One advantage of graduate study at a major research university with a strong, religious heritage is the opportunity to connect the personal with the professional. Faith is not a requirement, but spiritual pursuits are encouraged, and one program at Baylor that meets at the boundaries of faith and academic pursuits is the BCU Scholars program.
The Baptist College and University Scholar's Program at Baylor was created in 2008 to meet a growing need in historically Baptist schools. These colleges and universities wanted professors who understood the needs of their students, who understood what it meant to be a person of faith in an academic world. Since Baylor is the only Baptist university offering doctoral degrees in traditional academic disciplines, a partnership was imminent.
BCU works with undergraduate institutions to identify and support potential students for graduate study. More than fifty colleges worldwide participate by encouraging promising undergraduate and graduate scholars to apply to Baylor. Upon acceptance, the student is then identified as a BCU Scholar. Scholars meet collectively several times throughout the year, and a yearly conference is held each summer.
Nick Pruitt, a doctoral candidate in Baylor's History program, became a BCU Scholar after attending Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas. A veteran of the program, Nick presented at last summer's IABCU conference in Little Rock, sharing his thoughts on faith and learning to more than fifty university presidents and provosts. "One thing to remember is that BCU includes students from a lot of different disciplines," he says. "I think asking what it means to be a Christian and a historian or chemist or statistician is really important."
Courtney Bailey Parker joined the program this year. Originally from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, Courtney is a doctoral student in Baylor's English department where she teaches first-year composition and researches early modern British literature. "One of the goals of the program is to recirculate Baptist professionals back to historically Baptist schools," Courtney says. "What I've discovered is that Baptist life is large - 'it contains multitudes' - you cannot help but stay in that conversation."