From Veteran to First-Gen to McNair Scholar: History Alum Takes Next Steps

November 8, 2023
Graduate Student Headshot

Ryan Reynolds graduated from Baylor University in 2019 with a B.A. in History. Originally from Oakland, California, Reynolds is a current PhD student at Mississippi State University studying military history and the Cold War. We asked him a few questions about his time at Baylor.

What was your favorite history class that you studied in college? 

This is a tough question. I will say it was a three-way tie between Dr. Smith’s History of Warfare class, Dr. Sweet’s first half of the Military History class, and the Cold War course taught by Dr. Sloan and Dr. DeGraffenried. Also, I loved the Vikings course, which was a history/anthropology hybrid.

How did your history major prepare you for your current career or personal life?

I’m in graduate school and just finished the first draft of my dissertation on American police programs during the Cold War, so my experience in Baylor’s history program was hugely influential. I will always value Dr. Bracy Hill’s Historiography class and all the faculty members who helped me develop as a researcher and writer. Dr. Sloan’s guidance on an independent research project resulted in my first-ever publication. Also, Baylor’s program does an excellent job preparing students for graduate school and teaching them how to make connections across various historical topics.

Could you share some of the challenges you faced as a first-generation college student majoring in history, and how did you overcome them? 

My situation was a bit different. I was also a student veteran and arrived at Baylor when I was 27 years old, so I relied heavily on the Veterans of Baylor organization. Also, I joined the McNair Scholars Program, a fantastic resource for first-generation students interested in graduate school. As for the department, the support I received from the faculty was amazing. The personal relationships I formed with my professors and the grace and support they provided me was an experience that influenced how I teach and interact with undergraduates as an Instructor at Mississippi State University. If it were not for the support of Baylor’s History Department, I would not be about to defend my dissertation and complete my PhD.

Congratulations on your academic achievements and best of luck on your upcoming dissertation, Ryan Reynolds!