Dr. Baker

Recently, I was at my Alma mater, Wichita State University in Kansas, where I gave a speech on Leadership.  I spoke about developing shared values, perception and perspective, and conflict management.  Before the speech, I took a few moments in a quiet room to focus on some of the points I wanted to make.  The story of our shared values is a powerful one and I was excited to share how we developed them and how they are used.  As I prepared, I read over the following quote from Christine Feldman’s book, Compassion: Listening to the Cries of the World, that was to be shared when discussing perception and perspective.

By nurturing compassion, you also take responsibility for your own heart and mind.  Each one of your actions leaves an impression on the hearts of others.  The clarity or confusion, the love or resentment you cultivate inwardly makes its mark upon the world.  Every single thing you think, speak, or do has consequences and creates ripples of effect.  Understanding this more and more deeply, you learn to take care with your thoughts and actions (p. 56).

Finally I reviewed information about conflict management in groups.  This would be the most substantive part of the speech that I later found out hit home for many; if you work with other people, there will be conflict.  Planning ahead for how to have conflict is one of the keys to success.

After reviewing all of the major points, I headed to the theater-style auditorium to speak with people who were gathering and to give my speech.  As I got out of the elevator and rounded the corner, to my shock and amazement, there stood Dr. LaVerne Baker; I’ve told you our story before in my blog entitled, Are You an Advisor or an Advisor-Mentor? (As a reminder, she was one of my professors when I was an undergraduate student.  She also was the first African-American woman to graduate from Wichita State University with a Ph.D.).  I was awe-struck and had tears of joy and gratitude in my eyes.  The full strength of her amazing spirit was standing in front of me with a smile that lit the room.  We have communicated in recent years, but I had not seen Dr. Baker for more than 30 years.  There she stood as radiant as ever.  It took my breath away.   I honored her during my speech and said I would not be there that day had it not been for Dr. Baker and that is not an exaggeration.

Following my speech, the interim dean of Wichita State’s College of Health Professions went up to Dr. Baker and asked her how she recognized my raw talent all of those years ago.  She smiled and gave her quite little laugh and told him, “It was mighty raw.”  That was true and I am thankful she had faith in students’ potential.

My relationship with Dr. Baker exemplifies the positive use of power and privilege we all have to make a difference in students’ lives.  Cristina Feldman’s words quoted above capture the depth of the approach that will build our students’ belief in who they can become.  This is something we cannot afford to forget as we finish the last two weeks of this semester.  It may get harder to honor these words with the stress that comes with the end of the semester, but it is one of the most important things we can do.  Take a deep breath, focus on our purpose, and take a balanced approach that affords a few extra minutes here and there to share supportive words with our students.  If you do this well, there will be students who will remember what you did for them more than 30 years from now.

Shared Values Highlighted: Helping Student Achieve Goals; Professionalism

Feldman, C. (2005). Compassion: Listening to the cries of the world. Berkeley, CA: Rodmell Press.