A&Spire to Illuminate Pillar 1
The Christian Educational Environment
Illuminate highlights Unambiguously Christian Educational Environment as one of four central Pillars of the University: “The dual emphases of Baylor University’s motto, Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana (For Church, for Texas) — signifying Baylor’s role as a Christian institution of higher education serving society — have provided the animating spirit of Baylor’s identity and practices over the decades.” The College of Arts & Sciences embodies this unique and treasured environment through cultivation of a community of Christian scholars; commitment to the transformation of students, faculty and staff; focus on scholarship in religion, ethics, and Christianity; and commitment to Baptist principles and praxis.
Cultivation of a Community of Christian Scholars
Arts & Sciences seeks faculty and staff who share in its aspiration to become an R1 institution with a strong teaching foundation inspired by an intentional Christian mission. Many faculty and staff exercise servant leadership roles in various congregations and faith-based organizations across Central Texas and beyond. The fact that the Church is universal provides Baylor with the opportunity to attract an ethnically diverse Christian faculty from the United States and from around the world. These men and women choose to work in A&S for many reasons, but perhaps especially because of the Christian educational context in which they can fulfill their vocation as scholars and teachers.
Two semesters of Chapel are required for A&S students as part of the unified core curriculum. Faculty participate in these services as proclaimers and presenters each semester. Guest speakers from diverse backgrounds that represent the depth of Christianity and the breadth of the worldwide Church expose first-year students to varieties of worship, theological perspectives, moral imperatives, and existential questions. Corporate worship and prayer are also daily practices among students, faculty, and staff within the academic enterprise of A&S. Prayerful expressions and acts of reverence are common in offices, classrooms, committee meetings, lectures, and departmental or college-wide occasions each semester. In this way, the life of the mind and the Spirit intersect and unite.
Formal and informal conversations, special lectures, fine arts productions, reading groups, learning groups, luncheons, workshops, retreats, and other gatherings sponsored by the departments and programs in A&S are intentionally designed to foster intellectual, moral, and spiritual formation. These intellectually rigorous and thoughtful conversations among faculty and staff draw from Jewish and Christian traditions, promote community, and facilitate understanding.
Transformation of Students, Faculty and Staff
The College of Arts & Sciences educates all undergraduates at Baylor irrespective of their major or degree program through its core curriculum and undergraduate courses in each major. Liberal education skills such as critical thinking and moral reasoning are taught by Christian and Jewish scholars whose faith animates their pedagogy and research. All undergraduates at Baylor University (except those in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core) enroll in courses such as Christian Scriptures and Christian Heritage where they are introduced to the basic intellectual building blocks of the historic, living Christian faith. As a result, students learn about the grand challenges of our times from faculty who are on the cutting edge in their academic fields and who embody the teachings of Jesus in word and deed. Herein lies a foundational source of the expression of the Christian environment, not only for A&S, but also for Baylor University itself.
Some faculty use contemplative practices in the classroom in an effort to foster attentiveness and intentionality in the learning process. All faculty rely on established teaching methods wherein teachers and students engage in civil but rigorous debate about ideas. Such methods may foster the integration of head and heart in the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom. Furthermore, faculty and staff are called to express their many gifts in service to their students in part because they know what a difference their personal engagement will make in the form of Christian mentorship. Students are encouraged to bring all aspect –– the physical, ethnic, political, intellectual, social, and spiritual –– of their wonderful but sometimes confused and fragmented lives into the classroom. The Christian hospitality of our faculty and staff shines through our classrooms, halls, and offices to our diverse student body.
Faculty and staff meet with students outside of class not only to discuss academic issues but to explore life callings and existential challenges, matters of life and death, religion and morality. Students, faculty, and staff, whether they meet in the dining halls or on benches across the campus, participate in conversations that engage the mind. Some A&S faculty live on campus in residential halls where they interact with students throughout the day in many ways, including through Bible studies, prayer, fellowship meals, and spiritual direction. Faculty and staff also lead students on mission trips throughout the world. Through these venues and many others, lives are changed forever. Mentoring will be augmented further as the demographics of our faculty and staff mirror the ethnic diversity of our students.
Scholarship in Religion, Ethics and Christianity
Many departments in the humanities and social sciences have graduate programs that focus specifically on religion or ethics. The PhD program in the Department of Religion includes concentrations in New Testament, Old Testament, historical studies, and theological studies. The Department of Sociology offers a PhD in the sociology of religion; the Department of History offers a PhD in religion and culture; and the Department of Philosophy offers a PhD with an emphasis, among others, on the philosophical implications of the Christian faith. Additionally, the Department of English offers a graduate certificate in literature and religion. These PhD programs rank among the best in the country in their areas of study. As a result, they draw top religious scholars to Baylor, both as permanent and visiting professors. These scholars produce prolific research and publications on religious topics. They enhance both graduate and undergraduate programs, sharing and fostering cutting-edge scholarship and teaching with students as well as colleagues.
Colleagues in various A&S departments and programs currently conduct research and scholarship in the field of ethics, one of the Five Signature Academic Initiatives in Illuminate: Human Flourishing, Leadership, and Ethics. Faculty members in the Medical Humanities Program and in several departments, including Religion, Environmental Science, English, Communication, and Philosophy, have contributed to this collaborative research initiative, which will have a significant societal as well as academic impact. A number of faculty in A&S share an affiliation with the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) that exists to support and conduct research on religion.
Historical Commitment to Baptist Principles and Praxis
Baylor University is the world’s largest Baptist university. Many students, faculty, and staff are Baptists, and another significant number of the Baylor family find their spiritual homes in the free-church traditions of the Christian faith. The University’s commitment to its Baptist heritage is firm, even as the University benefits from its increasing ecumenism. The Baptist General Convention of Texas appoints one-fourth of the members of Baylor’s Board of Regents. All the presidents of Baylor University have been members of Waco Baptist churches. The College of Arts & Sciences has contributed in significant ways to Baptist life at home and abroad over the decades: (1) 90% of the faculty in the Department of Religion are Baptist; (2) graduates of Baylor’s PhD program in Religion teach and have administrative roles in numerous Baptist universities and colleges in the United States and abroad; (3) scholars in the departments of History; Journalism, Public Relations and New Media; Philosophy; Political Science; and Religion have consistently studied areas of Baptist life such as history, theology, spirituality, polity, and praxis; (4) study abroad programs such as Baylor in Dénia, Baylor in Madrid, and Baylor in Great Britain, have partnered with Baptist churches abroad for cultural exchange; (5) the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies is named after a prominent Baptist advocate of religious liberty and the separation of church and state. The Institute provides annual lectures that often feature leading Baptist experts who address church-state issues; and (6) Baylor also offers a Baylor to Seminary program that allows students with a vocation in Christian service to move seamlessly from undergraduate to seminary studies.
Vision: The College of Arts & Sciences will provide the leadership to advance Baylor University’s Christian educational and research environment.
Goal 1: Fully implement the Unified Core Curriculum and improve undergraduate curricular opportunities. See Pillar 2, Transformational Undergraduate Education, for the action steps that maintain and advance the University’s Christian mission.
Year 1: The College of Arts & Sciences has implemented the Unified Core Curriculum and we are now beginning its third year. See Pillar 2.
- The Creative Arts Experience (CAE) component has been fully implemented, hosting 333 events with 13,422 attendees during the 2021-2022 academic year.
- The Civic Engagement (CE) requirement is expected to be modified and implemented in the coming years. During the 2021-2022 year a CE pilot was launched to determine best practices; the pilot continues for a second year.
- The Core Curriculum Advisory Committee (CCAC) approved a Core Assessment Plan, and the Director of the Core began implementation of the plan.
Goal 2: Establish a Center for Ethics. See the Signature Academic Initiatives section, Human Flourishing, Leadership, and Ethics, for the action steps that advance the University’s unique leadership role in Christian Ethics in higher education in America and the world.
Year 1: See Signature Academic Initiatives.
Year 2: See Signature Academic Initiatives.
Goal 3: Establish a Baptist Studies Center for Research. See the Signature Academic Initiatives section, Human Flourishing, Leadership, and Ethics, for action steps that solidify Baylor’s role as the premier Baptist institution of higher education in the world.
Year 1: The J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies held two lectures last year, and one of the lectures highlighted Baptist heritage and religious liberty.
- The Department of Religion established a Baptist Identity Committee in August 2022 to work on projects that would assist in developing the department’s commitment to Baptist principles and to the establishment of the Baptist Studies Center for Research. The Baptist Identity Committee and the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies co-sponsored a forum on African American Baptists and invited two Black Baptist scholars to speak. In addition to a day of dialogue with selected departmental faculty members, a gathering (dinner/addresses) was held at the Baylor Club for local African American Baptist leaders.
- Two leading Baptist journals, Perspectives in Religious Studies (National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion) and Baptist History and Heritage Journal (Baptist History and Heritage Society) are supported by the Department of Religion. Editors for both journals are faculty members in the Department of Religion.
- The Robert D. and Barbara H. Whitten Endowed Lecture Series had its inaugural lecture in 2022. While the annual lecturer is not required to be a Baptist, the Whittens are Baptists. The 2023 Whitten lecturer, Dr. Bill Leonard, is a prominent historian of Baptists.
- In the upcoming year 2022-2023, the Department of Religion will hire a historian of the Black Baptist or the Latinx Baptist tradition.