Dr. Mikeal Parsons

December 2009

Faculty Feature

Dr. Mikeal Parsons

Dr. Mikeal Parsons, a renowned religion scholar at Baylor University, believes research is key to a successful and fulfilling undergraduate career.

Dr. Parsons started out studying Greek at Campbell University, located in Parsons' home state of North Carolina. But he soon found himself drawn to the ministry, despite his "love [of] language." He changed his major to philosophy and religion and then decided to go to seminary at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned an M.Div and Ph.D. He has taught at Baylor since 1986.

Dr. Parsons specializes in the books of Luke and Acts . He has written several books on these texts, including titles such as The Acts of the Apostles and Rethinking the Unity of Luke and Acts. He also collaborates with his wife, Renaissance Art Historian Dr. Heidi J. Hornik, both in teaching Baylor courses and in publishing the results of their joint, interdisciplinary research. This partnership illustrates the value of collaborative research, of which most of his books are a product.

In order to provide "fresh eyes" for his research, Dr. Parsons often teaches classes that correlate to his current topic of study. During these classes, Dr. Parsons will have students conduct research and write analytical papers that correspond to the area he is currently writing on to better grasp different analyses of the text and issues present therein.

These research papers are assigned early in the semester and are revised and polished all semester long. Students meet with Dr. Parsons to hone ideas and focus in on a precise issue, such as how spittle is represented in the healing processes of miracles that Jesus performed in the Gospel of Mark. Dr. Parsons concentrates directly on such papers because he believes that research puts students on a "path to be a lifelong learner."

Other benefits that Dr. Parsons sees in student research include being "[exposed] to traditions and [equipped] to ask questions and find the answers," which is arguably the aim of the practice. A thesis is the perfect occasion for in-depth research, and Dr. Parsons directs undergraduate theses frequently. He relishes these mentoring opportunities as they "help lead in to other subjects." Two of his recent students have even been published.

Wallace Bubar was one of those students. Participating in a 4000 level religion course, Bubar not only wrote the assigned paper but also submitted it to a journal. The journal, Biblical Interpretation, accepted the article. Now Bubar is a minister in Pennsylvania after earning an M.A. at the University of Chicago and an M.Div. at Emory.

An Honors student, Michael Livingston, also benefited from Dr. Parson's mentorship, specifically related to his thesis concerning the role of the number seven in the history of the church. This section of his thesis was published in The Journal of Higher Criticism. After Baylor, Livingston earned an M.A at Western Michigan University and both an M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Rochester. He now teaches at the Citadel.

Bubar's term paper and Livingston's thesis "helped them secure positions in excellent graduate programs and launched them on trajectories toward successful careers," according to Dr. Parsons. His advice to undergraduates who want to do serious research at Baylor is to "roll your sleeves up, get in there, and get a mentor." Research is the pinnacle of scholarly work as it involves "asking questions, discipline, and curiosity," a triumvirate of traits essential to any study.