Meet the Applicant: Layton Coker
This month, Layton Coker, a senior University Scholar from Waco, joined more than 75 Baylor students in submitting applications for nationally and internationally competitive fellowships and awards. Supported by faculty mentors and the Office of Engaged Learning (OEL), Baylor students are actively bidding for awards such as the Rhodes Scholarship, the Fulbright Award, the Marshall Scholarship, and the Mitchell Scholarship—programs that would send them to countries all around the world for graduate study, English teaching, research, or service.
Coker, who plans to attend law school and do policy work, applied for the Marshall and the Fulbright, awards that would send him the United Kingdom and Germany, respectively, to engage in work that he believes will prepare him for his ultimate professional goals. In his Marshall application, Coker proposed studying for two degrees in the UK: an MLitt in Literatures, Environments, and Places at the University of Aberdeen and an MSc in Philosophy and Public Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science. For the Fulbright, he applied to Germany, where he would serve as an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) and cultural ambassador on behalf of the United States.
“I want to go to law school, but I’m applying for these awards because I want to gain intercultural experience first, rather than entering law school right away,” Coker said.
Each of these programs aims to promote cultural understanding between countries. The Marshall Scholarship, named after Gen. George Marshall as a gesture of thanks from the UK to the US following World War II, invites 40 promising American leaders to further the special relationship between these countries by studying and building professional networks in the UK. The Fulbright Program is an international exchange program that grants recent college graduates the opportunity to study, research, or teach in more than 100 countries around the world.
“Applying for these awards is a long process,” Coker said. “There’s a lot of work put into deciding what you want to do and where you want to go, and then actually applying and working to meet all of the requirements.”
One of Coker's most valued faculty mentors is Dr. Jennifer Good, associate professor of German in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures. She has helped make Coker aware of these opportunities and has been instrumental in pushing him toward the kinds of academic and civic excellence required to be competitive.
"I know Layton to be self-motivated, a hard worker, and transdisciplinary in his thinking," she said. "He has accomplished an integration of academic studies through a devotion to research and learning in order to draw connections from languages, cultures, and multiple disciplines. He is culturally attentive and sensitive, qualities that make him an ideal candidate for these awards."
Like many students who apply for major fellowships and awards, Coker is aware that the competition is stiff, but the process is well worth the work.
“The essays were the part that taught me the most about myself,” he said. “They made me think critically about where I come from, where I want to go, and what I want to do with the rest of my life. These essays have made me see my life as leading up to this point, and now I get to decide where I want to go from here. I hadn’t really thought about it that way before.”
Dr. Andrew Hogue, associate dean for engaged learning in the College of Arts & Sciences, observes that Coker is not alone in finding the application process to be intrinsically rewarding. “We are immensely proud of Layton,” Hogue said. “Whether or not he wins these awards—and of course we hope he wins—we in the OEL are gratified by the chance to work closely with him, to help Layton make sense of his life up to this point and to figure out how his experiences fit with the life ahead he hopes to forge and the calling he hopes to pursue.”
“By far, some of the biggest supporters I’ve had throughout this whole process have been Dean Hogue and Dr. Daniel Benyousky in the OEL,” Coker said. “Not only have they helped me put together my essays and application, they’ve also been so supportive and encouraging every step of the way.”
Baylor students who seek a rich undergraduate education are supported by Baylor’s Office of Engaged Learning, which partners with students, in collaboration with faculty and staff throughout the University, to help them maximize their learning beyond the classroom. Students are supported as they apply and compete for prestigious scholarships, fellowships, internships, and research experiences at the national and international level, including the Fulbright, Marshall, Rhodes, Truman, Gates Cambridge, Goldwater, Boren, and Pickering.
To learn more, visit http://www.baylor.edu/engagedlearning.