Baker dean born to academic life
Growing up in Manhattan as the son of a Kansas State University professor, Brian Posler was immersed into college life at an early age.
From the time he stepped onto campus as an undergraduate at Cornell College, to this fall, when he began his duties as Baker University’s executive vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Posler has never left the university setting.
Posler accepted the newly created position as Baker’s chief academic officer in March after years of experience in higher education, all of which was sparked by knowledge of his father’s experiences and his involvement as an undergraduate student.
“I loved being on the college campus and what it meant to be a college student,” Posler said. “I got to thinking, ‘this atmosphere, a college campus, is the sort of place I would really like to be. How can I take my passions and work it out so I can do this long term?’ Essentially, I liked college so much that I ended up never leaving.”
As an undergrad at the residential liberal arts school in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, Posler dabbled in varying interests. He served as a resident assistant, covered football for the student newspaper, was a disk jockey on the radio station and participated in intramural athletics. This involvement then triggered his interest in graduate studies at Rice University.
The newly wed and recent college graduate packed his belongings and left his Midwestern roots to study in Houston, Texas. Posler received his masters and Ph.D. from Rice, and then landed his first teaching job as an assistant professor of political science at the University of Texas at Tyler.
Posler had a whirlwind of a year at Tyler. As a first-time professor, he was also finishing his dissertation and celebrated the birth of his first child. He made it through the year though and took a position that would impact the rest of his career.
Posler began his job at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., as a young professor of political science but worked his way through the ranks with the help of those around him.
A senior colleague at Millikin served as mentor for Posler, guiding him to become a better professor.
Posler said Michelle Deardorff, who is now a professor of political science at Jackson State University, took him under her wing when he was “new and green,” and became one of the most influential people in his career.
“She was so good at both the faculty roles and the administrative roles,” Posler said. “She kind of helped me learn how I could be successful in lots of different ways, so I owe a lot to her.”
Deardorff said Posler was a dedicated and excited faculty member, who made a lasting impression on his students.
“Dr. Posler had probably been teaching with us six years or so, when he pulled his back … he was working from home, he had to lay flat out for a period of time and he taught his class on speaker phone,” Deardorff said. “We got the students together and they gathered around the phone and he held class. I think that pretty much sums up Dr. Posler and why I value him so much. The students never forgot those class sessions.”
Posler was tenured at Millikin and worked his way up the ladder, becoming chair of the political science department and the first faculty member to serve on the board of trustees. It was also at Millikin where he first became involved in administrative roles, which helped guide him to become the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of Southern Indiana and eventually the second in command at Baker.
Erin Joyce, assistant dean for liberal studies, appreciates Posler for his approachability and believes Baker will benefit from this trait.
“The fact that he is so approachable and he is so down-to-earth, that’s really what Baker is all about,” Joyce said. “We are not a snotty type of institution. We believe our first goal is to help the students, and so the fact that he is so compassionate, caring and down-to-earth, I think that he is a perfect fit for Baker.”
While taking the job at Baker was a homecoming of sorts for Posler, part of his heart will remain in Indiana until the end of the calendar year.
Posler’s wife and son will join him and his daughter in Lawrence in December when she finishes her position as a preschool teacher at the end of the semester. However, until Posler can close the 450-mile gap between him and the other half of his family, he will be learning lyrics to Taylor Swift songs with his teenage daughter.
“The real thing that’s amazing is they are so supportive,” Posler said. “This is a hard move for everybody. We are uprooting the lives that we had to come, and they are doing it to support me and this opportunity that I had. I am just very grateful and thankful. I feel blessed that I have the support that I have at home to be able to take this on and do this job.”