January 2006

Faculty Feature

Dr. Gaynor Yancey

Dr. Yancey

Dr. Yancey’s passion for telling the stories of the poor and oppressed is evident in her experiences, education, research, advocacy efforts, and classroom lectures. The multitude of books on social policy and poverty in her office denotes her keen interest in how her passion can be channeled into real changes that have the power to relieve the disenfranchised. She encourages her students to become involved in research and advocacy efforts of their own regarding social justice issues.

Dr. Yancey’s research at Baylor involves the oral histories and ethnographies of people in poverty. Dr. Yancey is also interested in how faith-based organizations and congregations in a community affect impoverished neighborhoods. Yancey talks one-on-one with as many of the poor as she can. In the mid-90s, she lived in a shelter for three months with women who had lost their children to the state and who had histories of substance abuse. This life-changing experience allowed her to give a better voice to these women because she was able to see on a very profound level what they were going through.

The process of discovery that Dr. Yancey describes with her own research is also why she believes that undergraduate research is a vital part of a university education. When a student investigates an issue and determines the facts about it, he or she can then ask the even more important questions: “How does this impact society? How can we bring about change?” Because research is the basis for effective advocacy—you have to understand problems before you can fix them—undergraduates who want to make a difference in the world must begin by learning good research methods.

Dr. Yancey directed Truman scholar Kristen Kan’s thesis on Hispanic immigrants and their experiences with health care (2004-2005), and she is currently directing two other senior theses. Equally important, Dr. Yancey was instrumental in involving undergraduate students in research projects in the School of Social Work. Research teams, previously only open to graduate students, now accept a small number of undergraduates each year. These students have helped author articles that are published on the School of Social Work website. Dr. Yancey notes that being able to do research as an undergraduate is especially important for those going into the social work profession, in which research is so highly valued.

Dr. Yancey’s educational background is as diverse as the population she seeks to assist. She received a BA in English and Business Administration from East Texas Baptist University and a Master’s in Religious Education with an emphasis in Church Social Work and Missions from Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Yancey then went on to receive a Master’s in Social Work from Temple University in Philadelphia and a Doctorate in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Yancey relishes teaching both undergraduate and graduate students at a school that is engrossed in the integration of faith, learning, and practice. Dr. Yancey enjoys working with Baylor students, who in her experience desire to excel academically and respond well to being treated professionally. She hopes that these students, through research, can make their own discoveries that could bring about changes in whatever subject they choose to study.