Every spring since 1994, Baylor's senior class has selected one outstanding Baylor professor, and this year's star is Dr. Blair Browning, BA '95, MA '99, assistant professor of communication studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. As the Collins Outstanding Professor, Browning received $10,000 and gave a special lecture in April.
Browning, who earned a bachelor's of business administration and a master's in organizational communication at Baylor before receiving his doctorate in organizational communication from Texas A&M, said he "stumbled" into teaching and found it to be a perfect fit.
"Teaching was not an intentional pursuit, and yet I very quickly realized that it was an unbelievable fit and that I absolutely loved the interactive relationships with students," said Browning. "I'm so thankful that the Lord provided that initial opportunity."
Browning was still a student when the Collins Outstanding Professor award first began, and he said he was honored by the senior class when he first heard the news.
"I was ecstatic," Browning said. "I look at that list and it's the hall of famers at Baylor. I know almost all these people, and being mentioned with them is an incredible honor. When I see the list, I can't help but be humbled and grateful to the senior class. I would rather be honored by students, because that's why I do what I do."
Browning said he hopes to continue teaching at Baylor for years to come, since the experience has been a continual blessing for him and his family.
"What a joy it is to be teaching at my alma mater; every day I feel blessed to be at Baylor, and I've felt that way since I stepped foot on the campus as a high school junior when I was a prospective student. My wife Jordan graduated from Baylor in 2000 and we always joke our kids will be in the classes of 2027, 2030 and 2033," Browning said. "We love Baylor and we are daily thankful for our university and what it represents. It's a dream job, and I'm exactly where I want to be."
Dr. Roger E. Kirk, Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Statistics and Master Teacher in Baylor University's College of Arts and Sciences, was named the 2012 Cornelia Marschall Smith Professor of the Year. The annual award, based on teaching, research and service, is presented to a faculty member who makes a superlative contribution to the learning environment at Baylor.
As this year's recipient, Kirk will receive $20,000 and present a public lecture in the fall.
"During his 54 years of service on Baylor's faculty, Roger Kirk has taught thousands of students and served extensively in professional societies and in the Baylor and local community," said Dr. James Bennighof, vice provost for academic affairs and policy and professor of music theory at Baylor. "Perhaps even more remarkably, he has at the same time produced an extraordinary body of research, including more than 200 articles, reviews, reports, encyclopedia entries, editions of books and paper presentations, several of which have been foundational in the area of research protocols, sound experimental design and statistical procedures in the social sciences."
Dr. Jim Diaz-Granados, chair of the department of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor, said that Kirk "exemplifies the spirit of the award. Over his long career, he has distinguished himself and brought distinction to Baylor University in teaching, research and service.
"He is one of Baylor's first Master Teachers," Diaz-Granados continued. "His contributions to the behavioral sciences have been recognized by five divisions of the American Psychological Association. His Experimental Design book was named a Citation Classic by the Institute for Scientific Information in 1979. The first edition was cited nearly 1,400 times in the first decade. It is soon to come out in its fourth edition. His record of service to his profession, the university and the community at large is unparalleled."
Kirk earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in music and his doctorate in experimental psychology from Ohio State University. He received a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship in mathematical psychology from the University of Michigan. In 2001, Ohio State's department of psychology presented him its Distinguished Alumnus award.
A member of Baylor's faculty since 1958, Kirk was named the Outstanding Tenured Teacher in the College of Arts and Sciences in recognition of his teaching effectiveness in 1993. That same year, Baylor appointed him as a Master Teacher, the highest honor granted to Baylor faculty members.
Kirk is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and past president of the Society for Applied Multivariate Research, Division 5 of the American Psychological Association, and the Southwestern Psychological Association. His first book, Experimental Design: Procedures for the Behavioral Sciences, was identified by the Institute for Scientific Information as one of the most frequently cited books in its field.
Dr. Richard Russell, associate professor of English in Baylor University's College of Arts & Sciences, has been selected as the 2012 Baylor Centennial Professor by the Centennial Faculty Development Review Committee chaired by Dr. Joe A. Cox, professor of management in Baylor's Hankamer School of Business.
Russell applied for the award and was selected to receive $5,000 for his proposal to travel and study the works of poet Seamus Heaney, as well as continue his research efforts and involvement in the Beall Poetry Festival held at Baylor each year.
Russell said traveling to the Seamus Heaney Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and to the Seamus Heaney Papers at Emory University will benefit his teaching and research for a book about Heaney.
"I teach Heaney's poetry, prose and drama in almost every course I conduct at Baylor, and the material I acquire from my archival research will enhance my teaching of this Nobel Prize-winning poet on both the undergraduate and graduate levels at Baylor," Russell said.
Russell regards Heaney as one of "our greatest living poets" and will help prepare for Heaney's visit next year by donating rare Heaney publications for exhibition during the Beall Poetry Festival.
"I believe that Seamus Heaney's poetry, prose and drama grapple more seriously with the eternal human verities than any other writer since World War II," Russell said. "Heaney has consistently asked why we hurt each other in the name of religion, politics and race, and just as important, what poetry can offer us in the midst of such violence: primarily joy, grace, hope and secondarily, enhanced cultural understanding, honesty and the ability to see ourselves as others see us."
The Baylor Centennial Professor award is funded by the Centennial Class of 1945 and supports faculty development.