Spring 2023 News & Notes
Campus News & Notes
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has named Baylor University a Fulbright Top Producing Institution for U.S. Students. A record 14 students from Baylor were selected for the highly competitive Fulbright awards for academic year 2022-2023. Baylor is among six institutions that appear for the first time on the Top Producing list. Baylor is tied for No. 16 nationally among the research universities with the most Fulbright U.S. Student grants.
This spring, Baylor created the new designation of University Distinguished Professor, the highest honor bestowed on Baylor faculty. The first faculty member to receive this honor is an Arts & Sciences faculty member — Dr. Mikeal Parsons, professor of religion and The Macon Chair in Religion, who joined the Baylor faculty in 1986.
With funding from a $260,000 grant provided by NASA’s Lunar Data Analysis Program, Dr. Peter B. James, assistant professor of planetary geophysics in the College of Arts & Sciences and founder of Baylor’s Planetary Research Group (PRG), will be working with student researchers in the PRG to study the Gruithuisen Domes on the Moon. Just how these lunar volcanoes formed has been a mystery to scientists more than half a century after they were discovered. As part of the research, Allie North, a sophomore Science Research Fellow, is leading an effort to analyze the bulk density of different volcanic areas around the Moon.
Baylor’s Center for Academic Success and Engagement within the Paul L. Foster Success Center will use a $250,000 grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to work with the Department of Mathematics in the College of Arts & Sciences to redesign curriculum and supplement instruction to help students from underrepresented populations master business calculus.
Once again, Baylor University’s rigorous core curriculum, which originates in the College of Arts & Sciences, has received national accolades. Baylor is one of only 22 U.S. colleges and universities — and only two in Texas — to receive an “A” rating for its core curriculum from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. Among Research 1 universities, Baylor and the University of Georgia are the only ones receiving the top grade.
Faculty News & Notes
One of Baylor’s most revered professors — Dr. Rufus Spain, professor emeritus of history — celebrated his 100th birthday on Jan. 28, 2023.
Dr. Bryan W. Brooks, Distinguished Professor of Environmental Science and Biomedical Studies and director of Baylor’s Environmental Health Science Program, has been chosen as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science –– the world’s largest general scientific society. Becoming an AAAS Fellow is one of the most distinguished honors within the scientific community.
Dr. Rafael Climent-Espino, associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese, won the most prestigious Brazilian book prize — the Prêmio Jabuti prize — for his translation from Portuguese into Spanish of Brazilian author Itamar Vieira Junior’s 2018 novel “Torcido Arado.”
Dr. Ronald Angelo Johnson, The Ralph and Bessie Mae Lynn Chair of History, has been awarded the Alpha Chi Distinguished Alumni Award, an annual award given to one alumnus from the organization in recognition of public service that exemplifies the Alpha Chi spirit of making scholarship effective for good.
Dr. Ashley Barrett, associate professor of communication, earned a highly coveted CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the role technology plays in promoting compassionate communication and empathy in interactions between patients and healthcare providers. The $440,000 grant is a milestone award for Baylor, as Barrett becomes the first faculty member to earn an award from the NSF that is not in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field.
Dr. Marlene Neill, associate professor of journalism, public relations and new media, has been accepted into the Arthur W. Page Society, the leading worldwide professional association for senior public relations and corporate communications executives and educators. She also received 2022’s Outstanding Educator Award from the Public Relations Society of America, which recognizes and celebrates those who have made a significant contribution to the advancement of public relations education through college or university teaching.
Dr. David Whitford, professor of religion, is serving as the new president of The Sixteenth Century Society & Conference –– a learned society that promotes research on the early modern period.
Dr. DeAnna Toten Beard, chair of the Department of Theatre Arts in the College of Arts & Sciences and professor of theatre history and dramaturgy, has been selected as Baylor’s vice provost for faculty affairs, effective July 1, 2023.
Dr. Paul Martens, associate professor of religion and director of interdisciplinary programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, represented Baylor at the final Human Dignity in Religious Traditions Project workshop in Bali in November 2022. At the workshop, global scholars from multiple religious traditions discussed how they might strengthen and elevate the importance of human dignity globally and locally.
In front of witnesses armed with video cameras on Dec. 3, 2022, Dr. Alexander Pruss, professor of philosophy, repeatedly climbed up and down the climbing wall in Baylor’s McLane Student Center for one hour, and his total distance of 1013.7 meters (about 1108 yards) beat the Guinness World Record for greatest vertical distance climbed on a climbing wall during that period of time. Pruss has submitted the evidence for the feat to Guinness for approval.
Since our last issue, we have said our final goodbyes to two Arts & Sciences faculty members: Dr. Patricia Ward Wallace, professor emeritus of history (Nov. 27) and Dr. Clement T. Goode Jr., professor emeritus of English (Jan. 24).
Student News & Notes
Arvind Muruganantham, a senior cell and molecular biology major on the pre-med track, is one of 16 recipients of the prestigious and highly selective Churchill Scholarship in science, mathematics and engineering. Muruganantham is an unprecedented third consecutive Churchill Scholar for Baylor in only three years of the University’s participation as nominating institution.
Lauren Jarvis, a senior University Scholar with concentrations in political science, economics and international studies, is one of only 40 students nationwide — and one of only two students from Texas universities — to receive a prestigious Marshall Scholarship. She is Baylor's sixth Marshall Scholar and the third since 2015, and will begin graduate studies in the United Kingdom next year.
Four Baylor aviation science students represented the University at prestigious national meetings this spring. Lexi Gonzales, a senior aviation sciences major, and Jennifer Asmussen, a junior aviation sciences major, took part in the UAA Aviation Policy Seminar in Washington D.C., while junior aviation sciences majors Brooke Botha and Romi Tsang represented Baylor at the Women in Aviation Conference in Long Beach, California. The four were chosen for the events based on their winning submissions in the annual Baylor Institute for Air Sciences essay competition.
Each semester, the Department of Biology honors eight of its graduate students with Certificates of Excellence. The Fall 2022 winners were: John Boyi, Q Carroll, Everest Castaneda, Jen Godfrey, Bryan King, James Mann, Kaitlin Murtha and Jeanne Samake.
Baylor is mourning the loss of three Arts & Sciences undergraduate students since our last issue: Songyu Wang, Jordan Ellisor and Stephen Stec.
Alumni News & Notes
Five graduates of the College of Arts & Sciences have received 2023 Baylor Alumni Awards from the University:
Maj. Gen. Joel Carey (B.A. ’92) received the Alumnus of the Year honor, awarded to a graduate who has achieved distinction through exceptional contributions to our international, national, state or community welfare. Carey serves as director of operations, strategic deterrence and nuclear integration for the United States Air Force in Europe and Africa.
Richa Sirohi (B.S. ’18) received the Young Alumna of the Year honor, awarded to a graduate under age 40 who has achieved distinction through exceptional contributions to our international, national, state or community welfare. Sirohi is an end-to end information systems engineer for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
David Hardage (B.A. ’79) received the Pro Ecclesia Medal of Service, which is awarded to individuals whose broad contributions to Christian ministry have made an immeasurable impact. Hardage is the retired executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
Alan (B.A. ’92) and Vicki (Hicks) (B.A. ’92) Keister of Amarillo received the Pro Texana Medal of Service, which recognizes individuals whose contributions in furthering the mission of Baylor have made an immeasurable impact in the public or nonprofit sector. Alan, an internal medicine physician, provides primary care to adults, while Vicki served as a physical therapist before leaving practice to raise the couple’s four daughters.
The late John Cheng (B.A. ’91) received the Distinguished Achievement Award, which is given to individuals who have made a distinct contribution to their particular profession, business or vocation and in doing so have brought honor to Baylor. Dr. Cheng, who was medical director for the South Coast Medical Group in South Orange County, California, died a hero on May 15, 2022, when he attempted to disarm a gunman who attacked the parishioners of Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church.