What year did you graduate from Baylor? What did you study?
I graduated in Spring 2006 with a double major in Political Science and Great Texts of the Western Tradition in the honors program.
Tell us about your career and journey since graduating from Baylor.
As a 2006 Marshall Scholar, my life changed dramatically upon graduation. Through the generous Marshall Scholarship funding, I moved to Northern Ireland in September, the only American student in a master’s course studying Renaissance Literature at the Queen’s University of Belfast. The next year I completed a second master’s at the University of Cambridge in England, where I studied political thought and intellectual history. While these subjects were in many ways a continuation of my rich education at Baylor, living in a foreign context, and reading literature and ideas from the past alongside individuals with strikingly different backgrounds and experiences than my own, shaped and formed me in significant ways. In Belfast, for example, I witnessed firsthand the continuing messy struggle over Protestant and Catholic belief and identity, and the ways that the Protestant Reformation shaped the period I study, the seventeenth century, but also the present day. I was also in Belfast when my Baylor sweetheart, Jessy Jordan, proposed. We were married in 2007, and spent the first 8 months of our married life in Cambridge, England as I finished my second master’s, and Jessy completed his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Baylor. Together, we returned to the US in 2008, my husband finding a university tenure-track job in Philosophy and myself beginning a Ph.D. in History at the Johns Hopkins University, with a focus on seventeenth-century British intellectual, political, and gender history. A few years later, I joined the History Department at Mount St. Mary’s University, the second oldest Catholic university in the US (where my husband also still works as a philosophy professor), and earned tenure this past year. At the Mount, I also created and run the Office of Competitive Fellowships, which supports students applying for highly competitive awards such as the Marshall Scholarship, Fulbright, Goldwater, Boren, etc. In many ways, it feels like I have come full circle. Baylor ignited my intellectual curiosity, deepened my faith, and grounded me in a lifelong pursuit of learning; I seek to do the same for my students at Mount St. Mary’s.
How did your participation in the Honors Program influence your life and/or work since leaving Baylor?
The Honors Program had a profound influence on my education at Baylor and beyond. The Program created a true community for me, as it was in the honors classroom and through honors programming that I found students with diverse, and often fascinating, interests and a shared commitment to learning, questioning, and seeking. Throughout my four years at Baylor, honors students became my very closest friends. The Honors Program also significantly shaped my choice of major. Although I entered college as a Political Science major, I left as a double major with Political Science and Great Texts of the Western Tradition because I so very enjoyed the rich ideas and conversations we shared in Great Texts courses as an honors student. The background I received in the “great books” of our tradition also made it possible for me beyond Baylor to study a diversity of disciplines at the graduate level (English, political thought, history), and it continues to inform my teaching in the integrated and sequenced liberal arts core curriculum that all students complete at Mount St. Mary’s University. Finally, the opportunity to write, to defend, and to present a substantial honors project was essential to my success as an academic scholar. It taught me how to conceptualize and to research for a long project – one that must develop and defend an argument over 70 pages, not just 5 or 10. Right now I am celebrating the publication of my first book, The Rule of Manhood: Tyranny, Gender, and Classical Republicanism in England, 1603-1660, with the Cambridge University Press series, Studies in Early Modern British History. As an interdisciplinary project, which brings together intellectual history, political thought, the history of gender, and literature, my book in many ways brings to fruition the robust, interdisciplinary education I received at Baylor, thanks in many ways to the Honors Program.
Do you have any favorite memories from your time at Baylor?
It is difficult to choose one favorite memory, but perhaps it was seeing my future husband for the first time at a lecture that former Honors College Dean Thomas Hibbs was giving one Friday afternoon on Aquinas, the natural law tradition, and arguments against slavery. That first glimpse of Jessy led the next week to a first, very brief conversation in Common Grounds, and the week following, to Jessy asking me on our first date after we literally walked into each other in the Great Texts program office. We spent much of our first date roaming around the grounds of Baylor campus talking, as so many couples do.
Who was a mentor you had during your Baylor experience? How did their investment impact you?
My mentor in Political Science and for my honors project was Dr. Dwight Allman, and I remain enormously grateful for the investment of time and care he made in my formation. I took several memorable classes with Dr. Allman, but he also let me pursue independent coursework where we would read and discuss works of political theory related particularly to my interests. He introduced me to political scientists at other universities, which further broadened my perspective, and he spent significant time providing feedback on my writing and helping me shape academic arguments. Now that I am a professor myself, I look back with some amazement at the time he invested in me.
Do you have any advice for current students in the Honors College?
My advice for current students in the Honors College: spend some time in college finding an academic subject that you can pursue only because you love and enjoy it, not because you need it. I took a number of music-related classes at Baylor – theory, aural skills, music history, voice lessons, social dance – for no reason except that I enjoyed them immensely. These classes laid a foundation for life-long learning and enrichment, as I still sing in my church choir, share music and dancing with my children, and explore musical traditions when I travel overseas. I encourage you to find those classes and take advantage of the opportunity.
You can find Dr. Gianoutsos’s new book at this link: The Rule of Manhood