When you speak with the Rev. Dori Baker, it becomes immediately clear that this is a woman who has found her calling. She specializes in mentoring young adults — particularly young women — as they figure out their futures. While I feel I have a good grip on who I am and what I want in life, I still felt better after speaking with Baker. I thought to myself, She’s good.
Baker is the new chaplain and director of spiritual life for Sweet Briar College and the current scholar-in-residence for the Foundation for Theological Education. What Baker finds most fulfilling about working with college-age women is that they are at the point in life when they are asking the hard questions. As they grapple with finding what gives their lives purpose, Baker wants to be a conversation partner and a mentor for their paths forward.
Before Sweet Briar, Baker taught at several different universities and ministered in various capacities. This allowed her the flexibility and independence to write about what interested her — academic, feminist theology. Her latest book, The Barefoot Way, uses stories from personal encounters to amplify the voices of young women.
When Baker received an AAUW American Fellowship in 1998, she was in the process of writing her dissertation. At the time, her daughters were very young. “The fellowship literally paid for my child care while I wrote,” Baker says, and it gave her the time she needed to write. It also provided her the inner capital or self-esteem to know that what she had to say was important to someone. Students often tell her that she is a role model because she has a career and has raised a family. Baker credits opportunities like the AAUW fellowship that made it possible to do both and not choose one or the other.
Baker had many words of wisdom to share:
- “Complex questions require answers from new partnerships.” Baker is a strong supporter of interfaith collaboration and dialogue. When people of different faiths and nonreligious individuals come together, they are able to find common concerns shared by allies. Speaking and listening deeply to another person opens doors for new resources and new ways of understanding the world.
- “When it feels like you failed, it is just another important part of your story. Listen to that experience.”
- To young women who are looking to become better or more confident public speakers: Practice! Take every opportunity to speak. Spend time to find out what it is you are compelled to speak about.
- Becoming a leader is not a solo journey. It is important to build community and seek voices from people outside your comfort zone.
- Don’t be so anxious, everything unfolds at its own pace.
It is encouraging knowing that women like Baker are listening to the next generation of women leaders and encouraging them to raise their voices loud and strong.
Baker’s American Fellowship was sponsored by the Ohio Golden Year American Fellowship and the Anne Pannell Taylor American Fellowship, both established in 1980.
This post was written by AAUW Fellowships and Grants Intern Emily McGranachan.