Baylor University Celebrates Inaugural Champions of Change, Solid Gold Neighbor Community and Faculty Honorees

May 19, 2021

Ceremony also announces first Solid Gold Neighbor Research Fellows and community projects

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-709-5959
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WACO, Texas (May 19, 2021) – Baylor University celebrated its inaugural Champions of Change, the 2020-2021 Solid Gold Neighbor (SGN) Community and Faculty honorees for their outstanding community engagement and the first class of SGN Research Fellows during a virtual recognition ceremony, hosted today by Baylor's Office of External Affairs.

Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone, Ph.D., and Waco Mayor Dillon Meek joined Jeremy Vickers, Ph.D., associate vice president for external affairs, and Holly Burchett, director of community relations, in celebrating this year's honorees who make a difference in the collective social and economic progress of the local community.

The Champions of Change program recognizes and acknowledges the accomplishments of faculty, staff and alumni who have demonstrated efforts to foster greater appreciation and advancement of diversity, inclusiveness and equity for communities of color at Baylor and in Waco. During the spring semester, a diverse and representative volunteer advisory committee sought nominations and made the final selections.

Inaugural Champions of Change

In recognition of their commitment to embracing and advancing racial equity on the Baylor campus and in the Waco community, the inaugural Champions of Change are:

  • Alumni: Elizabeth D. Palacios, Ph.D., dean for student development, Division of Student Life
  • Faculty: Lakia M. Scott, Ph.D., assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, School of Education
  • Staff: Dominque Hill, Ed.D., director of wellness, Division of Student Life

In addition to an engraved plaque, the inaugural Champions of Change will be recognized permanently on a list of Champions of Change at a future public space on campus dedicated to honoring cultural wealth at Baylor.

“The impact of this year’s Champions of Change echoes far beyond the halls of Baylor University, reverberating well into the greater Waco community," President Livingstone said. "Each of these amazing leaders embodies the character and commitment to equity we seek in reflecting Baylor’s Christian mission. While the responsibility to seek and participate in equity is shared, this year’s Champions of Change honorees reflect our past, present and future."

Solid Gold Neighbor Community, Faculty Honorees

Solid Gold Neighbor is Baylor University’s community engagement initiative that focuses on economic development, education, health, cultural wealth and city growth. This year's SGN ceremony recognized extraordinary dedication and leadership in each of these areas within the Waco community:

  • SGN Community Award, Economic Development: John Bible, Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce, and Alfred Solano, Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce – The Minority Business Equity Fund
  • SGN Community Award, Education: Yolanda Williams, Waco ISD – Waco ISD Men's and Women's Empowerment Summits
  • SGN Community Award, Health: Iliana Neumann, M.D., Waco Family Medicine – Envisioning Equity Series
  • SGN Community Award, Cultural Wealth: Grassroots Community Development, Waco Community Organizing Team – Family Resource Pantry
  • SGN Community Award, City Growth: Fiona Bond and Kennedy Sam, Creative Waco – Make It in Waco

Baylor faculty also were recognized as Solid Gold Neighbors for their collaboration with individuals and organizations that make a difference in the University's hometown of Waco. Faculty honorees are:

  • SGN Faculty Award: Shaun Limbers, Community Entrepreneurship Program, Hankamer School of Business
  • SGN Faculty Award: Kelsey Ragan, Ph.D., Baylor Autism Resource Clinic, School of Education
  • SGN Faculty Award: Lauren Barron, M.D., Medical Humanities, College of Arts & Sciences
  • SGN Faculty Award: Diane Loeb, Ph.D., Speech-Language Hearing Clinic, and Michaela Ritter, Ed.D., Camp Success, Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences
  • SGN Faculty Award: Alex Parker and the Baylor Jazz Program, School of Music
  • SGN Faculty Award: Adam Moore, assistant director of student and alumni initiatives, Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, Honors College
  • SGN Faculty Award: Kerri Fisher, lecturer and chair of the Human Diversity Initiative, Diana R. Garland School of Social Work
  • SGN Faculty Award: Jared Alcántara, Ph.D., foster parents for displaced immigrant children, Truett Seminary
  • SGN Faculty Award: Joshua Been, director of data and digital scholarship, University Libraries

“Baylor and Waco are connected in a beautiful and intentional way through the Solid Gold Neighbor initiative," Vickers said. "By having a seat at the table, the roundtable shared by our community leaders, we are in a position to engage and support needs and opportunities while leveraging the resources of a Christian research university. Today we were able to celebrate and honor those who carry out this work daily in their professional and personal lives.”

SGN Research Fellows announced

In addition, the inaugural group of Solid Gold Neighbor Research Fellows were announced. The comprehensive annual community-based participatory research grant program 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.

This year's SGN Research Fellows are:

  • Karla Bautista (public health) and Sher Isada (University Scholar): $5,000 from ExtraCo Banks for a one-semester research project with First United Methodist Church of Waco to understand the spectrum of existing church and para-church ministries in Waco actively engaging in the work of financial security for underserved citizens.
  • Yingling Liu (sociology, community analytics): $5,000 from Baylor/Waco Foundation for a one-semester research project to assess efficacy and outcomes of the Talitha Koum Institute program for participants who have experienced an adverse childhood experience (ACE).
  • Azile Nelson (organizational communications): $5,000 from ExtraCo Banks for a one-semester research project to study participant engagement, progress and outcomes through with Esther’s Closet.
  • Will Ward (social work): $5,000 from Baylor/Waco Foundation for a one-semester research project to assess outreach effectiveness, population needs and program efficacy of the Community Cancer Association.
  • Alexandra Tyra (psychology): $10,000 from Baylor/Waco Foundation for a two-semester research project with The Cove to collect youth self-sufficiency outcomes data for post-graduation youth who utilized its services.


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.