Archive for Thursday, August 23, 2001

The faces behind the scenes at Baker

August 23, 2001

Keeping Baker University running is no easy task just ask the people behind the scenes.

Consider the 900 students who must be housed, fed and educated. Then there are the 25 buildings that require daily maintenance, from the simple light bulb change to the more complicated boiler repair.

Here's a closer look at four people who make a daily impact.

Baker's baker

When Karlene Allen makes cookies, she means business.

Forget the typical three dozen, Allen, the university's baker, whips up 25 to 50 dozen cookies daily to feed hungry Baker students and staff. Then there are the batches of 20 dozen rolls and a host of other baked treats.

"It gives you a good feeling to know you make something people like," Allen said. "Cookies are probably their favorites. I always like finding new cookie and bar recipes."

While the rest of the university sleeps, Allen is in the kitchen by 5 a.m., gathering her ingredients and preparing her recipes. She must bake seven days worth of cookies and rolls in five days. She also handles catering for special events at Baker, which means extra desserts to make or a cake to decorate.

"My job is probably the most from scratch of any here in the kitchen," Allen said. "I try to keep things fresh. If there is some item they're not eating as well, I try to replace it with something else."

Allen will celebrate her 10th year at the university in December, but amazingly, she never set out to be a baker. She said she fell into it by accident while working as a kitchen helper at the University of Kansas. She assisted the baker a lot, and when an opening came up, they offered the position to her.

"It was a struggle at first and then I kind of found my own way," she said. "I burned some cookies and had a few flops in the beginning."

With the start of school, Allen is gearing up for one of her busiest times of the year when lots of special events require her expertise. Christmas time and the end of school are also busy.

Allen said the best part of her job is the daily variety and creativity.

"I can come in and express myself without having to adhere to strict guidelines," she said. "I can do my own things with recipes. It's flexible."

While Baker students get to enjoy her creations, her own children are not always so lucky.

"I don't bake at home except at Christmas time," Allen said. "They just never turn out as good as they do here."

Selling Baker

Fourteen years ago Cheryl McCrary became a self-proclaimed "road warrior" for Baker University. Now she calls herself a team captain.

McCrary isn't a coach or member of Baker's athletic department, but rather the new director of admissions for the university.

"You never grow up thinking you'll be in college admissions," McCrary said. "But I love it, and I love Baker."

McCrary, a 1987 Baker graduate, first became interested in the field while serving as a University Admissions Assistant (UAA) in college. She was hired after graduation as assistant director of admissions, which began her "road warrior" phase.

"I was on the road all the time, traveling to schools and college events," McCrary said. "I traveled extensively."

After working in admissions at Washington University in St. Louis and the St. Louis College at Miramac, she returned to Baker in January as associate director. In August she became director or as she calls it, "team captain." She is responsible for training and motivating six counselors in her department.

"Admissions is the team approach, because we all work together," she said. "We try to really make a personal connection with students. It's not over until we get them here."

The personal touch Baker offers prospective students is the element McCrary appreciates most about her job. Helping students discover whether Baker is a good fit for them is rewarding, she said.

"I'm helping them through one of the first big decisions in their lives choosing a college," she said. "It's fun to help students through that process and make a difference."

McCrary also enjoys planning recruitment, which she described as a big puzzle that must be pieced together. In the fall admissions begins anew, holding recruiting events and visiting high schools. After Christmas the team reconnects with students they met earlier, and by spring they return to high schools, and stage more events on and off campus. In the summer it's a matter of running six pre-enrollments and getting students to campus.

"We operate in a very competitive environment and there is no longer such thing as a slow time in admissions," she said. "It keeps us busy in every season."

Keeper of the books

When Kay Bradt became the Baker University librarian 26 years ago, students looked up books in card catalogues and wrote their term papers on typewriters.

Despite the radical changes brought about by computers and the Internet, Baker has kept up with the times thanks to Bradt. To stay current, she attends conferences, reads journals and keeps in contact with other librarians. She also has been actively involved in professional associations.

"Technology has really made an enormous difference in libraries," Bradt said. "It's really amazing to see the changes."

As Baker's library director, Bradt is the keeper of 65,000 books, 65,000 journals and documents, 600 audiotapes and 500 videos. She also orders books, assists students, handles staffing, deals with the budget and teaches research methods in classes.

"When I was little, my mom said I should be a librarian, because I wanted to know a little bit about everything," Bradt said. "Here at Baker I also can do a little bit of everything. I don't have to specialize like at larger libraries."

While many teen-agers consider far-fetched careers as actresses and sports heroes, Bradt knew at age 13 that she wanted to be a librarian. After taking a class in junior high about how to use the library, the librarian asked her to help teach the next class.

"I was hooked," she said. "I've felt really at home doing this."

Working individually with students is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job, Bradt said. She also likes Baker's small size.

"Because the library is small I can be involved in everything," she said. "I know all the faculty and a lot of the students. That's nice."

Bradt may face her biggest challenge this fall as she calls Mabee Gymnasium home for 18 months while Collins Library undergoes renovation.

"It will all be worth the wait," she said.

Mr. Fixit

Don't blame Scott Ikenberry when the lights go out.

"It's usually not a Baker problem," he said.

As one of Baker's electricians, Ikenberry is responsible for the upkeep of electrical equipment on campus. You won't find him sitting at a desk; in fact, you may have trouble finding him at all. His job takes him from rooftops to basements to solve maintenance problems, such as air conditioning issues and electrical repairs.

"We do what we can to take care of things," Ikenberry said. "There's something different every day. It doesn't get boring."

A recent morning caught Ikenberry working on an air conditioner at Mabee Gym, preparing a boiler for removal at Parmenter Hall and hanging a new ceiling fan in a residence hall. Ikenberry has worked at Baker for 11 years, but said he still finds most of his job interesting, especially trouble-shooting potential problems.

"There is no typical day around here," he said. "I get started on one thing and they call about something else. It's job security."

Summer is one of his busiest times as his department prepares for students to return. It's also the best time to avoid bothering students.

"We can get in and do work without having to worry about classes or move student stuff," he said. "It's when we can pretty much get to everything without bothering people."

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