Senior Bruce Baker is treating college like a lemon – not because it’s been a sour or bitter experience, but rather because Bruce is squeezing every last drop out of the greatest four years of his life. For him, college is defined by the relationships created and the impact he has on others as cross country and track and field captain, Fellowship of Christian Athletes president, Student-Athlete Advisory Committee vice president, Echo staff member, OC Stories student blogger, and of course, classmate, mentor and friend.
“Honestly, I didn’t love Olivet right away; I grew to love it,” Bruce explained. “I actually wanted to attend a larger university, but things didn’t fall into place for me due to an injury that prevented me from running and the cost of tuition. Eventually, my mom gave me the push to consider Olivet. It was affordable and gave me the opportunity to run, plus head cross country and track and field coach Karen Lutzke had just joined the men’s coaching staff, someone I’ve always admired. The combination of it all made me commit to OC with the intent to transfer after a year. The passion to have a strong community on campus started to win me over, and eventually, the need to transfer left. I felt like I was at home thanks to my team, classmates, professors and especially coach.”
Bruce encountered more twists and turns before finding the right path. He also changed majors to find his fit in business administration with concentrations in marketing and management, and a minor in journalism and mass communication. It was his unwavering Christian faith that kept Bruce positive during these challenging times, always counting on God to have the perfect plan in mind. It wasn’t long before Bruce realized OC was right where he was meant to be, and he sprinted into campus life.
“While my Christian beliefs are very strong, I didn’t want to go to a Christian college,” Bruce explained. “I love that Olivet encourages diversity and the autonomy to place your faith, and I wanted to attend a college where I could be exposed to that. My beliefs are embraced, not enforced, and that creates a really genuine sense of faith. I am so thankful to feel comfortable to start a dialogue with and challenge my peers, and for them to do the same with me.”
Bruce began to realize his passion for leadership after graduating from high school when he served as a summer camp counselor at Camp Barakel, a traditional camp facility hosting year-round retreats, and focusing on youth church camps throughout the summer. He’s returned every summer since and has fallen in love with mentoring young minds, something he wants to shape his future career around. After settling into campus life, Bruce also transitioned his passion into the clubs and teams he’s involved in at OC, most prominently, serving as president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).
FCA combines Bruce’s devotion to his Christian faith with his running talents, and he encourages others never to make an athletic team or anything else the center of their life over their faith. Everything he does ties back to spreading God’s word and sharing that with others, including cross country and track and field. “I definitely love to run and have a competitive streak, but for me, running is really about having a platform to build relationships with my team members and to learn about Christ together,” Bruce said. “There are so many parallels that someone can learn through athletics and apply to their faith, like dedication and humility. I strive to relate the two as much as possible to help others see the deeper meaning to their actions.”
In addition, Bruce is soaking up all he can from Coach Lutzke’s coaching and mentoring style, always taking notes on things that will help him be a successful leader. “Coach Lutzke has set an amazing example for what a great coach is like,” Bruce exclaimed. “She’s shown me how important it is to have someone you can always count on, and I want to be that for others as well. Coach Lutzke is always consistently available, she’s shown me the balance of encouragement and challenge, and recognizes the strengths and weaknesses in her team – always knowing how to bring out the best in each of us.”
For the remainder of his senior year, Bruce is on a mission to stay true to his beliefs and make a lasting impression on those around him. While excited to get back on the track and hopefully break some records, Bruce also is placing a large focus on expanding FCA, even hoping to reach non-athletes.
While Bruce doesn’t live on campus anymore, he has truly made the Olivet community his home, taking on the responsibility of owning a house in the city. In fact, Bruce is hoping to utilize his studies in a career at or near OC before continuing his studies in ministry. “Somewhere down the road I think I’d even like to be a college professor or work in higher education mentoring college ministry leaders,” Bruce said.
Learn more about Olivet College by visiting campus, applying, or connecting with an admissions rep at 800.456.7189 or firstname.lastname@example.org. OC has always prided itself on who includes, not who it excludes – find your fit today.