Next step: Oxford

McCollum to pursue master’s in England

Story by Sarah Day, Writer

For many students, handling the challenges and work that come with a college education is hard enough, but for senior Brenda McCollum, schoolwork is just one of the many priorities she handles every day.

In addition to majoring in history and international studies, and minoring in political studies and religion, McCollum said she is busy outside of the classroom as well.

“I do track and field and cross country, I am a parMentor and I’m in Cardinal Key, National Honors Society, History Club and Tri Delta. I also tutor for the subjects that I study,” she said. “Outside of Baker, I spend my time volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters [of America], working as a marketing intern for Sodexo and working as a barista.”

During the track season, McCollum competes in race walking. She said she has competed in the sport since she was three years old and that it is the reason why she found Baker University.

“I wanted to go to a school where I could race walk for their track team. It’s a 3K in indoor and a 5K in outdoor,” she said. “There are two rules and there are judges that watch. You have to keep one foot on the ground at all times and your leg has to land straight when you come down.”

McCollum has been a member of the U.S. race walk national team since high school and has traveled to Guatemala, Shanghai and Boston to compete. She said that nationals this year will be held in Pittsburg, Kansas, during the first weekend of March.

“My goal for that meet is to do the best I can and place well,” she said.

After graduation this spring, McCollum plans to attend the University of Oxford in Oxford, England.

“I’m going to be in their master’s program in the African Studies department studying African History prior to European involvement,” she said. “It’s a nine-month program, so I’ll have my master’s in June of 2019.”

During her time at Oxford, McCollum said that she hopes to attend conferences around the U.S. in order to learn more about African history.

The admissions process for Oxford is rigorous. McCollum said Adjunct Instructor of Mathematics Will Duncan assisted with the procedure.

“I sent him an email because I wanted to talk to him to see if he had any tips for applying,” she said. “I met with him several times and he helped me write and edit my personal statement, which is when you state your goals for grad school and beyond. He also reached out to some people for me.”

Duncan and McCollum were both the Baker nominees for the Rhodes scholarship, an international postgraduate award, at Oxford during their undergraduate years.  Although Duncan did not receive the scholarship, he said he fell in love with the school and chose to go there anyway.

“I was in the same set-up as Brenda academically,” he said. “I did a one-year program with quantitative methods component and a dissertation component called Global Governance and Diplomacy.”

During his time at Oxford, Duncan said he was able to be involved with the student governance society and take part in several organizations that greatly impacted the surrounding community.

Duncan has been teaching at Baker since 2014 at both the School of Professional and Graduate Studies and the College of Arts and Sciences. During his years here as an undergraduate student, he studied mathematics, piano and international studies. He is currently involved on campus as a trustee of Zeta Chi and the advisor to the Vice President of Philanthropy at Alpha Chi Omega.

“I chose to come back to Baker because I love the students here,” he said.

While not on campus, Duncan serves as a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Kansas for the Principles of Microeconomics class and the Energy Economics class while he studies Economics there.

After graduate school McCollum plans to continue her education further.

“For my PhD, I plan to go to the University of Wisconsin Madison because it’s a school that specializes in African history,” she said. “I’ll have a school with large name recognition in addition to a school that’s very well-known for my topic. I feel like that will be a really good combination for my future career as a college professor.”