Baylor Faculty Named Centennial Professors, Receive Funding for Research Projects

May 5, 2021

Dr. Michael-John DePalma, Dr. Lesley McAllister honored with funding for projects on 19th century interfaith engagement at Andover Settlement House, introductory piano lessons that incorporate yoga, breathing techniques

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-709-5959
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WACO, Texas (May 5, 2021) – Baylor University faculty members Michael-John DePalma, Ph.D., associate professor of English in the College of Arts & Sciences and coordinator of the professional writing and rhetoric program, and Lesley McAllister, D.M.A., professor of piano and director of piano pedagogy in the School of Music, have been selected to receive 2021 Centennial Professor Awards for summer research projects.

The Centennial Professor Award, created by the Baylor Class of 1945, honors two tenured faculty members with $5,000 for research projects that facilitate a faculty member’s development and contribute to the academic life of the University. Such projects might include travel for study or research, the development of innovative teaching materials or other professional development activities.

DePalma teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in rhetoric, spiritual writing, creative nonfiction, persuasive writing, professional writing and writing theory and pedagogy, with his research centering on religious rhetorics, transfer and rhetorical education. He will use the Centennial Professor funding to visit Andover Settlement House archives at Northeastern University, Harvard University and Simmons University in Boston, Massachusetts, as he works on a book that examines how social Christian theology played a key role in interfaith engagement at Andover House at the end of the 19th century. His work will focus on the impact of Andover House and the changes in principles and approaches that had a significant influence on the view of religious diversity in the 21st century.

"The growth of religious diversity in the 21st century demands increased attention in higher education to the ways educators can better equip students to engage across religious difference in ethical and productive ways," DePalma said. "I am honored to receive the 2021 Baylor Centennial Professor Award to support my scholarly engagement with this exigent line of inquiry. This generous award will enable me to conduct archival research for my current book project, Fostering Christian Rhetorical Activism at Andover Settlement House. I am immensely grateful to Baylor and the Centennial Professor Committee for supporting my scholarship."

McAllister teaches piano pedagogy, courses on performer wellness and class piano and directs the Baylor Piano Laboratory Program for children in the community. The former chair of the editorial board for the MTNA E-Journal, the peer-reviewed journal of the Music Teachers National Association, her research interests include imagery, mind-body relaxation techniques for performance anxiety, mental rehearsal and yoga for musicians. Her latest book, "Yoga in the Music Studio," was published by Oxford University Press in 2020. A certified RYT-200 yoga instructor, she will use her Centennial Professor funding to create the first piano method book that incorporates a story narrative with yoga postures and breath work, benefiting both her teaching and her students at Baylor and in the community as music concepts are introduced in the lab program.

"With the assistance of this award, I will be able to put into practical use my research on the integration of mindful movement and music instruction in early childhood," McAllister said. "Baylor piano majors teaching in the Piano Laboratory Program will be able to test out the materials and learn new teaching strategies during the process of its creation. With this piano method book and its corresponding teacher’s guidebook, I will be able to equip piano teachers with tools to help their young students focus, develop postural stability and body awareness and refine their listening skills during their first piano lessons."

The selection of this year’s Centennial Professor Awards was made by the Centennial Faculty Development Review Committee, chaired by Joaquin N. Lugo, Ph.D., associate professor and graduate program director in the department of psychology and neuroscience.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 19,000 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.


The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University’s largest academic division, consisting of 25 academic departments and eight academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines. Visit


The Baylor University School of Music provides transformational experiences that prepare students for careers in music. Students thrive in a Christian environment characterized by a nurturing resident faculty, an unwavering pursuit of musical excellence, a global perspective, dedication to service and devotion to faith. They investigate the rich musical and cultural heritage of the past, develop superior musical skills and knowledge in the present, and explore and create new modes of musical expression for the future. While preparing for future leadership roles, students join with School of Music faculty in enhancing the quality of community life, enriching the larger culture and making Baylor a place in which heart, mind and soul coalesce. Baylor’s School of Music is a member of the National Association of Schools of Music and the Texas Association of Music Schools. Degree programs include bachelor’s and master’s degrees in performance, music education and academic majors, as well as doctoral degrees in church music. Degrees leading to the Bachelor of Music Education conform to certification requirements of the Texas Education Agency. Visit to learn more.