Humans of Parkland: Derrick Baker, Dean of Learning Support
Derrick Baker, originally from Lexington, Ill. is the dean of learning support at Parkland.
Baker started as a part-time math instructor in 2008 before moving on to teaching humanities and philosophy and finally his current position.
“Two years ago I became the Director of Professional Development and Instructional Technology, and last July became the Dean of Learning Support,” Baker said.
Baker was drawn to Parkland because of his love of teaching.
“In a lot of ways I am a teacher at heart,” Baker said. “So while I was in seminary studying to teach as a pastor, I also envisioned myself teaching college students at some point in my career. But I assumed I would wait until I had the opportunity to go back to school for my doctorate first. Life didn’t exactly turn out to work in that order, and I found myself in a situation where I needed the extra work and there was an opportunity to teach. So I applied at Parkland and got my first teaching assignment. At the time I thought it was a temporary gig to get by for a while. Nine years later, I guess I was wrong!”
Baker did not always know that he was going where he has gone, especially not while he was in college.
“I’m sure I could come up with a lot of things I needed to hear when I was in college, but what comes to mind right now is this—‘You think you know what you’ll be when you grow up, but you don’t have a clue!’” Baker said. “The best preparation you can make for your future is to work on becoming the person you want to be. What you believe about the big questions, what questions you learn to ask, how you approach life and other people, and knowing how to take up unforeseen challenges – these are the things that will define your life more than what your degree says. And you don’t get there without being both teachable (you’re not as perfect as you think you are!) and critically reflective (you have to be willing to carefully examine ideas and assumptions).”
Now as the Dean of Learning Support, Baker works to support other students learning, while working on a doctorate of his own.
“In the big picture, my responsibility is to support academic quality, student success, and innovative ways of teaching and learning,” Baker says. “I do this through a few different functions.”
“My primary role is serving the division of learning support—which includes the library, the Center for Academic Success, and Professional Development and Instructional Technology (PDIT). This includes supporting the work of faculty through our online learning programs, the Cobra Learning system, instructional technology, and faculty development.”
“I also administer the college’s general academic policies affecting students’ academic transcripts, academic standing, and issues related to academic integrity. So I work with students returning from academic suspension or who want to request a medical withdrawal, for example.”
“Finally, I work at a broader level with others across the college on collaborative projects that affect academic quality and student success – including everything from academic assessment to student retention. And of course, “other duties as assigned”, which always generates some interesting projects!”
One of Baker’s favorite parts of his job is the people he gets to work with.
“I am really grateful and honored that I get to do what I do, and to work with the people I work with,” Baker said. “I get to work with some great people, and I have the privilege of seeing some of the stories of our students’ success.”
When not working on academics Baker enjoys spending time with his wife and five kids.
“We like to play games, read books, or be outside,” Baker said.
Baker also volunteers as a pastor at his church and enjoys basketball and soccer.