For Jaime Vazquez, earning a master’s degree wasn’t a necessity. He already has three degrees under his belt—an associate degree in welding, and bachelor’s degrees in both criminal justice and business—so working for another piece of paper wasn’t on his to-do list. But as a case worker and translator for Latin Americans seeking asylum at the Texas border, he wanted to pursue an education, not necessarily a degree, that would open him up to different ways of understanding of the world.

After a year of searching for both the right program and the right university, he stumbled upon Baker University’s School of Professional and Graduate Studies, and more specifically, its Master of Liberal Arts program. The degree’s flexibility in scheduling and abundance of interesting courses sealed the deal, and he started his journey in June 2015.

“Education and social justice have been at the core of what I’ve fought for my entire life,” Vazquez said. “Baker offered me a liberal arts approach where I could expand on this life’s work. My ability to tailor my courses to further my knowledge both in general and in my focus area (natural and social sciences) was a big selling point.”

And his life’s work is extensive. After earning his degree in criminal justice, MLA student, Vazquez started his 25-year career in law enforcement. In addition, he owned his own sand and gravel business and held an elected school trustee position where he worked as an advocate for education. And for someone who has achieved so much and given so much of himself to his family and community, his decision to earn a master’s degree was based on only one thing: himself.

“I’ve accomplished a lot of things in my life,” Vazquez said. “I looked at other more rigid programs, but found that the MLA was who I really am. I couldn’t be happier with my degree.”

“Baker’s program allowed me to speak about politics, social justice, and literature all in one conversation,” Vazquez said. “It allowed me to expand in all that I know and everything that I’ve done. It really gives a broad view of the world and helps understand what drives people and what makes them tick.”

As for what’s next for Vazquez after presenting his defense in September, the answer is more social justice and a more significant way to serve. His next dream is to become a teacher within Immigration and Customs Enforcement or beyond, serving his community and his culture as a diversity trainer. He also hopes to keep working his way down the list of places he wants to visit. And most important on that list is Baldwin City, Kansas, where he will see the product of all of his hard work.

“As an advocate for education, graduation is really important to me,” Vazquez said. “The two hours I would spend sitting in that chair as I wait for them to call my name is worth more than a trip around the world.”

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