Keeping the faith: Baylor holds onto roots, supports student wholeness

The United States’ oldest institution of higher learning, Harvard University, was founded in 1636 with Congregationalist and Unitarian influences. Yale University was established as a school to train ministers in language and theology. Throughout its history, Duke University held strong ties to the Methodist church.

Aside from these schools’ historical religious affiliations, they also share one other common thread: They’ve all lost their ties to the church.

In his New York Times op-ed column, “The Big University” published earlier this month, David Brooks examines the trend of this secularization in formerly religious institutions that were “explicitly designed to cultivate their students’ spiritual and moral natures.”

As career training and moral diversity became the standard, these types of schools placed more emphasis on means-to-an-end education and less on seeking vocation, Brooks argues.

“Students are taught how to do things, but many are not forced to reflect on why they should do them or what we are here for,” he wrote.

While the academics of these “big universities” haven’t wavered in any of these schools, the pursuit of professional achievement has therefore trumped the holistic growth of the entire person.

For the most part, Baylor University does not line up with Brooks’ religious grievances. And thank heaven for that.

We are so fortunate to attend a school that invests in the wholeness of the student, in the classroom and beyond. Founded as a Baptist university, Baylor has remained true to its roots while maintaining an impressive level of academic prestige. Thus, Baylor offers students much more than a degree at the finish line.

While it’s no Ivy League school, Baylor certainly stands tall in other ways, from athletics to research to spirituality. But what makes Baylor stand out is its examples of commitment to the students’ learning journey.

The humanities approach, which Brooks says is quickly diminishing in academia, is still quite prevalent here. Specifically, the University Scholars track allows students to create an interdisciplinary experience catered to a well-rounded education, rather than a set major with set career expectations.

The fields of study and research approach both cater to more than the intellectual aspect of learning at Baylor. The moral, emotional and spiritual sides are still cultivated in the classrooms with professors who care more for a student’s welfare than the grade they receive.

Brooks mentions the role of higher education is meant to expose new ideas and notions to students in a growing environment to help find the “loves” in life not apparent before and “creating an aphrodisiac atmosphere so that they might fall in lifelong love with a few.”

In a world of conformity for the sake of academia, Baylor has kept steadfast in its Baptist doctrine such as adhering to the tradition of Chapel, creating community outreach opportunities and requiring fundamental religion courses. The Bobo Spiritual Life Center welcomes students daily to rest in God’s Word and reinforces the spiritual well being of students, faculty and staff. Chaplains reside in every on-campus housing facility for the convenience of students.

Though it’s let go of restrictive Baptist traditions like no dances on campus, Baylor continues to hold true to not only its affiliation with the church but also the desire to cultivate the people here as individuals, rather than just students. We are lucky to attend a school that sees us as more than a warm body in a seat.