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accents on english | fall 22-spring 23

Behind the curtain with Demetria Baker

Super scheduler and so much more

The design team charged with transforming Ross-Blakley Hall from an emptied library to the new home of the Department of English envisioned a bustling open-concept space. “Like an Apple Store,” the team suggested to the gape-mouthed horror of faculty and staff consulting with them. In the end, practicality superseded design. Offices, enclaves, and designated spaces for students were created, but the desired bustle is always there in the hallway outside of RBHL 121, where Senior Program Manager Demetria Baker is found.

Courtesy photo of Demetria Baker

The title of senior program manager offers little insight into all that Baker does. Most of her colleagues are aware that she is responsible for Writing Programs scheduling, working with the complex entanglement of student needs, teacher preferences, and the availability of classrooms to ensure the offer of approximately five hundred sections of first-year composition per semester. Kyle Jensen, director of Writing Programs, noted that Baker has a deep administrative knowledge and is thorough and discerning. “Her attention to detail travels outside the immediate task of solving an administrative problem within the English department, specifically and ASU more generally.”

This meticulousness serves Baker well in scheduling, a process she describes as “like putting together a 1,000-piece puzzle. The edges are the simple assignments—and the more complicated pieces, well…  I do enjoy it because I do enjoy a good puzzle. Not only am I building the schedule, I’m also staffing.”

In staffing, Baker shows a true dedication to the teachers she works with through an awareness of their needs, memorizing an incredible amount of information. A dear friend of twenty years and long-time colleague Kathleen Hicks shared, “I have witnessed Demetria making schedule adjustments and going out of her way to arrange classrooms, times, and modalities to suit peoples’ needs. I have heard her say things like, ‘I can’t put this person here because their first class is across campus and they recently had ankle surgery.’ Or, ‘this person needs to pick up their children after school, so they can’t teach this late.’ And, the amazing thing is, it all seems to be in her head!”

While many of her colleagues know about Baker’s role in scheduling, fewer are aware that her position is actually far larger. She manages the Writing Programs office. She is part of the articulation team that evaluates transfer courses related to first-year composition and other critical writing-based classes. She also manages and oversees the enrollment practices for the various campuses and works closely with the advising community. In her own words: “Anything related to first-year composition and the graduation requirement—I’m somehow involved.”

Asked to illuminate something unknown about Baker’s myriad contributions to the department and The College, Hicks emphasized her impact on undergraduate students. “I think one thing people don’t know is what an excellent supervisor and mentor Demetria is for Writing Programs student workers. She not only invests a lot of time and effort into training as they come and go, but in mentoring them professionally. She is imparting important lessons that I know these students are taking with them into their future careers.” In addition to careful training and maintaining a close mentor relationship with her student workers, Baker is a role model of supportive leadership. She attends PhD defenses, photographing graduates with signs that she has made proclaiming them Doctors of Philosophy. “That is an important contribution,” Hicks said, noting how many people Baker has impacted during her time at ASU. “Demetria is a great team-leader fostering a caring atmosphere for students through celebrating their milestones and making sure their accomplishments are recognized.” Jensen, added, “In all situations, Demetria factors the personal lives of our colleagues into the decision-making process, which means that her recommendations are rooted in compassion, understanding, and care.”

The positive work environment that Baker now cultivates is something that drew her to the English Department after completing her degree. “I realized ASU was a great place to work so I stuck with it. … I’ve worked with great leadership, faculty, colleagues and students, so I’ve felt comfortable staying.”

Outside of work, Baker enjoys spending time with family and friends. “I love dining at nice restaurants, especially ones with a view. When I head home to Southern California, my friends and family know that when we go out to dinner, I’m going to want to head to the beach where the views are great and the weather even better.” Baker also enjoys grilling, “charcoal only,” walking in the early morning when the Arizona weather is cooler, and house plants. All work and no play doesn’t only make Jack a dull boy; Baker loves going to the state fair and to comedy clubs. Jensen shared one that of the key things he’s learned from Baker since joining the department is “how to laugh through difficult situations.” Who makes Baker laugh? Her favorite comedians include “Ms. Pat, George Lopez, and Wanda Sykes.”

Jenny Irish

Image 1: Courtesy photo of Demetria Baker