Cherished Heritage and Bold Future Reflected in Changing Honors College Faculty
Faculty and staff members are the heart and soul of any academic institution, shaping the educational experiences of students and driving the pursuit of knowledge. Baylor University's Honors College stands as a shining example of the transformative power of exceptional faculty and staff.
"When Dean Emeritus Tom Hibbs first arrived, Baylor had big dreams for the Honors College, but very few faculty and staff for it,” Honors College Dean Douglas Henry said. “Through 16 great years of Tom’s leadership, and now during my 5 years as dean, a consistent bold vision and incredible support from Pat Neff Hall have seen us grow. We now have around 40 faculty and 15 professional staff who teach and inspire 1,400 undergraduates. Simply put, first-rate honors colleges have exceptional faculty and staff who, by dint of excellent education and experience, wisely teach students and open doors of opportunity for them."
Since its inception in 2002, the impact of professors like Ray Wilson, David Jeffrey, Bill Neilson, Lisa Baker, and Mark Long has been profound. These extraordinary faculty personified the institution's commitment to academic excellence and close mentoring of students. As each of these scholars reached the end of their careers, the College was poised with the opportunity to bring on new faculty from a variety of disciplines.
In fact, in only the last four years, ten highly accomplished educators and scholars—one-fourth of the Honors College’s faculty—have joined the ranks. These faculty members bring a host of talents and perspectives, grounded in academic expertise of the first order, that will enrich the educational experience of students for many more years to come.
These faculty members include:
- Matthew Anderson, assistant professor of ethics and theology (Honors Program)
- Alejandro Castrillón, assistant professor of political science (BIC)
- Kristen Drahos, assistant professor of great texts and theology (Great Texts)
- Stacey Hibbs, senior lecturer (Honors Program)
- Walter Matthews, clinical professor (Honors Program)
- Darren Middleton, professor of literature and theology (BIC)
- George Njung, assistant professor of African studies (BIC)
- Jonathan Tran, associate professor of theology (Great Texts)
- Matthew Whelan, assistant professor of moral theology (Honors Program)
- Mike Whitenton, lecturer (BIC)
To their work in the Honors College, these faculty bring a rich tapestry of academic training, scholarly accomplishment, and pedagogical excellence, all united by deep Christian commitment and vision. They hold doctoral degrees from heralded institutions the world around: Baylor College of Medicine, Baylor University, Boston College, Duke University, University of Glasgow, University of Michigan, University of Notre Dame, and the University of Oxford. Their many academic articles, books, grants, and presentations reflect expertise that shapes their fields. Among students, they are celebrated teachers and mentors whose ready availability and wise counsel is a hallmark of Honors College education. Indeed, their contributions extend beyond the classroom, as they play a vital role in elevating the College’s programs and fostering interdisciplinary collaboration.
“We’ve always set a high bar by seeking for the Honors College to be the best of its kind in American higher education,” Henry said. “It’s not that we must be first per se, but that faithfulness to Christ calls for our best. This means we recruit faculty and staff of extraordinary ability and unmistakable Christian faith.”
The development and growth of the Honors College can be traced statistically in its faculty: total number, new hires, books published, grants awarded, and the like. Yet it is not merely numbers that tell the story, but a narrative of excellence, inspiration, and the promise of a brighter future. With 21 years in the books and notable new faculty regularly coming onboard, Dean Henry sees the College continuing to make an indelible mark on the academic landscape.
“In a few more decades, thousands more students will have traced their path through the Honors College! Whatever their degree or major, we know they will be well prepared to respond magnanimously, yet humbly, to God’s call to lives of meaning, wisdom, leadership, and service. Then, as now, exceedingly gifted students will be blessed by some of us a little further along in life, by the great teaching and mentoring we hope to offer, and by the gift of abiding friendship.”