Featured Baylor Speakers

Through regular events in Washington, D.C., several Baylor University faculty members have presented their research and insight into many of today's most pressing issues. Several of these scholars and advocates are featured below.

Baylor Speakers Featured in Washington


Rebecca Samuel Shah

Muslims and the Making of America

March and July 2017

Rebecca Samuel Shah, Research Professor at the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion, Senior Fellow of the Religious Freedom Institute and Associate Director of the Religious Freedom Institute's South and Southeast Asia Action Team, was joined on a panel by Amir Hussain, Professor of Theological Studies at Loyola Marymount University and author of Muslims and the Making of America (Baylor University Press) and Melissa Rogers (BA'88), Former Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships to discuss the essential role that American Muslims played in the creation and cultivation of the United States. This event, entitled Muslims and the Making of America occurred in March 2017 at the National Press Club and again in July 2017 in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill.

An analyst of the relationship between religion and economics and an expert on the statistical assessment of development projects in the global South, Shah holds a B.S. in Economics and Economic History and a M.S. in Demography, both from the London School of Economics. She served as a research analyst with the World Bank’s Human Development Network from 1998 to 2002. She also served as chief research analyst for the Ethnic Health Unit of the British National Health Service, in which capacity she conducted research on patient services at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, United Kingdom. Shah serves as a research associate with Cambridge University's Belief in Enterprise project and as a senior fellow with the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life.


Byron Johnson

Religious Freedom; Religious Practice; Homelessness; Violence, Faith & Policing

September 2015; November 2015; February 2017; May 2017

As part of Baylor's Religious Freedom Summit, Byron Johnson, moderated a powerful and moving panel conversation featuring victims of religious persecution. The panel featured Sarah Liu from China and Joseph and Hannah Sleman from Syria. The Honorable Frank Wolf, Former Member of Congress and the inaugural Jerry and Susie Wilson Chair in Religious Freedom at Baylor University, also joined the conversation.

Additionally, Dr. Johnson joined a distinguished panel of scholars from the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion to offer their extensive research to counter the "Secularization Myth." His presentation was entitled, "The Myth of American Piety?"

On February 1, 2017, Dr. Johnson, alongside an expert panel, presented the findings of a research study entitled, Assessing the Faith-Based Response to Homelessness in America: Findings From Eleven Cities at a morning event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

On May 3, 2017, Dr. Johnson moderated a panel conversation entitled Violence, Faith & Policing in Baltimore on the collaborative role of faith-based organizations and law enforcement in engaging violent crime in communities. The panel featured: Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore; Police Commissioner Kevin Davis of Baltimore; and The Reverend Dr. Sheridan Todd Yeary, Senior Pastor of the Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore.

Byron Johnson, founding director of Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) and Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences, is an expert on the relationship between religion and criminology. Dr. Johnson is recognized as a leading authority on the scientific study of religion, the efficacy of faith-based organizations, domestic violence and criminal justice.


Robert F. Darden

The Black Gospel Music Restoration Project

September 2016

Robert F. Darden, Founder of The Black Gospel Music Restoration Project (BGMRP) and Professor of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media at Baylor University, was joined by Pattie Orr, former Dean of Baylor University Libraries and former Vice President of Information Technology; and W. James Abbington, Associate Professor of Church Music and Worship at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, for a conversation on the BGMRP. The collection will remain a permanent feature in the new National Museum of African-American Culture and History, which opened on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on September 26, 2016.

Darden is the author of more than two dozen books, most recently Nothing But Love in God's Water, Volume I: Black Sacred Music from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement (Penn State University Press, 2014) and Nothing But Love in God's Water, Volume II: Black Sacred Music from Sit-Ins to Resurrection City (Penn State University Press, September 2016). He is the former Gospel Music Editor for Billboard Magazine, and his work has been featured in hundreds of media outlets, from Fresh Air with Terri Gross, The New York Times, and the BBC World Service.


J. Brian Elliott

Film & Digital Media

April 2016

J. Brian Elliott and his colleagues offered a "Deep Focus" look at the award-winning and groundbreaking work of the Baylor University Department of Film & Digital Media. Their presentations discussed feature and short film production, the highly-competitive Baylor in New York Program, and research and development in the worlds of augmented and virtual reality. The evening salon event also featured footage from Baylor's drone cameras and technology demonstrations with several pieces of augmented and virtual reality hardware, including the Homido and the Oculus Rift, with which the Baylor team has been working with since its first development kit was released, the 360 Fly (a 360 degree view camera), and several augmented reality books that function with iPad and iPhone apps.

Professor Elliott is an award-winning Producer-Director-Writer who has worked in a variety of media-related fields including independent feature films, documentaries, live television, commercials, music videos and corporate videos. Over the years, his projects have taken him to 11 different countries on 4 different continents. He served as the Producer on the film festival comedy hit, The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Messiah, winner of multiple awards and recently released on DVD by Reel Indies/Mill Creek Entertainment, as well as several other independent features.

As a Producer, Brian is currently in post-production on his next independent feature film project called Blur Circle. This drama, written by Brian and directed by award-winning filmmaker Chris Hansen, tells the story about a woman unable to move on after the disappearance of her young son.

In addition, Brian serves as a Senior Lecturer and Director of Interns in the Department of Film & Digital Media at Baylor University, teaching primarily production and screenwriting courses. He is also the founder and President of the Graceworks Foundation; and in 2008, he was named to the Board of Directors of Shadowlands Media.


Joe Kickasola

Film & Digital Media

April 2016

Joe Kickasola and his colleagues offered a "Deep Focus" look at the award-winning and groundbreaking work of the Baylor University Department of Film & Digital Media. Their presentations discussed feature and short film production, the highly-competitive Baylor in New York Program, and research and development in the worlds of augmented and virtual reality. The evening salon event also featured footage from Baylor's drone cameras and technology demonstrations with several pieces of augmented and virtual reality hardware, including the Homido and the Oculus Rift, with which the Baylor team has been working with since its first development kit was released, the 360 Fly (a 360 degree view camera), and several augmented reality books that function with iPad and iPhone apps.

Joe Kickasola is the author of The Films of Krzysztof Kieslowski: The Liminal Image (Continuum, 2004). Select publications include articles in Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Journal of Moving Image Studies, and several forthcoming anthologies focused on the cinema as it intersects with epistemology, religion, and metaphysics. In addition to his academic publishing, Dr. Kickasola has directed and/or produced film and video projects for distribution and/or broadcast around the world. He lives in New York City, where he runs the Baylor in New York Program, a unique combination of study-abroad and internship experiences, aimed at giving students the skills and experience to compete in the world's top communication companies.

Dr. Kickasola received a B.A. and B.Mus. from Covenant College in Georgia, an M.A. in communication from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia, a Ph.D. in communication, also from Regent.


Corey Carbonara

Film & Digital Media

April 2016

Corey Carbonara and his colleagues offered a "Deep Focus" look at the award-winning and groundbreaking work of the Baylor University Department of Film & Digital Media. Their presentations discussed feature and short film production, the highly-competitive Baylor in New York Program, and research and development in the worlds of augmented and virtual reality. The evening salon event also featured footage from Baylor's drone cameras and technology demonstrations with several pieces of augmented and virtual reality hardware, including the Homido and the Oculus Rift, with which the Baylor team has been working with since its first development kit was released, the 360 Fly (a 360 degree view camera), and several augmented reality books that function with iPad and iPhone apps.

Dr. Carbonara currently serves as a Professor of Film and Digital Media and the Director of the Digital Communication Technologies Project at Baylor University that is currently working on research with the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) and the Hollywood Post Alliance (HPA) about High Frame Rate Digital Cinema Imaging, High Dynamic Range Imaging, augmented and virtual reality, and new immersive visual 3D environments. He is also Senior Research Fellow of the IC2 Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, a "think and do" tank for creativity and innovation.

Dr. Carbonara shaped the future of digital television when he served as the first product manager of high-definition systems at Sony before coming to Baylor; prior to that, he served in management and executive positions at companies like Columbia Pictures and Motorola. He currently serves in a variety of capacities (as a co-chair, vice-chair, or member) on numerous state, national and international engineering committees, working groups, subcommittees and panels.

Dr. Carbonara has received numerous awards and honors. Namely, he was the recipient of the 2013 NAT Tiffen Award for Outstanding Educational Contribution to the Art and Craft of Cinematography and was designated as a Master Teacher, the highest honor granted to Baylor faculty members for sustained excellence in teaching, in 2016.

Dr. Carbonara is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Iowa, where he earned a B.A. in Radio/Television (1976) and a M.A. in Mass Communication Theory (1980). He is also a Phi Kappa Phi graduate of the University of Texas at Austin where he received a Ph.D. in Radio/Television/Film (1989).


Chris Hansen

Film & Digital Media

April 2016

Chris Hansen and his colleagues offered a "Deep Focus" look at the award-winning and groundbreaking work of the Baylor University Department of Film & Digital Media. Their presentations discussed feature and short film production, the highly-competitive Baylor in New York Program, and research and development in the worlds of augmented and virtual reality. The evening salon event also featured footage from Baylor's drone cameras and technology demonstrations with several pieces of augmented and virtual reality hardware, including the Homido and the Oculus Rift, with which the Baylor team has been working with since its first development kit was released, the 360 Fly (a 360 degree view camera), and several augmented reality books that function with iPad and iPhone apps.

Chris Hansen is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Film and Digital Media as well as an award-winning writer and director. His feature films have screened at festivals throughout the United States and Canada, have been released theatrically in Los Angeles and New York, and have been reviewed in the LA Times, The Village Voice and the LA Weekly, among many others. His films include The Proper Care & Feeding of an American Messiah, Clean Freak, Endings, Where We Started and Blur Circle.

Hansen received a B.A. in English from Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, an M.A. in communication (film directing and editing) from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and an M.F.A. in script and screenwriting, also from Regent.


L. Gregory Jones

Christian Social Innovation

February 2016

In an event co-sponsored by Christianity Today, L. Gregory Jones led an evening conversation on the intricate nuances of challenging social questions, such as: what do faith communities have to do with social innovation and entrepreneurship? And what would it mean, both for faith communities and broader social ecologies, if we recovered life-giving convictions and transformational practices? And what if faith were to animate social entrepreneurship?

The author or editor of 16 books, Dr. Jones also has published more than 200 articles and essays, including his most recent book, Christian Social Innovation (Abingdon Press, 2016). Dr. Jones is an active contributor to both scholarly and popular publications and is on the editorial board of the journal Modern Theology and editor-at-large for The Christian Century.

Dr. Jones earned his B.A. magna cum laude in 1980 from the University of Denver and received his master’s degree in public policy and administration, also from Denver, in 1982. He earned his M.Div. summa cum laude and Ph.D. from Duke University in 1985 and 1988 respectively. He holds honorary degrees from North Carolina Wesleyan and Lycoming University.


J. Gordon Melton

Religious Practice

November 2015

J. Gordon Melton joined a distinguished panel of scholars from the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion to offer their extensive research to counter the "Secularization Myth." His presentation was entitled, "Toward A Godless America?"

Dr. J. Gordon Melton, became Distinguished Professor of American Religious History of Baylor University’s Institute for Studies in Religion in March of 2011. He also serves as the director of the Institute for the Study of American Religion in Woodway, Texas. Since joining ISR, he has been developing a set of joint projects between ISR and the Woodway-based Institute, the initial project being a comprehensive census of the American Buddhist and Hindu communities completed in 2012. Since that time he has worked on a church survey of McLennan County (where Waco is located) and a project on the changing state of the church in China.

Dr. Melton is a graduate of Birmingham-Southern College (B.A., 1964), Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary (M.Div. 1968), and Northwestern University (Ph.D. 1975). He is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church.

In 1968 he founded the Institute for the Study of American Religion and has remained it’s director for the last 49 years. The institute is devoted to organizing, motivating, and producing research-based studies and educational material on North American Religion. It has been responsible for the publication of more than 400 reference and scholarly texts since its founding, including multiple editions of the Melton’s Encyclopedia of American Religions (9th edition, 2016).

Dr. Melton is the author of more than fifty books and numerous scholarly articles and papers.


Jeff Levin

Religious Practice

November 2015

Jeff Levin joined a distinguished panel of scholars from the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion to offer their extensive research to counter the "Secularization Myth." His presentation was entitled, "Godless Lives: Does Religion Matter for Our Well-Being?"

Dr. Jeff Levin, an epidemiologist by training, holds a distinguished chair at Baylor University, where he is University Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health, Professor of Medical Humanities, and Director of the Program on Religion and Population Health at the Institute for Studies of Religion. He also serves as Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University School of Medicine, and as an Affiliated Member of the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine. Both biomedical scientist and religious scholar, his work at the interface of religion, science, and medicine has been instrumental in broadening the perspectives of researchers and clinicians on the connections among body, mind, and spirit.

Dr. Levin was the first scientist to systematically review the empirical literature on religion and health, and the first scientist funded by the NIH to conduct research on the topic. He is a member of the Extended Faculty of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, was Chairman of the NIH Working Group on Quantitative Methods in Alternative Medicine, and has served on the editorial boards of numerous peer-reviewed journals.

Dr. Levin holds an A.B. in religion and in sociology from Duke University, an M.P.H. from the University of North Carolina School of Public Health, and a Ph.D. in Preventive Medicine and Community Health from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Texas Medical Branch. He completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Michigan’s Institute of Gerontology. His research has been funded by the NIH, the AMA, and private foundations. In 2002, he was elected a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America.


Philip Jenkins

Religious Practice

November 2015

Philip Jenkins joined a distinguished panel of scholars from the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion to offer their extensive research to counter the "Secularization Myth." His presentation was entitled, "Godless Europe?"

Philip Jenkins is Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor, and serves as Co-Director for the Program on Historical Studies of Religion in the Institute for Studies of Religion. He is one of the world’s leading religion scholars. An historian by training, Jenkins’ work has been lauded in many different disciplines including sociology, criminology, and religious studies.

Jenkins holds a Ph.D. in History from Cambridge University, where he spent an additional three years working with Sir Leon Radzinowicz, the pioneer of Criminology at Cambridge. In fact, Jenkins has an enduring interest in issues of crime and deviance, and the construction of social problems. He is considered an international expert on the subject of terrorism. The Economist magazine has called him "one of America’s best scholars of religion."


Thomas Kidd

Religious Practice

November 2015

Thomas Kidd joined a distinguished panel of scholars from the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion to offer their extensive research to counter the "Secularization Myth." His presentation was entitled, "A Godless American Founding?"

Thomas Kidd is the Associate Director of ISR, Distinguished Professor of History at Baylor University, and Co-Director for the Program on Historical Studies of Religion. Kidd teaches courses on colonial America, the American Revolution, and American religious history. He won a 2006-07 NEH Fellowship, and won a 2004 NEH Summer Stipend. He is the author of several books and has written for outlets including the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. Kidd blogs on "Evangelical History," at The Gospel Coalition website. Kidd came to Baylor University in 2002 after completing a Ph.D. in history at the University of Notre Dame, where he worked with the historian of religion George Marsden. He received a B.A. and M.A. at Clemson University.


John Haldane

Religious Freedom

September 2015

As part of Baylor's Religious Freedom Summit, John Haldane, was featured on a distinguished panel to discuss global and domestic issues in religious liberty. Joining him on the panel was Mark L. Rienzi, Associate Professor at The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law and Senior Counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and Daniel Ian Mark, a Commissioner on United States Commission for International Religious Freedom. The panel was moderated by Thomas F. Farr, Director, Religious Freedom Project, Georgetown University Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, & World Affairs.

Dr. Haldane is The J. Newton Rayzor, Sr. Distinguished Professor in Philosophy at Baylor University, Professor of Moral Philosophy at The University of St. Andrews, and Chairman of the Royal Institute of Philosophy. In September 2016, Dr. Haldane was selected as one of the 50 most influential living philosophers by TheBestSchools.org, a resource for college and online education.


Elizabeth Corey

Motherhood and Career

March 2015

The Baylor Alumni Network hosted D.C. area alumni and invited guests for an engaging evening conversation featuring Elizabeth Corey, Associate Professor and Director of the Honors Program, who discussed with Yael Chatav Schonbrun, Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University, the conflict women face between motherhood and career.

Dr. Corey continues to pursues a variety of interdisciplinary research interests, from the educational and political thought of Michael Oakeshott and Eric Voegelin to the art and politics of eleventh-century Italy. Recently, both Dr. Corey and Dr. Schonbrun contributed articles in Robin Romm's Double Bind: Women on Ambition.


David Lyle Jeffrey

Manuscript Research

November 2014

David Lyle Jeffrey and recent Baylor alumna Erika Smith, now a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, offered a presentation on Baylor University's Manuscript Research Collegium. It exhibited what is best about Baylor’s undergraduate curriculum: top notch mentoring of undergraduates by some of the best faculty in the country, a commitment to preserving the treasures of the Christian tradition, and commitments to the highest standards of scholarship and to learning that nourishes the culture and the church.

Dr. Jeffrey has been Distinguished Professor of Literature and Humanities at Baylor University since 2000, a Guest Professor at Peking University (Beijing) since 1996, and Honorary Professor at the University of International Business and Economics (Beijing) since 2005. At Baylor, he teaches courses on medieval literature, the Bible as literature, medieval exegesis, biblical hermeneutics and literary theory, biblical tradition in the arts, art and biblical theology, literature and philosophy, and aesthetics.


Lori Baker

Human Trafficking

October 2014

Leading anthropologist and Baylor faculty member, Lori Baker, presented the progress of her work to identify human remains on the border the United States shares with Mexico. She revealed how her findings advance the nation's efforts to address and counteract the problem of human trafficking.

Dr. Baker is Vice Provost for Strategic Initiatives, Collaboration and Leadership Development at Baylor University as well as the Founder and Executive Director of the Reuniting Families Project, a program she founded at Baylor in 2003 that aids in the identification and repatriation of undocumented immigrants who perish during migration into the United States.


Jeremy Everett

Hunger and Poverty

September 2014

The Baylor Alumni Network welcomed D.C. area alumni and other key figures for an evening of engaging dialogue with Jeremy Everett, Director of the Texas Hunger Initiative at Baylor. Everett discussed the prevalence of undernurishment along with the advances achieved in addressing rampant hunger within our nation.

As a member of the National Commission on Hunger, Everett's research findings and work on sustainable solutions was important to the Commission's charge to develop recommendations to encourage public-private partnerships, faith-based sector engagement, and community initiatives to reduce the need for government nutrition assistance programs, while protecting the safety net for society's most vulnerable members.