Baldwin City The final candidate of three vying for Baker University’s presidency said it was the school’s “specialness” and “values” that prompted her to seek the position, but added that the alliance of the school and Baldwin City’s history with her scholarly interest also intrigued her.
Carolyn Stefanco, vice president for academic affairs and dean and professor of history and women’s studies at Agnes Scott College, a women’s liberal arts college in Decatur, Ga., was introduced Monday at a campus gathering of Baker students, faculty and staff and Baldwin community members.
According to her profile on the Agnes Scott website, Stefanco is among the “first-generation” of academics in women’s studies and history. Her specialty is the history of women in the U.S. Civil War South and the 19th century West.
Stefanco said both Baker and Baldwin City’s roots in the Santa Fe Trail and Civil War added interest to the position.
“It’s an attraction, because it reminds me of my time in Colorado, collecting oral histories and reading through archives,” she said.
Stefanco’s undergraduate studies at the University of Colorado were the start of a well-traveled academic career. She went from that school to earn her master’s degree at State University of New York, Binghamton, and her doctorate at Duke University. She has taught at Oklahoma State University, Wheaton (Mass.) College and California Polytechnic State University. She was also founding dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at California State University, Stanislaus. She earned a Fulbright Scholarship to teach and study in 2008 and 2009 at the University of Zagreb in Zagreb, Croatia.
Stefanco explained to the gathering Monday that it was shared values that had her seeking to make Baker her next academic career destination.
“When I saw the ad, I just thought Baker was something really special,” she said. “When I talked with the search consultant early on in the process, that person convinced me that she had spent enough time at this institution and that she knew it was special and what you put into that position prospectus was actually representative of who you really are.
“That means so much to me, because I want to be an authentic person. When you act in the way that you really are on the inside, I think you are really destined for success.”
Baker would allow her to draw on her current and past experiences with small liberal arts colleges and starting off-site degree programs in California, Stefanco said. Baker has an offsite nursing program in Topeka and professional graduate campus sites in Lawrence, Overland Park, Wichita, Kansas City, Mo., and Lee’s Summit, Mo.
“I also think it is the values of Baker that really drew me here — the commitment to community and to character building,” she said. “Mostly for students, but also for faculty and staff so we all are the best people possible.”
Stefanco said she would be accessible to students. At Agnes Scott, she regularly dines at the campus cafeteria, has open student office hours and hosts and attends campus events.
In addition to the presidential search, Baker will replace its deans of education and nursing and the position of campus minister. Stefanco said any search under her leadership would be transparent, inclusive and collaborative.
“I like hiring good people,” she said.
Stefanco’s visit to the Baldwin City campus followed those last week of Lynne Murray of Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., and Charles Taylor of Drury University in Springfield, Mo.
Hoot Gibson, chairman of the university presidential search committee, said the three finalists were chosen from 71 applicants. The committee would now be faced with the difficult task of selecting from three excellent finalists, he said.
Gibson said the committee would meet Nov. 25.
“I anticipate we will have an announcement before Thanksgiving,” he said.