A longtime volunteer, Baker is the winner of the Bronze Beaver in 2017, the largest award given by the MIT Alumni Association for services to the Institute and the Association. He also received the Lobdell Distinguished Service Award 2013. He served on the board of directors of the Alumni Association from 2013 to 2017, and was later a member of the Corporate Nomination Committee. From 2009 to 2017, Baker served as a member of the MIT Corporation Visits Committee for the Student Life Department, advising senior management of the Institute on issues including student counseling, extracurricular activities, residency and fraternities, sororities, and independent living groups. Baker has served on the board of his fraternity, Theta Xi, since 1984 and was a board member of the Association of Independent Living Groups, which he chaired for many years. He also helped found the 2016 Alumni Council.
You have maintained a strong relationship with MIT over the years, especially as a volunteer. What inspires you to stay involved?
In part, what inspires me is just the desire to return. Getting out of your own individual roles and doing something that helps the wider community is valuable and rewarding in itself. Also, I benefited greatly from interacting with alumni both as a student (working with alumni volunteers in my fraternity) and as a graduate student (when alumni returned to attend reviews and reviews at the Department of Architecture). I wanted to do the same.
“It’s incredibly worth working with people who aren’t exactly like you, but with whom you share values.”
Stephen D. Baker
I also remain attached to the Institute for the People. The people at MIT are truly extraordinary — alumni, students, professors, and staff. It’s incredibly worth working with people who aren’t exactly like you, but with whom you share values. Although we come from many different backgrounds and experiences, and have different views, as alumni we have a common thread that we were students at MIT. It is rewarding to work with people who have that shared experience.
When you start your term, we have been in a pandemic for more than two years. How does this affect the way you approach this role?
We are still in the midst of recovering from a truly unprecedented period of disruption, not only as a community of MIT, but also as a global community. I would like to try to understand the way the pandemic has changed the way we engage as an alumni community and how we treat each other. We had some positive conclusions from this experience, as we found that not everything has to be face to face and that sometimes there are advantages to a virtual encounter, especially for alumni who live far from campus and cannot return easily.
There are also some challenges arising from this time, one for recent MIT alumni and future alumni who have had very different experiences as undergraduate and graduate students during this time and therefore may not feel so connected leaving the Institute. I would like to try to understand as a community what challenges these factors impose and how the pandemic has changed us and our community.
What are your priorities in the role of MITAA President?