Baylor Doctor of Education Student, U.S. Army Veteran Honored with Pat Tillman Scholarship
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by Lexi Nitishin, student news writer, Baylor University Media and Public Relations
WACO, Texas (Nov. 11, 2021) – U.S. Army veteran, fifth-grade teacher and Baylor University doctoral student Erika Neuman has been named a Pat Tillman Foundation Scholar in recognition of her military service and her mission to educate children.
Tillman Scholars are U.S. service members, veterans and military spouses chosen based on their service, leadership and potential. Of more than 2,000 applicants, only 60 are named each year. Tillman Scholars are awarded academic scholarships, lifelong leadership development opportunities and a diverse, global community of high-performing mentors and peers. Neuman, who is enrolled in the University’s Doctor of Education in Learning and Organizational Change online program, is the second Baylor student to receive the honor.
“The Pat Tillman Foundation offers this incredible network of scholars and other professionals in every field at various universities and government institutions,” Neuman said. “It is an amazing group of veterans and selfless leaders who support one another and strive to see the other scholars succeed. The whole mission of the Tillman Foundation is empowerment, building leaders and service to others and that is exactly what this incredible organization does. I am honored to be among their ranks.”
Neuman joined the Army Reserves a year before graduating college. After enlisting, she deployed with the Fourth Infantry Division in Tikrit, Iraq, where she served as a psychological operation specialist. In this role, she interacted with the Iraqi people, learned about their culture and worked to provide basic hygiene products, school supplies and other resources to women and children.
“It solidified my passion because it made me realize that even in a role that potentially had nothing to do with children and their growth and development, I was drawn to them,” Neuman said.
After leaving the Army, Neuman began an 18-year journey as a fifth-grade teacher in the San Antonio area. During that time, she earned her master’s degree in teaching and then enrolled in Baylor University’s online doctoral program through the School of Education.
The program was built to empower experienced professionals and industry leaders to shape the learning experience in any setting. Through a combination of interactive coursework, collaborative group activities and face-to-face online classes, graduates are equipped to address cross-functional challenges, identify and implement growth opportunities and foster effective learning environments based on data-driven processes.
“When I found out about the Baylor’s online program, it immediately drew my interest because that is exactly what I feel passionate about,” Neuman said.
Neuman said she hopes to use her doctorate to give back to elementary school students by developing STEM curriculum and programs.
“There's so much potential and untapped interest in elementary school,” she said. “There's so much power that elementary teachers wield when it comes to these young minds that are absorbing everything.”
Corina Kaul, Ph.D., lecturer in the online Ed.D. program, serves as Neuman’s faculty adviser. She said Neuman’s passion and tenacity are evident in her work and research as a doctoral student.
“Erika's expertise and knowledge related to innovative STEM teaching practices at the elementary school level, and the research she is doing in our program, are equipping her to develop teachers who will train students with the 21st-century skills needed to thrive,” Kaul said.
Kevin Davis, director of Baylor’s Veteran Educational and Transitional Services (VETS) Program, said the recognition from the Tillman Foundation “captures the very best of Baylor Bears living our mission of servant leadership in the world we impact.”
The VETS program is designed to promote the academic success of veterans at Baylor. All Baylor students who are veterans are eligible for the free benefits offered through the VETS Program.
“This is a beautiful testament to the community of incredible servant-leaders we have in our ranks of students across schools at Baylor University – and specifically a testament to the incredible and constant commitment of Erika to a service-driven life,” Davis said.
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Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.
ABOUT BAYLOR SCHOOL OF EDUCATION
For more than 100 years, Baylor educators have carried the mission and practices of the School of Education to classrooms and beyond as teachers, leaders in K12 and higher education, psychologists, academics/scholars and more. With more than 50 full-time faculty members, the school’s growing research portfolio complements its long-standing commitment to excellence in teaching and student mentoring. Baylor’s undergraduate program in teacher education has earned national distinction for innovative partnerships with local schools that provide future teachers deep clinical preparation, while graduate programs culminating in both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. prepare outstanding leaders, teachers and clinicians through an intentional blend of theory and practice. Visit www.baylor.edu/SOE to learn more.