Congratulations to our 2020 Outstanding Graduate Student Instructors and 2021 Outstanding Dissertation Award winners!

The Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor award is given to Baylor graduate students who serve as Teachers of Record and who are recognized for their outstanding teaching by students and faculty. Each awardee is selected by a committee of graduate faculty and graduate students as one of Baylor’s outstanding teachers based on recommendations from supervising faculty, evaluations, recommendations from students, evaluation of teaching philosophy and student participation in professional development. This is a high achievement, and we are pleased to recognize each awardee with a plaque, a selection of books to enhance their teaching, and public recognition of their achievement.

Rebecca Bonhag received her M.A. from Baylor in 2019 and is starting her last year in the sociology of religion PhD program. Her research focuses on gender, religion, and mental health. In the past, she has taught the social statistics lab and the social statistics course for sociology and anthropology majors.



Patrick Ortiz is a PhD Candidate in the Cell, Molecular, Health, and Disease (CMHD) Program in the Biology Department at Baylor University.  He and his colleague, Ankan, worked on H. pylori eradication in mouse stomach using guided antimicrobial peptides. Patrick is now studying H. pylori evolution and population genetics.



Holly Spofford is a PhD candidate in the Baylor English department. Her dissertation examines how Victorian poets imagine the eschaton and how—in light of this—they negotiate suffering and living in solidarity with other creatures (both human and nonhuman). She has taught at Baylor since 2016, and she loves fostering a warm classroom community and helping students ask difficult questions and see the value of literature. She will be a postdoctoral fellow at Baylor after graduating this summer.



The Outstanding Dissertation award is the highest honor bestowed by the Graduate School on a graduate student. It is given to Baylor doctoral candidates who exhibit exceptional scholarship, research, and writing. Candidates are nominated by their department, and final selection is made by the Graduate School and a committee of deans and faculty. Each awardee receives a $1000 award and a plaque to commemorate their achievement.

Peter Leetsma recently graduated from Baylor University with a Ph.D. in Information Systems. As an active duty officer in the U.S. Air Force, he is currently serving in the Air Force Research Laboratory as the Director of Operations of the Cognitive Models Branch in the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. In this position, he leads a team of 35 individuals conducting research furthering the understanding of the cognitive and physiological factors affecting a warfighter’s training and readiness. He is slated to join the faculty of the United States Air Force Academy as an Assistant Professor of Management in the summer of 2023


Alexandra Pasi received her PhD in Mathematics from Baylor University in 2021. Her research interests are broadly interdisciplinary, having published, presented, and received research grants in areas including machine learning, mathematical logic, group theory, operator theory, laboratory medicine, pathology, and philosophy. Her dissertation research lays the foundations for a program to bridge two separate fields in mathematics, abelian group theory and set theory, by presenting a novel set of tools which provide new mathematical insights and proof methods. This approach also serves to illuminate philosophical questions about the nature of mathematical truth, as it develops methods which allow one to move fluidly through the mathematical multiverse while maintaining full formal rigor. She plans on continuing her research into these topics independently while working in her new role as a financial data scientist, raising her daughter, and exploring the mountain west wilderness.


Brandon Rickabaugh received his PhD in philosophy from Baylor University in 2020. In August he will join Palm Beach Atlantic University as Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Research Scholar of Public Philosophy, for their new MA Philosophy of Religion program. He currently works as a research fellow at Baylor University for the Accountability as a Relational Virtue Project. He is also the Franz Brentano Fellow in the Metaphysics of Mind at the Martin Institute. He was a Graduate Fellow in neuroscience for the SCP Science Cross-Training Grant generously funded by the John Templeton Foundation (2018-2019). Dr. Rickabaugh was named Top 40 Most Impactful Faculty at Baylor University (2018-2019) by the student body. He has given talks at universities in the US and UK, including Oxford, Durham, UC Davis, UT Austin, CU Boulder, and Yale. His work has been published in various academic journals and books with Oxford University Press and Willey-Blackwell.


Please join the Graduate School in congratulating these students. You can find more information about our teaching awards and dissertation awards on our website: