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Making An Impact Beyond the Classroom May 14, 2021

Posted by Mia Moody-Ramirez in : Uncategorized , trackback

By Claire Garza, Spring 2021 Advanced PR Student

At the mention of his name, colleagues, students and alumni beam with joy and express their fondness for Maxey Parrish and his impact on their lives. And his colleagues say that in his 17 years of teaching in JPR&NM, he’s brought a wealth of knowledge, experience, positive change, and deep kindness and dedication to the department.

Parrish’s original career plan didn’t lead to him teaching. He grew up as most boys do, playing little league baseball, football and eventually running track in high school. His love for sports went beyond the field, so he began reading the newspaper’s sports pages. He got the nickname “Sportswriter” when he started writing sports for his high school’s newspaper.

When he was a Baylor senior of the journalism department, he needed three random journalism hours to finish his degree. Parrish took an internship elective that introduced him to sports PR, which ended up being his career of choice for 25 years.

He began that part of his career at Southern Methodist University before coming back to Baylor to work in the athletic department for 20 years. He then worked for a sports internet company called Rivals.com before the company shut down due to a tech bust. Parrish joined the journalism department as a full-time teacher in 2001, not knowing the legacy he would create in the coming years.

Parrish described the culture of the department as “nurturing and full of instructors who want to see their students succeed in life” – and he’s set the bar on that, according to his colleague, Senior Lecturer Cassy Burleson.

Parrish said his “favorite part is contributing in some small way to the eventual career success of students. To see somebody graduate from here, further their education, develop skills, get married, have a family, just go live a good life – to look back and say, ‘Well, OK, I was maybe a little bit a part of that’ – that really to me is the greatest thing of all.”

And Parrish’s impact goes beyond the classroom.

After reading a student’s memoir about a mission trip to Armenia that influenced her, he wanted to get involved with student mission trips during his summers off. And after Parrish had led mission trips for 10 years, Baylor started pushing study abroad programs.

“[Baylor] wanted to look at these things holistically and not just take a Baylor class and box it up and move it some place, but really engage the students in another country, in the culture and everything about it,” Parrish said.

Interested in the program, Parrish applied for a position in the Baylor in Maastricht program, where he went to teach basic journalism classes for a semester in the spring of 2009.

After seeing the study abroad program in action, he wanted to create a program specifically for the journalism department. He, alongside the department chair, the College of Arts and Sciences and an organization now known as Center for Global Engagement, a summer study abroad program was created in Florence, Italy. After five years in Florence, they decided to go somewhere other than Eastern Europe, where most of Baylor’s study abroad trips took place.

“We started to look at different places. I did some research. As it turned out, Budapest was perfect,” Parrish said. “I’d been there before on a mission trip in 1987 … so I knew Budapest a little bit. I thought, ‘Well, this will be a good place. It’s different, but it’s still modern.’”

After a site visit to Budapest, the department decided to partner with an organization there called Council on International Education Exchange. According to Parrish, “everything fell into place,” and they found that Budapest truly was a great fit for the program because of its unique, vibrant culture. On every trip, Parrish said they try to do something different, keeping it new and exciting for him, which benefits students because they feed off his enthusiasm.

Students left with advanced journalism skills because of writing assignments they published through Baylor’s Bundle magazine in “real time” and gained a higher appreciation for the culture. Guest lecturers spoke about Hungarian culture, and activities forced students out of their comfort zones as they went into the city and immersed themselves.

“I try to emphasize cultural awareness, cultural literacy. We are in a very different country, I want us to embrace it, I want us to learn from it. I don’t necessarily care if you are an expert on Hungarian culture … but I do want you to come away knowing that there are very different cultures in this world. People behave differently. People have different perspectives,”

Parrish said. “Our challenge as global citizens is to understand … that people … are different, [but] their motivations are just as sincere and honest as yours…. You don’t have to necessarily agree, but you do need to recognize … and be able to live with those differences.”

Parrish’s goals were achieved. Baylor in Budapest became a hallmark of the department. Students who have gone say the trip is more than learning about journalism. It’s about learning the culture and becoming a part of it. Clara Ruth West, South Carolina 2018 graduate, said one of her favorite parts of the trip in 2017 was getting to explore Hungary and familiarize herself with the culture.

“Honestly, Maxey Parrish was a huge, huge, huge piece of that as well because he had been there before. He had done it. It wasn’t new to him, so he was able to give us a lot of direction and guidance…. He encouraged us to step out of our boxes and do things that were unfamiliar but were also going to be really fun,” West said.

His impact on students lasts long after graduation. Annie Wilson Tam, 2004 English, French and Public Relations major, said, “Maxey probably never realized what an impact he had on me. He was one of the reasons I became a teacher shortly after graduation. He taught me that teaching is much more than talking about a subject you enjoy to a bunch of kids. It’s about believing in those kids and fighting for them. He also taught me that the mission field doesn’t have to be in a foreign country. It’s in the classroom.”

Parrish is admired by his colleagues as much as he is by his students, since he’s been a mentor to many other instructors and helped shaped the department into what it is today.

“Maxey’s important impact in our department cannot be overstated. He’s such a great colleague and mentor to many in this department,” Kevin Tankersley, senior lecturer, said.


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