From students to professors: Baylor faculty offer advice

Dr. Sarah Ford, a Baylor professor and former student, gives students full-circle advice. Photo courtesy of Baylor University.

By Tatum Mitchell | Staff Writer

When students are going through the motions on campus, most don’t expect to end up back in the classroom for their professional life. Yet some professors who work at Baylor did exactly that. They share their advice and their journeys that came full circle.

Dr. Stacy Atchley, professor in the department of geosciences, said the search process for colleges was much different when he was applying. Atchley said he made his decision based on the people from his church and his brother who went to Baylor.

“It’s going to be really valuable for students to learn how to deal and accept students from a very wide range of perspectives,” Atchley said. “Every place you go has its own culture. Even within that culture, you’re going to see a lot of variety, a lot of diversity, which is beneficial.”

Dr. Julie deGraffenried, undergraduate program director and associate professor in the department of history, started as a student and has been at Baylor for 21 years. Incoming students do not need to stress about having their degree and line of study decided right away, deGraffenried said.

Dr. Sarah Ford, professor of American literature and director of Baylor’s Beall Poetry Festival, said she had a great experience as a Baylor student, though the university was much smaller when she attended.

“What I loved about Baylor — that I think we have retained even though we’ve grown larger — is it felt like a community,” Ford said. “When I walked across campus, I saw people I knew. I was able to get to know my professors. I felt like I got to know everybody in my classes.”

Ford said the community at Baylor is what she enjoyed as a student and what she still appreciates as a professor. The growing diversity of Baylor is a good progression, Ford said, and investing in the resources available to students is important.

“Go to lectures, even outside of your field,” Ford said. “Attend a concert. Go to an art exhibit or a poetry reading. Really enhance your time here. It’s not something that most people have, that kind of rich, intellectual environment. So I’d say take advantage of it here.”

If she could advise her younger self in college, deGraffenried said she would study abroad and build a Baylor bucket list.

“I just never even thought about [studying abroad],” deGraffenried said. “Now, looking back on it, I realized there’s actually no way you can go to some of these places for that kind of money. For that small amount, it seems like a lot, but there’s scholarships to help. That will never happen again in your life.”

Dr. Elizabeth Palacios, special assistant to the vice president of student life for diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, started as an undergraduate student at Baylor and went on to work at the university for 40 years.

Palacios said her time at Baylor has been an amazing journey of challenges and celebrations. Coming in as a student was a big transition from her hometown; she said the population was mostly white, and she did not see a lot of people who looked like her.

“God used my experiences so that I could turn around and actually help students make pathways and help them be successful in navigating higher education,” Palacios said. “So, that really was a blessing in disguise.”

Palacios said her advice to students is to be an authentic person to your culture, traditions and individuality. She said it is important to be responsible for your well-being, like resting when needed.

“I really hope that our students can bring [all of] who they are, be proud of who they are, love who they are,” Palacios said. “When you love yourself, it’s a lot easier to love others and to be loved.”