Baylor religion professor has outstanding semester

By Thomas Moran | Staff Writer

Baylor professor and Macon Chair in Religion Dr. Mikeal Parsons was awarded two notable awards this semester through the Southwest Commission on Religious Studies (SWCRS) and Baylor’s Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement.

Parsons has been teaching at Baylor since 1986 and teaches undergraduate Christian Scriptures and New Testament at the graduate level. He has earned more awards in the past semester than in the 32 years he has been teaching.

“I hadn’t gotten anything like that in 30 years and then I get two in the same semester!” Parsons said.

The first award, presented to Parsons in March, was the 2018 John G. Gammie Distinguished Scholar Award for Lifetime Achievement, which the Southwest Commission on Religious Studies has been awarding for since 1984.

According to the the Southwest Commission on Religious Studies site, the organization is dedicated to promoting scholarly activities in the field of religious studies.

“It’s named after John Gammie who was a professor at the University of [Tulsa] Oklahoma and he died of cancer at about the age of 60,” Parsons said. “So, they established this award in his honor and in his memory … When I came to Baylor in 1986, Dr. Gammie was still teaching and still alive, so I knew him and he was a remarkable man.”

Candidates of the award are nominated by their peers who write and submit recommendation letters about the nominee’s publications and the influence of those works, Parson said. The service of each candidate are also taken into account.

“I have served as the president of the Society of Biblical Literature in the Southwest region, but also as the president and vice president of SWCRS itself,” Parson said. “I have been attending those meetings for over thirty years.”

Parsons also received Undergraduate Mentor of the Year in Arts and Humanities from Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement. Parson selected student essays from his honors Christian Heritage class to present at Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement scholar week in march and he mentored them through the process. Three of the six students he mentored earned awards at the event.

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. sophomore Chrissy Sessa was awarded Outstanding Platform Presentation for her project “Dancing David” which featured dance in the bible.

“I was looking at dance in the bible and specifically at David’s dance in 2 Samuel,” Sessa said. “That’s his way of praising God. I looked at dance in other parts of the bible too … I danced all growing up and all through high school, mainly ballet. I was just really interested to see what the bible had to say about dance.”

According to Sessa, Parsons was a diligent mentor to her and the other students presenting at the Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement event.

“Dr. Parsons was a really great mentor,” Sessa said. “He was super helpful whenever we had questions and I could always go to him for advice and just talk ideas through with him. He was really encouraging and he told me to keep going for it if that was what I really wanted to study and research and it ended up being a really cool project.”

The SWCRS award was based in scholarship and publications while the Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Achievement award was based on teaching and involvement with students.

“I was very pleased to get that award because one of them is really focused on scholarship and publications and this one is really focused on undergraduate teaching,” Parsons said. “I felt like that was a nice honor in both camps that complement each other.