Without a moment of hesitation, Karen Baker calls NIU “her university.”
Baker says that as a proud alumna who earned a trifecta of diplomas – a Bachelor’s in economics, Master’s in adult education and her law degree – and as someone who has dedicated nearly three decades of her professional life to creating the best possible campus experiences for students, faculty and staff.
In her current role as Associate Vice President Affirmative Action and Compliance, Title IX Coordinator, Baker’s impact involves educating and training thousands at the university about policies and procedures established to promote a campus free from discrimination and harassment, while overseeing investigations of workplace and other complaints. Baker has also been credited with creating the system for handling claims of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
That legacy recently earned Baker a Presidential Supportive Professional Staff Award for Excellence given to employees who best exemplify dedication to NIU.
“She works tirelessly to ensure all members of the university community experience an environment that reflects a community of diverse ideas, people and services; is free from all aspects of unfair, unequal and/or discriminatory treatment; complies with labor and employment laws; and encourages training and education,” Executive Vice President & Provost Lisa Freeman wrote in nominating Baker for the award.
In saying she’s not traveled this journey alone, Baker praised the mentors who guided her over the years and the efforts of her co-workers. She’s particularly proud of her involvement in work to promote equality and protect those who call NIU home.
“Karen’s many years of contributions to the NIU climate has benefitted the community in too many ways to count,” Associate General Counsel Sara Cliffe wrote. “Her dedication to the institution is unmatched and the care with which she performs her job can only be described as exceptional.”
Baker’s motivation is rooted in a commitment to ensure others are able to capture on the opportunities NIU offers – something is grateful to have experienced herself.
“I’ve been very fortunate. I’m a lifelong Huskie,” she said.