A&Spire to Illuminate Signature Academic Initiatives


Baptist Studies Center for Research

Pro Ecclesia, Pro TexanaThose words embody the mission of Baylor University with an emphasis on both the centricity of ever deepening faith and outstanding academic research that will contribute to the body of knowledge throughout the world. The purpose of the Baptist Studies Center for Research (BSCR) is to influence the future of the global community of Baptists by researching the Baptist story and to influence the future of Baylor University by preserving and enhancing the Baptist narrative as part of the University’s work. Initiated in the Department of Religion where Baptist historians are already at work, the BSCR will be an integral part of the College of Arts & Sciences in partnership with three academic areas: the Department of History, the Department of Religion, and the J.M. Dawson Institute for Church-State Studies. Faculty in the BSCR will collaborate with departments and other academic units across the Baylor campus, including the George W. Truett Theological Seminary, the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, and the Baylor University Libraries.

Core objectives of the BSCR include sponsoring research in Baptist Studies; promoting a PhD in History and Religion with an emphasis in Baptist Studies; collaborating with Baptist scholarly professional organizations such as the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion and the Baptist History and Heritage Society; establishing an endowed lecture series focused on Baptist identity; and sponsoring undergraduate and graduate student travel for research to Baylor sites, as well as other student educational opportunities.

The endowed lecture series on the role of religious liberty and the separation of church and state, as central aspects of Baptist identity, will involve collaboration with the J. M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies. The BSCR will support the work of visiting scholars who are specialists in various dimensions of Baptist studies in order to facilitate research, enhance the work of Baptist undergraduate and graduate students, and present the historic Baptist witness to the public.

Although the current ecclesial and academic setting is not friendly to denominational causes, the Baptist story has contributed in a significant manner to the Christian church, cultures, and human flourishing through the centuries. “The preservers of history are as heroic as its makers.” Thus proclaims an inscription on Baylor's Pat Neff Hall. The BSCR will use the resources of the present to preserve the past, the history of more than 400 years of Baptist tradition, and in so doing contribute to the future of Baptist life. A significant aspect of ensuring that the history and mission of Baylor University continues is to endow a chair in Baptist Studies.

The world of church and Baptist life keeps changing, but the move to the future must be informed by history and theological tradition. Research supported by the BSCR will inform that present and future life by providing the logical context for this work. The endowed chair and a vibrant BSCR will ensure an ongoing Baptist voice at Baylor and contribute to both Ecclesia and Texana.

 Goal 1: Implement the Baptist Studies Center for Research.

Action Steps

1.1    Seek funding opportunities to endow the initiative or to endow components of it through endowed chairs by using the University match program.

1.2    Seek University support to expand this program incrementally through faculty and staff lines, including startup and facilities costs.

1.3    Depending on the success of the program, consider the formation of a Center that includes an administrative structure.

Center for Ethics

The theme of ethical decision-making is represented in each of Illuminate’s Signature Academic Initiatives, from research on health and the environment; use of data and development of materials; and creation of systems where humans can flourish in the United States, in Latin America, and throughout the world. Consistently exhibiting ethical behavior allows us to organize our actions and pursuits to a particular end, distinguishing between good and evil, right and wrong, or virtue and vice. Baylor University as a Christian institution is openly and self-consciously invested in seeking to do good in all aspects of its existence as it strives to serve the church and the world — Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana.

The Center for Ethics initiative will use three complementary strategies to achieve success: developing ethical literacy; cultivating research and creative activity; and expanding outreach and community engagement.

To develop ethical literacy, the Center for Ethics will incorporate ethics into the curriculum at both the undergraduate and graduate levels by offering a collection of undergraduate minors in ethics, offering a graduate certificate in ethics (effectively a minor/concentration), creating an MA in Bioethics, and creating a Certificate in Clinical Ethics. To cultivate transdisciplinary research and creative activity, efforts will be classified into six motifs: Ethical Theory, Virtue, and Character; Health and Bioethics; Aesthetics and Ethics; Science and Environmental Ethics; Military Ethics; and Race, Religion, and Civic Life.

Furthermore, outreach and community engagement by the Center for Ethics will involve the development of ethics resources, cultivating international relationships, and supporting the Fellowship of Protestant Ethicists. In order to support current faculty, funding for this initiative will enable the College of Arts & Sciences to hire seven additional faculty who possess training and expertise in ethics and who are capable of leading conversation in the research motifs. 

Funds dedicated to this initiative will provide a competitive ethics research fellowship to enable a researcher to join the Center for Ethics for a semester. In partnership with the Academy for Teaching and Learning, the Center will create team-led faculty seminars in the summer to provide current faculty time and assistance in refining courses appropriate for inclusion in an ethics minor. These seminars will facilitate networking among faculty who share the interests and goals inherent in this initiative and lead to on-going collaborations by the faculty fellows.

Postdoctoral fellowships are high-profile research positions with significant independence and resources to attract some of the best young scholars who will interact closely with faculty and students. To provide continual enrichment of ethics research and teaching on campus and to equip select PhD graduates from around the world who possess unique skills and experiences that will enable subsequent placement in R1 faculty positions, the Initiative will hire one new postdoctoral fellow each year. A prospective postdoctoral fellow can apply to work within any of the six research areas and will teach in the department most closely aligned the fellow’s research specializations. These fellowships provide stipends, along with travel funds, supplies, and other resources to help with their research.  

The research programs that develop around human flourishing and ethics will provide a single venue dedicated to addressing the ethical, social, and technological challenges facing the contemporary world. Baylor will support bold and distinctive cooperation between a variety of academic disciplines and methodologies charged with advancing teaching, research, and application in the broad aspects of human flourishing and ethics.

Goal 1: Implement the Center for Ethics.

Action Steps

1.1    Form a committee of faculty and staff to identify strategic areas of academic strength.

     Year 1:

  • Currently, 44 faculty members are engaged in ethics-related research and curricular development organized around six working groups: Bioethics; Data Ethics; Ethics in the Professions; Fundamentals of Ethics; Global Ethics; and Science of Human Flourishing. The Center would draw participants from 11 academic units across campus (Law School, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Hankamer School of Business, Louise Herrington School of Nursing, Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences, Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR), Honors College, University Libraries, Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, School of Engineering & Computer Science, and College of Arts & Sciences).
  • A Certificate in Bioethics has been approved; a Certificate in Data Ethics is in progress; and an MA in Global Ethics (offered jointly with Hong Kong Baptist University) is in progress.
  • Over the past three years, preliminary scholarly activity by the research groups has resulted in 82 publications and 58 presentations on ethics-related topics.
  • In April 2021, the Center sponsored two public events: "Dignity for Deeply Forgetful People: How Caregivers Meet the Challenges of Alzheimer's Disease: A Conversation with Stephen Post," a bioethics program held in cooperation with the Medical Humanities Program at Baylor; and "The Myrick and Steuernagel Book Launch," an Ethics in the Professions program held in cooperation with the Baylor School of Music.

     Year 2: The Baylor Ethics Initiative continues to lay the groundwork for a Center for Ethics. Significant highlights in Year 2 include:

  • The first cohort of undergraduate students in the Bioethics Certificate program graduated in May 2022 while preliminary conversations about and planning for a PhD track in bioethics have begun;
  • The final steps of accreditation and initial steps of implementation for the joint MA in Global Ethics with Hong Kong Baptist University are in process;
  • Several public online events were hosted by the Ethics Initiative;
  • A Summer Ethics Seminar for faculty was planned in partnership with the Academy for Teaching and Learning; and
  • Significant collaborative grant proposals by faculty affiliated with the Ethics Initiative have been prepared and submitted.

 1.2   Seek funding opportunities to endow the collaborative or to endow components of it through endowed chairs by using the University match program.

 1.3   Seek University support to expand the program incrementally through faculty and staff lines, including startup and facilities costs.

 1.4   Depending on the success of the program, consider the formation of a Center that includes an administrative structure.