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The William Hillis Scholars in Biomedical Science Program

Bill and Argye Hillis

Bill and Argye Hillis


Dr. William Hillis represents fully the majesty of scholarship, the servanthood of great teaching, and the commitment to Christ’s directives that characterize Baylor University’s highest goals as reaffirmed in the University’s Pro Futuris strategic plan. He has made a profound difference in the surrounding prehealth studies at Baylor, and his efforts have empowered countless students interested in this field to realize their full potential.

Dr. Hillis’s mentorship has produced generations of conscientious young scholars -- scholars who have gone forth seeking to improve the world through intentional action in research and global service. As a consequence, Baylor has become a haven for students who desire extraordinary mentorship as they prepare for careers in the health professions and biomedical sciences.

Dr. Hillis announced his retirement in the spring of 2012, after more than 30 years spent at Baylor as a teacher and administrator. At that time, officials from the College of Arts & Sciences approached him about their desire to develop a scholars program in his honor. Such a program would support and enrich undergraduates in the field that most fully represents Dr. Hillis’s academic and professional passion -- biomedical research.

Why create the Hillis Scholars program?

Hillis and Students

While Baylor University’s prehealth students take advantage of a superior academic program that prepares them for distinguished careers in the health sciences, intensive research experiences are not readily available to most Baylor prehealth students. We need to be able to provide these experiences to our students because they have become a vital component of the medical and educational training and professional expectations of America’s future physicians and biomedical researchers.

Through specialized research experiences, high-achieving students who plan either to become medical practitioners or enter other medical professions can distinguish themselves and become highly competitive for positions in top graduate programs and medical schools. Research experience will also make Baylor students even more competitive for prestigious national and international academic awards.

Dr. Hillis made certain that every student he mentored was able to maximize this aspect of their prehealth education. A recent case in point is the undergraduate experience of Taylor Kohn, a May 2013 Baylor prehealth graduate. During his time at Baylor, Taylor was mentored by Dr. Hillis, and he is now a 2013 Fulbright Scholar completing a master’s degree at University of Manchester, England.

What does the Hillis Scholars Program include?

The William Hillis Scholars in Biomedical Science Program, created by the Baylor College of Arts & Sciences, includes the following key features:

Mentorship, scholarship and resources for select undergraduates in biomedical sciences

Pinney's Lab

*As many as 10 undergraduate students will be selected to receive scholarship support of $2,000 per year for as long as they are participating in the program -- with a maximum participation period of four years. Thus, in any four-year period a maximum total of 40 students -- four cohorts -- will be moving through the program.

*Student interest in biomedical research will be cultivated through hands-on research opportunities and mentoring by faculty, who will help guide students into excellent internships and summer research programs.

*Applications will be encouraged from and preference considered for those Baylor applicants who have financial need, or who are first-generation college students.

*Students will be integrated into a scholarly community and enjoy enriched mentorship through formal engagement and personal interaction with the program director, guest speakers and fellow Hillis Scholars. The goal will be for students to learn clinical and bench research strategies, library systems and other research techniques that will support clinical and biomedical research projects.

*Hillis Scholars will receive student access to medical electronic databases, searchable archives and the vast resources of the Internet. This will allow them to develop cutting-edge skills in formulating and addressing important biomedical research questions.

Specific research support will include not only the annual scholarship aid of $2,000 but also the following:

*Programming funds to support travel to conferences and special off-campus events

*Exposure to a broad understanding of summer research opportunities, such as NSF REUs

*An expert advocate to connect students to meaningful and optimal research opportunities at Baylor

*Connections with constituents on and off campus who support undergraduate biomedical research

*Specialized advising to ensure that students are taking appropriate curriculum for biomedical research

Oversight of the Hillis Scholars Program and the Hillis Endowed Chair for the Sciences

A committee of faculty representatives from the Departments of Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Psychology and Neuroscience and Environmental Science, as well as from the Office of Prehealth Studies and the College of Arts & Sciences Dean’s Office, will oversee the development and implementation of the program. The committee will work with a faculty coordinator to ensure that the goals and objectives of the program are satisfied and sustainable.

To ensure there is an outstanding teacher/scholar intently working for the success of the program and students in it, the University will simultaneously seek funding support for a faculty position named the William Hillis Endowed Chair for the Sciences.

Dr. Hillis’ life as a scholar and humanitarian is emblematic of the values we hope to be embodied in this professorship. The University is in need of at least one faculty expert in the biomedical research field who seeks to instill scholarly attributes in our undergraduate student population.

In addition to closely mentoring the Hillis Scholars, the Hillis chairholder will champion undergraduate research across the sciences and will direct the Office of Undergraduate Research therein, so that more opportunities and curriculum at the freshman and sophomore level will be generated, and more upper-division students will have an advocate and expert to help them connect to a wide array of research opportunities on campus and beyond.

Therefore, this endowed position will ensure that the appropriate curriculum and mentoring is available to support the research and scholastic development of the students within the Hillis Scholars program. The Hillis Chair will also have wide influence beyond the Hillis Scholars program that will impact undergraduate research in the sciences at Baylor.

Funding needs

It will require between $1 million and $2 million in endowed funding to support the Hillis Scholars programming and scholarship awards, and an additional $3 to $4 million to support the endowed chair for the sciences.

For more information on The Hillis Scholars Program, or to make a donation, ……