Doctoral Student Selected as Congressional Science Fellow

Zack Valdez, a doctoral candidate in the Institute of Ecological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (TIEEES) at Baylor, was selected as a 2018 Congressional Science Fellow as part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellowships.

Valdez’s fellowship is sponsored by the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) and Soil Science Society of America (SSSA). He will serve a yearlong assignment as a science adviser on public policy for the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

He previously received the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in 2012 for his PhD research at Baylor, which focused on the impacts of agricultural management practices on soil organic matter quantity and quality in biofuel crops.

As an interdisciplinary scientist with extensive research and leadership skills, Valdez seeks to integrate his talents toward developing and communicating science-specific solutions for decision making in public policy. He developed a passion for science policy while working within the policy group of the Baylor Graduate Student Association and during two visits to Washington, D.C., with the AAAS and ASA, CSSA and SSSA to advocate sound science in policymaking and preserving science-based research and education funding.

Sophomore Earns Prestigious Internship and Awards

Micheal Munson, a Baylor sophomore and University Scholar from San Jose, California, participated in the Johns Hopkins University Summer Internship as a research intern and followed that with an award-winning presentation of his research findings at a national conference in November.

Munson, the only first-year student among the 15 accepted into the summer 2017 program, conducted research focused on pulmonary and critical care medicine with projects ranging from epithelial cell biology to asthma epidemiology.

During the internship, program participants also presented primary research articles to peers and members of the faculty and attended a seminar series featuring faculty from Johns Hopkins and the National Institutes of Health.

Munson’s award-winning presentation occurred at the annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students national conference, where 2,400 students presented research. Only 40 of those students, including Munson, received certificates of achievement.

In addition to his internship and award, he is one of six to receive a $5,000 national merit scholarship from Thermo Fisher Scientific, a large biotechnology company. This scholarship is awarded to undergraduates as well as research students from top-tier medical and graduate schools.

Radio Program Shares BU Stories and Insights

Baylor Connections, which debuted in January on KWBU-FM in Waco, is a new radio and podcast program featuring informative and engaging discussions with Baylor leaders, professors and news makers.

The weekly, interview-format program highlights timely topics by going in-depth with Baylor administrators and people behind Baylor's teaching, research and distinct role in higher education.

“Connections will introduce listeners to interesting stories, especially campus advancements that might not make traditional media outlets. The long-interview format will provide additional commentary and context that you simply cannot get in a 30-second sound bite,” Jason Cook, vice president for marketing & communications and chief marketing officer, said. “We appreciate KWBU for this partnership opportunity as we reach out across Central Texas and beyond through traditional radio and other media technology.”

Derek Smith, a senior marketing communication specialist and sports announcer at Baylor, hosts the program that airs in Central Texas at 11 a.m. Fridays on KWBU 103.3 FM.

The program is also archived and available on-demand at

Social Work Begins Full-Time Virtual Program 

Beginning in fall 2018, the Garland School of Social Work (GSSW) will offer its first full-time virtual Advanced Standing Master of Social Work (MSW-AS) program.

Students who have earned a Bachelor of Social Work degree within the last five years can complete this program in as little as 10 months.

GSSW continues to review and study needs for those seeking additional paths to an MSW-AS. Following GSSW’s Houston campus opening in 2015, the campus tracked a strong demand for an MSW-AS program and added the option. The Houston MSW-AS program has experienced more than 200 percent growth since its inception, and leaders anticipate similar demand for virtual AS programming in metropolitan markets across the country.

Although most of the hours needed for the residential MSW-AS program were available virtually, six hours of preparatory classes were required in-person. Faculty elected to offer these courses online as well, providing a fully virtual MSW-AS option. This will allow students to earn a Baylor degree while they live and serve in their local communities.

Applications are open at work/apply.

Good News from SACSCOC

In early December, the national accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), finalized its review of the University and officially lifted Baylor’s warning sanction instituted in December 2016.

“We are grateful to SACSCOC for its extensive work on this external review and the organization’s acknowledgement of the significant progress Baylor has made in addressing past incidents of sexual violence within our campus community,” Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, PhD, wrote in an email to the Baylor Family. “I would also like to extend my personal appreciation to the hundreds of faculty and staff members who have worked diligently over the past 18 months on the completion of the 105 recommendations and the subsequent review by SACSCOC.”

SACSCOC will conduct an onsite review in spring 2018 as part of the University’s standard accreditation review process that occurs every 10 years. Baylor has earned full accreditation by SACSCOC since 1914 and is diligent to maintain the standards and compliance guidelines required by the accreditation board.

The full SACSCOC report is available online at