletics. BU-UT teams have competed in heated rivalry for decades (check out the 1963 football program at the bottom of the page courtesy of The Texas Collection), despite the fact that the Longhorns have had an enormously historic advantage. In recent years, however, they have been caught and the Bears are now consistently competing on the football field and basketball court and baseball diamond and on and on and on. The intensity brought by this transition of power has made the rivalry ever more intense, which can only enhance to the competitiveness.

While the basketball game continued to unfold in the background of my “research,” I kept hearing Mr. Musburger say two words that perfectly sum up the relationship of BU and UT: passion and respect. Perhaps the reason that this tandem has become so fierce is because we see a lot of the same qualities in each other. We are both located in Central Texas and proud of it. We are both continually improving our level of academics and research. We are both desperately passionate for our team. Because of those facts, a mutual respect has grown and, even though it may seem that we despise each other’s existence most of the time, we are only making each other better.

ooWhile these programs have become a bit less offensive, some things, like the intensity of the Baylor-Texas rivalry, will never change.

By Matthew Doyen

How to Rally from the Realization of a New Semester

The first couple weeks of a new semester are like the first weeks of a new relationship. The feelings that everything is perfect and that nothing can ever go awry gleefully disillusion our minds. We keep saying things to ourselves like “this thing is easier than I thought,” and prematurely planning joyful journeys for the future. Every day is sunny and beautiful. But then, all at once, it hits us: the realization that this thing is actually a lot harder than we thought. The clouds hide the sky and the cool breeze is finally noticed as we recognize that every class isn’t going to get out thirty minutes early and that all assignments can’t be accomplished a few minutes before the beginning of entering the room. We discover that they hate our favorite movie and that they make a really annoying noise when eating spaghetti. The honeymoon is over. Luckily, we’ve compiled a few steps from experience for how to rally from this moment and make the best out of the semester.


Step 1: Complain

Some call it venting, some call it flaring up, many call it annoying, but it must be done. Get out the frustration and direct it towards someone who understands your situation. Usually, this is a fellow classmate or an old friend that won’t send you to the crazy house. Complain about the absurd amount of readings that are assigned, about the professor who is always one class behind because of his pointless sidebars, about the lack of time given to complete the recently assigned paper. Don’t hold back!

Step 2: Exercise

Once you have successfully gotten off your negativity horse, take a walk, or a run, or a bike ride. Enjoy the fresh air going into and coming out of your body. Listen to your favorite band. Look around and appreciate the scenery of where you are going to be spending your next semester. Realize how truly blessed you are to be in this position and in this place. Take these precious moments to relax and let your course workload escape to the farthest depths of your mind.

Step 3: Get an Ice Cream Cone

Because we all love ice cream and, let’s be honest, you deserve it.

Step 4: Get to Work

Difficult tasks often seem impossible until we start. Break down the readings into smaller sections that are manageable to do in a session at the library. It might take the whole night, and you might have to miss that movie or game that was enjoyed in the first couple weeks, but you’ll be that much closer to finishing. Achieving a daunting challenge is actually quite a satisfying moment and should provide for a good night’s sleep. Remember what the marathon runner John Bingham once stated, “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

So complain, then exercise, then eat, then work and you will be on your way before you know it! As for that new relationship, try TV shows and ravioli.

By Matthew Doyen

Nine Things We’re Looking Forward to This Semester!

Basketball Games – January 2-March 3

There has been a recent resurgence of Baylor athletics, and the basketball teams have been at the forefront. Since 2010, the Lady Bears have been to two Final Fours, including winning it all in 2012! They have been ranked in the top 10 for most of the year and end their season at the Ferrell Center against in-state foe (and currently undefeated) Texas. In the past six years, the men’s team has had equal success by reaching both the Elite Eight and NIT Finals twice in that span. The Bears end their season with a quartet of huge matchups against nationally ranked Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa State, and West Virginia. It’s safe to say that come Spring Break, Baylor will be electric with March Madness fever and we will be cheering the whole way.


BRIC Lecture – January 21-22

Baylor’s BRIC (Baylor’s Research and Innovation Collaborative) Lecture series is bringing one of the world’s most distinguished and influential scientists to Waco. Dr. Henry “Fritz” Schafer will be giving two lectures while on campus with the public lecture titled “A Day in the Life of a Scientist: An Autobiographical Sketch.” Since Dr. Schafer was recently cited by the U.S. News and World Report as one of the seven chemists most deserving of the Nobel Prize who has yet to be so recognized, this will be one lecture we will make sure not to miss.

All-University Sing – February 18-27

The history of Baylor’s All-University Sing goes all the way back to 1953. During this wildly popular tradition, student organizations perform seven-minute broadway style productions. These organizations pull out all of the stops because the top eight acts will advance to the Pigskin Revue (another tradition that is held during Homecoming Weekend). Come late February, we’ll find our seats in Waco Hall and ready ourselves to enjoy this year’s eighteen amazing acts.


Bearathon – March 19

Tokened “the Toughest Half in Texas,” the Bearathon is one of BU’s Student Foundation’s largest fundraising events. Last year over two thousand runners weaved their ways from the streets of downtown to the hills of Cameron Park and everywhere in between on the 13.1 mile course! This year’s race, which includes a 5K option, will begin and end at the “Palace on the Brazos,” McLane Stadium. For better or worse, we will be strapping on our bibs and going on a nice (and long) morning run before we head home for Easter Break.

Texas Food Truck Showdown – April 2

If there is one thing that Wacoans love, it is good food. The Greater Waco Chamber capitalized on this passion by hosting the first Texas Food Truck Showdown last year to raving reviews and, to the pleasure of many rumbling bellies, is bringing it back this spring for a second go-around. The 2016 version will feature an expanded venue with more than forty food trucks, live entertainment, and a free outdoor movie courtesy of Sunset Cinema. Aspiring food aficionados can even vote on their best mobile food stand! It’s safe to say that after sleeping off a day filled with pranks and hijinks, we will put on our fat pants and indulge at the Showdown.

STEM and Humanities Symposium – April 7

For the last couple of years, Baylor has placed an extra emphasis on its STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and Humanities programs. The University is continuing its quest by hosting its second annual STEM and Humanities Symposium at the Mayborn Museum. This year’s theme is “The Anthropocene,” which is a proposed name for the current geological period, when humans have replaced nature as the most significant environmental force on Earth. We’re marking our calendars and taking our chances crossing University Parks for this event.

Steppin’ Out – April 9

Community engagement and service is something that has always been important to Baylor and its students. One of the most popular and rewarding experiences that students and faculty can partake in is the Steppin’ Out program. Steppin’ Out at Baylor, which just celebrated its thirty year anniversary, occurs once a semester and gives the university a chance to give back to the beautiful city that it calls home. During the second Saturday in April, you’ll find us rolling up our sleeves ready to garden, clean, paint, and wash our community.

Diadeloso – April 12

Sometimes after a long semester, we just need to get together with all of our friends and have a huge campus-wide party. Baylor, bless its heart, has been making that happen for its students since before WII. Diadeloso, a self-proclaimed university holiday, is a day full of athletic tournaments, live entertainment, and so much more. We’re not ashamed to admit that our countdown to Diadeloso, the Day of the Bear, has begun (90 days and counting!).

Common Grounds Concert – April 13

Common Grounds is not only one of the best coffee shops in town, but also one of the best music venues. They have big names headline their calendar all semester (Gungor, Jukebox the Ghost, Mutemath), but the show we’re looking forward to the most is the April 13th appearance of the americana-folk band Judah and the Lion. As we’re finishing up our theses and projects, we’ll be sure to squeeze in some time to walk across the street from campus and see an amazing concert.

By Matthew Doyen

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Talking to Bears: Amanda Sawyer

Talking with Bears is a series where we take a few minutes each week to talk to some of the current graduate students at Baylor and discuss their experience at the university and in Waco.


Name: Amanda Sawyer

Hometown: Batavia (Chicago), IL

Undergraduate Degree: B.A. in University Scholars with concentrations in Chinese Language and History, magna cum laude, 2015

Undergraduate University: Baylor University

Graduate Degree: M.A. in Museum Studies

Expected Year of Graduation: Spring 2017


What was the biggest factor that persuaded you to attend Baylor for graduate school?

One of the members of my thesis committee encouraged me to consider the program here after I discovered my love for public history. He had been incredibly influential in helping me develop and pursue my research interests. When the financial aid and assistantship offers came through, I was beyond excited to continue my education at Baylor.

What is one thing that has surprised you about graduate school at Baylor?

I’ve been amazed by the tight-knit community that has developed among students in my program.

If you had to describe your graduate school experience (so far) in three words, what would they be?

Challenging, enlightening, hectic.

If you were Dean Lyon for a day, what would be two things that you would change?

I’d be excited to see a greater variety in professional development opportunities for graduate students, since the majority are aimed at those pursuing a career in academia. I’d also appreciate the occasional lecture or workshop which occurred after 5 pm. Since I work or attend class from 9 am to 5 pm every day, I don’t get to participate in many of the activities offered by the graduate school.

What activities are you involved with outside of the classroom?

I study piano and sing in a choir. I own far too many books and am steadily working my way through all of them before I allow myself to return to Half Price Books. I go to yoga with some of my classmates and study Chinese when I have some free time outside of homework.

What does your average Saturday look like?

On a normal weekend in Waco, I sleep in for an extra hour, make coffee and pancakes, and usually watch a little television or a movie. By the afternoon, I’m back to reading and working on papers. If it isn’t too hot, I go for a run in the evening and typically eat out on Saturday nights. I usually try to get a good hour of piano practice in on Saturday evenings, as well.

How has the city of Waco impacted your time during graduate school?

I love Waco! I’ve been working on the Waco History App for about a year and a half now and I’ve developed a strong affinity for the city. A lot of my non-class time is spent researching its history and community. On a more personal level, I love Waco’s community festivals like Art on Elm, I enjoy hiking in Cameron Park, and I think that the suspension bridge and riverwalk at night might be one of my all-time favorite places.


What is your go-to lunch spot in Waco?

My lunch breaks are usually short, so I’m incredibly excited that a Freddy’s just opened on the other side of the highway! But if I have more time, I love to eat at Lula Jane’s in East Waco.

If you could give one piece of advice to prospective graduate students that are interested in Baylor, what would it be?

Communicate personally with a professor you are interested in studying with. The conversations I had with faculty members of my program are what ultimately made my decision to come here.

Compiled by Matthew Doyen

The Five Tips for Applying to Graduate School

Applying to graduate school can be a stressful time. During my process, which happened to span about a calendar month, I looked around the Internet and asked friends for their advice. I found some really good information that was helpful and I thought I’d share some of my favorite tips as we start to reach the fall application deadlines.

Tip 1: Start Early and Often

I began my search for the perfect graduate school in March, while the deadline was the following February. Beginning the process that early may sound daunting or even trivial, but the knowledge that I gained in those first few months was invaluable. I learned the major (and minor) differences between similar programs that were beneficial in deciding to take one track or another. Applicants shouldn’t just start the college hunt process early, but also get a head start on studying for the GRE and gathering references. I know that many students take the GRE multiple times. Making the decision to schedule that first one can either get it out of the way so you never have to look back or give you the realization that you need to study more and take a GRE class. Luckily, since you took the initiative so early, you have time to do that! Also, don’t leave your recommenders for the last second. They are usually extremely busy and need time to formulate a quality letter. Make sure to give it to them!

Tip 2: Keep Track of Deadlines

We’ve all been there. “Oh, that paper isn’t due for another couple of weeks. I have time.” One week later, “It’s due next Friday. I still have plenty of time.” The night before it’s due, “I can’t believe that I have to write a ten page paper in one night.” This is not the pattern that you want to follow when applying to grad school. Procrastination is the enemy. Fortunately, many programs allow you to create an account well before the deadline is anywhere near. By creating an account and entering in their systems, you’ll often get periodic emails reminding you that something is due soon. Make a calendar with your own deadlines to make sure that you don’t forget to send your transcripts or write a personal statement. The last thing that you want colleges to see is that you forgot to add something or submitted it late. Aim for great first impressions!


Tip 3: Take your Time on the Personal Statement

You’ll come to hear that programs want their applicants to be holistic. Now, if you’re like me, you’ll just nod your head, pretend to know what the word holistic means, and wonder how the heck you got into grad school. Basically, by wanting holistic applicants, colleges are saying that they don’t just look at the GPA, or the GRE scores, or your resume. They take the whole application into account. With that being said, the personal statement is by far the most important piece that you will hand over. It gives you an opportunity to show your strengths and explain why there may be some weaknesses on your application. It provides a vital opportunity to sell yourself to the university. Do not rush! Write a little bit at a time. Edit it to make certain that it is grammatically correct. Have others read it. Edit it again. Then submit it with no regrets!

Tip 4: Don’t Limit your Search by Distance

The fact is that the perfect program may well be halfway across the country. It is natural to want to stay at a school and in an area where we are familiar with everything around and feel safe. Always apply to your undergraduate school if they have the program that you are interested in pursuing! The fact that you are already loyal to the college will actually go a long way when they are reviewing applications. But don’t let the fact that you are scared about moving some place new by yourself prohibit you from applying to that program one thousand miles away. Chances are that you will love it and meet some of your best friends there. As my Taco Bell hot sauce packet once read, “You never know, if you never do.” So do!


Tip 5: Stop Reading Online Articles

One of the worst things that an aspiring graduate student can do is to start reading articles about the difficulties about getting accepted into a program. Even the most qualified applicants will start to second guess their resumes. It’s imperative that you are confident during the whole process. Don’t stress about not having the perfect GPA or the highest test scores. You’ll read that you need them to get into any program and that more people get declined from graduate school than accepted. You’ll see all of these unbearable statistics that will make your heart sink. But all of that just makes it even sweeter when you receive that acceptance letter. Just remember that you are qualified. And make sure to show it!

By Matthew Doyen

The Best Places to Study on Campus

With finals quickly approaching, everyone is becoming attached to their books and becoming one with their favorite study places. Luckily, Baylor has a number of charming and quiet buildings and areas that graduate students especially like using.

1. The Second Floor of the Student Union

The first time that I journeyed into the SUB I was amazed by the ornate furnishings and decorations. It was like stepping back in time to the rich grandmother’s house I never had, but even better because everything wasn’t wrapped in plastic and smelled like perfume. There are long hallways and small rooms that branch off from the main ballroom that are specifically designated for studying. It is like a private family room that brings about coziness and studiousness every time I enter. There are also eateries to buy food and coffee on the first floor so prepare for an anticipated hour long study break to turn into an all day event.


2. The Incubator

The name is still a mystery, but the Incubator is a dedicated section on the first floor of the Moody Library that is only for graduate students. We don’t have to fight the sleep-deprived undergrads for couches and tables any longer! Besides for the graduate student events that occur, the large room rarely gets crowded. With stacks of resources right outside, and the Graduate Writing Center located at its entrance, the Incubator is a one-stop shop for those exciting December research papers. Oh, and if the free coffee in the space doesn’t hit the spot, Starbucks is right down the hall in the main lobby.

3. Armstrong Browning Library Garden of Contentment

Located on the outskirts of campus, the name just whispers relaxation. The Garden of Contentment is located on the left side of the Armstrong Browning Library and provides an excellent atmosphere for getting work done. Although it may be too cold to use by the time fall finals roll around (although in Texas one never knows), the garden’s trees, expansive foliage, and small fountain make it an extremely comfortable reading space for those late August and early September assignments. If there are no tables available outside, the Library also provides a unique, beautiful, and quiet space for studying, contemplating, or cat-napping.


4. Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation

The Foster Business Building is Baylor’s newest academic building. Its sleek design and innovative technology make it a perfect space for tackling that dreaded group project. Foster offers breakout rooms that look over the main lobby area that any student can reserve. While all the activity can be distracting to some, the lobby is an excellent space to study for the student that can tune out all the noise and action. But to be honest, most people just go to this building to study because it is home to the new café and bakery: Au Bon Pain.

5. Common Grounds Back Patio

Although technically located right across the street from the campus line, Common Grounds provides a great space for studying and caffeinating. There are a number of couches and tables on the inside, but it often gets too crowded and stuffy for many people’s liking. A quick scurry to the back patio offers more adequate seating for writing papers and reading those journal articles on farm life in the mid-late fourteenth century. With not too much light, but enough to make doing work possible, it’s an especially calming spot to go to on Sunday nights as students mentally prepare for the coming week. Before you go, just make sure there’s not a concert happening!


Good Luck!

By Matthew Doyen

Waco: A Pleasant Surprise


When I first started telling people that I was going to attend Baylor University, their response was all the same.

“Isn’t that in Waco?”


“Waco, isn’t that where…”


“Oh, well be careful!”

There is no hiding the fact that Waco has had its fair share of troubles. A quick scan though its free encyclopedia page shows paragraphs about the Waco Horror, the Waco Tornado Outbreak, the Waco Siege, and the Waco Biker Gang Brawl. It makes it sound like the Hill Valley that Marty finds himself transported to in Back to the Future II after Biff steals the sports almanac. But once you read between the lines, Waco does have a strong history and a thriving future.

Waco, the county seat of McLennan County, is the 23rd most populous city in the state. I know, not too impressive. But if you adjust for the everything-is-bigger-in-Texas inflation rate, then Waco would be the third largest city in my home state of Pennsylvania. And if you look at the actual population of the town (130,000) and the metropolitan area (around 250,000), then Waco starts sounding a little more legit.

Waco is actually the birthplace of the oldest soft drink in the country: Dr. Pepper. The company’s old factory now holds a museum based around the soft drink industry. In fact, Waco has over a dozen museums, which include the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, the Historic Waco Foundation, and the Mayborn Museum Complex. Its strong public institutions continue in the form of libraries (in the Texas Collection, the Waco Harold Tribune, and the Grand Lodge of Texas), a zoo (Cameron Park Zoo), and recently, a national park (the Waco Mammoth National Monument).

There are ample opportunities for recreation, as well. The local “playground,” Cameron Park, is one of the largest municipal parks in the state and has areas for hiking, biking, running, fishing, kayaking, disc-golfing, and picnicking. It also sports awesome views of the surrounding area and plenty of shade from the foliage for those hot Texas summers (and autumns, and winters, and springs). A path even winds along the river for easy access from downtown. Baylor’s Waco Hall is also a well-liked spot to spend free time. The building hosts the local orchestra, an enormous amount of plays and lectures, and concerts from popular musicians (recently including Yo Yo Ma!).

With the rebirth of the downtown area, choices for entertainment, dinner, and shopping have dramatically increased. As the businesses there continue to flourish, more and more of the area is undergoing renovation. In 2014, the Waco Hippodrome, a restored early twentieth-century vaudeville theatre, once again became a staple along Austin Avenue. Because of this movement, the city is starting to again become an area where people are proud to call it their home and where resident investors are capitalizing. The rising local spirit can be seen as the community gathers on Saturday mornings during the newly-established Farmer’s Market, on Friday nights during the city’s First Friday events, and, of course, on any and all days that Baylor has home football games.


Some students may scoff at Waco and say that they can’t wait to leave, but these are often the students that are most involved with the city. They live at Dichotomy, have tried every flavor of ice cream sandwich at Pokey-O’s, and play trivia at True Love. They are immersed in the growing art scene and enjoy attending all of the festivals and the aforementioned events. They are the ones who will miss it the most (or the ones that will be sucked into Waco’s better-than-it-sounds “black hole”).

Even with its recent headlines, the truth is I have really never felt uneasy in Waco. I have never been bored. I have never wished that I would have gone to graduate school in another city. I enjoy being welcomed into the town by all the passionate people that call it home. It’s just a really fun time to be in Waco right now. I can take advantage of its recent success, but also watch as it continues to grow and become better. And I can be a part of it. I know that it may sound unnerving, and maybe even a little scary, coming to Waco, but as my one friend told me: “You don’t know how good Waco is until you’re here.”

And it’s true.

So don’t think of Waco as a challenge, think of it as an opportunity. And come see us soon!

By Matthew Doyen


Talking to Bears: John Miller

Talking with Bears is a series where we take a few minutes each week to talk to some of the current graduate students at Baylor and discuss their experience at the university and in Waco.


Name: John Miller

Hometown: League City, TX

Undergraduate Degree: Math

Undergraduate University: University of Houston

Graduate Degree: Ph.D. in Mathematics

Expected Year of Graduation: 2017


What was the biggest factor that persuaded you to attend Baylor for graduate school?

I like the low student to faculty ratio, and I received a full scholarship.

What is one thing that has surprised you about graduate school at Baylor?

The varying backgrounds of all of the students in the graduate school.

If you had to describe your graduate school experience (so far) in three words, what would they be?

Engaging, entertaining, and intense.

If you were Dean Lyon for a day, what would be two things that you would change?

I would give graduate student TORs unlimited meals in the campus dining halls, and I would start an interdepartmental ice cream social hour so that students from different departments could meet.

What activities are you involved with outside of the classroom?

I enjoy playing basketball, racquetball, and tennis. I like watching sports and hanging out with my friends, my cat, and my hedgehog.


What does your average Saturday look like?

I wake up and turn on football and then go to the Baylor football game if there is one. If there isn’t a game, I go to the Dancing Bear Pub and play board games with my friends. Sometimes I go to Bed Bath and Beyond and walk around (sometimes Academy). In the evening, I have dinner with my fiancée.

How has the city of Waco impacted your time during graduate school?

Some of Waco’s attractions have helped me get off campus, like Cameron Park and the Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market.

What is your go-to lunch spot in Waco?

Papa Rollos Pizza.

If you could give one piece of advice to prospective graduate students that are interested in Baylor, what would it be?

My advice would be to find a balance between you schoolwork and your social life so you don’t go crazy.

Compiled by Matthew Doyen

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