Baylor Doctoral Candidate Receives German Academic Exchange Service Scholarship

September 14, 2018

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by Jessie Jilovec, student newswriter

WACO, Texas (Sept. 14, 2018) – Baylor University religion doctoral candidate Joshua Smith traveled to Germany for two months over the summer to improve his language skills, further his dissertation research and gain networking opportunities.

This opportunity was made possible by the German Academic Exchange Service scholarship he received from Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, or DAAD. This organization has several goals including promoting German studies and the German language along with providing a venue for international academic exchange, Smith said.

Smith learned he received this award in March, and he spent June and July in Germany immersing himself in the culture and furthering his studies. While abroad, he completed two classes, one in June and the other in July. His mornings were spent in class, and he used his afternoons to complete schoolwork and explore the country.

Smith studies the religious history of the European Reformation and is specifically interested in how religion is a part of areas of life that “are normally considered taboo” by Christians. His trip to Germany advanced his dissertation studies.

“My dissertation project investigates a German event, so improving my German not only makes my research go faster but also provides the opportunity to network with German scholars who study the same subject,” he said.

His dissertation will investigate how people during the 16th century discussed the Münster Rebellion.

“I ask how those people explained the rebellion, which was arguably the most tumultuous event of the Reformation in terms of natural and supernatural causes,” he said. “Did they think this crazy event was a judgment of God, the devil run amok or just people being foolish?”

Smith decided on the European Reformation for his dissertation when writing a seminar paper for William Pitts, Ph.D., Baylor professor emeritus. He wrote about the Salem Witch Trials and discussed how Christians choose to understand the world.

“Christians often see either God or the devil around every corner, from things as small as finding a good parking spot to things as weighty as international disasters,” Smith said. “I am curious about the religious and cultural assumptions that support those kinds of conclusions as well as what those conclusions do for people.”

Several Baylor departments require doctoral students to be proficient in one or more foreign languages to access international research on dissertation topics. Smith said he focuses on French and German intensive courses. During a summer session, he took a German intensive course from Ann McGlashan, Ph.D., Baylor associate professor and director of the division of German and Russian, and said the knowledge gained from McGlashan helped him further his skills.

“Because our goal in those kinds of courses is being able to engage scholarship, we naturally focus on reading,” Smith said. “My DAAD funding allowed me to build on the solid foundation I gained from Dr. McGlashan and to develop my speaking skills.”

Smith said a DAAD grant can open the door on other funding opportunities for him as a scholar.

“I hope to apply for some larger grants to do dissertation research next year, potentially including another trip to Germany to do some archival research,” he said.


The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University’s oldest and largest academic division, consisting of 25 academic departments and seven academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines. Visit


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.