• Fulbright, NSF awards among many for Graduate School students’ research and service

    Ross NatividadThe end of the school year is upon us — finals start Wednesday — and, as usual for this time of year, individual honors are rolling in. Students in the Baylor Graduate School, in particular, have been raking in the recognition over the last month or so. Here are just a few of the recent honorees:

    • Ross Natividad (pictured), a master’s student in Spanish, was awarded an English Teaching Assistantship through the Fulbright U.S. Student program. The Fulbright program is one of the most distinguished and competitive academic grant programs, and it is the largest international exchange program within the United States.
    • Zack Valdez, a doctoral candidate in geology and a TIE3 fellow, was awarded a National Science Foundation research grant for his work with switchgrass, a recognition that places Valdez and Baylor at the forefront of the alternative energy movement.
    • Blake McAllister, a doctoral candidate in philosophy, had some of his work deemed the best graduate student paper at the 2012 conference of the Society of Christian Philosophers.
    • Kyle Welty, a doctoral candidate in religion, was awarded the F. Bullitt Lowry Prize by the Southwestern Historical Association for his paper, “Evangelical Missionaries in the Slave Societies of the British West Indies, 1800-1835.”
    • Michael Whitenton, a doctoral candidate in religion, recently published his fourth academic journal article, “Rewriting Abraham and Joseph,” in Novum Testamentum, a journal devoted to the study of the New Testament and related subjects.

    Natividad thought he was headed to law school until he noticed he had an email from Fulbright in his inbox.  “Emails like this are never good news,” he says.  Expecting a rejection, to his surprise he discovered that he was headed to Indonesia. Now Natividad will defer law school enrollment for a year while he works overseas in a small Indonesian village, helping students there learn English.

    “Back in undergrad I did a study abroad program in Southeast Asia for about three weeks,” Ross says.  “I sensed that education was a precious resource there, and I knew then that I wanted to help students in a place like that.  The Fulbright seemed like a good fit. … I love teaching languages. It’s just something I have a passion for, and I feel very fortunate that I have had professors here at Baylor who were able to help me find my passion and push me to use it to help others.”

    Valdez is exploring the benefits of switchgrass as biofuel.  Switchgrass, unlike other biomass crops, grows well in areas where nothing else may grow, and switchgrass holds more carbon in its deep roots, helping to strengthen the soil while pulling pollutants from the air.  Zack

    “Mainly what we use now is corn, and we end up kicking off a lot of nitrogen into the Mississippi River, causing “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico,” Zack says.  “The one thing about switchgrass is that it doesn’t require as much nitrogen, and it may prove to be a better alternative in terms of that.”

    McAllister’s paper, “Escaping Murphy’s Trilemma,” defends a particular kind of divine command theory against an objection developed by philosopher Mark Murphy. He was honored but a little surprised to win.

    “There were a number of very high quality graduate student papers, many of them from my Baylor colleagues,” McAllister says. “I count myself very fortunate to have won.”

    Welty said his research centers on the work of two British foreign missionary societies, the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society and the Church Missionary Society, in Sierra Leone and the West Indies between 1785 and 1835.

    “In particular, I am interested in the challenges that these unique contexts posed to the societies and their missionaries,” Welty says. “For example, I examine issues such as missionary work among slaves and missionaries’ interactions with planters in the West Indies.”

    Whitenton said this article was particularly rewarding because it was his first major publication since coming to Baylor.

    “The New Testament program here at Baylor is fantastic,” Whitenton says. “I could not dream of better colleagues, professors, or a better working environment in which to pursue my own scholarly goals and aspirations.”

    Sic ’em, Baylor graduate students!

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