Bucher becomes associate dean of SPGS


Jake Bucher, associate dean of the School of Professional and Graduate Studies.

After beginning his journey at Baker University as a student, Jacob Bucher is now the new associate dean of the School of Professional and Graduate Studies.

As an alumnus and Wildcat-at-heart, Bucher believes his experience makes him the best fit for the SPGS position. With first-hand knowledge of the university’s goals and focus on both the learner’s and the teacher’s perspectives, the sociology professor believes his insight is more valuable than any outside applicant’s.

The Wildcat

“I’m the first person in a while, if not ever, that’ll have this position that was previously with Baker, and I think that is a neat component in what makes me suited for the position,” Bucher said. “Since I graduated here and I’ve been here teaching, I know what Baker is and what Baker could be, so I’m bringing that to the table.”

Bucher said being a part of the Baker tradition in one form or another for more than a decade has done more than make him a proud supporter of the university and its goals. He hopes that his determination to rise to new challenges, like the responsibilities that come with being associate dean of SPGS, will help him achieve his goals.

“I’m somebody that likes challenges, I’m a problem solver,” Bucher said. “Since [SPGS] is kind of saying ‘here’s a school, figure it out,’ I like the idea of that challenge, and though it sounds cheesy, I like to work hard and I like to get things done. This new position is going to carry with it a lot of work and I’m actually excited about that.”

Regardless of his ambitions, Bucher admits that he would not have necessarily accepted the job if it had been anywhere other than another BU campus.

“I can stay connected to the students I have and still continue to serve Baker,” Bucher said. “If another school had offered me this position, it wouldn’t have been as appealing because I like to serve Baker. It’s a win-win in a lot of ways.”

The Sociology Professor

The titles associate professor of sociology and chair of department of criminal justice, along with a Kopke Award for Distinguished Teaching and other various campus honors, stem from Bucher’s time spent teaching Baker students from both the traditional and SPGS campuses.

Senior London Wise met Bucher during her sophomore year and describes every one of the classes she has taken with him as “absolutely incredible.” Her favorite is his prison course unique to the university, in which students from the SPGS and Baldwin City campus have the class together. Having taken it last year, and then deciding to take it again this year, Wise believes its truly a one-of-a-kind opportunity not to be missed.

“We’ve been talking about the criminal justice system lately and getting the 13 other outside students’ opinions on topics that we 13 inside students wouldn’t know a lot about has been unbelievable,” Wise said. “It’s an experience that I’ll never have again and one that I’ll treasure forever.”

Wise thinks Bucher’s teaching style set him apart from other professors. While tests and papers are a traditional way of gauging student learning, Bucher employs smaller assignments like journals and out-of-classroom experiences. Wise would argue that though they may seem tedious, the experiences and assignments are highly beneficial to students.

“I know that going into some of those classes, having to do those kinds of assignments and experiences may seem a little irritating at first because they are required, but after you start doing them you realize just how much it benefits you,” Wise said. “He has definitely offered a lot of experiences through his classes. Instead of just handing us textbooks, he handed us a first-hand opportunity to go inside a prison. He went outside of the box.”

Wise admits that for some students, walking into one of Bucher’s classrooms can be a bit intimidating.

“When I first met him, I was blown away,” Wise said. “He knew exactly what he was talking about through experience and that meant a lot to me. He can be intimidating in a way that is really powerful and that pushes you to do your best.”

Sophomore Katie Hibbler has known Bucher since entering Baker her freshman year. Now a sociology major because of Bucher’s influence, Hibbler believes that Bucher is more than just an amazing teacher and advisor.

“I came into Baker as a pre-med student and just this year I’ve switched over to sociology, and it’s purely because of him,” Hibbler said. “He’s been around to help with everything from changing my schedule to comforting me as a student, even when I needed someone to talk to. He’s one of those professors that goes beyond just being another professor. He genuinely cares about our well-being. I’d call him my friend, my teacher, and my advisor. He’s just always looking out for me and one of my role models for sure.”

The Road Ahead

Taking the next step in his career is an exciting and challenging adjustment for Bucher, but he is optimistic and looking forward to the experience.

“I’m excited about developing programs, and at this particular school there is a lot of opportunities to grow programs and come up with new programs, so I’m excited about that,” Bucher said. “I’m also excited to work with the people up there and am generally excited about where we can go and what we can do as a school. SPGS is an important part of Baker as an institution so I’m ready to help it get to where I know it can be.”

Although the excitement of his new responsibilities and obstacles to overcome propel him forward, the hardest part of the change for Bucher will be breaking the bonds he built with Baldwin City students.

“I’ve been so invested in my students that the notion of leaving was really hard to get over,” Bucher said. “I met with the students and told them that I will not be walking away from them. I also teach a program that partners with a prison, and I think we’re the only ones in Kansas who do that, so I didn’t want to walk away from that either. I am fortunate that I don’t have to fully give up giving opportunities to students.”

As he begins to make the position transition, students like Wise and Hibbler are sad to see him go, but understand the decision.

“I think that he has a ton of great ideas and that the higher up he goes, the bigger the impact will be on Baker,” Hibbler said. “We’ll miss him here, but sometimes people have to do bigger and better things and that’s what he’s doing.”

Hibbler and Wise will miss having Bucher around to talk to everyday.

“I feel blessed to have had him in my life. He’s amazing and I only wish great things for him with his upcoming job,” Wise said. “He’s been my motivation to do and try new things and I’ll treasure every silly email or meeting. I am so very happy for him.”