A Community of Learners in the College of Arts & Sciences
Members of the Ampersand Society, a small group of undergraduate high-achievers, pursue majors throughout Baylor's largest academic unit, the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS). Society members may study sociology or journalism, biology or mathematics, Spanish or political science--or a combination of these disciplines. Regardless, they strive for the sort of academic excellence that transcends grade point averages, and members delight in both acquiring knowledge and cultivating wisdom. Members possess vigorous intellects and choose courses, professors, and experiences at Baylor that require diligence, ingenuity, and contemplation. In the pursuit of truth, members ask daring, even unorthodox questions--unafraid of upsetting someone else's apple cart or even their own. Interested in the national conversation of our country, members read widely and thoughtfully to understand America's place in the world. They also translate what they know and believe into action--as leaders and in service on campus and in Waco. While members yearn for a life of the mind and an undergraduate education that equips them to sustain that life long after graduation, they also sense or are beginning to sense where their talents might intersect with and meet the world's great need. In short, members of Ampersand Society desire a life both faithful and fulfilled--a life expended in energetic pursuits, godly purpose, and the quest for knowledge.
Would you like to describe yourself this way, experience this kind of education? Are you hopeful that college could help you discover this kind of life?
Perhaps these sentiments resonate with you but you do not know how, at Baylor, to get down to the work of doing them. Ampersand Society exists to situate a cohort of CAS students within a community whose object is to cultivate a rich, intentional, and ambitious undergraduate experience for its members. Members meet in their cohorts as well as with other classes of Ampersand; they converse with each other as well as with the speakers, professors, and mentors attached to their community. They learn about course offerings in leadership, marque courses in subjects that cut across majors, and study abroad programs. They meet deans in the College and other administrators who are anxious to see them succeed at the highest levels. Members learn about opportunities for research as well as presentation and publication of their scholarly work. They learn about opportunities for funding that research during their undergraduate education and also about the national and international awards for which they can apply to support their graduate education. Indeed, a vital point of Ampersand Society is to prepare its members for their next steps after Baylor--as they immerse themselves in all of what comprises their undergraduate education, academic and extracurricular.
Why does "ampersand"--a word that resulted from the contraction of "and per se and" and functions as a symbol for the word "and" in current usage--appropriately and meaningfully convey the spirit of this community of undergraduate students? For one, the College of Arts & Sciences uses the ampersand in its name, and we like the idea of students in this community sitting squarely in the middle of the College--figuratively breaching the disciplinary boundary between the humanities and sciences. Many of you are combining subjects of study in refreshing and unexpected ways, and we welcome students' fostering conversation and collaboration among the many departments of our academic unit. We also realize that your academic life at Baylor extends or will extend beyond the required courses of a degree plan to pursue knowledge in the laboratory, through research projects, and with mentor-professors. Your academic record at Baylor will certainly reflect a major ampersand, a program of study ampersand, excellent grades ampersand...
Further, as many of you have already or are discovering organizations to join, Baylor traditions to experience, causes that speak to your deep heart's core, places abroad where you want to sojourn, problems you want to solve, people you want to meet, your Baylor story will encompass much beyond your studies. Thus, you are the Society ampersand community service, the Society ampersand campus leadership, the Society ampersand civic engagement, the Society ampersand interning, the Society ampersand study abroad...
Finally, the ampersand suggests that as members look beyond themselves, they anticipate and prepare for what will come after their undergraduate years: the string of ampersands that make up a life and compel us "strong in will / To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield" (Alfred Tennyson, "Ulysses," 1842). Ampersand Society exists to acknowledge and foster such desire.
Our criteria are as follows. An applicant should
In previous years, each cohort of Ampersand Society has met one Tuesday each month in the evening on campus and enjoyed a hearty mixture of speakers, discussion groups, information sharing, mentoring, and good food over the course of each semester. This small-group setting has served as the cornerstone of the Society. Our goal for Ampersand in the College of Arts & Sciences is two-fold: to mentor high-achieving students studying in our academic unit and to help them cultivate a rich undergraduate experience through research, leadership, study abroad, fellowships, service, etc. To our delight, we have achieved that purpose in these past 5 years.
In the coming year, however, we will begin offering a one-hour, for-credit colloquium for the Ampersand 19 cohort. This colloquium focuses on building the mindsets, skills, and habits of the intellectual life--on campus and beyond--affording Ampersand students opportunities to explore and expand their curiosity, to learn how to maximize a Baylor education, and to prepare for a life of meaning and purpose beyond the environs of Baylor University. The course will be made available to interested Ampersand 18 students, even as those students continue meeting with their cohort and mentors distinctly from the course.
In order to foster community throughout Ampersand, we will complement these meetings with occasional dinners each semester (some with speakers, some without) that will allow you to meet and interact with each other.
Despite our ongoing experimentation with the structure of Ampersand, each year within Ampersand Society possesses distinct purpose, which has not wavered in the 5 years of the Society's existence:
As each new class of Ampersand members is selected, these students are first guided through enriching "the Baylor experience"--learning how they can build relationships with professor-mentors in their academic discipline, connect with their department(s), find courses that will electrify a semester, engage in research outside of the classroom proper, and begin to carve out a niche for their service and leadership on campus and in Waco.
During the sophomore year, as Ampersand mentors become familiar, trusted, valuable figures in our members' lives, we can engage in earnest discussions about the life of the mind and the life of purpose as we also consider the ways and means of plugging into the extraordinary experiences of undergraduate education--whether that leads a member to a B-TRUE fellowship on campus, a Shepherd Scholar internship out-of-state, or a Fulbright Summer Institute in the United Kingdom. Students enrolled in the one-hour colloquium learn how to avail themselves to the most enriching opportunities around them, while also beginning to dream and plan what they might begin to do—to maximize their own Baylor experience and to enrich the lives of the community, nation, and world around them. Members will begin to address topics that they have chosen as vital to their interests and germane to their academic/professional goals. In addition, members will investigate and workshop writing effective personal statements, understanding and crafting the curriculum vitae or CV, navigating the uncertain waters of the letter of recommendation, and succeeding in the academic interview.
Finally, members will have the opportunity to attend the Celebration of First-Year Excellence, converse with students being honored, share with them their individual Baylor stories, and encourage them to apply to Ampersand. In this capacity, second-year members will be showcased as the "best and brightest of the College of Arts & Sciences" and over the semester will be encouraged to connect with their younger colleagues. Because second-year members will be familiar with their department(s), participating in campus organizations, taking on leadership roles, and perhaps engaged in a research lab or working as a professor's research assistant, they are ideal mentors and exemplars of an undergraduate life well lived.
As upperclassmen and women, Ampersand members will continue to meet with their Ampersand mentors regularly throughout both semesters. While we will offer workshops on national merit awards such as the Marshall, Truman, and Fulbright and on fellowships such as the John Jay, Rotary Global Grant, and Boren, we will also offer concrete advice on applying for graduate and professional school.
Fourth-year Ampersand members will meet one time each semester--as a community--as they move to the more individualized work of planning their next steps after Baylor. We will continue to offer our counsel and support to members who desire it.
Because of their maturity and sustained record of academic excellence, Ampersand Society members regularly receive opportunities to represent the College at University events, both on and off campus, and comprise a vital part of how we present ourselves to the Baylor community as well as to the world outside our environs both on the web and through social media.