Baylor University's vision of a Christian Research University includes both undergraduate and graduate students engaged in research that promotes human flourishing. One notable Baylor University alumna is helping Baylor achieve this important part of our vision through her work with Prosper Waco - an organization committed to measurably improving the education, health, and financial security of all members in the Waco community.
Brittany Fitz-Chapman (BA '09, MA '11, MA '13, PhD '16) began working with Prosper Waco shortly before graduating from the Department of Sociology with a focus on Community Analytics. As Director of Data and Research, Dr. Fitz-Chapman's primary responsibilities include maintaining community-level indicators, coaching organizations on data collection within a data framework called Results Based Accountability, and conducting evaluations on programs receiving the initiative's support. Fitz-Chapman believes that "Prosper Waco has allowed me to apply all that I learned at Baylor in ways that promote Waco's continued growth and improvement."
Her role in the Waco community also uniquely positions her to work with students in Baylor's Sociology Department. As a part-time lecturer, Dr. Fitz-Chapman translates her real-world experience into the classroom. Graduate students and undergraduate sociology majors participate in community research answering questions posed by Waco stakeholders. For example, in the fall of 2017, students worked with Prosper Waco and the Baylor Center for Community Research and Development to create a local survey around pre-conception health and early childhood education.
This survey is especially important because McLennan County has one of the highest maternal death rates in the state and also experienced a recent drop in school readiness. The students use their sociological lens to research the issues, develop a questionnaire, administer the survey using the field's best practices, and ultimately provide useful information back to the community. To accomplish these goals, Dr. Fitz-Chapman encourages the undergraduate and graduate students to team up and learn from one another.
Through these research projects, the undergrads learn tangible, marketable skills while the graduate students practice explaining and interpreting theories and methodologies. As many of the undergraduate students plan to pursue law school, medical school, or graduate school, the research experience of working closely with graduate students and faculty uniquely prepares them for their upcoming journeys.
"The partnership between Prosper Waco and Baylor's Sociology Department allows students to see that Waco is so much more than Baylor University and provides awareness of the needs within the local community," Dr. Fitz-Chapman explained. She also hopes that with exposure and their sociological training, "students see the world in a different light and cultivate a spirit of stewardship here in Waco and beyond."
Brittany's continued support to the vision of Baylor and the betterment of Waco is a testament that Baylor lights truly shine bright.
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