Faculty look ahead to winter break for travel, holiday celebrations

Dr. Rachelle Rogers and her interns at a Christmas party. Photo courtesy of Dr. Rachelle Rogers.

By Caitlyn Meisner | Staff Writer

Baylor faculty look forward to celebrating the holiday season while school is out with traditions and plans of their own.

Some faculty members said they spend most of their winter break traveling, visiting family or resting. Many of them said they do not spend much time preparing for the spring semester.

Dr. Paul Ro, chair and professor of mechanical engineering, said he takes winter break to travel and see his daughters who live out of state. He said since he is out of town most of the time, he has not participated in many of Baylor’s holiday traditions.

“We do a lot of traveling because that is pretty much the only time [we can],” Ro said. “I’m bound by the academic calendar, so when I have some free time, we go out and travel.”

Ro said this Thanksgiving will look a little different for him and his wife.

“I’m actually going to Korea on a recruiting trip,” Ro said. “I’m hitting three different schools, trying to bring some potential Ph.D. students. My wife is going to be in California taking care of her 93-year-old father.”

Ro said in years past, he has spent Thanksgiving at a refugee ministry.

“We spent time with many of the refugee families from different places in the world, especially from Afghanistan and Nepal,” Ro said. “To spread God’s love to them was very special.”

Dr. Kirsten Davin, clinical assistant professor and fieldwork coordinator in occupational therapy, said she has had to participate in Baylor’s holiday traditions virtually since she joined the faculty team in September 2019. She said she spends most of her time in Illinois, where she lives on a plot of land that has been in her family for over 200 years.

“We have the liberty of living next to cousins, aunts, uncles [and] grandma,” Davin said. “My mom and dad live 1,000 feet down the road. Family Thanksgivings and Christmases are just a humongous pile of people. If you look up ‘textbook traditional Thanksgiving’ in the dictionary, that’s probably what it is.”

Davin said she and her aunt split the hosting duties because there are 50 to 70 people on each side of the family who join the Thanksgiving celebrations.

Davin said she goes to a small Presbyterian church made up primarily of family members; she said the Baylor mission and values are very similar.

“Even though it’s a Baptist university, it’s very similar to our beliefs and our traditions,” Davin said. “I feel like Baylor has always been welcoming from every perspective. I’ve always felt very included and appreciated, both on a religious side and the academic side as well.”

Dr. Michael Foley, professor of patristics, said his favorite Baylor tradition is Christmas on Fifth — a celebration he and his six children look forward to every year. He said his family observes Advent together.

“We take the 12 days of Christmas seriously, from Dec. 25 to Jan. 6,” Foley said. “There’s no work responsibilities, and it’s just 12 days of merriment. We restrain during this time and celebrate ‘the opposite way.'”

Foley said he is excited and hopeful Christmas on Fifth celebrations return to what they were before the pandemic.

“I love the merriment and the nativity scene,” Foley said. “I’m excited about bringing merriment back to campus, and I’m hoping this is the year when we put [the pandemic] behind us.”

Dr. Rachelle Rogers, clinical professor in the School of Education, said she also loves Christmas on Fifth.

“It’s very special, and I try not to miss it,” Rogers said. “I love seeing the whole community there.”

Rogers said she celebrates Christmas to the full extent. She hosts multiple gatherings across the season, including some with her senior students and retired colleagues. She said she even hosts an annual murder mystery party with friends and family.

“My family goes to the Christmas service on Christmas Eve, and all the children participate in the Christmas pageant,” Rogers said. “Going to service reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas. We have a traditional meal together, exchange gifts, then attend the midnight service.”

Rogers said she celebrated Christmas with her senior students a little early since many of them are leaving to study abroad in Australia.

“I decorated early for them, and this was our first time wearing matching pajamas,” Rogers said. “Many of my students said it really felt like Christmas morning.”

All of the professors said they try not to work during their winter break since it is a time for rest and relaxation.

“It doesn’t take much effort to prepare for the next semester,” Ro said. “I usually cut out an hour before my lecture. I’ve been teaching for 35 years, and after the second year, it gets a lot easier.”

“I try not to work and be present,” Rogers said. “I hold this season to be very special, especially in my faith.”