Christopher KearneyI am very happy to be here at Baylor as an Associate Professor of Biology. This is one of the few jobs in which one is paid to sit around and read about the latest breakthroughs in science and then retell these stories to a room full of bright people. I love to teach - to tell stories, to make highly technical material understandable to beginners, to tell bad jokes and know that my audience can't walk out. I came to Baylor to teach, and I have been recognized for my efforts by the university these past eight years. Not too long ago, Baylor did indeed change the game plan. On top of my teaching load, they have added the expectation of an excellent research program. But this story has been played out at colleges and universities across the country. Has my commitment to teaching decreased? No, I am still revamping courses and training undergraduate researchers. Does my research program really make me a better teacher? Yes, I do have a mastery over the material that I would certainly be lacking without a research component. Has the university's expectations for my workload increased? Yes, quite a bit. I look at my friends in the business world, though, and I still wouldn't trade my job for theirs. I think that's the litmus test.
The Christian tradition at Baylor is the most important element in job satisfaction for me. The recent strengthening and broadening of that Christian commitment has been wonderfully stimulating. I received an internal grant that allowed me to take a theology course on campus and to purchase $600 worth of books on Science and Religion. I am currently plowing through this pile of books, deepening and expanding my understanding and faith with each volume read. My wife and I sponsor a Christian intellectual community that meets, coffee-house style, in our house on Friday nights. There is a nexus of intellect and Christianity that is flourishing at Baylor like few places I know, and, for me, that is a wonderful thing.
That Baylor is different is not a bad thing. At the very least, if one is in favor of diversity, it makes sense to establish preserves of differing philosophical and intellectual customs at various institutions throughout the nation. If every university has exactly the same mix of constituents, there is no diversity among institutions. To use a biological example, there is more species diversity in a landscape of many valleys and mountaintops, with chances for populations to evolve independently, compared to a vast open plain, where everything is mixed, and local independent populations cannot arise as easily. The strengthening of the Christian tradition at Baylor brings the possibility of creating original and novel contributions for the worldwide intellectual landscape in the humanities. What does this mean for the sciences? I'm not sure, but perhaps the call of Christ to help the impoverished, the needy, and the forgotten might play a role in deciding which problems we focus on. I think that these are exciting times for Baylor.
Dr. Kearney is Associate Professor of Biology at Baylor University