Higher Education & Student Affairs

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Cohort to Community by Madelynn Lee

The cohort model definitely makes the stress and chaos of graduate school life BEARable.

Sorry for my Baylor-themed pun—but now that I have your attention, let me explain what I mean.

One of my favorite aspects of Baylor’s higher education and student affairs program is the cohort model. I find that a little ironic, as I’ve always been an extremely independent, introverted person. Yet I don’t find it surprising that I love Baylor’s cohort model, as leadership work during undergrad taught me the importance and value of community. And that’s what a cohort is: built-in community.

From the start, the cohort is a community of scholars. I didn’t expect how true that would be until we started classes this semester. When we’re in a class, we often pull from our other class readings or discussions and connect them to whatever we’re discussing in class at the time. Those cross-class connections are extremely valuable to me, as they reinforce concepts, prompt me to think more deeply about particular issues, and make me apply what we’re learning in new ways. Our academic discussions continue outside of class as well. This is a unique experience for me and makes for a richer learning experience.

The cohort provides more than just a deeper academic experience, though. A cohort provides a community of support as well. We are able to empathize when work in our offices gets crazy or assignments are stacking up. We’re able to be there for one another in a moment of need. We’re able to be in prayer for one another or offer an encouraging word. We share our stress together; we celebrate achievements with one another. It’s incredible to me how quickly I’ve come to care about my eleven other cohort members—my friends.

Sure, we don’t all agree on everything. We don’t all come from the same backgrounds or undergraduate institutions. We all work in different departments across campus. But the differences matter—they lend to further learning. I’ve learned so much from the perspectives of my cohort members, and I can’t wait to learn even more as we continue.

Building the community, too, doesn’t happen overnight. While the cohort spends a significant amount of time together in the classroom, those hours spent in academic conversations don’t automatically make the cohort into a community. To do that, it takes intentionality, humility, and courage.

So, should you visit Baylor, come to interview placement, or meet others interested in Baylor during the application process, don’t wait to start building that community. Get to know the others you meet on this journey. And if you ultimately choose to come to Baylor, reach out to the others who will join you and share the next 22 months of your student affairs adventure with you. Make a GroupMe. Include everyone. Try to get together in July if you can! It’s never too early to make an effort, and any interaction during the scope of the process isn’t wasted, even if you don’t end up in the same graduate program as someone else you meet along the way. You’ll never know what kind of impact you might make on another fellow professional-in-training’s life.

Graduate school is a hard journey at times, but thank goodness I don’t have to do it alone. I have eleven others (more, counting the cohort above us) who are sharing this experience with me. I’m incredibly grateful for the community my cohort has become in the past three months, and I can’t wait to see how we’ll continue to learn and grow together in the months to come. So, when I say my cohort makes graduate school BEARable, I truly mean it, and I believe the cohort model is part of what makes Baylor’s higher education and student affairs program so strong.

tori_guilford1 • March 8, 2020

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