Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences Announces Inaugural Group of William Hillis Scholars

Hillis Scholars
Front row: Mary Taylor Tillman, Isaac Lill, Kyra Curtis, Alexa Larsen; Back row: Jeremy Sieker, Austin MacDonald, Jonathan Siktberg, Mallory Myers; Not shown: David Crawford, Abdullah Ghali, Alice Knaeble, Sarah Tucker (Randy Fiedler/College of Arts & Sciences)
Oct. 15, 2015

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WACO, Texas (Oct. 15, 2015) – Baylor University’s College of Arts & Sciences announced the inaugural group of 12 students named to the William Hillis Scholars in Biomedical Sciences Program today.

The William Hillis Scholars in Biomedical Science program is an endowed scholarship program established by the Baylor University College of Arts & Sciences in 2014 that provides research experiences and enhanced mentoring and learning opportunities for high-achieving undergraduate prehealth students to make them more competitive for positions in top graduate programs and medical schools.

“The purpose of the Hillis Scholars Program is to recognize and support extraordinary Baylor undergraduates who seek to engage in scholarly work in the health/medical fields. Baylor wants to help these students fulfill their aspirations to become leaders in the health professions through scholarly research and/or compassionate service,” said Rich Sanker, Ph.D., director of the Baylor Prehealth Science Studies Office. “In turn, we hope these students will use their gifts much like Dr. William Hillis to effectively serve their future patients by the discovery of new medical treatments and the delivery of compassionate care.”

Specific research support may include a combination of annual scholarship aid with a mix of the following elements:

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

• Exposure to a broad understanding of summer research opportunities;

• Expert advocates to connect students to meaningful and optimal research opportunities at Baylor;

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

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

“Baylor University has a growing reputation as one of the nation’s leaders in undergraduate healthcare education, and our alumni go on to serve with distinction as top medical administrators, physicians and healthcare educators,” said Lee C. Nordt, Ph.D., dean of the Baylor College of Arts & Sciences. “We believe that the Hillis Scholars program will help make sure that our students continue to be leaders in the fields of healthcare and medical education in future generations.”

The 12 students selected as Hillis Scholars for the 2015-2016 academic year include:

David Crawford, a senior University Scholar from Flower Mound, Texas

Kyra Curtis, a junior biology major from Colorado Springs, Colo.

Abdullah Ghali, a sophomore biology major from Amman, Jordan

Alice Knaeble, a senior University Scholar from Stillwater, Minn.

Alexa Larsen, a junior pre-neuroscience major from Hawthorn Woods, Ill.

Isaac Lill, a junior biochemistry major from Austin, Texas

Austin MacDonald, a junior biology and computer science double major from Tuscon, Ariz.

Mallory Myers, a senior University Scholar from Aurora, Colo.

Jeremy Sieker, a junior University Scholar from Denver, Colo.

Jonathan Siktberg, a senior Baylor Business Fellows major from Nashville, Tenn.

Mary Taylor Tillman, a junior biology major from Aledo, Texas

Sarah Tucker, a senior medical humanities major from Houston, Texas

The Hillis Scholars program is named in honor of Dr. William B. Hillis, a medical doctor and researcher who served more than 30 years as a professor and administrator at Baylor University. Hillis received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from Baylor in 1953 and went on to earn a medical degree from Johns Hopkins University and spent the next 25 years as a scientific researcher, physician and medical school professor.

Hillis returned to Baylor University in 1981 as chair of the biology department. He also served as Baylor’s executive vice president and vice president of student life. He retired in 2012.

As part of his mentorship of hundreds of prehealth students at Baylor, Hillis challenged them to improve the world through intentional action in medical research and global service. The Hillis Scholars program was inspired by his desire to make certain that Baylor prehealth students are able to maximize their opportunities for growth.

“It’s my dream that we can have a program at Baylor University that will allow students who want to go into medicine to experience the finest classroom teaching as well as cutting-edge undergraduate research, so they will be competitive for admission into the very best medical and professional schools in the country,” Hillis said in 2014 prior to the program’s creation. “And I want wise and involved mentors to be available eternally for these students.”

For more information on the William Hillis Scholars program, visit


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.


The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University’s oldest and largest academic division, consisting of 24 academic departments and 13 academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines.

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