Baker plants vision

Story by Kyle Davis

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Several weeks ago, a tree on Baker University’s campus, thought to be 150 years old, was struck down in a storm.

On Sept. 9, during University President Pat Long’s State of the University address, the planting of a new tree became symbolic of Baker’s future after facing budget and financial problems last year.

The focus of the address was helping Baker grow through an initiative titled “Baker 2012 and Beyond,” and after the speech, Long and other members of the university gathered to plant a new tree south of Parmenter Hall.

“I’m going to invite you to come with me and physically be part of this tree planting and be part of thinking about how we’re going to grow Baker for the next 150 years,” Long said during the address.

Long started the address by thanking the faculty and staff for their work and dedication to Baker during the past 18 months, and closed by asking the faculty to join in the vision to increase Baker’s growth.

“I am ready, I am committed and I have the courage, and I hope you will join me on this journey,” Long said.

The university is still awaiting an audit for last year’s official financial figures, but Long said Baker ended with more than $1 million in revenue over expense, and it was the first time in more than a decade the university had ended the year with more revenue than expense.

“We’re back where we really need to be. It’s a good place to be,” Chief Operating Officer Susan Lindahl said. “It’s a lot better than it was a year ago, and I think that we will continue to monitor and reposition the university in a good way.”

However, Long also said Baker needs to still increase its revenue through fundraising and bringing in more students.

“I think we’re kind of a really well-kept secret,” Warren Swenson, Baker University Student Senate president, said. “I think the quality of education that is available here, and the faculty that is here and the administration that is here all are really phenomenal. My hope would be in the future that more students are aware of that.”

The “Baker 2012 and Beyond” initiative is being planned this year and launched in 2012, and a draft of some of the university’s goals should be completed for the first Baker University Board of Trustees meeting Oct. 29 and 30.

The vision of the initiative includes five areas: buildings and facilities, academics and accreditation, serving students, enrollment growth and financial and human resources.

“I think that we will continue, over the next year, to see incremental changes, but I think that people are starting to dream big again about what is possible and what direction do we want to go and how do we plan to get there,” Lindahl said.

Even with 2012 being the timeline for the initiatives, several moves are also looking to be completed this year. Baker is in the process of hiring two custodians and Long would like to have the first floor of Denious Hall running with student services, including financial aid, admissions and records and registration by the end of the school year.

Long said early communication with the university was important this year after it was more difficult to communicate last year, because of legal constraints or quick decisions needing to be made.

“It felt like over the last year it was just very difficult to kind of continue getting the word out,” Long said. “So this year, I wanted to start the year early, I wanted to say where I think we’re going as Baker and what we’re putting as our priorities, and that was all-important to me.”