Baker to be future EPSH Department Chair

As she sat in the teal chair, Professor Lori Baker seemed to exude professionalism. Her office was cozy and inviting. She had comic strips, children’s artwork, and a poster from the band U2 pinned to a bulletin board. Pages and pages of work from her years of teaching at SMSU were crammed onto a hulking bookshelf.

Baker grew up in Nebraska and attended university in her home state. She attended the University of Nebraska-Kearney, which was four hours away from her home. “Far enough to get away,” Baker said with a warm smile, “but still close enough that I could go home for visits.” From this institution Baker earned a bachelor’s degree in English. She originally intended to double major in English and biology, but she dropped the biology major to a minor.

During her time at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, Baker worked at the first writing center on her campus. Baker mentioned that the writing center was more of a place that people went to learn more about Word processing than a place that people went for help with their writing. Regardless, the writing center helped Baker improve her writing and teaching skills. It also allowed her to use and develop her analytical side.

Looking back, various educators in Baker’s life greatly impacted the choices she made that led her to becoming an English professor. When she was in the fourth grade, Baker won an essay contest. Looking back, she was excited about having won but didn’t truly understand what it meant.

In high school, one of Baker’s teachers pulled her aside and told her that they wanted her to read a specific novel because they thought she would understand and enjoy it. “I’ve always been a vivacious reader,” Baker said. She was an advanced student due in part to this appetite for reading and learning.

In college, Baker’s teachers encouraged her to apply to go to graduate school. She never hesitated; Baker applied at a variety of graduate schools and planned on continuing her education as soon as she obtained her bachelor’s degree. “I’m so glad that I had professors that knew me well enough to suggest graduate school. My professors certainly led me down the right path.”  She was accepted at a number of graduate schools but decided to attend Purdue University. From there she earned a master’s degree and a PhD, both in English with a rhetoric and composition emphasis.

Baker felt that she made a great choice in deciding to attend Purdue University. “Purdue is very supportive of its students. I always felt like they set me up to be successful.” During her last year of graduate school, Baker was one of a handful of people teaching the first-year graduate students how to teach. Although she didn’t originally intend to teach, she later realized that teaching was a great fit for her.

After receiving her PhD in 1997, Baker came straight to SMSU. She is a professor of English and the director of the writing center on campus. She will also be taking over as chair of the English, Philosophy, Spanish, and Humanities (EPSH) Department on July 1, 2019.

As chair of the EPSH department, Baker has a lot on her plate. “I want to support all of the faculty in the department and see that they can obtain any and all of their goals,” Baker said. “Our programs are so vital; I want to see them grow.” Aside from supporting her fellow colleagues, Baker will be focusing on budgeting, assessment, and program prioritization. She will need to keep accurate records of what goes on in the EPSH department.