A Love Letter from Coho Menk’s Family

A Love Letter from Coho Menk’s Family

Dear Baylor Family and Waco Community,

In August 2012, Coho Menk stepped into the unknown – the State of Texas, the town of Waco, and the adventures waiting at Baylor University. It was a memorable first day at Baylor with the anticipation of starting college, the move to Penland Hall, the raging heat of the day, and greeting new friends. Everything about this new experience was going to be quite a change for this Minnesota ice and snow lover.

Coho thrived at Baylor, spiritually and socially. He excelled as a student and was a loving brother of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and a member of the Baylor Men’s Soccer Club. He became a youth minister at a local church, participated in Sing, and experienced the study abroad program with Baylor Business in Europe. Coho spent holidays with friends in and around Texas, all of whom welcomed him. 

Coho graduated with a degree in neuroscience on May 13, 2016, a most joyful day. Graduation weekend was filled with the chaos of moving out of his house, graduation parties, and final visits to local hot spots including Shorty’s, George’s, the Hilton, and Torchy’s. During the move, Coho gave away many of his possessions and said his goodbyes to all in his Baylor Family.

Coho returned to Minnesota on May 16, 2016. He had been awarded a scholarship to study abroad by the State Department and planned on possibly pursuing an internship in Central America, then returning to Dallas to live and work. Coho was relieved to have graduated and was ready to welcome the future. Coho polished up his résumé and reconnected with his wide reaching network of friends in the Twin Cities over his first few days at home.

On May 19, 2016, Coho died as a result of complications related to an epileptic seizure. Coho was home in Minnesota, happy, full of anticipation, and overflowing with faith. He had said his goodbyes to staff and friends and to his beloved Baylor and Waco. A chapter was finished; the best ending had arrived. By his side was C.S. Lewis’ Book, Mere Christianity.

Through our despair, we are able to find joy and peace in the loss of Coho who lives on with us and in Heaven. Coho was a Child of God who had an infectious smile and laugh and who cared passionately for others. Coho’s final act of giving on earth was his gift as a donor, helping 60 families. Coho lives.  

We are profoundly grateful for everything the Baylor staff, administration, students, and alumni have done for our family. Thank you for the lovely memorial service on campus and for the honor of placing Coho’s name on the memorial fountain. Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers, and especially for the impact so many of you made on Coho’s life. We also graciously thank the Baylor Family for the continued support, kindness, and empathy extended to Coho’s sister, Britta, a Baylor junior majoring in communications.

Finally, we deeply appreciate Coho’s brothers at the ATO fraternity who recently honored Coho. The proceeds from the ATO annual Bed Races Fundraiser benefit CoHOPE, the nonprofit started in memory of Coho, spreading Coho’s spirit and legacy of hope, joy, faith, giving, and service.

To all who knew Coho, to all who supported, sponsored, and participated in the ATO Bed Races, and to our beloved Baylor Family, we extend our deepest, heartfelt gratitude. Baylor is our home and will forever live in our hearts. 

The Family of Colton Hovey (Coho) Menk:

Beth, Roger, Spencer, Britta

Coho Menk (Baylor ’16)

The Power of the Empty Tomb

Dear Baylor Community,

            We will experience the most profound source of “hope abounding” over the next few days. In the midst of betrayal, brokenness, and other patterns of sin evident in Maundy Thursday, Jesus Christ bears our sin and the wounds of the world on the cross on Good Friday. On Holy Saturday, we watch and wait. And then on Easter we discover that God answers our, and the world’s, No with a decisive Yes by raising Jesus from the dead (2 Cor. 1:19-20).

            As a result, every day is now Easter. It is a sign of the hope we have, not because of who we are but because of who God is. The past is redeemed, and we are called to live into the future in confidence and trust in God…and especially in hope.

            I pray that we all will journey with Christ through Gethsemane and Golgotha to discover, on Easter morning, the power of the empty tomb. May these days be ones of healing, and of hope abounding, for you, your family, for all of us, for the world, and for Baylor.



Supporting People Who Stutter Through Research and Fellowship

Dr. Paul Blanchet, Associate Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders in the Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences, is currently examining listeners’ perceptions of people with communication disorders, particularly stuttering and/or cluttering. As a person who stutters (PWS), Dr. Blanchet decided to initiate this line of research in 2005. It has grown into a multi-study, transdisciplinary endeavor encompassing students, alumni, and faculty from various fields (e.g., psychology, sociology).

Dr. Paul Blanchet with his research team

Findings of this study will add further support for clinical use of self-disclosure, which is also referred to as “acknowledgment” or “advertising” in some stuttering treatment programs. Although this strategy has been utilized to great effect by many PWS for decades, there is a need for further empirical research demonstrating the benefits of disclosure. Clinically, self-disclosure is a simple yet extraordinarily powerful strategy that encourages openness and honesty, and facilitates positive communicative interactions among PWS and their listeners. Some clients view it as giving them permission to stutter, and it is often useful when working on becoming desensitized to stuttering. It is one of many such coping strategies discussed in the Baylor University Speech-Language Clinic Stuttering Support Group, which Dr. Blanchet co-founded in 2015 with Baylor’s CSD Clinic Coordinator, Mrs. Deborah Rainer.

At the 2014 Oxford Dysfluency Conference, many professionals were encouraging of Dr. Blanchet’s research, including staff from the prestigious Michael Palin Center in London, UK. Dr. Blanchet has since conducted several follow-up studies including one that examines the effects of self-disclosure (or acknowledgment) of stuttering on university students’ perceptions of a person who stutters. A URC grant enabled him to hire six undergraduate research assistants to assist with data collection and data entry. More information about Dr. Blanchet’s research is available in the RCHHS Newsletter.

Baylor Faculty and Students Grapple with Global Environment and Health Challenges

More people now live in cities than ever before, and projections indicate that by 2050, 70% of human populations will reside in urban areas. High population density results in concentration of food, energy, water, and other resource consumption. Health implications of global megatrends, including the food–energy–water nexus, present palpable challenges. For example, 80% of the global sewage production is not treated; instead it is returned to the environment and thus reused for various purposes, including agriculture. Implications for water security, food safety, and international trade are not routinely examined. Such considerations are critical because when water security is compromised, antimicrobial resistance (a leading global health threat) can increase significantly and threaten food safety.

Due to the growing importance of these issues, Dr. Bryan W. Brooks, Distinguished Professor of Environmental Science and Biomedical Studies and Director of Environmental Health Science at Baylor, and his students are actively engaging integrated environment and health research on six continents. Dr. Brooks and the students he mentors have been “flinging their green and gold afar” through international opportunities. For example, Dr. Brooks recently gave a plenary lecture on harmful algal blooms and participated in a panel discussion on antimicrobial resistance and mapping the antibiotics life cycle at the 3rd International Conference on Environmental Pollution, Restoration, and Management in Quy Nhon, Vietnam. During this meeting, Dr. Brooks had the unique opportunity to meet with the Minister of the Vietnam Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and his senior staff, as well as faculty and administrators from several universities in Vietnam regarding future collaborations. Dr. Brooks also gave a lecture and visited colleagues at Jinan University in Guangzhou, China, and engaged additional collaborators at Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and University of Hong Kong.

Dr. Bryan Brooks and colleagues at the International Conference on Environmental Pollution, Restoration, and Management in Vietnam

Dr. Brooks is also spearheading the Global Horizon Scanning Project, which has identified dozens of timely interdisciplinary research needs related to environmental quality from around the globe using a “big questions” approach. Input solicited from thousands of scientists and engineers has been transparent, bottom-up, multidisciplinary, and multi-sector. Synthesis workshops, following big question solicitation from the scientific community, were held in Spain (for Europe), South Africa (for Africa), Argentina (for Latin America), New Zealand (for Oceania), Salt Lake City (for North America) and Singapore (for Asia). Each workshop was tri-chaired by experts from academia, government, and business. Key questions from these global workshops provide core materials for synthesis manuscripts, which are in various stages of peer-review or development. This project provides a first-of-its-kind global research agenda.

Through transdisciplinary engagement, both within Baylor as well as beyond – locally, nationally, and globally – Dr. Brooks and his colleagues seek to identify and address complex environment and health challenges that urgently require our attention.

Ladies and Legos Encourages Women in STEM Fields

The “Ladies and Legos” program is a fun and casual way to bring together women at different stages of their academic and professional careers to talk about their experiences in the classroom and workplace. Many women in STEM fields do not have an arena to discuss the unique challenges women face in male-dominated industries. Thanks to the sponsorship of the Halliburton Foundation, Ladies and Legos offers opportunities to create dialogue, encourage gender diversity in the workforce, and empower women to succeed.

Ladies and Legos events typically involve small-group settings in which students create with Legos, an engineering-related toy primarily marketed toward males, while female leaders in STEM occupations lead discussions about their experiences in the workforce. On March 22, the School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) partnered with Maker’s Edge in Waco to create a new Ladies and Legos event centered around building community and connections through hands-on “making” experiences including screen printing, soldering, vinyl cutting, and laser etching.

Women comprise about 23 percent of the nearly 1,200 undergraduates in the School of Engineering and Computer Science. The hope is that programs like “Ladies and Legos” will stimulate community among ECS students, faculty, and women already in the STEM fields and attract more prospective students, ultimately increasing the number of women in technological industries. The final Ladies and Legos event this school year will be April 18th, featuring Dr. Michelle Hebl, our Cherry Award recipient and Professor of Psychology from Rice University. Contact Emily Sandvall, Associate Director for Undergraduate Programs in ECS, for more information.

School of Education Launches Embedded Global Classroom

Janette Carpenter to establish the Carpenter Embedded Global Classroom, Baylor University’s first fully funded study-abroad embedded classroom. Through the Carpenter Embedded Global Classroom, School of Education students will participate firsthand in comparative education experiences in locations around the globe at no additional charge to the student. As school districts throughout Texas and the United States increasingly seek teachers with a broad cultural competency, the Carpenter Embedded Classroom will empower students to meet those needs.

Baylor School of Education Dean Michael McLendon (left) with Janette and Don Carpenter

“The School of Education is grateful for this generous and insightful investment in the lives of Baylor students by the Carpenter family,” said Michael K. McLendon, dean of the School of Education. “Their decision to support this expansion of social, economic, and policy perspectives for Baylor students through cross-cultural learning serves to highlight the value of this family as a true partner of Baylor University in pursuing its mission of educating men and women for worldwide service.” Carpenter Global Classroom experiences will be designed and selected with a goal of empowering students with both an enhanced understanding of education in other countries and a broader perspective of the uniqueness of the American educational system.

This spring, the inaugural Carpenter Embedded Classroom experience took place March 4-12, 2017, in Queretaro, Mexico, as part of the School of Education’s semester-long “Social Issues in Education” class, taught by School of Education professor Dr. Tony Talbert. Baylor’s partner in Queretaro is Monterrey Tec University, one of the most prestigious universities in Latin America. The March trip represents the first of many such partnerships that will open other opportunities to Baylor students throughout the Americas and around the globe. “As a teacher, you are often put into environments where you are serving students from different cultural backgrounds, or who are impoverished and disadvantaged for reasons not of their own making,” Don Carpenter said. “We wanted to extend these opportunities to Baylor students, because in so doing, you build empathy. As an educator, you give students the tools they need to learn and develop to their full potential. Through experiences in global classrooms, Baylor students can develop understanding and empathy to help them as they teach and influence students of their own throughout their careers.”

Baylor Law School Recognized for Strong Professional Development

The innovative Continuing Legal Education (CLE) program at Baylor University School of Law follows a nationwide trend of law schools focusing on developing students’ professional identities as lawyers. Baylor Law’s program has surpassed those at other Texas law schools and drawn national accolades. It broke new ground by offering students frequent professional development seminars—which closely resemble continuing legal education—presented by practicing lawyers on a wide variety of topics. Although students can pick and choose seminars to attend, it’s a mandatory requirement for graduation to log 18 hours spread out among the three years of law school.

Professional development seminars cover topics like law office management and organization; job searching and networking; the values of a lawyer and leadership; the ethical considerations of lawyering; and wellness, including the mental and physical health hazards of the profession. Administrators aim to offer 10 to 12 seminars each quarter, which breaks down to about one per week. After a seminar, students complete a feedback card and the school uses the data to plan future seminars. Jim Wren, a Baylor Law professor and chairman of its professional development committee, reported: “Depending on the program, we get all the way from rave reviews back to lukewarm or sometimes a critical review of a program. We listen to those and take them to heart. The more practical the program, usually the higher the rating for it.”

Baylor Law is not the only Texas law school interested in developing students professionally. But its program is unique because of its CLE-style model, its mandatory nature, and the fact that it spans all three years of law school. Baylor Law aims to produce professionals who are truly “practice ready” and prepared to succeed, and this program substantially furthers that goal.

A New Kind of Teaching and Learning

Following an animated response from faculty and staff across the university, the Baylor Social Innovation Collaborative (BAY-SIC) is set to launch a diverse array of transdisciplinary projects that aim to discover and develop new ways of promoting hope and human flourishing. Because our most important problems are not reducible to any one discipline or field, and because we operate in a world in which challenges are less foreseeable and knowledge less reliable, embedded in many of these projects is an effort to design new models for collaborative teaching and learning across our 12 colleges and schools.

This fall we will launch five new “social innovation labs,” courses that promote a new way of doing business by assembling diverse groups of faculty, staff, and students to work together with community partners—both local and global—on wicked problems and generative solutions. Below are brief synopses of our first five “labs,” and additional information can be found on the BAY-SIC webpage. General questions about BAY-SIC and the social innovation labs can be directed to Andy Hogue, with questions about specific courses addressed to the contact person listed in each description.

Campus Hunger: Students, Systems, and Solutions

Despite the perceived affluence of higher education, a greater percentage of college students struggle to pay for food than in the general population. How might hunger affect the college experience, and what can be done about it? Through this course, students will begin to understand the complexities surrounding food and hunger in society and then explore their roles in higher education settings. Students will also design and carry out research-based responses to campus hunger.

For more information about this course, contact Dr. Nathan Alleman: nathan_alleman@baylor.edu

Child Migration in the Western Hemisphere

This social innovation lab explores the causes, characteristics, and consequences of the migration of children from Mexico and the Northern Triangle of Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras). The course aims to build collaborative, interdisciplinary research teams, which will examine particular aspects of the crisis and develop interventions to aid these migrants and prevent future child migration.

For more information about this course, contact Dr. Victor Hinojosa: victor_hinojosa@baylor.edu

Healthy River, Healthy Community

On a national and global scale, water is inextricably linked to critical social issues such as energy use, health and human development, poverty, food scarcity, and environmental degradation. Through this course, students will explore local water issues as a model for better understanding global water issues. Students will delve into the complexity of this growing global issue through first-hand experiences, including a river trip, field-based activities, and studying museum natural history collections.

For more information about this course, contact Dr. Suzanne Nesmith: suzanne_nesmith@baylor.edu

Combatting Human Trafficking

This course will involve the examination of contemporary human trafficking issues and modern day slavery through an interdisciplinary lens. Students will analyze systemic intersections that create the environments which perpetuate social inequalities, while also constructing innovative strategies that dismantle and disrupt systems of oppression.

For more information about this course, contact Dr. Elizabeth Goatley: elizabeth_goatley@baylor.edu

Social Innovation with At Risk Older Adults

At risk older persons fill the hidden corridors of Waco, and they live in the crucible of increasing economic, health care, and community service scarcity. This course aims to address impoverishment and isolation by working with vulnerable older persons in Waco and the surrounding area using interdisciplinary knowledge, research, and practice through engaging with local agencies and community partners.

For more information about this course, contact Dr. Dennis Myers: dennis_myers@baylor.edu



Baylor Football Teams Up with the Texas Hunger Initiative

The Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) at Baylor University works with school districts, like La Vega ISD, and communities across the state to improve participation in school breakfast through innovative alternative service models, like “Breakfast in the Classroom” and “Grab and Go.” Yesterday, March 14, representatives from the Baylor football program, including players Grayland Arnold (#4), Jamie Jacobs (#43), and Jonathan Hockman (#24), as well as Ryan Kelly, an administrator in the football program, joined students at La Vega Elementary to promote the importance of school breakfast and to encourage students to participate. Dave Thiel, Director of Child Nutrition for La Vega ISD described the important work of THI and the Baylor football program: “It is exciting for a first, second, or third grader to see some local sports figures – successful students that are proven athletes and who have proven that they’re doing great academically. They’re great role models in the community. We always appreciate it when Baylor supports us and comes out, and the Texas Hunger Initiative has been a really good supporter of our program here at La Vega, in many different ways.”

In a state where more than 1 in 4 children are food insecure, the public school system continues to grow as a primary infrastructure for addressing childhood hunger. Participation in school breakfast has been associated with decreased tardiness and absences and better school performance, attention, and behavior. More Texas students than ever are starting their school days fueled for success, especially students who might not have regular access to food at home. As a current student-athlete who benefited from school breakfast as a child, Jonathan Hockman reflected about his experience volunteering: “It’s important to keep perspective, because football, at the end of the day, is just a game. It’s really about who you reach through football. These kids look up to us, and it’s important that we can maintain that outreach and perspective of giving back to the community and back to others, and I’m happy and blessed to be able to do this.”

THI’s innovative model addresses food insecurity at all levels – local, state, and federal – by organizing systems and helping people work together to create more efficient and effective programs and policies that reduce hunger in Texas. Thanks to the efforts of numerous partners, including the Baylor football program, every day we get closer to our goal of ending hunger and setting up children for the wellness and success every child deserves.

Collaboration and Exploration in South Texas

With the logistical, financial, and planning support of Baylor Missions, three faculty members took a unique team of engineering and social work students to Laredo, Texas during Spring Break. Professors Jill Klentzman and Brian Thomas from the School of Engineering and Computer Science as well as Professor Jennifer Dickey from the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work traveled to the small colonia community of Las Lomas outside of Laredo to support a church with its needs. Social work students collaborated with the community members, assessing for community strengths and priorities for change. They drafted an asset-based assessment for the Holding Institute, an agency that serves the needs of immigrants and Cubano refugees on the border. Building on their work in Las Lomas from July 2016, the engineering students worked towards developing two water wells to assist the church and community with its water access problems.

While their service activities during the day were discipline-specific, the evenings included cross-disciplinary discussions and activities to foster understanding and mutual respect between the diverse student groups. The plights, stories, and needs of forced migrants were explored from the dual lenses of social services and infrastructure. Professor Thomas reported, “The opportunity to work together on a real project that benefits real people has helped some students confirm in their own minds that engineering is what they want to do with their lives. For others, the main benefit was experiencing close community with our engineering team and the social work team, as well as developing relationships with the community members and the faculty. When faculty members get to be practitioners alongside students, a whole new type of learning occurs.” A Baylor freshman, Ben Phillips, was enthusiastic about his experience in Las Lomas: “I think this week was one of the best weeks of my life. I felt like I was able to contribute to the project and actually impact people’s lives through the work done. I would love to do this kind of work for the rest of my life. There are ways God has blessed me (time, finance, knowledge, skills) that I can use to improve other people’s lives, and I feel so blessed through giving.”

Working side by side with community members to install a solar pump on last year’s water well.