Dr. Barry Hankins
As a Baylor basketball player, history professor Dr. Barry Hankins had no intentions of becoming a professor or even going to graduate school."I was not the likely candidate for graduate work," Dr. Hankins said. "My athletic career took precedence over my academic work."
While he did not think that being an athlete excused him from excelling academically, he simply never thought about research as anything more than a task for a class. At the end of his undergraduate career at Baylor, Dr. Hankins decided to stay for a master's degree because he felt he had not taken advantage of everything his undergraduate degree had to offer."I was interested in the history of Christianity," Dr. Hankins said. "That one area captured my imagination, and I wanted to continue to study it."
Dr. Hankins graduated from Baylor with his second degree and then continued on to earn his doctorate at Kansas State University. He now teaches history courses, specifically in church-state studies. Dr. Hankins also serves as the director of the history graduate program. Although he works primarily with graduate theses, he directs some undergraduate theses as well. In 2009, Dr. Hankins worked with Carrie Wallis on her thesis, which won the first Ray Wilson Award for outstanding thesis last May. Wallis says that Dr. Hankins "provided wonderful, balanced support" and gave her"enough freedom and independence to develop [her] own researching skills while continually encouraging [her] to become a better writer." She says that he continued to challenge her throughout the researching process by asking questions that forced her to reevaluate her understanding of civil religion. Wallis concluded by saying "I am extremely thankful to Dr. Hankins for his guidance and support during every step of the thesis process."
In his own research, Dr. Hankins focuses on the history of Christianity and how it relates to culture. He also looks at Protestant fundamentalism and evangelicalism. He has published numerous articles and books, including his most recent Jesus and Gin: Evangelicals, the Roaring Twenties, and Today's Culture Wars.
"My favorite part of research is re-writing," Dr. Hankins said. "The research is the grunt work. Once I have the final form, it is like artwork, aesthetically pleasing."For Dr. Hankins, undergraduate research is of utmost importance. "Research is the final step in becoming immersed in what the university is. It is the capstone of a university experience," Dr. Hankins said.
While the prospect of research can be intimidating for undergraduates, students should look for ways to dive in.Because of the difficulty of the research process, research is about more than the final product. The method is essentially about discovery. Dr. Hankins believes that Christians should be involved in research because there is in an inherent value in studying and discovery. Every research project, whether it is for a class or a thesis, should be viewed as a chance to discover something new.
Because of his belief that a scholar's responsibility is to never stop learning, Dr. Hankins enjoys the research dynamic of Baylor."Baylor is unique in that lots of Christians colleges teach, but most do not have the resources to research. But Baylor has those resources," Dr. Hankins said. "It is really nice to be at a university that values teaching and research equally. Baylor is the best of both worlds."