Baylor Undergraduates Set Record Pace for Earning Major Fellowships, Awards

Four Baylor students receive Critical Language Scholarship for language study abroad, while three future Ph.D. students earn premiere undergraduate Goldwater Scholarship

April 4, 2024
2024 scholarship recipients

Bottom row (L to R): Taylor Chung, Emma Wrona and Josh Browder. Top row (L to R): Sarah Beno, Josiah Zeigler, Allie North and William Smith.

Contact: Lori Fogleman, Baylor University Media and Public Relations, 254-709-5959
Follow us on X (Twitter): @BaylorUMedia

WACO, Texas (April 4, 2024) – Guided by their faculty mentors and supported by the Office of Engaged Learning, Baylor University undergraduates are off to a record-breaking pace for attaining some of the most prestigious and highly competitive fellowships and awards at the national and international level. This includes outstanding Baylor students earning four Critical Language Scholarships and three Goldwater Scholarships, the most ever awarded for each in a calendar year at Baylor.

The U.S. Department of State sponsors the Critical Language Scholarship, part of a larger U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering foreign languages that are critical to our national security, economic prosperity and engagement with the world. The Goldwater Scholarship is the preeminent undergraduate scholarship given in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics that encourages outstanding students to pursue research careers in STEM fields.

Critical Language Scholarship

Baylor’s 2024 CLS recipients are:

  • Josh Browder, a senior University Scholar/International Studies major from Norman, Oklahoma, who will study Japanese in Okayama, Japan;
  • Taylor Chung, a senior Political Science and Arabic and Middle East Studies major, who will study Arabic in Meknes, Morocco;
  • Emma Wrona, a senior University Scholar/International Studies major from Fort Collins, Colorado, who will study Turkish in Ankara, Turkey; and 
  • Josiah Zeigler, a senior Arabic and Middle East Studies and Political Science major from St. Louis, Missouri, who will study Arabic in Amman, Jordan.

“We are so excited to have a record number of Critical Language Scholarship recipients,” said Daniel Benyousky, Ph.D., director of major fellowships and awards in Baylor’s Office of Engaged Learning. “The summer that students spend engaged in immersive language study on a Critical Language Scholarship is a transformative one. It helps prepare students from across disciplines for global leadership and service as they develop mutual understanding between the U.S. and their host country.”

Goldwater Scholars

For the seventh consecutive year, Baylor undergraduates have been named Goldwater Scholars, but this year’s three recipients are the University’s most in a single year.

Baylor’s 2023 Goldwater Scholars are:

  • Sarah Beno, junior biology major from Albuquerque, New Mexico: Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology, with plans to conduct and manage antibody research in biotechnology industries. Mentors: Dr. Touradj Solouki, Dr. Tamarah Adair, Raul Villacob
  • Allie North, a senior Science Research Fellow from Waco, Texas: Ph.D. in Planetary Geoscience or Geophysics, with plans to conduct research and teach at University level; interested in using geophysical techniques to study behavior and composition of other planets. Mentors: Dr. Peter James, Nick Wagner, Dr. Walter Kiefer
  • William Smith, a senior Science Research Fellow from Allen, Texas: Ph.D. in Applied Physics, plans to conduct research at the intersection of physics and chemistry while teaching at the university level. Mentors: Dr. Darrin Bellert, Dr. Rizalia Klausmeyer, Dr. Naomi Halas.

“Each of this year’s three Goldwater Scholars has a very compelling story. They were mentored at Baylor by excellent faculty opening their research laboratories to undergraduate students to get started on their first or second research project that will result in journal publication and presentation at a national meeting,” said Jeffrey S. Olafsen, Ph.D., associate professor of physics, undergraduate program director and faculty representative for the Goldwater Scholarship Program at Baylor. “Research mentors like Drs. Bellert, Klausmeyer, Solouki, Adair and James are both high-caliber researchers and careful mentors who open their labs and programs to foster the strong 21st century researchers that we will need to be tomorrow’s research leaders. Each of our Goldwater Scholars this year are well on their way to that future.”

Olafsen noted that many of Baylor most successful Goldwater Scholars, included this year’s recipients, also have benefited from research opportunities outside of Baylor.

“Each had obtained a letter of recommendation from a research mentor external to the University, which speaks well of the sort of student that Baylor trains that they can make significant contributions to external research efforts at other institutions,” he said. “We truly find that having an external research experience in addition to their work at Baylor University shows the strength and breadth of our science majors.”

Office of Engaged Learning

The Office of Engaged Learning at Baylor University is a central hub of programs through which students discover opportunities to maximize their undergraduate education by learning beyond the classroom. Here, faculty and staff work with a diverse array of students to moor the transformational work they do in the classroom to opportunities for application and engagement. OEL brings together mentoring opportunities for students across fields of study, empowering our undergraduates to:

  • deepen learning by participating in faculty-led research,
  • apply burgeoning academic expertise to work for the good of the community,
  • broaden and diversify understanding through global involvement,
  • gain valuable professional experience through internships, especially in research and public service, and
  • compete for major fellowships and awards at the national and international level, including the Fulbright, Truman, Rhodes, Marshall or Churchill support post-graduate study, research or international engagement, and other notable awards such as the Goldwater, Boren, Critical Language Scholarship, Gilman and NSF-REU that fund student research and study at the undergraduate level.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked Research 1 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 100 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.