A COMMUNITY OF LEARNERS WITHIN THE COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES
Members of the Ampersand Society, a small group of undergraduate high-achievers, pursue majors throughout Baylor's largest academic unit, the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS). Society members may study sociology or interior design, biology or mathematics, religion or theatre arts, political science or Spanish. Regardless, they strive for the sort of academic excellence that transcends grade point averages, and members delight in both acquiring knowledge and cultivating wisdom. Members possess vigorous intellects and choose courses, professors, and experiences at Baylor that require diligence, ingenuity, and contemplation. In the pursuit of truth, members ask daring, even unorthodox questions--unafraid of upsetting someone else's apple cart or even their own. Interested in the national conversation of our country, members read widely and thoughtfully to understand America's place in the world. They also translate what they know and believe into action--as leaders and in service on campus and in Waco. While members yearn for a life of the mind and an undergraduate education that equips them to sustain that life long after graduation, they also sense or are beginning to sense where their talents might intersect with and meet the world's great need. In short, members of the Ampersand Society desire a life both faithful and fulfilled--a life expended in energetic pursuits, godly purpose, and the quest for knowledge.
Would you like to describe yourself this way, experience this kind of education? Are you hopeful that college could help you discover this kind of life?
Perhaps these sentiments resonate with you but you do not know how, at Baylor, to get down to the work of doing them. The Ampersand Society exists to situate a cohort of CAS students within a community whose object is to cultivate a rich, intentional, and ambitious undergraduate experience for its members. Members meet regularly; they converse with each other as well as with the speakers, professors, and mentors attached to their community. They learn about course offerings in leadership, marque courses in subjects that cut across majors, and study abroad programs. They meet deans in the College and other administrators who are anxious to see them succeed at the highest levels. Members learn about opportunities for research as well as presentation and publication of their scholarly work. They learn about opportunities for funding that research during their undergraduate education and also about the national and international awards for which they can apply to support their graduate education. Indeed, a vital point of the Ampersand Society is to prepare its members for their next steps after Baylor--as they immerse themselves in all of what comprises their undergraduate education, academic and extracurricular.
Why does "ampersand"--a word that resulted from the contraction of "and per se and" and functions as a symbol for the word "and" in current usage--appropriately and meaningfully convey the spirit of this community of undergraduate students? For one, the College of Arts & Sciences uses the ampersand in its name, and we like the idea of students in this community sitting squarely in the middle of the College--figuratively breaching the disciplinary boundary between the humanities and sciences. Many of you are combining subjects of study in refreshing and unexpected ways, and we welcome students' fostering conversation and collaboration among the many departments of our academic unit. We also realize that your academic life at Baylor extends or will extend beyond the required courses of a degree plan to pursue knowledge in the laboratory, through research projects, and with mentor-professors. Your academic record at Baylor will certainly reflect a major ampersand, a program of study ampersand, excellent grades ampersand...
Further, as many of you have already or are discovering organizations to join, Baylor traditions to experience, causes that speak to your deep heart's core, places abroad where you want to sojourn, problems you want to solve, people you want to meet, your Baylor story will encompass much beyond your studies. Thus, you are the Society ampersand community service, the Society ampersand campus leadership, the Society ampersand civic engagement, the Society ampersand interning, the Society ampersand study abroad...
Finally, the ampersand intimates that as members of this honor society look beyond themselves, they anticipate and prepare for what will come after their undergraduate years: the string of ampersands that make up a life and compel us "strong in will / To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield" (Alfred Tennyson, "Ulysses" ). The Ampersand Society exists to acknowledge and foster such desire.
The Ampersand Society meets the third Tuesday of each month in the evening on campus. We enjoy a hearty mixture of speakers, discussion groups, information sharing, mentoring, and good food over the course of each semester although each academic year within the Ampersand Society possesses distinct purpose:
The Celebration of First-Year Excellence, held early in the spring semester, formally begins the process of selecting new members of the society. At that time, applications are available in paper copy in Burleson 100 and electronically here.
As each new class of Ampersand members are selected, these students will first meet with the goal of getting to know each other as they are guided through "the Baylor experience" by speakers and faculty mentors who will describe ways that they can connect with their professors, find courses that will electrify a semester, engage in research outside of the classroom proper, and begin to carve out a niche for their service and leadership on campus and in Waco.
During the fall semester of the sophomore year, the Ampersand Society will meet monthly. Our hope is that as members build relationships with each other and start to feel connected to this community, we can augment practical advice and strategies for maximizing an undergraduate education at Baylor with an introduction to opportunities available at the national level for research, studying abroad, scholarly presentation, and interning.
During the spring semester of the sophomore year, members will meet with their cohort in January and February to address topics that together they have chosen as vital to their interests and germane to their academic/professional goals. In February, members will attend the Celebration of First-Year Excellence to meet and converse with the students being honored, sharing with them their individual Baylor stories and inviting them to apply to become members. In this capacity, second-year members will be showcased as the "best and brightest of the College of Arts & Sciences"--and thus once again brought to the attention of key University administrators and leaders. Once the new cohort of the Ampersand Society is selected, second-year members will partner with their younger colleagues over the spring semester (March and April meetings). Because second-year members will be familiar with their department(s), participating in campus organizations, taking on leadership roles, and perhaps engaged in a research lab or working as a professor's research assistant, they are ideal mentors and exemplars of an undergraduate life well lived.
As upperclassmen and women, Ampersand members will continue to meet regularly throughout both semesters and will influence, if not create, the agenda for their meetings. While we will offer workshops on individual scholarships such as the Marshall and Fulbright as well as offer concrete advice on applying for graduate school or writing a curriculum vitae, for example, we will also support members who choose to compete for a national award. We will assist members throughout the application process as they draft and edit application essays, secure letters of recommendation, prepare for interviews, etc.
Fourth-year Ampersand members will meet one time each semester--as they move to the more individualized work of planning their next steps after Baylor. We will continue to offer our counsel and support to members who desire it.
Because of their maturity as students and sustained record of academic excellence, fourth-year members will be invited to serve on the College of Arts & Sciences Board of Student Advocates. This invitation is both an honor and a responsibility. Members of the Student Board of Advocates will serve their fellow undergraduates by offering their perspectives--varied and thoughtful--on matters relating to the academic experience of undergraduates in the College. Advocates may receive opportunities to represent the College at University events and will be a vital part of how we present ourselves to Baylor Nation as well as to the world outside our environs both on the web and through social media.
Our criteria are as follows. An applicant should
Be a first-year, full-time student at Baylor;
Have earned at least a 3.7 grade point average;
Be a declared major in the College of Arts & Sciences;
Submit a completed application (either hard copy or electronic) by our stated deadline, directing any questions to Dr. Kirsten Escobar at Kirsten_Escobar@baylor.edu.
MEMBERS IN GOOD STANDING
In order to remain a participating member of the society, members must maintain the cumulative grade point average required for admission: 3.7 or above. If a member whose cumulative grade point average dips below this standard regains the 3.7, he or she will again be a member in good standing.