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Bethany Bear
Ph.D. in English Language and Literature
Terre Haute, IN

When asked what brought her to graduate school, Bethany Bear's answer is simple: Teaching. "Whether I end up as a professor at a large university or at a small college, that's my grounding priority." As a Ph.D. student studying Victorian fantasy and fairy tales, Bethany is well on her way to a career of teaching at the college level, but it was a career that she was initially hesitant to pursue.

From the time she first stepped foot on her college campus as an undergraduate, she declared herself an English major, but she wasn't sure if that would evolve into teaching. "At the beginning I resisted when people said, ‘Oh, you're an English major-so you're going to teach!'" she says. "But I had several formative experiences in college that helped me decide that I loved teaching." The first was at an inner-city mission in Houston, where she worked her first summer out of college. "I specifically prayed that I would not work with children that summer because I thought that just wasn't my gift. But we had children's clubs there, and I ended up responsible for a class of six- and seven-year-olds every day. I loved it, to my surprise, especially telling them stories. And even though that experience did not make me want to teach kindergarten, it did allow me to return to a crucial question: would I want to spend my life telling people stories?" Bethany's second experience was as a teaching assistant in China the following summer, where she taught English at a university. "I learned so much from the challenge and the small triumphs and frustrations of that whole experience," she says.

Bethany was drawn to Baylor largely because of its many opportunities for examining the interaction between literature and religion. "So much of western literature--especially in the nineteenth-century--engages religious questions, and I wanted to be trained to consider these questions as a scholar as well as a Christian," she says. "Courses such as the Bible and Literary Theory, Literary Responses to Evil, and even my traditional English courses have provided this training in ways I could not have imagined before coming to Baylor." The community among the graduate students in Baylor's English program was another big part of why she decided to come. "One of the things that impressed me about Baylor was how supportive the graduate student community was here. When I came everyone was very friendly, and I kept hearing from everyone how the grad students really look out for one another, help one another, and try to make it as supportive of an environment as possible."

Though she's still unsure whether she wants to end up at a big university or at a small liberal arts college, Bethany knows she's in the right setting right now to conduct her research and prepare for her future. And when she finishes her degree, she knows she will be able to help people understand-and perhaps even love-literature as she has learned to love it. "I think that through beauty, literature creates the desire to understand the struggles and joys of others-not for curiosity's sake, but so we may serve one another better."