Honors And Beyond

March 2, 2009

Dr. Don Welch, BA in Religion, '69

Current hometown: Nashville, Tenn.
Occupation: Associate Dean for Administration, Vanderbilt Law School; Professor of Law; Professor of Religion
Highest Degree earned: PhD from Vanderbilt

Memories from the program: I have been amazed at how many times, over the past 40 years, that I have run into references to books we read in that program. We were introduced to foundational works, in a wide range of disciplines, that I suspect I would have never read had I not been in that program.

Defending my Honors thesis was a humbling experience, a clear indicator that I was not nearly as smart and well-educated as I thought I was. This was excellent preparation for a Ph.D. program.

Dr. Horace Jeffery Hodges, BA in English Literature, '79

Current hometown: Seoul, South Korea (originally from Salem, Arkansas)
Occupation: Professor at Ewha Womans University teaching research-based writing to undergraduates and a graduate course on John's Gospel and Gnosticism
Highest degree earned: PhD in History, UC Berkeley

A career highlight: I suppose that one highlight of my academic career was obtaining a Fulbright Fellowship in 1989 for doctoral research in Tuebingen, West Germany . . . which quickly became Tuebingen, Unified Germany after the Berlin Wall came down in November 1989. I remained until 1995 in Germany, where I met a Korean woman on a train (in 1992) and married her (in 1995). How did your experience with the Honors Program at Baylor prepare you for your life/career after college?
My Honors Program experience best prepared me for graduate-level seminars because through the program's upper-level courses, I was already familiar with discussion sessions in which we Honors students would intensively discuss important books with committed scholars, both from Baylor and from elsewhere.

But the greater preparation that the Honors Program provided was a confirmation that I could achieve something academically, and be recognized for that, despite having been . . . well, nobody in particular.

Memories from the program: I can say that several professors at Baylor had a positive influence upon me, sometimes through the Honors Program, sometimes through non-Honors courses. I will mention a few names: Morse Hamilton, Wallace Daniel, Robert Baird, James Vardaman, Thomas Hanks, and Philip Martin.

I took several courses with all of these men, and I could say a great deal about all of them, for they all were fine Baylor gentlemen who inspired me in one way or another. I feel led, however, to remember Mr. Martin--not because he had more influence, but because he was also a kind man who was less well-known but who deserves remembrance. I had Mr. Martin for German my sophomore year, and I was dreadful in that language though I eventually learned to speak it. My first course with Mr. Martin had me enrolled as an Honors student, but I did nothing "honorable." Indeed, I received a "C" though I probably deserved a "D" if not an "F." I was terrible. But I had perfect attendance and was never late for my 8:00 a.m. class, and Mr. Martin appreciated my consistency . . . even though I was consistently bad in German.

I took his course again in the spring of my sophomore year and did even worse . . . but still received a "C." That semester, we each had to give presentations in German, and I tried to describe my bicycle trip from the Ozarks to Waco-a trip that I had undertaken to prove to myself that I could ride my bike 500 miles and reach Baylor in time for school. I succeeded in that trip but failed so miserably in my German presentation that Mr. Martin had to ask me to switch to English in order to understand precisely what I had done . . . and when he came to understand that I had ridden a bicycle, not a motorcycle, he was completely won over to my side for the rest of my Baylor career . . . even though I didn't know much German. He even asked me to take his Goethe course, and I did. I received an "A," by the grace of Mr. Martin and the fact that I could write my papers in English. Mr. Martin treated me to lunch off-campus several times, a great boon for a poverty-stricken student like me. I should have thanked him for that. Perhaps I did . . . but hardly enough.

In closing, I ought to remember Professor LeMaster, poet and scholar in the English Department, who guided my senior Honors' thesis and confirmed that I could write well creatively. Without his willingness to accept me as his student, I would not have succeeded, nor would I have finished the Honors Program.

Carol Diedrichs, BA in Library Science, '80

Current hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio, and Lexington, Kentucky (I commute between the two)
Occupation: Dean of Libraries, University of Kentucky
Highest degree earned: Masters in Library and Information Science, University of Texas at Austin

How did your experience with the Honors Program at Baylor prepare you for your life/career after college?
It's fairly unusual to have an undergraduate degree in library science. Professional librarians must have the master's degree, and most of my colleagues come to the library profession from other fields and other degrees. But, I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a librarian, so as an Honors Program graduate in library science, I had the opportunity to do my Honors thesis on copyright. Today my work continues to involve copyright laws and how they affect student access to materials, how faculty researchers can protect their copyrighted research, and what the new digital formats mean for copyright. That very early work in copyright gave me a very in-depth understanding of the issues at the very start of my career. Before coming to Kentucky as dean, I was a full professor (and associate director of the university library) at Ohio State University. My early work writing and researching my Honors thesis stood me in good stead when I began my academic career and the required research and writing for peer-reviewed journals.

What was particularly memorable or worthwhile about Honors at Baylor? One of my most memorable experiences was a literature symposium on the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn novel Cancer Ward. We read the work and then were invited to the home of a local Waco physician (unfortunately I can't remember his name) to discuss the title. The quality of the discussion with my fellow students and the physician was very memorable, and it was a treat to be invited into the home of a local resident.

Dr. Kirk R. Person, BA in History, '87

Current hometown: Bangkok, Thailand
Occupation: Linguist, SIL International
Highest degree earned: PhD in Linguistics, University of Texas at Arlington

Career highlights: Developing alphabets for previously unwritten languages, developing literacy programs, and translating Scripture. Member, National Language Policy Drafting Committee of the Royal Institute of Thailand.

How did your experience with the Honors Program at Baylor prepare you for your life/career after college?
Since college, I've always been involved in educational/research/technical work. The experience of doing an Honors essay prepared me for future academic writing.

What was particularly memorable or worthwhile about Honors at Baylor?

The small group discussions--I think they were called colloquiums. It was a great chance to read a wide variety of books outside my major field, and the discussions were always thought-provoking. One on C.S. Lewis particularly stands out, actually hosted by a Waco doctor in his home. I've been amazed at how many times I've come across references to certain authors or concepts and realized, "Hey, I remember reading that in a colloquia!"

Lt. Col. Jennifer (Smith) Cline, BA in Psychology and Political Science, '91

Current hometown: Ramstein Air Base, Germany (near Kaiserslautern)
Occupation: U.S. Air Force Military Judge (current assignment in my career as an AF JAG)
Highest degree earned: LLM in International Law/Comparative Law from George Washington University

A career highlight or two: Being stationed in Germany, getting selected for the LLM program. The Air Force paid me to get my LLM, yet I laughed at myself when I fell back into old undergrad and law school habits of feeling like I needed to eat Ramen noodles because I had to constantly watch how much money I had (or didn't have).

How did your experience with the Honors Program at Baylor prepare you for your life/career after college? All the writing I had to do throughout my time at Baylor definitely helped prepare me for my life/career after college. As stressful as the thesis was, I also felt it was beneficial to go through that experience and it was interesting/instructive to get questions from experts who had a background in the area I wrote on (helping me to respond to/explain myself to people in my career field), as well as questions from experts, but not in the area of my thesis (helping me to respond to/explain myself to others I work with, but are not in my career field).

What was particularly memorable or worthwhile about Honors at Baylor? I had always done well in school so it was a shock when I got a "B" in my first semester Thinking and Writing Honors Class--the teacher didn't give anyone an "A." However, I worked my rear off in the second semester T&W Class and felt like I really earned the "A" I received.

Tosin Fatusin, BS in Biochemistry '05
Hometown: Houston
Occupation: Student, final year at Johns Hopkins Medical School, Baltimore, Maryland

What attracted you to Baylor and the Honors Program? I was born in Maryland, grew up in Nigeria for 12 years, then went to high school in Houston.
I had come to visit Baylor with a high school classmate, and after hearing about the strength of the pre-med program and also the opportunities for community involvement and leadership, Baylor was very much more attractive than other schools in the area. With the student-faculty ratio, it just seemed more personal and more whole-person developing. I could grow both academically and personally.

How did Baylor's Honors College help prepare you for life/studies after college? I actually didn't enter the Honors Program until the second semester of my freshman year. I was a Community Leader in Alexander for two years, where I had Honors and BIC students. It was great to interact with these students and be there in terms of mentorship. They are very smart kids, so just to hear them talk was really great. That training, in being a CL specifically for them, was very helpful, especially in medicine, where you will interact a lot with people.

Academically, the Honors Program gave me some structure, and I really had to work hard to get the extra work done. Come to find out, in medical school, hard work is basic skill. In medical school, everyone comes in ready to work hard, and so Honors gave me the background of doing more and better work.

Doing the thesis was helpful in working on my future research. In addition to the core academic courses, Honors was very helpful in terms of non-science courses, in gaining knowledge I wouldn't have experienced otherwise, like political science and Colloquium. If I had just done a pre-med major, I wouldn't have had those rich experiences. In retrospect, I really miss getting to use that side of my brain, being challenged in that way.

How did mentors at Baylor impact you?Dr. Olson was my thesis mentor, and all the faculty were really great. I did some of my research at a Johns Hopkins summer program when I was in undergrad. The first semester of senior year, I studied abroad at Baylor in Maastrict, so that cut into the time I would normally have to work on my thesis. The faculty was really helpful in seeing how we could integrate my previous research experience into a thesis. Additionally, Dr. Vardaman was phenomenal in helping me with scholarships.

Goals: I hope to go into pediatrics residency with an interest in pediatric interventional cardiology. I finish medical school this May, but I'm going to take a year off and get a master's in Public Health, either at Johns Hopkins or Harvard before residency.

Roselynn Nguyen, BA in Chemistry, '08
Hometown: Garland, Texas
Occupation: Student, UT Southwestern Medical School

Challenges to writing the Honors Thesis: The length of the thesis project was definitely a challenge, although the Honors Program makes a point to de-emphasize the length aspect of the project and mainly set the focus to producing a quality paper. The hardest part for me was staying on schedule to meet the deadlines and finding time to write the thesis in the midst of heavy course loads. Meeting regularly with my mentor, Dr. Null, definitely helped keep me on track.

How important was the mentor relationship in terms of your development (academic, professional, spiritual, etc.)?
In my thesis, I deeply explore the notions of professionalism in teaching and medicine. Dr. Null certainly embodied the ideal of professionalism in teaching to the fullest degree. He surpassed merely being a lecturer and helped influence me in many ways. Academically, he suggested that I take my thesis project one step further and try to present it at a conference in Chicago. My paper ended up getting accepted for presentation and has since been published in the Summer 2008 edition of The American Educational History Journal. As a significant personal achievement, I was able to talk about this experience in my medical school interviews.

One of the most significant ways in which the mentor relationship impacted me was the privilege of having such thought-provoking, meaningful conversations with my mentor. Because my thesis discussed the "unity of truth," we often connected subjects I learned in classes at Baylor to a bigger picture: my professional goals and how I was to take these lessons to live out a Christian life. The atmosphere at Baylor provides an excellent place to connect spiritually with my peers, but this project allowed me to also connect on a spiritual level with my mentor. It was very enlightening to have the opportunity to engage in conversations not confined to topics taught in the classroom, but instead, encompassing everything from chemistry and history to literature and religion.

How did being in the Honors Program help prepare you for med school?
Participating in the Honors Program showed that I was able to engage on a more challenging level of classes and complete a writing project that takes nearly two and a half years to fully complete. Through the intense hours of studying that I must now endure in medical school, writing my Honors thesis helps me appreciate that what I am learning is not strictly confined to details and empirical knowledge, but holds a higher connection to the true ideals of teaching and learning.

What are your career goals?
I am currently interested in pediatrics and oncology.

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