Class of 2023: Kylie Baker
As an Environmental Studies and Political Science dual major and Food Fellow, Kylie Baker has spent a lot of time outdoors with her hands in the dirt. Her time spent in the campus gardens ties into her passion for environmental policy and researching food insecurity on a local and international scale. During her time on the Hill, Kylie also co-founded Sunrise McDaniel, participated in Dangersauce improv, and was a STEM Center learning assistant and American Sign Language lab aide.
Kylie Baker is an Environmental Studies and Political Science major from Frederick, Maryland.
When I took my first step on the Hill, I was: Excited. I had no idea what was in store for me, especially since I took a gap year after graduating high school, but I knew that I was eager to meet new people and dive into my passions.
The me who will ring the Old Main bell on Commencement Day is: Optimistic. Though I’m not entirely sure what the future holds, I know that McDaniel has prepared me to take on whatever comes my way.
Real world experiences: The summer after my freshman year, I interned at Cunningham Falls State Park as a park ranger. The summer after my junior year, I interned at White Rose Farm in Taneytown, Maryland, as a biodynamic gardener. My favorite internship, though, was the summer after my sophomore year, working in the campus garden as a Food Fellow. During this time, I also did summer research on campus food insecurity and presented at the Student Summer Research Showcase.
My aha moment: I’ve learned that community is one of the most important things someone can have. The community that I’ve been a member of at McDaniel has been one of the most supportive, close-knit, and loving bonds that I’ve ever known. It’s also really hard to persevere without a community encouraging you along the way, so I’m very thankful for mine.
Footprints I’m leaving on the Hill: I hope to be remembered as someone who is unafraid to make change. I want other students to realize that they can truly do whatever they want, even if there’s no precedent.
Faculty or staff member who most influenced who I have become: Dr. Elly Engle, hands down, has changed the trajectory of my life. As my advisor, professor, and fellow dirt-digger, she has been so influential in my time at McDaniel. Dr. Engle has been my voice of reason, helping me discover a path that I am truly passionate about and supporting me in all of my endeavors. In addition, Cathy Gunther has been a great mentor. I started working under her as the Home on the Hill food pantry manager in May 2022, and she has always been in my corner, showing me what a supportive workplace looks like and a glimpse into what I want my future career to be.
Best class ever: Exploration of the Environment with Dr. Scullion. In this class, we did weekly hikes all around Westminster and the surrounding areas (even as far as Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia). We got to learn about survival skills and field exploration while standing in such beautiful places!
Took me totally by surprise: The willingness of everyone to lend a helping hand.
My favorite spot on campus: The terrace outside of the library. I love this spot because even though it’s in the middle of campus, it’s secluded and quiet, making it perfect for homework or relaxing.
Most mind-boggling idea I learned at McDaniel: Imposter syndrome is real, but more people experience it than you’d think, so just keep faking it until you make it.
My capstone title: My Environmental Studies capstone was titled “Carroll County attitudes towards a food policy council,” and my Political Science capstone was titled “The influence of European Union trade policies on smallholder farmers and its implications on food insecurity: A case study of Somalia, Niger, and Chad.” (A mouthful!)
What it’s about in plain talk: The former interviewed various stakeholders in the Carroll County food system to determine how they would feel about a potential food policy council in Carroll County, which would serve to tackle food-related issues. I determined that stakeholders would be open to a food policy council if it met all of their needs, including satisfying their current frustrations with the food system. The latter investigated domestic European Union (EU) policies that impact the agricultural sector in sub-Saharan Africa, concluding that elements such as trade relationships and treatment of smallholder farmers have made it difficult for sub-Saharan African farmers to compete with EU farmers, specifically forcing Somalia into the worst position of food security.
Tell us a little about your activities, including sports, during your years at McDaniel: I’ve been the treasurer of the Progressive Student Union, co-chancellor of the Dangersauce improv troupe, co-founder and president of Sunrise McDaniel, and member of Green Life and the Honors Program. I’ve also worked as a peer mentor, Local Leader, STEM Center learning assistant, Home on the Hill food pantry manager, American Sign Language lab aide, and Food Fellow.
What’s next: I will be on the hunt for a job in environmental policy, but I’d really love to work in food policy on the local level.
If you received financial aid, what did that mean for you and your family? I received the Presidential Scholars Award and a couple of grants from McDaniel. This financial aid was huge, because it lessened the burden that myself and my family had to pay out of pocket, and I’m graduating debt free!
How will you stay connected to McDaniel? I will stay in contact with my classmates and professors.