Five graduates—Mason Dukes, Frisco, Texas; John Ely, Lawrence, Kansas; Maya Hodison, Lawrence, Kansas; Emma Howard, Lawrence, Kansas; and Jake Miller, Paola, Kansas—were named Outstanding Seniors at the May 15 Commencement Ceremony at Liston Stadium.
“The Outstanding Senior Award recognizes graduates who displayed superior achievement and leadership during their time at Baker,” said Dr. Cassy Bailey, dean of students.
Beginning this year, the Outstanding Seniors received a cash award made possible by the Outstanding Senior Endowed Fund, established through a gift from the Class of 2021. Congratulations to these outstanding seniors and all 2022 graduates.
Dukes graduated with a major in exercise science and will attend the Duke University School of Medicine’s physical therapy program this fall. While at Baker, he played basketball and served as the Exercise Science Student Alliance president and Sigma Phi Epsilon president, he helped create the Peer Mentor Program, and he served as the academic chair for the Interfraternity Council. He was a physical therapy technician at Bird Physical Therapy in Lawrence and a PT clinical volunteer at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
“My Baker experience was one that was truly remarkable,” Dukes said. “I focused on my studies and basketball as I was a player on the team. However, I found my place through Sigma Phi Epsilon because of the people that I met who helped me further develop myself as a person. I continued to get involved because Baker’s culture is like no other when it comes to finding outgoing people like myself. This culture made me realize I had to elevate myself and my standard because there are so many other people doing great things such as my two mentors and closest friends within my fraternity. I will continue to treasure it because of the people—friends, mentors, and professors—that helped me along the way and the cultural standard Baker sets on its students to elevate their standard to be successful when they graduate.”
Ely graduated with a major in mathematics. He works as an analyst for Pro Football Focus and will coach football at Lawrence High School this fall. His Baker activities included serving as student body president (2021-22) and student senate executive treasurer (2020-21). He was named Fraternity Man of the Year (2021) and was president of Zeta Chi (2021). Ely was a teaching assistant in fall 2020 and a math tutor in 2019-21. He also was a University Admissions Assistant for two years. His volunteer efforts included planning a walk-a-thon to benefit Children’s Mercy.
“My experience at Baker was outstanding from start to finish,” Ely said. “My freshman year I came in and immediately found a group of people I felt very comfortable with and that really helped me grow as an individual. As I continued in my time at Baker, I became much more invested in my community and my academics than I ever was previously. It was very easy to invest deeply in my Baker experience when the faculty and staff I was surrounded with all invested a lot of time in me. The friendships I built through Baker have been meaningful and deep, and I feel confident that the relationships I hold closest will continue to develop for the rest of my life.”
Hodison graduated with a major in mass media with a multimedia emphasis and a sociology minor. She is a reporter for the Lawrence (Kansas) Times and plans to continue with journalistic writing and reporting as a career. Her campus involvement included being a member of the women’s soccer team, serving as news editor of the Baker Orange, and serving as president of Mungano. She also was a student member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group and a board member of Total Equality Alliance. Hodison was recognized as the Student Leader of the Month in October 2020 and received the 2021 Milan-Harris Award for Promoting Diversity.
“Being on the women’s soccer team gave me an instant family that I could stick with as a little freshman when I came to Baker in 2018,” Hodison said. “Being on the Baker Orange staff was also a highlight of my four years, and I was able to participate in more campus activities as time went on. Most importantly, I was happy at Baker. I rarely went home on the weekends because I wanted to spend all the time I could on campus. Though I benefited from so many aspects of Baker, I don’t think I’d be the person I am today had I not gotten more involved in Mungano. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, empowered me to be more vocal, and allowed me to meet and form relationships with wonderful and inspiring people. I would not have even thought I was capable of holding a leadership position of such a historic and deeply cultural Baker organization like Mungano if it weren’t for the 2020 graduating Mungano seniors pushing me to apply and the amazing Student Life staff members supporting me.”
Howard graduated in three years with a major in public health. She will serve this summer as a fellow for the political organization Loud Light, which works to foster youth activism. Howard was the social media editor of the Baker Orange and served as president and vice president of marketing for Student Activities Council. Other campus and community involvement included being interim president and vice president of operations at Delta Delta Delta sorority, vice president of Student Senate, and secretary of the Public Health Student Association. She received the 2020 Rising Star Award, given by Sorority and Fraternity Life at Baker.
“My time in college has been one of the biggest blessings of my life,” Howard said. “This was the place where I not only learned how to be a better student but more importantly a better person. I met mentors who supported me in every endeavor and served as my guiding light every step of the way. I was fortunate to meet lifelong friends who are incredibly smart, talented, and kind and who truly make the world a better place. There were a lot of bumps along the way that I now recognize as growing pains. Every opportunity I pursued on campus led me down a path to more involvement, and being a part of on-campus organizations paved the way for so many memorable experiences. Baker has been a big part of my support system, and leaving behind Baldwin is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.”
Miller graduated with majors in business finance and accounting and a minor in prelaw. In July, he will start his career as an audit associate at FORVIS. He interned with Smail and Associates and was a bank teller in his hometown of Paola. His Baker activities included serving as a student-athlete mentor and tutor and a University Admissions Assistant. He was recognized as an NAIA Champion of Character and was a member of the wrestling team. He won the grand prize in the 2020 BOOK Award competition, in which students develop additional activities to enhance an internship experience. He was also a member of the Phi Eta Sigma and Delta Mu Delta honor societies.
“Baker has been more than I could ever imagine,” Miller said. “I have met many of my greatest friends and made some great memories. I will always be grateful for what this university has done for me. Receiving this award was my greatest accomplishment because it proved to me that one of my goals had been met. My first day of college at Baker I vividly remember writing my goals down at my desk. I still have this paper today. At the top it states, Before I graduate I will 1.) Make a lasting impact on the people around me.”