Dr. Andrea Ramirez, Executive Director of the Faith and Education Coalition-NHCLC, interviewed Dr. David E. Garland, Interim President of Baylor University and Professor of Christian Scriptures at George W. Truett Theological Seminary. Baylor offers unique programs for Hispanic students (multicultural events and associations) as well as students who are or are among the first in their family to attend college (First in Line).

Baylor University graciously hosted the 2016 National Hispanic Education Summit. We were highly impressed with the leadership on campus and their commitment to supporting Hispanic students. Dr. David Garland, who serves as the Interim President for Baylor University, joins me now to discuss family life and campus life.

Dr. Garland and his late wife Diana, who was the Inaugural Dean and Namesake of Baylor's Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, co-authored a book together entitled Flawed Families of the Bible and How God's Grace Works through Imperfect Relationships.

Dr. Garland, what makes the ideal Baylor student?

The “ideal” student, like the “ideal” family, doesn’t exist. A lot of people think there is a perfect family yet if you look at scripture, all the families we read about had some serious flaws, broken relationships, and it is amazing how God was able to use the persons who came from these broken families in powerful ways, and it starts with Cain and Abel.

Scripture clearly demonstrates that just because a family experiences brokenness, it doesn't mean that God can't use that family in some powerful way. There is no perfect family. We've got to change our thinking, that we don't idealize a type of family, and realize that God creates different families, and that he works through different circumstances. In the same way, the “ideal” student…

Speaking of families, an essential part of our identity as Latinos is our value of family. Parents and students often are looking for a family away from home as they enter a university setting. Many readers – parents, grandparents – may be considering Baylor for their student. What would you like them to know about the Baylor campus?

I have been told by multiple families, parents who come on campus, that there is a sense of family at Baylor University, a family atmosphere. For Latino students, part of that connection may begin in our Hispanic Student Association. We encourage Hispanic parents and grandparents to encourage their high school students to come check out the campus, visit the website, come to a preview.

More than 90% of our students receive some kind of financial aid or scholarships, and we’re committed to helping them graduate on time. We have all kinds of programs that enable students to succeed, and all kinds of scholarships available. And if a student is the first in their family to come to college, we have programs. We call it First in Line, where we assist first-generation college students to be ready, and prepared, and successful to graduate.

You referenced college previews. Can you explain more about that opportunity?

Yes, several times during the year we bring prospective students together on campus. They meet professors, tour the campus, sit in classes. We want to help them decide whether this is the place for them. I've talked to so many students who came to our preview and decided, "I'm not going to go anywhere else. I'm not even going to look at any other school." If you do come to the Baylor campus for a visit, please come visit me in the president’s office!

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Often, the church focuses on the heart and the soul, and does really well, but we want to equip and encourage students to love the Lord with the entirety of their minds. When you think about that verse, "to love the Lord with all of your mind,” what does it mean to you?

It means that a human being is heart, soul, and mind, and we don't give two-thirds of our being to the Lord. We give all of it! The heart feeds the mind, and the mind feeds the heart, and all of this is a part of our life, our soul. I encourage students to dedicate themselves to God, to getting the best training possible, so they can be prepared for the opportunities that come their way.

It's truly having a heart attitude of "yes" before the Lord, whether it be training or opportunities to pursue an undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate degree.

I believe that's absolutely correct. And God gives us repeated opportunities to say yes to him. When you read stories in the Bible, most everyone said "no" first. Perhaps they were afraid or unqualified. Moses said, "I can't speak." But God always provides a means for you to be successful if you are open to his leading.

  1. Have your student take Advanced Placement (AP) and honors courses to prepare for the rigor of college courses.
  2. Encourage them to take the PSAT 10 or the PSAT/NMSQT in 10th grade. (PSAT=Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, NMSQT=National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test)
  3. Ask about college-ready programs at your student’s school or local college campus, such as AVID, Upward Bound, college mentoring program, etc., and attend a “College Night” at your high school or in your city. Also make sure your student connects with his/her high school guidance counselor.
  4. Have your student READ, READ, READ! Get a list of books that prepare your student for college reading, such as 101 books for college-bound kids.
  5. Have your student be involved in community service, church activities, volunteering, special interest activities, etc. so that they can learn about themselves, serve others, and get real-life experience about the possible professions or fields they may want to pursue in college.

[ This article is also available in español. ]