Baylor Launches Solid Gold Neighbor Research Fellows Program

February 8, 2021
SGN Research Fellows

Initiative advances social change through community-based participatory research

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-709-5959
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WACO, Texas (Feb. 8, 2021) – With its vision to enhance Baylor-Waco partnerships, Baylor University's Office of External Affairs has launched the Solid Gold Neighbor Research Fellows Program, a comprehensive annual community-based participatory research grant program that ties civic and nonprofit needs with academic research capabilities through master’s degree and doctoral students to advance social change within the Greater Waco community.

Funded grant proposals align with the pillars outlined in Baylor's Illuminate strategic plan, specifically Christian Educational Environment and Quality Research areas, as well as with one or more of the five Solid Gold Neighbor initiative areas of focus: Economic Development, Education, Health, Cultural Wealth and City Growth.

"We are excited to host this opportunity to provide leadership, collaboration and funding for the Solid Gold Neighbor Research Fellows Program," said Jeremy Vickers, Ph.D., associate vice president of external affairs at Baylor. "Community-based participatory research is a collaborative process that equitably involves all partners in the research process and recognizes the unique strengths that each brings. It differs from traditional academic research as it begins with a research topic determined by the community with the primary aim of combining knowledge and action for social change to improve community outcomes and eliminate local disparities."

Organizations and research opportunities for the 2021-2022 academic year have been selected by a committee composed of community members and faculty researchers, allowing for both campus and community representation. The objective for each funded opportunity is to advance social or economic issues with accompanying research toward publication, attract additional research dollars and facilitate additional community collaborations for further research.

All graduate students residing in Waco are eligible to apply for the fellows program. Each project has been scoped for either a one-semester master's project or two-semester doctoral project. Master's students will receive a $5,000 stipend and doctoral will receive a $10,000 stipend during the fellows program. The deadline to apply is April 16.

The five Solid Gold Neighbor Research Fellow projects for 2021-2022 are:

Master's Projects (Fall 2021)

  • Esther’s Closet: A 501(c)(3) under the umbrella and direct management of the Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce, Esther’s Closet is a self-sufficiency workforce development program that prepares women for employment advancement opportunities with skills training, career development and professional attire. The research area for this project includes studying participant engagement, progress and outcomes through the program as well as looking into post-support employment retention and growth, including its impact on family financial progress.
  • First United Methodist Church of Waco: First Methodist Church of Waco has a rich 170-year history of fostering close-knit relationships with the Waco community and surrounding areas. This research project aims to understand the spectrum of existing church and para-church ministries in Waco actively engaging in the work of financial security for underserved citizens by inventorying, mapping, analyzing and proposing collaborations through a comprehensive report.
  • Community Cancer Association: Community Cancer Association (CCA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in McLennan County that works with local cancer patients and their families to address some of the financial issues that occur as a result of their health condition. The research opportunity for this project encompasses assessing outreach effectiveness, understanding population needs and program efficacy.

Doctoral Projects (Fall 2021-Spring 2022)

  • Talitha Koum Institute: Entering its 18th year of service to the Waco community, Talitha Koum Institute (TKI) in Waco is an all-day Monday-Friday, mental health therapeutic nurture center that focuses on the brain development of high-risk, trauma-affected children from deep poverty. The aim of this research project is to develop an experimental or quasi-experimental study to assess efficacy and outcomes of the Talitha Koum program for participants who have experienced an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE).
  • The Cove: The Cove is a nurturing drop-in center for high school youth who are experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness and offers a safe environment for young people to access the resources they need to thrive. The primary objective of this research project is to collect youth self-sufficiency outcomes data for post-graduation youth who utilized The Cove services with an opportunity to explore housing outcomes, post-secondary enrollment and other factors.

More information about the Solid Gold Neighbor Research Fellows can be found on the Office of External Affairs website.


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.