Spring Commencement 2023: Michaela Baker, College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences
You’ve read stories like this before.
The one where a high school student arrives at Radford University for a college visit, absorbs the beauty of campus, is greeted by friendly and helpful staff and finds mentors among the world-class faculty.
Michaela Baker’s story has all the ingredients of those familiar Highlander journeys but with her own fresh twist on the narrative.
Baker’s first campus visit gave her a feeling that Radford would be a transitional experience. And later, during Quest, her mother, Yvette, had the same impression.
“I think this school would be perfect for you,” Baker recalled her mother saying after only a day spent on campus attending the university’s orientation program.
“We met some professors who came up and spoke to us, and they were really nice,” Baker recalled. “All of the advisors were really nice, and my mother loved the campus and loved the community. I really value her opinion, and that meant a lot to me.”
Choosing Radford turned out to be an easy decision for Baker, a first-generation college student. However, when she arrived weeks later, she felt as if she were behind her fellow freshmen, having spent many hours of her high school life working in a restaurant near her home in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“I felt like I was lacking some of the tools and knowledge that college students have,” Baker said. “But when I came to Radford, I threw myself into clubs and organizations, and that gave me confidence in my abilities and all I can do.”
That first year, the motivated freshman involved herself in the Research Rookie program, delving into an exploration of judicial ethics with Assistant Professor of Political Science Professor Allyson Yankle. Later, she did her own research, looking into students’ interest and involvement in politics.
But she didn’t stop there.
Always motivated to learn and do more, Baker became involved with the Student Government Association; participated in Advocacy Day at the state capital in Richmond, Virginia, on behalf of her university; worked as a research mentor to help up-and-coming students thrive in their own work; and, during her senior year, served as student representative to Radford’s Board of Visitors.
On top of it all, Baker is a double major. Political science came first – “because I knew I wanted to go to law school,” she said. She added sociology as a sophomore after she enrolled in a class and “fell in love with the discipline,” partly because of her “phenomenal professor.”
Juggling two majors and a full schedule of campus activities can be difficult and exhausting.
How does Baker do it?
“It can be difficult. I had to learn better time-management skills, and I just had to remember to keep a level head and stay grounded,” she said, standing in The Christopher S. Huther Courtroom, where she regularly applies her growing knowledge of the legal field as a member of Radford’s budding mock trial team.
Baker’s time at Radford has been filled with exciting ventures and personal growth opportunities. When she walks across the stage at commencement on May 6, it will be a bittersweet moment; “stepping into adulthood,” she said, and leaving behind the campus she and her mother fell in love with four years ago. Her mother, father, stepmom, sister and two of her best friends from back home in Charlotte will be in the commencement crowd to support and cheer her on.
“This has been my home for the last four years, and I have met my lifelong friends here,” she said of Radford. “It is such an amazing community I’ve built here.”
Baker plans to take a gap year and work in an internship with a nonprofit organization and “then go to law school,” she said, the following year.
She has it all planned out, writing a story like you’ve never read before.