Dr. Peter Baker ’97 currently serves as program director for
the American Studies Program in Washington, D.C. The program, which has existed for 36 years,
has attracted many Olivet students over that time, including one enrolled this
Dr. Baker, how did you
get involved with the American Studies Program in Washington D.C.?
Well, I first attended ASP myself as an Olivet student in spring 1996, and fell
in love with the program. In 2008, I joined the faculty here, and currently
serve as program director.
What is the purpose
of the American Studies Program?
Our job is to put college students on the front lines on the
issues that matter most to them. There are two study tracks — public policy and
global development. Our internship program allows each student to work three
days a week in congressional offices, think tanks, advocacy groups, federal
agencies and more. We also provide a professional mentorship program that
matches students with professionals who have more than 25 years of experience
in a given area.
Many tend to think the areas of politics
and government are secular by nature. That’s not entirely the case, is it? What
role does faith play in ASP?
We see one’s followership of Christ and professional journey as one in the
same. It’s not just praying before class; faith is integrated in every aspect
of our program. From the mentors we choose, who are all thoughtful believers, to
the issues we grapple with, faith is at the center of it all.
How did an ONU education prepare you for
I really appreciated how my Olivet professors were so personally invested in my
exploration of my calling. They encouraged me to dream big — nothing was off
the table. DVH [Dr. David Van Heemst, political science professor] encouraged
me to attend the American Studies Program here in Washington D.C. for a
semester. Dr. Paul Koch [economics professor] found a study abroad program for
me. I am forever grateful for the investment the University made in me, and for
allowing me to go off campus. Those
experiences were an integral part of my Olivet education.
Any other favorite Olivet memories?
The informal times with professors — hanging out in DVH’s office, the time
spent with Dr. Koch outside the classroom. My encounters with my professors
outside the classroom impacted me the most. You don’t get that at big state
schools — there’s just not much access between students and professors. At ONU,
I regularly interacted with my professors.
I understand you have
visited and lived in several parts of the world. Where have you traveled?
Yes, I love to travel! As I mentioned, while at Olivet, I not only spent a
semester in D.C., I also spent a semester studying economic and political
transition in Germany, Poland and England. It was a highlight of my college
Starting in 2002, my wife Lisa-Joe and I, spent two years in Kyiv, Ukraine
while I researched and wrote my dissertation for the University of Notre Dame. From
there, we moved to Lisa-Joe’s homeland in Pretoria, South Africa for a couple
years. And now, we’re back in the States, working in the nation’s capital.