Message from the Dean: Spring 2023

June 2, 2023
Dean Shanna Hagan-Burke
Dean Shanna Hagan-Burke

Dr. Shanna Hagan-Burke
Dean, School of Education

Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana, translated from the Latin as “For Church, For Texas,” reflects Baylor University’s longstanding commitment to serving both God and society. Adopted in 1851, this motto remains as fresh and meaningful today as the day it was penned, and it is at the forefront of our decisions in the School of Education when identifying scholarship priorities and the new faculty we recruit to join those pursuits.

This issue of Impact highlights a few of the SOE’s many endeavors and people who are advancing Baylor’s mission to honor God and improve society. The cover story is an example of faithful individuals who seek to make a profound difference in the lives of others.

First, the story is made possible by the generosity of alumni donors who chose to serve God and society by investing in programs focused on some of humanity’s most vulnerable, those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The Luther Sweet Endowed Chair in Disabilities was established as part of a $1.75 million gift from an anonymous Waco couple and received matching support through the Give Light Campaign’s Illuminate Chair Matching Program. Both Baylor alumni, the couple chose this investment because of their commitment to Baylor’s Christian mission and their support of the Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities’ (BCDD) service to others through applied research and community service. We are immensely grateful for these alumni and their generosity.

In January, Dr. Erik Carter joined the School of Education faculty as the inaugural Luther Sweet endowed chair holder and professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, also serving as executive director of the BCDD. Erik’s programmatic research goals are well aligned with existing initiatives in the School and the BCDD, and his is a beautiful example of one’s research embodying their Christian faith.

Erik’s personal story illustrates what it means to live out one’s faith and for that life’s work to result in something good for society. You can read more in our cover story, "A Wider Welcome."

Erik’s research regarding individuals with IDD illustrates the advantages of their inclusion among all involved parties. While advances — and legislation— regarding inclusion in schools began decades ago, he and other scholars are extending this work to investigate the benefits of inclusion in colleges, workplaces, community spaces, and, most notably, places of worship. Erik’s interest in churches that promote belonging and faith development among individuals with intellectual disability is an obvious outgrowth of his personal experience as he strives to equip church leaders to serve all of God’s children.

Erik’s story serves as a reminder that when people with disabilities are meaningfully included and experience a sense of belonging, others also benefit from those relationships.

Seeking to honor God and benefit society — Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana — is a core value for those at Baylor who seek to improve the lives of individuals with IDD. Dr. Erik Carter joins other faculty across campus already seeking to produce empirical knowledge and prepare future scholars, teachers, and clinicians to serve special populations. As you witness the impact of their collective works, you are witnessing the Baylor motto in action.