Over 5,000 graduate students help ‘advance the university’s mission’

Graduate students receive their diplomas at commencement on May 12, 2023, in the Ferrell Center. Photo courtesy of Chris Rios

By Rory Dulock | Staff Writer

Baylor honored the contributions of the university’s 5,000 graduate students during Graduate Student Appreciation Week — a week that also recognized the growth of the university’s graduate programs and enrollment over the last couple of years.

“I join faculty across campus in expressing our gratitude to the nearly 5,500 graduate students who advance the university’s mission as they pursue their own distinct calling here at Baylor,” the Presidential Perspective read. “This includes both graduate students studying on campus who also serve Baylor students and professors in research and teaching, and our growing online and professional student body who fling their green and gold afar across the nation.”

Dr. Christopher Rios, associate dean for enrollment management in the graduate school, said the graduate school has seen significant growth over the past couple of years.

“Over the past five to 10 years, both the number of programs that we have in all of our areas, the number of programs that we have in our Ph.D. programs have increased significantly,” Rios said. “The new area that we’ve moved into, which is online and hybrid professional education, those programs have grown significantly. The student makeup — we have basically doubled the number of graduate students in the past five years, so we’re now about 25% of the university, so it’s a big chunk.”

David Basher is a graduate student who is working toward his Ph.D. in religion, concentrating in the Old Testament and Hebrew Bible. He said expanding Baylor’s graduate school helps the university keep its status as a respectable research institution.

“It helps further Baylor’s goal to maintain R1 status,” Basher said. “Graduate students are involved in research throughout the institution, whether in the sciences or in the humanities, and so much of our research is part of what brought Baylor into R1 research institution status. That’s important.”

R1 status means a student can come here and do top-shelf research, Rios said. Baylor is also one of only a few dozen private R1 universities, he said, and the number of Christian R1 universities is even smaller.

“This is a place that brings together researchers, both faculty, students, post-docs, who are interested in exploring the world, their careers around them, the areas of learning,” Rios said. “Expanding knowledge in a place where they can also integrate, as appropriate, their faith, to be free to talk about their faith both with their colleagues and with other students at the university — that will forever be the most distinctive aspect of Baylor.”

Rios said it’s important that Baylor continues to grow its graduate programs because it would benefit the entire university in multiple aspects.

The best universities have strong graduate programs,” Rios said.Your undergraduate degree will be more highly valued as our graduate reputation increases. If for no other reason, it elevates the quality, the visibility of Baylor, and that is good for everybody. It’s also good for Baylor because there are broader demographic shifts that are taking place. There’s a very practical, almost existential kind of need for us to continue growing in graduate education.”