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Alumni Profiles

Robbie Arbour (English)
Jamie Gianoutsos (Political Science & Great Texts)
John Hill (Political Science & Russian)
Lacy Lynch (Theater Performance)
Garrett Phillips (University Scholar)
Tamara Sanderson (Entrepreneurship & Professional Selling)
Andrea Westman (Biology)
Hannah Zdansky (University Scholar)

Robbie Arbour (English)

Robbie ArbourAs a freshman, I was wary of the Honors Program. While I had enough intellectual curiosity to enter the program, I envisioned--and dreaded--a bunch of coldly competitive super-scholars: students laboring to please tough and inaccessible professors. Fortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong. What I found in the Honors College in general, and the Honors Program in particular, was a multifaceted collaborative effort that connected students and professors in and out of the classroom. With the Great Texts classes, I was able to explore my interest in literature by studying ancient and medieval texts, and I was also able to supplement that interest with other courses such as a political science seminar on “Individual Rights and Responsibilities.” These courses helped me to hone my writing skills, providing training that was integral to my publication of a short article in a literary journal. Perhaps most importantly, though, Honors courses brought me into contact with extremely bright students and energetic professors like Dr. Susan Colón who encouraged me to work as an editor for The Pulse, the scholarly journal for Baylor undergraduates sponsored by the Honors College. In my junior year, I began to work with Dr. Joe Fulton, an expert on Mark Twain who met with me every few weeks to discuss and laugh about Twain’s work in preparation for my thesis on Twain’s first two books, The Innocents Abroad and Roughing It. In a way, my talks with Dr. Fulton epitomized my experience in the Honors Program. They were entertaining while intellectual, engaging while challenging, and, with the thesis, demanding while rewarding. As I now pursue a Ph.D. in American literature at Indiana University, I hope to become a professor who will allay the fears of freshmen by inspiring them to realize their potential, as the Honors professors at Baylor did for me.

Robbie entered the MA/PhD program in American literature at Indiana University.

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Jamie Gianoutsos (Political Science & Great Texts)

Jamie GianoutsosThe Honors Program enriched my education at Baylor University. Although I entered college certain that I wanted to study political science, the two Great Texts courses required by the Honors Program broadened my view of literature, philosophy, and the great political thinkers. The stories I read those two semesters excited me: the tales and battles of Aeneas, St. Anselm’s call to “shake off one’s lethargy,” Dante’s pilgrimage from inferno to paradise. In my sophomore year, I added Great Texts as a second major, and I have never regretted that decision. Through a double major in Political Science and Great Texts, I had the opportunity to study not only the great political thinkers, but also the literary, philosophical, and cultural contexts in which these figures participated and to which they contributed.

Working one-on-one with a mentor, Dr. Dwight Allman, for my thesis project gave me a unique opportunity to develop research and writing skills. Dr. Allman met with me weekly to discuss and to dissect the works of John Locke (my thesis explored Locke’s view of education). Our time together was very enjoyable, and Dr. Allman became my advisor in more than political philosophy. He helped me look into graduate school options, encouraged me to apply for international scholarships, and became a mentor and friend. Dr. Allman was not the only professor who enhanced my Baylor experience. Through the Honors Program Colloquium meetings, book clubs, lectures, and academic events, I met several helpful and enthusiastic professors. I am thankful for the many opportunities that the Honors Program provided me. I firmly believe that the program made me a competitive candidate for graduate school and for scholarships.

After graduation, Jamie studied the Renaissance as a Marshall Scholar at Queen's University, Belfast, and then earned a second graduate degree from Cambridge University.  Jamie is now pursuing her PhD in history from Johns Hopkins University.

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John Hill (Political Science & Russian)

John HillThrough the Baylor University Honors Program, I formed lasting friendships, explored classes on such meaningful topics as "Why did God Become Human" and "Individual Rights and Responsibilities in a Democratic Society," and prepared a thesis on the development, interpretation, and significance of the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. These activities challenged me to contemplate and intimately encounter the joys and responsibilities of living a life characterized by intellectual discovery and service to humanity. Through encouraging me to understand life as a calling and intellectual curiosity as a constructive tool for channeling my passions into efficacious service, the Honors Program prepared me to compete successfully for the Harry S Truman Scholarship and then admittance to Harvard Law School. Additionally, the Honors Program helped equip me for the task of maximizing the educational resources offered through the Truman Foundation and Harvard to contribute toward the goal of encouraging all people to discover and actualize their own potential for serving others and enhancing the quality of life in their communities.

John is now working as a trial attorney with the law firm Vinson & Elkins.  John recently graduated from Harvard Law School where he represented law-income tenants in Boston housing cases and assisted in legal reform efforts in Central Asia.

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Lacy Lynch (Theater Performance)

Lacy LynchAs a theater-performance major, I had two major concerns when I entered the Honors Program: that I might be scoffed at by pretentious individuals with perfect scores and prestigious-sounding majors, and that the program would amount to nothing more than a lot of extraneous pontification and added work which would be out of proportion to a little gold “Honors” star I would receive on my diploma. Also, I knew that I would have rehearsals and other backstage demands that would last daily until the wee hours of the morning, and I just wasn’t sure that I would find the time to pencil a re-visitation of the Aeneid into my schedule. Additionally, I had a social calendar to attend to that didn’t include Aquinas, Calvin, and Hobbes. (Unless we’re talking about the cartoon strip . . . which we’re not.) However, in time I discovered that not only were my fears completely unfounded, but I sort-of (okay, really) liked "fraternizing" with the likes of John Calvin and Thomas Aquinas. And much to my surprise, my Honors classes didn’t add an onslaught of unnecessary work. They actually made more valuable use of my time by cutting out the busy-work sometimes found in core classes, and allowing me to use my very limited time outside of rehearsals in a more quality manner--pursuing and exploring the issues and topics I truly cared about with a new depth and intensity. I was also exposed to a broad range of learning material, from the Stoic musings of Marcus Aurelius (167 AD) to a modern analysis of the spirituality of U2. Whatever the material, we were encouraged to approach it critically in a comfortable learning environment which encouraged individual participation and group discussion.

And for those of you who are freaking out about those six letters of doom, T-H-E-S-I-S, don’t. This is an opportunity for you to have a platform, make a statement, have your voice heard, and/or do that creative project you’ve always dreamed of. Not to mention, it puts you way ahead of the game for graduate work--if you’re considering that. The options are endless. I was able to combine my passion for psychology, English literature, and theatre into one realized vision! Once I started thinking of my thesis in terms of the things I was passionate about, it became achievable. In keeping with my major, I chose to do a creative thesis which involved two components: (1) a short critical chapter which analyzes Cynthia, a character from the nineteenth-century novel Wives and Daughters, in twentieth-century psychological terms and (2) a full-length play which I wrote and staged exploring the effects of labeling individuals with mood and personality disorders. The play was performed as a stage reading at Baylor and then in New York this past summer, where it was critiqued by professional playwrights and directors. I will go on to see a full production of this play, and will continue to hone my playwriting skills during my graduate work starting this fall. Where else in university life are you able to combine all of your unique interests into one incredible learning experience? If you have a vision or issue you are passionate about, the Honors faculty and staff will work with you to see it come to fruition.

Within the Honors Program I found an eclectic group of unpretentious faculty members who were not only incredibly intelligent and proficient in their fields, but also wildly passionate individuals who cared just as much about mentoring their students as teaching them. I had the unique opportunity to question and confirm my beliefs with intelligent and accomplished professionals in order to seek and find deeper truths for myself. I also found a caring community of supporting peers, professors, and staff members who pushed my capabilities, inspired me to reach my potential, and allowed me the creative freedom to try new things. I still keep in touch with many of my mentors in the program, such as Dr. Susan Colón, who volunteered her time to co-write an article with me for publication which expands one of the primary ideas asserted in my thesis. The Honors Program has, obviously, been an unparalleled and positive experience for me. I encourage anyone who is even considering it to join in this rewarding journey.

Lacy recently completed her master's degree in theater within the Texas A&M system and remains active in the Dallas area theater scene. 

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Garrett Phillips (University Scholar)

Garrett PhillipsAs a prospective student examining the Honors Program at Baylor University, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. The special Honors sections of courses would certainly be more rigorous than regular sections; the junior year Colloquium classes looked interesting; the thesis appeared terrifying. My experiences in the first few weeks of classes confirmed some of these expectations, but the whole of the Honors Program experience was far more than I could ever have anticipated. The Honors courses were rigorous, and the in-depth knowledge I gained made understanding concepts in upper-level classes much easier. The Colloquium classes, far from being traditional classes, were pleasant evening discussions of books with friends I had made over the past two years. And the thesis, while still rather terrifying, was also a deeply satisfying experience that allowed me to work with transgenic plants to study possibilities for the production of immunological reagents and flu vaccines. As I prepare to enter the MD/PhD program at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, I feel confident that my training in the Honors Program has prepared me for any challenge I will encounter.

Garrett entered the dual-degree MD/PhD program at the Baylor College of Medicine.

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Tamara Sanderson (Entrepreneurship & Professional Selling)

Tamara SandersonThe Baylor University Honors Program enhanced my business degree by allowing me to have both a classical and practical education in college. While I was taking basic business courses such as Accounting and Marketing, the Honors Program allowed me to think creatively and indulge in meaningful classes such as “The Self in Contemporary Culture” and “The Intellectual Tradition of the Ancient World.” My Honors Program professors challenged me to dig deeply into primary texts and contemplate the world around me. The Honors Program gave me an intangible advantage over other business students because I developed writing and critical thinking skills that other students often lacked.

One of the best aspects of the Honors Program is writing a thesis with a director of your choice. My thesis, "A Second Track: The Journey after Exiting a Business," explored the financial methods of exiting a business and analyzed the movement of entrepreneurs, in the second halves of their careers, into philanthropy. Through my thesis, I was able to conduct face-to-face interviews with former CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, philanthropists listed on Business Week’s “Top 50 Most Generous Philanthropists,” and the governor of Utah.

The Honors Program has prepared me for life after Baylor University. I recently finished a five-week backpacking trip across Europe, and I will start as an analyst for Mercer Management Consulting. In addition, I will be conducting research for Bob Buford, an author I cited in my thesis, and volunteering with the Foundation for Community Empowerment, an organization that one of the subjects of my thesis developed after exiting his company.

Tamara is currently working as an analyst with Mercer Management Consulting.

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Andrea Westman (Biology)

Andrea WestmanThe Honors College at Baylor University played an instrumental role throughout my collegiate career, academically and socially. As a freshman, I was uncertain about entering the Honors Program, as the requirements seemed like quite a challenge; but ultimately, I attained my greatest academic successes through the the program. After four years in it, my singular piece of advice to new Honors Program students is not to allow your chosen course of study to limit your academic pursuits.

I majored in biology, but my Honors thesis was based in Great Texts with an emphasis on medieval literature. Yes, you read that right: I was a biology major! After taking Great Texts 2302: The Medieval Intellectual Tradition (a requirement for the Honors Program), I fell in love with medieval literature and the many great stories that it had to tell. Thus, while I continued to pursue my science track with a pre-medical emphasis, I utilized the Honors College to foster outside interests, like my newfound love of literature. Additionally, for any pre-meds reading this, I found that medical schools absolutely love applicants who are not solely science-minded. I believe that my experience in the Honors College helped me gain multiple interviews at top-tier medical schools.

The Honors thesis is a great tool to begin building a foundation of knowledge in a particular topic that you wish to further explore in graduate school, but your thesis is also a great opportunity to pursue alternate interests that might be outside of your primary field of study. Throughout the next four years, I will be consumed with physiology and anatomy, but my love of literature will always be with me. The experiences that I have taken away from the Honors College are invaluable. Perhaps one day, after my residency is finished, I will become a student again, pursuing a master's in medieval studies, but even if not, I can assure you that I will always be an avid medievalist at heart!

Andrea entered the MD program at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

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Hannah Zdansky (University Scholar)

Hannah ZdanskyBeing a student in the Honors Program at Baylor University was perhaps the most integral part of my college career. Indeed, it has helped shape the person I have become. Through my classes, I have learned what it means to think deeply, to be part of a community, and to ask questions that are not meant to be memorized and regurgitated in a multiple-choice test. The Honors Program is about giving students the opportunity to gain a liberal arts education, no matter their area of study. “Liberal” is the key word in this term, for the study of literature unlocks and frees the mind.

I discovered what I wanted to do with my life through my interaction with professors in the Honors College. Having taken my required classes in “The Intellectual Traditions of the Ancient World” and “The Intellectual Traditions of the Medieval and Renaissance World,” I opted to take even more Great Texts courses. Eventually, I realized that I could pursue a profession involving my love of literature: I decided to strive one day to become a university professor, focusing upon the study of medieval works. With that in mind, my thesis director, Dr. K. Sarah-Jane Murray, was gracious enough to invite me to co-publish articles with her, and, having proven myself to one of our editors, I was given the chance to single-author two more articles. My thesis project--“Refining the Soul: The Pilgrimage of Caritas in the Romances of Chrétien de Troyes”--also, naturally, revolved around medieval literature. Due to my topic’s originality, my director and I were able to formulate an academic conference paper, which I presented at the North American Christian Foreign Language Association’s convention at Baylor and also at the 41st International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Next year, I will be in Ireland on a Fulbright Grant studying Old and Medieval Irish, and upon return to the United States, I will be entering graduate school.

Little of this would have been possible had I not had the exposure to ideas that I received through the Honors Program. A great deal has been given to me through this involvement, but it extends far beyond an acquisition of knowledge. Some of the things we learn are not in books. The relationships that I have formed with my professors and with my fellow Honors Program students will forever be a part of who I am.

After graduation, Hannah began studying in Ireland on a Fulbright scholarship.

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