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Joseph Baker
Joseph BakerJoseph Baker wants to find out if people believe in evil. "I'm studying people's perceptions of evil and Satan and social attitudes toward images of God," the third-year doctoral student says.

This niche interest prompted him to leave his native Tennessee for Texas. "I came to Baylor because of the opportunities to study sociology and religion simultaneously," he said. "When I applied, Baylor was one of the few schools offering this sort of degree."

His research interests, which include the sociology of belief and knowledge, deviance and social theory, are put to practice as he analyzes and interprets data from the Baylor Religion Survey, the most in-depth, sensitive study on religious attitudes of Americans. "It was created by people in our department," Joseph says. "And the data is conducted by the Gallup Organization."

He feels that the intensity and rigor of the sociology department is made worthwhile by his environment, which he considers intellectual and progressive. "The faculty members are high-level academics, displaying excellence in teaching and research," he says. "Most of all, they show such willingness to work with students in developing acumen in research."

Joseph plans to pursue a career in academia and research after he graduates, but realizes that as a doctoral student, it could take some time. "The program is normally five years, but for me, however long the dissertation takes is the right amount of time."

And outside of researching, analyzing and dissertating, one may find Joseph participating in a weekly poker game with his colleagues as well as playing the drums. "You really become close with your fellow students because for the most part, those are the people you see," he says. "But we are all young scholars and share similar interests, so it's cool."