Archive for Thursday, July 20, 2006

Long takes Baker’s reins

July 20, 2006

Baker University President Patricia Long has made the college her home, but not quite Baldwin City.

Long took over the university July 1, after Dan Lambert retired after 19 years at the helm. During her first two weeks on the job, Long has been commuting from Kansas City because the Collins House isn't quite ready for Long and her husband, Dennis, to move in.

"We are just doing some repainting and touching up in the house," said Gary Walbridge, director of the physical plant. "We are trying to get it done as quickly as possible. We are hoping to be done in a week or two."

Despite the delay, Long expects to be moved in shortly.

"We are hoping to be in the house permanently by the first of August," Long said. "I am still commuting right now."

Although she isn't permanently in Baldwin yet, Long likes the town and its people.

"I love the town," Long said. "The first week people kept bringing in flowers to welcome us here."

She also loves Baker, which was one reason she wanted to come here.

"I am having a great time," Long said. "This is a wonderful university. It doesn't take long to fall in love with Baker University."

Edrie Swanson, executive assistant to the president, also said that Long cares about the university.

"Before she came here, she did her homework on Baker," Swanson said. "She hit the ground running. She has also been listening to people. She is a very good listener. She has certainly done her homework and she really cares about the university."

During her tenure, Long hopes to work with the community to keep a good relationship with it and the university.

"We benefit the city we are in and the city benefits us," Long said. "There is great synergy. We want to be part of this city for sure. Obviously we are a big part of this city and I want to be part of this city. So, whatever growth takes place on the Baker campus, we want to be sure it is in line with the city's growth."

Since she has only been in office for less than three weeks, Long hasn't had much time to sit down and discuss goals for the university. She has managed to discuss a few of them, but nothing real specific.

"I think there are general issues anywhere you are that impact students, their learning and the facilities they use," Long said. "To say anything specific, I really couldn't, but I know it will be in the frame of making sure we have quality educational resources."

Long did say there are a few items of note that she must look at improving quickly.

"There are some obvious ones that we will, of course, have to do," Long said. "One of those is the residence halls, which are fairly aged. Kids coming out of high school are expecting something a little better. So that will be one thing we will be needing to look at."

Other goals for Long are improving the science department and continuing to work on scholarships.

"We know that we need new labs in the science building," Long said. "We also need to continue to work on student scholarships in the largest way possible. We want to bring in the best and brightest, but we have to scholarship those students."

One project that should be completed soon is the renovations at Liston Stadium. The project includes an artificial turf field and an eight-lane track.

The renovations are expected to be finished in the middle of August.

"It will really be nice have that and we are excited about it," Long said. "I hear that is really going to add to our sports facilities."

Since this is Long's first year at Baker, the university is planning an inauguration for the fall. There is no date set yet, but Long is ready for it to happen.

"We are really looking forward to that," Long said of the inauguration. "We have some really big events coming up. The inauguration will be coming up soon. Inaugurations are really about honoring the history and traditions of the academy as a whole. But, they are also about looking to the future."

Another big celebration in Baker's future is the school's 150th anniversary, which will happen in 2008.

The idea of being a part of such an event has Long excited.

"The 150th anniversary is all about the history," Long said. "It will be nice for the alums to come back and be part of that. So we have some great events coming up."

Since being at Baker, Long has made an impression on Swanson.

"I have enjoyed working with her very much," Swanson said. "She is very warm and personable. She cares a lot about the students. She is making her presence known."

One of the main reasons Long wanted to come to Baker was the school's history. She hopes to continue the tradition as she begins her reign as president.

"We have a really strong history and we have some great things going, we still continue to have very strong programs at all our schools," Long said. "I think we are at a good place of strength for all of our students. We are a comprehensive university."

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