| 2015 Q2 | story by KATHERINE DIAZ |
Alexia Nyoni has traveled approximately 9,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean on an 18-hour flight from Harare, Zimbabwe for the past four years to attend Baker University. With a population of more than 4,000 residents, Baldwin City has been the home away from home for Nyoni, who is currently studying accounting and business administration.
“The people [is something that I appreciate about Baldwin] and how everyone is open and friendly,” Nyoni said. “A lot of people are willing to accept differences and find out more about where you’re from, find out the languages you speak and I like how they’re willing to diversify their interests and experience different things.”
According to Steve Rottinghaus the Director of Public Relations at Baker, this academic year, the university had 22 students from 13 different countries, which include France, Nevis & St. Kitts, Canada, Jamaica, Australia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Japan, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Germany, Belarus, Bahamas and the United Kingdom.
“We definitely have some students worldwide, but numbers-wise it doesn’t compare to the bigger schools,” Rottinghaus said. “But it’s definitely something that we’re proud of.”
The majority of students are from Kansas and Missouri, but there are students who come from coast to coast. Rottinghaus credits the sports coaches who do a great job in reaching out to youth potentials. Baldwin may be a small town, but it has much to offer and students are eager to be involved in the community.
“Baker students work closely with Baldwin City residents and organizations,” Rottinghaus said. “They regularly volunteer at schools and civic organizations in the city. They develop organizational and fundraising skills to assist in community endeavors, such as the local food pantry.”
Baker also encourages Baldwin residents to participate in events hosted by the university, such as theater events, musical events and also in the Quayle Bible Collection by visiting the exhibit, according to Rottinghaus. This mutual relationship has been effective in providing a welcoming and energetic atmosphere for Baldwin residents as well as for all who attend Baker.
“We have a close-knit campus community where everyone feels welcome,” Rottinghaus said. “A senior student from Zimbabwe has taken the initiative to organize social events for all international students, and coordinates activities for International Education Week to make them feel at home and create awareness for the entire campus community.”
That student being none other than Nyoni herself, who’s seen the attendance of international students at Baker grow by almost 50 percent. For Nyoni, someone had suggested Baker to her, although she didn’t think she’d actually attend. Soon, Nyoni found herself riding a plane across the Atlantic with Baker as her destination to study and also to play tennis. During her freshman year, most of the international students had been athletes from Canada or soccer players who’d been recruited from Canada or England. Now there are a variety of students from various countries and, to Nyoni, it’s a great thing to see how Baker is spreading out to different parts of the world.
“You’d think it being such a small school not many people would have heard of Baker, but it’s actually growing in popularity,” Nyoni said.
Baker and Baldwin might not have a large international group, but the international students that it has add a diverse aspect to it, especially being in Kansas, according to Nyoni. What has helped attract more of these students to the university includes recruiting connections, but the one to credit is word-of-mouth, Rottinghaus stated.
“When international students have a positive experience at Baker, they will let their friends know,” Rottinghaus said.
From an academic atmosphere, Baker has demonstrated its commitment in ensuring that student learning will lead to productive personal and professional lives, according to Rottinghaus. Through community service projects, Baker students learn that true leadership is that which provides service to others.
“On campus, in Baldwin City and across the country, students volunteer their time and resources to help create meaningful social change,” Rottinghaus said. “Students learn to work with people from diverse backgrounds to identify and accomplish common goals.”
Staff and faculty make it a priority to provide students with the tools and expertise to help them succeed in their career goals. One example Rottinghaus emphasized was the Baker University School of Nursing in Topeka, where students have exceeded the scores on state exams.
“I’m always amazed at how so many of our students at the nursing school have jobs lined up two to three weeks before graduation,” Rottinghaus said.
A college community, whether small or big, will consistently provide incoming students the resources needed to achieve their goals, both academic and social. Each community is unique based on the students who attend the university as it helps diversify the learning experience; giving real-life insight to what to expect after moving the tassel to the left on the graduation cap.
“It’s really great coming to a small place and realizing it might be different, but different is not always bad different, it’s actually good different,” Nyoni said.