Rachel WilkersonNov. 24, 2008
Junior Rachel Wilkerson knew her family had Baylor ties, starting with her parents, Gordon, BBA '82, and Lori (Reid) Wilkerson, BBA '83, who led Welcome Week together in the early 1980s. But until she asked her mother and grandmother for a list of Baylor relations recently, she had no idea how deep those ties went.
Wilkerson received a list of 27 family members who came through Baylor (not including Rachel), ranging from her great uncle Ray Collins, Jr. (class of '49), to her cousin Catherine Gibson, currently a sophomore at Baylor. The list covered Rachel's parents, two of her grandparents, plus uncles, aunts, cousins and even more distant relations. The same e-mail also included a paragraph on her family's service to Baylor (relatives who have served on various boards, for instance) and a listing of four couples across the family tree who met at Baylor.
"I didn't know they were gonna do that," laughs Wilkerson, who grew up in Lubbock, Texas. "My grandmother's really big into family history."
Yet for all that, Wilkerson herself almost didn't come to Baylor.
"I applied to a bunch of other schools. I was actually enrolled somewhere on the East Coast, and at the last minute, I decided that I really needed to be at Baylor," she says. "My mom calls it my Nineveh, like I ran from it but then I'm here in the end.
"Baylor had the freedom, I guess, with the University Scholars [program]. Baylor has the resources that you can make of it what you want of it. There's a lot of freedom that I really wanted and needed in the school. It's worked out real well for me."
As a University Scholar major, Wilkerson has been able to essentially create her own degree; the program allows for a broad base of learning while requiring only a small core curriculum.
"I'm difficult, because I really like physics, and I really like art; kind of all over the board. ... I came out of high school with all my math credits, so I just kept taking math because it was very easy and I really like it. I'm in Combinatorics and Algebra now, and I love it. It's nice to be able to take the math and French and just all these different things at the same time."
Wilkerson admits that those topics--physics, art, math and French--seem "all over the board" at first glance, but says that they absolutely complement each other.
"For example, the Fibonacci sequence [where each number in a list is equal to the sum of the two numbers before it] we're doing in Combinatorics and Algebra right now--all flowers have a number of petals equal to the Fibonacci numbers. So math and art in nature, it's there. I've always thought it was real interesting to find the connections between different disciplines.
"There are things the poets knew about physics before anyone else ever found them out. The Bible has ideas of the atom, and there's tons [of connections] between religion and physics. ... There's lots between math and French; a lot of the really good mathematicians are French."
And at the same time that Wilkerson is diving into mysteries like these in the classroom, she's also out in the community "whatever afternoons I can," volunteering through Mission Waco, a local ministry dedicated to sharing the gospel with the city's poor and unchurched.
"I work with the children's group, The Rock [Children's Center], with the elementary kids. They bring them for tutoring and we help them with their homework and just play with them," she says. "I think Baylor has some unique opportunities for ministry. I don't know that if I was at one of the other schools, I'd be involved with a program like Mission Waco. I know other cities have those programs, but they're really accessible at Baylor if you want them, and I learn so much from that. I learned a lot from my classes, I've had great classes, but there's a lot you can learn from people outside the Baylor bubble, and I really enjoy that."
Her mother, grandmother and the rest of Wilkerson's Baylor family are proud, no doubt, to see her in action.