Progression of Skills and Values through a Baylor Education: ... Skills and Values Introductory

Progression of Skills and Values through a Baylor Education: Rachel Wilkerson
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Skills and Values
Communication and
Quantitative Skills
Ancient GTX
Beginning French
Critical Reasoning and
Calculus III
Intellectual Depth &
Breadth, Integrative
FAS: Revolution and
the Church
Moody and Jones
Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana
(for the Church and World,
through leadership and
General Physics II,
Religion and
Oxford Christians
British Philosophy
Olafsen Research
Old French Independent
Core Mathematics
Courses: ODE, PDE,
Complex Variables,
AAS Conference in
Washington D.C.
Physics Research Courses
Graduate level math
courses: Abstract Algebra,
Graph Theory, Extremal
Mathematical Analysis
Sequence, Thesis
Courses, UScholars
Capstone, French
Literature Capstone
Advisors: Mathis, Colon, Exit Interview
Languages: Arabic,
Reading List
Electives: Ceramics
Confirming Major and
Vocation: Budapest,
Mission Waco
Mathematics GRE Subject
Meetings with Career
Marshall and Fulbright
Visited Graduate Schools:
Maximizing Skills:
Departmental Tutors,
Writing Center &
Success Center
Selective Student-Life
M.D. Anderson
McDonald Observatory
Baylor Nonlinear
Packard T.A.
Physics Tutoring
The Pulse Editorial Staff
Mission Waco
Children’s Program
Crossties Gospel Café
Bel Vár Budapest
Services professionals
Researched PhD programs
Christian Perspective and
Ethics, including
knowledge of Christian
scripture and heritage
REL 1310 & 1350
Mission Waco
Children’s Program
Christian Literary
Classics Ralph Wood
Campus Lectures and
Miroslav Volf lecture
Christian Spirituality.
Dayspring Baptist
Choir, Cleaning Team,
Nursery Worker
Progression of Skills:
[Anne] “What I want to get out of my college course is some knowledge of the best way of living life and doing the most and best with it. I want to learn
to understand and help other people and myself.”
Mr. Harrison nodded.
“That’s the idea exactly. That’s what college ought to be for, instead of for turning out a lot of B.A.’s, so chock full of book-learning and vanity that there
ain’t room for anything else.”
[L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea]
1. My first class in college is Beginning French at 8:00 in the morning. My two best friends in college are seated on either side of me,
but I haven’t met them yet. Professor Duran walks in, and with a “Bonjour!” and a “Comment allez-vous?” our immersion-style class
begins. Later, when I find myself attempting to teach English to a group of gypsy teenagers, I will mimic Monsiueur Duran’s style of
teaching—remembering how he demanded quick verb conjugations from us until they became a natural extension of our
2. Ever since I ran out of the room and vomited during a monologue performance in seventh grade, I decided to mime my way
through all future presentations. I simply accepted the fact that when it came to public speaking, my communication skills would
remain lacking. When I entered college and worked in labs, PowerPoint presentations were suddenly, nauseatingly unavoidable. I
started slowly with group lab presentations sitting down at tables surrounded by the people I worked with every day, friends who
cared about and understood my research. Gradually, sitting at the conference table on Monday afternoons became a friendly
place—a place for collaboration and curious questions. After a semester of presentations, I found that I cared more about conveying
the information in my research than fearing the sea of eyes fixed on me.
3. The plane lands at Reagan International Airport in the middle of January, just after the snowpocalypse of 2010. I lug my suitcase
and poster tube onto the subway, and as the car lurches forward to the stop of the hotel hosting the American Astronomical
Conference, I notice that more and more astronomers pile into the subway car with their poster tubes. The lobby of the hotel is a
buzz of presentations on galaxy classification, white dwarf stars, and asteroseismology. I meet with collaborators from Germany and
Santa Cruz over Indian food at a restaurant down the street. As I present my poster, I befriend my neighbors in the globular cluster
4. My upcoming term paper in medieval Great Texts requires a scheduled appointment with the writing center. I schedule mine
reluctantly, but when I enter Carroll Science for the first time I’m immediately taken with the wood paneled walls and the smell of
books about the place. The English graduate student assigned to me smiles a friendly smile and asks me to read my essay aloud. The
simple act of reading my work aloud in front of another person brings to light more than a few embarrassing grammatical mistakes.
As I consider the weak points in my argument I am reminded of A.A. Milne’s Pooh as he remarks, “when you are a Bear…and Think
of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open
and has other people looking at it.” So the Writing Center becomes the place where I let my ideas for a walk out in the open.
5. In Calculus III, I encounter three dimensions on the chalkboard for the first time. Dr. Mathis’s chalk lines wiggle on the board and
every two dimensional drawing of a three dimensional lump represents a potato. In General Physics II, problem solving becomes a
very real problem. The “sphere of charge” mentioned in the problem was the Death Star. Besides sharpening my ability to
manipulate equations, these courses introduced me to mathematical modeling and connected the equations, the framework, the
reasoning, to the interactions in the world around me.
6. One week sophomore year I spent a week of long hours subsisting on the BSB vending machines trying to write a Matlab program
that would produce a fractal fern. Fractals completely and utterly fascinated me, but the mechanics behind the program completely
and utterly eluded me. It was a long week of trial and error programming, a week of failed solutions, a week of frustrations. Only
looking back on it after a few years can I say that it was also a week of understanding. From the failed solutions I learned how not to
initialize variables, write arrays, utilize loops—in short I learned the art of debugging. It was slow, painful learning, but it was terribly
useful in the long run. And when this finally popped up on my computer screen,
I remembered that I still loved fractals.
7. Proof-writing has never been my strong suit in mathematics. I tend towards painting, writing, crocheting—the arts in short.
Creation, rather than analysis comes easily to me. So, naturally, one semester I took four proof-writing courses, and it was terrible.
In fact, it was well-near impossible, but fortunately, it was also interesting.
8. The Math Contest in Modeling is a 96 hour long caffeine fueled marathon in which teams of three students examine a problem,
devise a model, test their models by furious programming, write a professional paper detailing their results. My roommate and one
of our friends have agreed to compete with me. We read, type furiously, and sketch model after model with expo markers. At some
point I fall asleep in a makeshift bed made with two swivel chairs. At the end of four very strange days, the packet detailing our
solution falls out of the printer into my hands, and I am elated (and sleep-deprived).
McDonald Observatory:
11. One Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 I meet with two professors and one of my best friends from University Scholars for my Exit
Interview. I have read Don Quixote in its entirety but neglected The Faerie Queene (not recommended).
12. On Wednesday afternoons at 4:00, the conference room in Morrison fills with the staff of The Pulse. I served on the editorial
board for three years, and loved every moment of it. Sophomore year, I readied a paper on TNT and earthworms for publication.
13. There is something about song lyrics that sticks in your head for a good long while. In chapel one day Kirstyn Getty came and
sang a song entitled “Don’t Let Me Lose My Wonder,” and I’ve never forgotten it. Derek Webb and the Welcome Wagon host a
concert and are immediately added to my list of bands to like long after music trends have faded.
14. Dr. Wood’s office is two stories of wall to wall bookshelves. The window behind him faces the quad. I wonder aloud if I should
write children’s novels or pursue mathematics. We talk about church choir, then chaos theory, then Flannery O’ Connor and then
metachaotics. I don’t leave the office with answers, but I do leave with an interview by Cormac McCarthy. Later I’ll quote it in
scholarship applications to study complexity science, but for right now I just read it and wonder.
15. In the few and far between moments of spare time during the spring semester of my junior year, I spent a lot of quality time on
Google searching for graduate programs. Overwhelmed by the sheer number of options, I decided to read scholarly papers until I
found a particularly copmlelling article. I subscribed to podcasts and newsletters from research institutes. I listened to RadioLab on
NPR and googled my way into correspondence with more than a few researchers.
16. Crossties: Today I am the only person working the back room. I have discovered new skills, namely the ability to balance five
brownies in one hand and two slices o Banoffee in the other. I take plates, scrape plates, scramble, refill sweet teas, drink unsweet
tea, grab coffee mugs, a dozen things. When I bring the man that sits in the back corner a slice of store-bought lemon cake from
HEB he thanks me profusely. He eats a bite, savors it slowly, counts and says it’s the third time in his life he has ever tasted lemon. I
realize I don’t know how to appreciate lemons like that; I don’t know how to thank God like the man in front of me does.
17. My Christian Heritage class meets at 8:00 a.m. on Monday morning and is taught by a graduate student. It should be a miserable
class. When I trudge in and am greeted by the aroma of coffee and donut holes I realized I have misjudged class horribly. Before
class starts, our professor plays a song relevant to the discussion for the day—“Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan when
Martin Luther nails his 95 Theses to the Doors of Wittenberg. Christian Heritage is an improbably fantastic course.
18. I arrived at Paul Powell Chapel of Truett Theological Seminary late. The pews were full to bursting and the floor was full of
standing with seminary students. I slipped in and sat in the doorway, a few minutes late into the talk. Miroslav Volf, Professor of
Theology at Yale University Divinity School was giving a lecture on a topic entitled “Do Muslims and Christians Believe in the Same
God?” Perhaps the chapel was full of firecrackers, waiting for the speaker to utter a few heresies. The soft spoken man up front
approached the topic with respect and a very apparent reverence for both belief systems. I still have my notes from his lecture, and
his talk sparked my interest in his further theological writings. His book Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of
Grace changed the way I approach relationships. When I traveled in the Balkans and saw the bullet holes left from the violence in
Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, I was reminded of Volf’s book. He learned forgiveness as a direct result of the violence in his
Azar Nafisi
Marilynne Robinson stands in front of the podium in the reading room in Alexander Reading Room. She says “I think there’s too
much anxiety attached to doubt. Doubt is like taking a breath.” It is exactly what I need to hear. She speaks on “Writing as an Act of
Faith.” When she leaves I devour her books: first Gilead then Home.
19. I vault up the three flights of stairs in Tidwell Bible Building to sit in the corner of the room with Brothers Karamazov. I’ve never
read Dostoyevsky before and somewhere between the mastery of the novel itself and Dr. Wood’s compelling teaching style, the
book becomes central to who I am. Later, in the same class, we read the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. “Nondum” leaves me
stunned. Of course I don’t know it at the time, but this poem is how I will end my thesis senior year.