Learn Beyond the Classroom
Learning, as you know, happens both in the classroom and beyond it. For many students pursuing major fellowships and awards, good grades are only the first hurdle. Students who win the Fulbright, Rhodes, Truman, or Marshall also demonstrate that they have learned beyond the classroom and have sustained a commitment to bridging what they learn in the classroom to how they apply it beyond. There are many ways this can take shape, but below are a few.
And one key thing to keep in mind is this: the commissions that award these major awards tend to be far more impressed if you have sustained your efforts, performed at a high level, and generated impact in a few key areas, rather than flitting from activity to activity with minimal impact, as though broad involvement were better than deep. Make no mistake—deep and impactful is typically far superior to broad and diletantish. Plus, you'll find deep commitment much more intrinsically rewarding.
So what does it mean to learn beyond the classroom? Much of our Office of Engaged Learning website is devoted to this question, presenting you with some of the many opportunities available to you. Consider the following:
Whatever your field of study, there is likely a Baylor faculty member who has devoted their life to researching it. One of the great benefits of attending an R1 university is that there are world-class researchers doing high-level work right here on the banks of the Brazos. And unlike most R1 universities, Baylor is home to faculty who care not just about the research and discovery, but also about undergraduate students. There are incredibly rich opportunities for you be involved in research as an undergraduate, and our office is here to help you discover them.
Take Kate, for example, who majored in chemistry, with minors in religion and great texts. She did research in all these areas, including three years in Dr. Caleb Martin's chemistry lab, where she did the unthinkable: two first-author publications, including one in Inorganic Chemistry, a world-top 10 journal in the field. Not to be pigeon-holed, she then did a thesis at the intersection of science and the humanities, exploring how moral formation occurs in the context of a science laboratory. The Winston Churchill Foundation was thoroughly impressed, awarding her as one of the top 16 young American scientists they wanted to send to graduate school at the University of Cambridge.
Research opportunity is not the sole purview of the sciences, of course. There are opportunities available across all fields at Baylor. And don't worry if you don't know how to get started! Our office is here to help. Begin by reading this short primer on Getting Started in Research, and reach out to Dr. Riz Klausmeyer if you'd like to explore more. And consider other possibilities like applying for an URSA research grant, presenting at URSA Scholars Week, or pursing an summer NSF-REU opportunity.
The Office of Engaged Learning provides a hub of activity to help students and faculty work together to promote the flourishing of neighbors near and far. We house multiple efforts to create, facilitate, and grow opportunities for our students to lead and serve in our community, state, nation, and world. This occurs in a variety of ways: through programs like internships through the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty, through coordination with programs like Baylor in Washington, or by helping you find ways to plug into the community through ESL teaching, work on food security issues, or service on community boards and commissions.
The Office of Engaged Learning operates on a belief that civic engagement is not the purview of any one field or discipline. Rather, we all have opportunities to maximize our learning and bring a variety of gifts—time, talent, intellect, and influence, for example—to the shared work of creating a good society. Poet Seamus Heaney referred to those moments in our lifetimes when “hope and history rhyme,” those spaces where what has happened is met by what we decide to make of it. In the Office of Engaged Learning, we believe that the undergraduate years, a pivotal time in a person's life, present an unparalleled opportunity for us all to think together about how we can approach the future, to develop the right skills and mindsets for effective engagement, and to get down to the real work of building the kind of society that allows all people to thrive.
Take Veronica, for example. She worked to organize protests in the Waco community, interned with a city councilor, and worked with two Washington DC-based think tanks during her first three years at Baylor. That commitment to engagement, service, and change led to a coveted Truman Scholarship, which will be a "golden ticket" to her ambitions in law and public service.
Global Engagement and Off-Campus Study
Baylor is truly a global campus, with ways to involve yourself in important world affairs both on campus and beyond. As early as possible, start to plan for ways to study beyond our Waco campus, whether through our dozens upon dozens of study abroad programs, or even domestically through Baylor in Washington, Baylor in New York, or Baylor in LA. If that sounds expensive to you, don't worry. There are many scholarships available for each of these program. In fact, there are even nationally competitive ones—the Boren, the CLS, or Gillman, for example—that Baylor students win every year, some of which pay every penny of your time abroad.
Take Jonathan, who blazed a trail to Belarus during his undergraduate years, becoming the first Baylor student to study there. When Belarus quickly became a geopolitically strategic country, Jonathan's knowledge paid huge dividends, allowing him into conversations with decision-makers and thought leaders in a variety of contexts. It also made him an extremely attractive candidate for the Mitchell Scholarship, which he won.
For each of these students—Kate, Veronica, and Jonathan—a key to their success was the guidance of Baylor faculty and relevant alums and professionals who helped them open doors and enlarge their ambitions. The same can be true for you. Keep reading to find out how.