Topeka resident overcomes hearing impairment to earn BBA degree
Barbie Brooks persevered to earn a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Baker University.

Discovered by doctors to be hard of hearing at age 4, a condition stemming from nerve damage caused by her umbilical cord being wrapped around her neck at birth, the Topeka, Kansas, resident has overcome obstacles in her educational path. She completed her coursework on May 3 and will receive her diploma before family and friends on Saturday at the Collins Center. Her parents, sister, husband, children, in-laws and husband’s grandparents are expected to attend, joining in the celebration.

“I was fortunate to have a lot of support as I balanced school and family obligations,” said Brooks, the mother of three children, ages 9, 6 and 4.

Brooks completed the BBA coursework with a concentration in accounting in 18 months. She began the program at the Topeka campus before transitioning online.

“Going online to finish worked out well as I tried to juggle my kids’ schedules with their school activities and sports,” she said. “I was able to pick up more information and understand the courses better by going online.”

She learned of the Baker program through her husband’s grandparents, Charlotte and Don Parker. Don Parker is a 1955 Baker graduate and longtime supporter of his alma mater, serving as a trustee for several years. He plans to present Barbie her diploma on commencement day.

“Having so many people believe in me made it all worthwhile,” said Brooks, 34. “I have more patience now and it has become easier to grasp information.”

Brooks hopes to develop in a career managing budgets. Her husband recently started his own construction business, and she hopes to use the skills she learned in the business program to develop a career managing budgets.

“I enjoy helping people get out of debt and prepare a monthly analysis,” she said. “I oversee all the family finances and have been helping my parents and husband in this area.”

In addition to the family support while working on her bachelor’s degree, Brooks received plenty of assistance from Baker personnel along the way.

“The Baker student support staff worked with me throughout my time in the program and made it easy to communicate back and forth,” she said. “It was a very smooth process.”

Baker’s 100th doctoral graduate persevered

Pam Turner’s path to becoming Baker University’s 100th doctoral graduate was a self-proclaimed “journey to the mountaintop” and lesson in perseverance.

Between completing her coursework in the Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership program and starting her dissertation, Pam’s husband of nearly 30 years, Michael, was diagnosed with colon cancer. After undergoing surgery to remove the tumor, he endured 24 chemotherapy treatments, never complaining as was his nature. Pam was researching for the second chapter of dissertation before they were notified that he had masticated cancer of the liver, forcing more rounds of chemotherapy and a surgery in August 2013.

During his battle with cancer, Mike often asked his wife if she had gotten her doctorate. “I told him, ‘I hadn’t but once he got home and was on the road to recovery, I promised that the dissertation would be my primary focus.’” Mike passed away in November 2013 and three months later she began the arduous work of completing her dissertation. She officially became Dr. Turner in early February 2015.

“I think working on the dissertation was therapeutic and it kept my mind focused on something that he had been a part of for four years,” said Turner, a secondary math and science district facilitator for the Leavenworth (Kan.) School District. “I can honestly say that my promise to Michael pushed me every day to complete the study. My study is dedicated to him and while I could not have made this journey without the help of others, it was that promise which inspired me daily to complete the work that Michael had unselfishly supported and encouraged.”

Harold Frye, an associate professor for Baker’s School of Education graduate program and an adviser to Turner, admired the doctoral student’s determination.

“I was amazed at how Pam and other Baker doctoral candidates seem to persevere through difficult times and challenges that face them,” Frye said. “I was particularly impressed and humbled at how she was able to focus on her studies during her husband’s illness and passing.”

Turner’s dissertation, “Temperament Types, Job Satisfaction, Job Roles, and Years of Service of Doctor of Educational Leadership Candidates and Graduates,” investigated the relationships of factors than can influence a leader. Focusing on temperament types of candidates and graduates from Baker’s first nine cohorts, she examined archived data from a personality test, the Keirsey Temperament Sorter.

“I have always been interested in human behavior and leadership, so the potential study appealed to me,” she said.

An educator for more than 30 years, Turner is in her fifth year with the Leavenworth (Kan.) Public School District. She had been instructional coach before she transitioned this year into the secondary math and science district facilitator position. In this role, she works closely with the administration to ensure teachers have the resources and materials necessary to assist with their instruction.
“I make classroom visits, collect data around the areas of concern, and collaborate with the teacher to develop a plan, determine the course of implementation which will hopefully result in creating a safe, highly engaged classroom for students and teacher,” she said.
Turner became interested in Baker’s doctoral program because of the cohort model, attentive faculty and a flexible schedule that accommodated her schedule with a full-time job and responsibilities outside of work. She and her classmates met every Wednesday night for two years at the Overland Park campus.

“Each course prepared me with knowledge and skills necessary to experience success not only in the classroom, but on a broader scale in my educational career as a teacher and leader,” she said. “The coursework was balanced with educational and leadership theory as well as practical application. I think the Baker doctoral experience equipped me for the climb as a professional as well as experiences in my personal life. I gained confidence in my leadership competencies as a result of the process.

“I appreciated that they knew us personally and each one of them was willing to provide help and support when we needed assistance, and the expertise that each brought to the course was nothing less than exceptional. I became a better student as a result of Dr. Frye’s guidance.”

Turner knew since kindergarten she wanted to be a teacher. In grade school, she often was placed next to students who needed her assistance in the classroom. Her parents also played a role in allowing her to become more responsible at an early age.

“My parents encouraged me to use my God-given gifts and talents, encouraging me to learn something new every day,” she recalled. “They taught me the importance of perseverance, diligence, persistence and determination.”

Sibling rivalry was another motivator on her journey. Her sister, Cindi Barta, earned a doctorate from Baker in 2009.

“I couldn’t let her be the only member of the family that held the highest educational degree, especially when I had encouraged her to earn her master’s in educational leadership,” Turner explained. “Being the competitor that I am, there was no way that she was going be the sole owner of the ‘Doctor’ title. I am goal driven and determined, so that helped, but a little competition never hurts when you are working toward a challenge.”

Commencement details
Baker University will honor more than 300 undergraduates and 180 graduate students at three commencement ceremonies at the Collins Center on the Baldwin City campus.

Undergraduate degrees for the School of Professional and Graduate Studies will be conferred at 1 p.m., Saturday, May 9. Graduate degrees for the School of Education, School of Professional and Graduate Studies will be conferred at 4 p.m., Saturday, May 9.

At 1 p.m., Sunday, May 17, Baker will confer degrees to undergraduates in the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Education and School of Nursing.

Tony Brown, the chairman of Baker’s Master of Liberal Arts program, will be the keynote speaker at the two May 9 ceremonies. Aaron North, the vice president of education at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, will speak at the May 17 ceremony.

All who are celebrating Commencement Day are invited to attend brunch at the Long Student Center dining hall, at the corner of Sixth and Dearborn streets from 10:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. both days. Graduates will be honored guests of the university and will receive a complimentary ticket. Friends and family are welcome to attend for a fee of $8, which will be paid at the door. No reservations are necessary.

Immediately after the commencement ceremony, receptions will be held to honor graduates and their families and friends on the lawn north of the Collins Center. The rain location is the Long Student Center lobby.

For more information on commencement, go to: