September 2019 Newsletter

September 2019

Message from the Dean

Traditionally in Higher Education, academic years start during the fall semester. The growth of Robbins College has been so significant, the start of programs and enrolling students now occurs throughout the entire year. One of our programs mentioned in this newsletter had a second cohort start this summer and another program mentioned launched for the first time in August of this year, both outside a traditional time to launch programs. The question becomes, why is that important? Because Robbins College faculty and staff continue to enable Baylor to look at our mission and calling in new and innovative ways which is passed along to our students to think critically, differently and innovatively. One senior level leader at Baylor said of Robbins College “there is no business as usual for them…with thoughtfulness and just plain hard work” about the direction of Robbins College. The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and the Public Health department have launched new hybrid programs and are reaching students in new ways helping to enhance the student’s career opportunities, their families and their communities.

In addition, as Baylor continues to move to becoming a “Research 1” university, we in Robbins College continue to support this mission in important ways. One such example of this is research funding, and one of our own, Dr. Kelly Ylitalo, received a highly prestigious “career award” from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This award demonstrates that the nation’s experts in health-related work see great promise in Dr. Ylitalo and her ideas and NIH is supporting her research in vulnerable people for a number of years.

Finally, in launching new graduate programs, and increasing our research efforts, we have not forgotten our faith mission as a Christian university. Another story in this newsletter is about a very promising opportunity to collaborate with a Christian Rwandan ministry called Africa New Life (ANL). I have been fortunate to be able to travel internationally, observe, and work with organizations working to improve the lives of the impoverished of the world. I personally have never seen a more comprehensive group whose mission is to spread the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and do works of compassion. Their work is furthering the Kingdom and impacting the health of an entire nation. We are exploring ways we can work with them. Please pray that God will continue to bless this work and that Robbins and Baylor can be part of working with ANL.

I hope you all had a great summer and start to this fall semester!

Rodney Bowden Signature

Dr. Kelly Ylitalo Earns $626,000 Career Development Award from NIH

Kelly Ylitalo Newsletter

Kelly R. Ylitalo, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of public health in Baylor University’s Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences, has been awarded a prestigious career development grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the link between physical activity and healthy aging. The grant, valuing more than $626,000, will span a five-year project period.

The Mentored Research Scientist Award (K01) from the National Institute on Aging, one of 20 institutes within the NIH, is intended to help promising, early-career researchers build on their existing expertise through mentored training in a new methodology or area of study. The grant will allow Ylitalo to partner with local health care organizations to develop and test new methods for capturing and interpreting data about physical activity.

Ylitalo began studying the links between physical functioning and healthy aging while pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, where she worked on the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) – a 20-year, longitudinal study that tracks changes in health over time. The study seeks to identify physical functioning limitations earlier in life – things like decreases in walking speed – that correlate with disability and disease later in life.

While statistical analysis of data like the SWAN study remains an important part of her work, Ylitalo said her goal is to develop broader strategies that help people develop healthy habits.

“One of the unique things about being at Baylor is I’ve been able to look more broadly at aging and not just focus on physical functioning and disability,” she said. “I want to ask questions about what we can do across the life course to help people age well, and this grant will allow me to have dedicated time as a junior faculty member to do that.”

Part of that broad approach to healthy aging involves community-based, participatory research methods that create a dialogue between researchers and community members to identify socially and culturally appropriate interventions. Ylitalo is partnering with the Waco Family Health Center, as well as with the Center’s network of 15 satellite health care clinics throughout McLennan County that provide care to vulnerable populations in the McLennan County area. She plans to develop her first pilot interventions in consultation with a cohort of 60 women who are patients of the clinics.

“It’s important that this isn’t just a researcher telling people, ‘This is what you need to do to be healthy,’” Ylitalo said. “It’s about talking with people, learning about barriers to healthy activity and then, together with the participants, facilitating measurements and solutions. The Family Health Center is an asset in our community, and it is a privilege to work with them as a Baylor faculty member.”

Renée Umstattd Meyer, Ph.D., associate professor of public health in Robbins College, serves as one of Ylitalo’s mentors on the grant. She is pleased that Ylitalo will have the opportunity to further expand her skill set in a way that benefits the community.

“Kelly came to Baylor with amazing epidemiology skills in assessment and analysis,” Umstattd Meyer said. “This grant will give her the chance to build on that experience by developing more of the theoretical and social-behavioral skills found in the field of public health. Epidemiologists like Kelly are already trained to find connections in large data sets; this will give her the skill to apply that knowledge in a way that makes a difference to improve quality of life.”

Robbins College Dean Rodney G. Bowden, Ph.D., sees Ylitalo’s award as an important validation of her contributions to public health research at Baylor and the University’s strategic mission.

“We know in Robbins College the importance and quality of Dr. Ylitalo’s work,” Bowden said. “Yet, to see such a strong confirmation of the soundness of her science, methodology and innovative ideas from peers at NIH is rewarding. As Robbins College seeks to advance Illuminate, Baylor’s academic strategic plan, in various ways, including continuing to increase research expenditures through external funding, Kelly’s landing of such a prestigious award is a significant step.”

Echoing Bowden’s comments, Kevin Chambliss, Ph.D., Vice Provost for Research at Baylor, said that career development grants like the NIH K01 help to lay the foundation for further growth in research at Baylor.

“The NIH K01 award is a great mechanism to help newer faculty establish themselves as independent researchers,” Chambliss said. “Grants like this one are important building blocks toward Baylor’s ultimate goal of reaching R1 status as one of the top research institutions in the country.”

Perhaps the most exciting thing about receiving the grant, Ylitalo said, is the opportunity it presents to leverage the resources and expertise of Baylor and community organizations for the benefit of people throughout the region.

“For Baylor, this grant provides an opportunity for us to connect with the central Texas community and work alongside vulnerable populations to find shared solutions to increase physical activity and improve health throughout the life course,” Ylitalo said. “I hope that this grant will open the doors for more funding to support good work that can be accomplished through academic-community partnership.

Possible New Partnership Between Robbins College & Africa New Life

Children in Africa in a classroom being taught by a teacher

During the 2019 summer break Dean Bowden, Dr. Eva Doyle (Public Health) and Dr. Diane Loeb (Communication Sciences & Disorders) visited Africa New Life Ministries in Rwanda to see how the Robbins College can partner with ANL to serve and help positively affect the health of the Republic of Rwanda.

Africa New Life exists to transform lives and communities in Rwanda through preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and acts of compassion. The ministry is doing comprehensive work in Rwanda around health outcomes for children and families and the Robbins College is prayerfully exploring ways to come alongside them in this work.

Robbins College Scholarships Awarded

Stock Photo of a Graduation Cap atop a pile of cash

The Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences recently awarded scholarships to three highly talented Baylor students through the von Waaden Family Endowed Scholarship Fund and Larry and Katherine Pritchard Endowed Scholarship Fund.

The von Waaden Family Endowed Scholarship Fund was established in 2018 by Mark and Monica von Waaden of Austin, Texas. The scholarship was established to benefit students in the Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences with preference for students who have demonstrated exemplary service and leadership.

The Larry and Katherine Pritchard Endowed Scholarship Fund was established in 2014 by Larry and Katherine Pritchard of Crawford, Texas. The scholarship was established to benefit students in the Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences with preference to first generation college students.

For more information these two scholarship opportunities, please visit

New Online Master’s Degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders

A Young Woman Observes a Child who is wearing headphones

Baylor University’s Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences now offers a Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) program online, designed for aspiring speech-language pathologists (SLPs) who are dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for children and adults with speech, language, and hearing disorders.

CSD’s on-campus MS in communications sciences and disorders degree program has a rich tradition that spans more than 50 years and is one of the oldest, largest and most distinguished graduate programs at Baylor. The Speech@Baylor program matches the rigor and quality of the on-campus degree program, and students receive the same degree as students enrolled in Baylor’s equivalent on-campus master’s degree program. Both programs are designed for those aspiring to work in the speech-language pathology field, which comprises such careers as speech-language pathologists and scientists in communication sciences and disorders.

“Baylor’s department of communications sciences and disorders has made a strong impact in Texas and the surrounding region, improving countless lives through our graduates and direct service to the community,” said Gary Carini, vice provost for graduate professional education at Baylor.

Speech@Baylor is designed to teach students current theories and principles, cutting-edge technologies, research methods and practices of communication sciences and disorders. Students will be exposed to a variety of areas in speech-language pathology and audiology, including clinical audiology, language and literacy disorders, autism spectrum disorders, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), traumatic brain injury, aphasia, voice disorders, fluency disorders, motor speech disorders and swallowing disorders. Students also will participate in practical, real-world training at clinical experiences in their communities, and will attend hands-on training at Baylor’s on-campus clinics, which specialize in assessment and intervention in the areas of: speech and language, neurorehabilitation, audiology, concussion management, voice, AAC, autism spectrum disorders, fluency, language and literacy.

Baylor faculty will teach students through weekly live classes and faculty-developed interactive coursework on an online platform that works seamlessly on mobile devices. For more information, visit

Master of Public Health (MPH) Degree Highly Ranked by U.S. News & World Report

Student Missionaries help others in need under a tent

Several Baylor graduate health programs were newly ranked this year by U.S. News & World Report, including the Master’s of Public Health (MPH) degree programs with specialization in community health in the Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences, which debuted in the U.S. News rankings at No. 62.

The Master of Public Health (MPH) Degree with specialization in Community Health or Epidemiology helps equip students to promote population health in a wide range of public health settings. The program has a strong practice-based approach, global health opportunities, and low faculty-student ratios which provides students with a quality learning experience that can enhance career development.

The Department of Public Health recently launched a new online Master of Public Health (MPH) with a specialization in Community Health. The program combines the concepts and professional competencies of both public health and community health and is designed to equip students to lead, administer, and promote public health in a wide variety of local or global health-related settings. The curriculum incorporates a strong practice-based approach and covers key topics including epidemiology, environmental health, biostatistics, health services administration, and behavioral science and health education. For more information on the Department of Public Health’s MPH programs please visit

Get Involved

The Robbins College invites you to engage and support our efforts in developing tomorrow’s Christian leaders in health and human sciences. There are multiple opportunities to be involved with the College, including attending lecture series or campus events or donating to our continued development of excellence in research, teaching and community engagement.