Tyler Davis, PhD candidate in the Baylor Religion department. Jonathan Tran serves as his dissertation advisor.

In the midst of a week filled with difficult news, Tyler Davis received some good news. Very good news, for a PhD candidate in Religion.  Tyler learned he had become a Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellow. His dissertation project, “Spirit in the Whirlwind: Discernment, Divine Activity and the Limits of Political Theology,” investigates ordinary people’s traditions that make use of the weather to discern signs of divine presence and confront social injustice. Tyler is one of twenty-three fellows awarded for 2020. In addition to receiving $25,000 for 12 months of full-time dissertation writing, Tyler Davis also has become the first Baylor graduate student to receive this eminent national fellowship.

The fellowship was born in 1979 when Charlotte W. Newcombe left provisions in her will for a private foundation to fund scholarships in the humanities and social sciences for doctoral students whose research focuses on ethical or religious topics. Administered by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, the Newcombe has become one of the most prestigious dissertation fellowships awarded in the U.S.  Since 1981, more than 1200 Charlotte W. Newcombe fellows have been named–frequently including students from research universities like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago, Yale University, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Texas, and Rice University. Thanks to Tyler Davis’ application, Baylor University has now joined the ranks of these elite institutions.

Like Tyler, many graduate students at Baylor have received significant external fellowships and awards. Nathaniel Truax, a PhD student in Chemistry, for example, received Baylor’s first NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award in 2019 and, also in 2019, Keighley Reisenauer, a PhD student in Biology, was named a Graduate Student Outreach Fellow for the National Center for Science Education Foundation. Like Tyler, each of these Baylor students navigated the external fellowship application process primarily on their own (along with the help of their dedicated faculty).

Starting next year, graduate students like Tyler Davis will be able to access additional support to help them become even more successful in applying for and receiving external funding. The Baylor Graduate School has partnered with the Office of the Vice Provost for Research (OVPR) to launch two graduate student administrative fellow positions as external grant funding specialists. These graduate students will focus exclusively on connecting their fellow graduate students at Baylor with external grant funding possibilities, providing education and resources on how to find and apply for funding (including hosting a website and leading workshops), and assisting graduate students with the actual grant writing process.

We are very pleased to announce that the inaugural Graduate Student External Grant Funding Specialists will be Reyna Johnson, a PhD candidate in English, and Madeline Whitmore, a first year PhD student in the Higher Education Studies and Leadership program. Reyna and Maddie will be working with the Associate Dean for Research in the Baylor Graduate School, Steve Driese, and Virginia Kearney, the Proposal Development Specialist within the Office of Research Development (OVPR).

We congratulate Tyler Davis on achieving Baylor’s first Charlotte Newcombe Dissertation Fellowship. Thanks to the launch of the Graduate Student External Funding Specialist positions, we anticipate many more such awards to come.

Madeline (Maddie) Whitmore, HESL PhD student and External Grant Funding Specialist for Graduate Students

Reyna Johnson, English PhD Candidate and Graduate Student External Grant Funding Specialist