On February 11th, the Graduate School hosted the Graduate Student Recognition luncheon to honor the three most prestigious awards offered for Baylor graduate students:  the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award, Outstanding Graduate Student Research Award, and Outstanding Dissertation Award.  Both the 2021 and 2022 award recipients were recognized, and two of those students were asked to speak about their teaching and research experiences at Baylor. Below, we include a transcript of the speech given by Christina Lambert, a PhD student in the English department and this year’s winner of the Outstanding Graduate Instructor Award for the Humanities.

I pull out a Chick-Fil-A sandwich, unwrap it, and set it on my desk. This is the first day of ENG 1310. I ask my students what eating experiences this sandwich evokes for them. This single item of food, in its iconic wrapping, prompts memories of quick meals in cars, late nights in the Baylor “grease pit” with friends, and mandatory snacks at football practice. Then, I open my bag and pull out a table setting—complete with tablecloth, Anthropologie dinner plate, silverware, glass cup, candles, and usually a vase with some greenery. “What eating experience does this communicate?” I ask. The answers pour out: family dinners, date nights, holidays. They tell me that the setting communicates love for those present and intentionality.

So, what it is about food that allows it to do all this “work?” Why can a table setting communicate love? In this “food themed” research writing course, we spend all semester finding out. And, after four semesters teaching this course, it’s little wonder that the guiding image for my pedagogy has become a meal shared at a table. We all know a dinner party isn’t a success if the host is the only one talking—the only one eating. I may set the table for my classes, but, again and again, I have seen my students show up, sometimes bright and early at 8:00am, ready and eager to engage, discuss, read each other’s work and to think about how food and eating can be central to the act of loving your neighbor. They take in what I have to offer and transform it into research questions and essays that they are passionate about.

Simply put: Baylor students are good guests. They are eager to participate in the work of the classroom—an event that loses its dynamic, influential nature when it ceases to be collaborative. We all know that balancing the life of teaching and research is the great juggling act of higher education. Baylor students make this work not only worthwhile but also one of the great joys of being a graduate student teacher here at Baylor.

Let’s extend this food image. How do we know to host dinners, how to set a table, or cook a meal? Everyone in this room had a different image or person come to mind. Because there are so many who have come before us and did more than teach us how; they showed us how through lives of hospitality lived out. The English department at Baylor is a hospitable place. It’s one of the main reasons I chose to attend Baylor. My faculty and fellow students are unbelievably generous with their resources and time. And I know that teaching—across the course of my career—will be a “buffet” of things I’ve learned from mentors and colleagues: such as, Dr. Julia Daniel’s contagious enthusiasm for T.S. Eliot and for her students; Dr. Richard Russell’s vibrant discussions about texts that he loves (ask him about the Irish playwrights!); Holly Spofford’s ice-breaker activities and her heart for making a classroom a community. The table I set in my classroom is the result of the many I have been invited to, and I am so grateful.

I’m going to ask you to humor me once more, as I extend this food image for the final time. Something we discuss in my class is that food, such as the lovely lunch we had today, doesn’t come out of nowhere. Behind every meal—elaborate or simple—is a complex, unseen system of people who grow, harvest, and transport that food from the land to our tables. Their unseen work makes it possible for us to snag quick food through a drive-through or host a banquet. Today, surrounded by our wonderful deans and provost, I can’t help but think of the often unseen work that impacts me and my nineteen students every day in our 1310 classroom. There is no meal without foodways. There is no classroom without your work. I realize that we are at a school with a world of support behind us—with administrators who care about graduate students and teachers and undergrads—and this makes all the difference in the life of our classrooms.

The first time I taught this class, we made pasta from scratch together (and it was wonderful as it sounds); the second time, like the rest of the world in March 2020, we were forced into the Zoom classroom.  Discouraged by the lack of embodiment in this very embodied course, my last-ditch effort was giving my students one very optional assignment: just eat with people, do something related to food. I was dumbfounded by the results. One student gave her parents the night off and made dinner for her siblings; another surprised his family with a four-course meal; and another asked her mother to teach her how to make her grandmother’s generational pasta recipe.

They had brought what they had learned back into their homes, and that moment crystalized my greatest hope for my students: that they would return home, or make one where they were at, and do the very good, hard work of building flourishing communities. Each day, we get to help and equip them to do that. We get to host a meal for our students, so they go out and do the same. I’m so grateful for the honor of receiving this award and for the opportunity to do this work I really love.

Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award Recipients


  • Holly Spofford, English                                                          
  • Rebecca Bonhag, Sociology
  • Patrick Ortiz, Biology


  • Christina Lambert, English                                                  
  • Nathan Scholten, Curriculum & Instruction
  • Jonathan Stanfill, Mathematics

Outstanding Graduate Student Research Award Recipients & Department Representatives


  • Sorina Higgins, English                                                      
  • Jeff Strietzel, Higher Education Studies & Leadership
  • Tyler Prochnow, Health, Human Performance & Recreation


  • Samuel Tandei, Church Music                                                               
  • Noah Padgett, Educational Psychology              
  • Marco Franco, Environmental Science

Recognition of 2021 Outstanding Dissertation Award Winners

  • Dr. Peter Leestma
    • Mentor: Dr. Jonathan Trower
    • The Digitized Infant: A Field Study of Entangled Emotions and Affordances
  • Dr. Lexi Pasi
    • Mentor: Dr. Daniel Herden
    •   Forcing אFree Groups to Be Free
  • Dr. Brandon Rickabaugh
    • Mentors: Dr. Alexander Pruss and Dr. Timothy O’Connor
    •   The Conscious Mind Unified