By Mallory Harris | Staff Writer
All around campus, people are celebrating Women’s History Month. While looking at the history of women in this country, there’s plenty to appreciate when looking at the efforts of local professors that Baylor students see every day.
Some women who have already set the path here at Baylor include associate professor Helen Harris and professor Laura Hernandez. Not only have these women reached the top of their field, but they have set the standards for those who will follow after them.
Professor Helen Harris works in the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work and said she strives to go where the Lord calls her. Harris first came to Waco to start the first hospice in Central Texas while also teaching around 24 years ago when there was a strong need for it.
At the time, Harris said the hospice program was probably one of the most amazing things she’s ever done because it encompassed everything she enjoyed doing. Harris said she liked patient care and the integration of faith, as well as seeing the hospice grow from the ground up.
“My journey here has really been not the typical [one] where I want to be a tenured faculty member at a university but what is it that the Lord wants to use me for in ultimately the profession of social work and making a difference,” Harris said.
Laura Hernandez is another professor at Baylor who changed the path for people that followed her. Hernandez grew up in San Antonio, was the first in her family to go to college. She was a litigator for 11 years before coming to teach at Baylor Law School.
Hernandez said she worked for a company where she could learn a little about a lot of different things such as immigration law, entertainment, pipelines and insurance. Hernandez is also a founder of the Baylor Law Immigration Clinic, which helps students and community members better understand their immigration needs.
Hernandez shared why she came to Baylor and what attracted her to teaching.
“The thing that I found the most appealing was that most of our faculty have practiced experience, and the way we describe it is we teach from the perspective of the theoretical, but we also infuse that with practical teaching, so that our students have the benefit of both,” Hernandez said. “Hands down, it’s being able to interact and teach and getting to know our students.”
In many moments in both of these women’s lives, they said they have looked back and seen where they would offer advice to their younger selves or see where their life changed for the better.
For Harris, she said how she was going into medicine at first during college before she felt the Lord call her into social work. After going back to school to get her doctorate, Harris said research plays a large part in her work today.
“There’s a lot of research that matters to me, but the basic premise that’s most important to me is that we find out what helps people have a better life and whether what we’re doing is making that kind of difference or not,” Harris said.
And for Hernandez, she said one of the biggest challenges she’s faced in life is a fear of making the wrong decision and struggling with self-doubt. Hernandez said she saw other people making decisions without a second thought and admired them for their strength.
Hernandez said she learned as a young student how endless the possibilities of taking a variety of classes are and she encourages young college students to branch out.
“One of the things that I would have loved to have somebody to tell me in college is if any class or topic interests you, take the class,” Hernandez said. “Don’t worry about only taking classes that you think are going to serve your ultimate career occupation. Indulge your curiosity, because you will never get this opportunity again.”