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0:00 - Interview introduction

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Partial Transcript: Alright, it's recording. Today is March 14th, it's like 10 am, I'm interviewing Dr. Denise Baker.

0:13 - Early life and biographical information

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Partial Transcript: Where were you born?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Baker discusses her early life.

Keywords: 1960s; The Moon Landing

25:21 - UNCG

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Partial Transcript: I think I was very fortunate, of course I applied to many different places.

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Baker discusses her time at UNCG.

Keywords: Dorothy Bardolph; Dr. Allen Trelease; Dr. Amy Charles; Dr. Edward Uprichard; Dr. Jean Buchert; Dr. Richard Bardolph; Dr. Robert Miller; Dr. Ruth Hege; Dr. Stanley Jones; English Department; Faculty Senate; History Department; James S. Ferguson; McIver Building; Patricia Sullivan; Ph.D. Program

44:29 - Favorite classes taught and changes in the English Department

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Partial Transcript: Did you have favorite classes that you taught?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Baker discusses her favorite classes to teach, and the changes she saw in the English Department while she was here.

Keywords: Coraddi; English Department; The Greensboro Review

49:00 - Graduate Director

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Partial Transcript: When you serve as Graduate Director?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Baker discusses her time as Graduate Director.

Keywords: Dr. Walter Beale; English Department; Ph.D. Program; Students

55:23 - English Department Heads, committees, and chancellors

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Partial Transcript: I haven't talked about our English Department heads.

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Baker discusses English Department heads, her time as the head of the English Department, committees, and chancellors of the university.

Keywords: Alumni; Basketball; Campus beautification; Dr. Amy Charles; Dr. Charles Tisdale; Dr. Dana Dunn; Dr. David Perrin; Dr. Donald Darnell; Dr. Edward Uprichard; Dr. Gail McDonald; Dr. James Evans; Dr. Jarrett Leplin; Dr. Jim Clodfelter; Dr. Joanne Creighton; Dr. Robert Stephens; Dr. Roch Smith; Dr. Russ McDonald; Dr. Walter Beale; Dr. William Lane; English Department; Franklin D. Gilliam; Fraternities; Joanne Smart Drane; Linda Brady; National Humanities Alliance; Patricia Sullivan; School of Health and Human Performance; School of Health and Human Sciences; School of Human Environmental Sciences; Sororities; University Advancement; William Moran

92:55 - Dr. Timothy Johnston and the Creighton/Zensir disagreement

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Partial Transcript: I don't think we've talked about you being Associate Dean at all.

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Baker discusses Dr. Timothy Johnston as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Creighton/Zensir disagreement.

Keywords: Dr. Joanne Creighton; Dr. John Jellicorse; Dr. Ronald Crutcher; Dr. Timothy Johnston; Dr. Walter Beale; Elisabeth Zensir; Karen Patrick; Linda Brady; William Moran

105:37 - Students

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Partial Transcript: I haven't told any stories about students. I love the students at UNCG.

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Baker discusses the students of UNCG.

Keywords: English Department; Students

110:26 - Associate Dean

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Partial Transcript: We still haven't talked about you being an Associate Dean.

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Baker discusses her time as Associate Dean.

Keywords: Dr. Timothy Johnston; English Department

117:34 - Campus culture and serving beyond UNCG

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Partial Transcript: How do you think you would define campus culture at UNCG?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Baker discusses the culture of campus, and serving beyond UNCG.

Keywords: campus culture; faculty; students

122:44 - Impact and meaning of UNCG

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Partial Transcript: Tell me how UNCG has affected your life and what it means to you.

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Baker discusses the impact UNCG has had on her life, and what the university means to her.

124:26 - Future of UNCG

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Partial Transcript: These interviews are for the 125th, which is an excellent opportunity for reflection but helps us look where we are headed in the future.

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Baker discusses where she sees the university headed in the next 25 to 50 years.

Keywords: Franklin D. Gilliam

129:36 - Interview conclusion


Lacey Wilson: All right, it's recording. Today is March 14th. It's 10:00 AM. I am interviewing Dr. Denise Baker, and we'll just start at the beginning as we go. So, where were you born?

Denise Baker: I was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1946.

Lacey Wilson: What'd your parents do?

Denise Baker: My parents owned a small store. There used to be a lot of convenience stores that weren't chains, so they worked very hard. My father, really, would go to work at 10:00 in the morning, then my mother would relieve him for about 1:00 for a few hours, and then he'd go back and work 'til 11:00. So, the store was open seven days a week. The only day he ever had off was Christmas, so it was a lot of work.

Lacey Wilson: Did you work in the store?

Denise Baker: When I got older, I did, yes. We had to shelve the groceries, and 1:00then when we got old enough, we would wait on customers.

Lacey Wilson: Sure, sure. Did you have brothers and sisters?

Denise Baker: I have two sisters, both of whom are still in Michigan, and one was an elementary school principal, and the other one worked in an insurance company, a claims accountant or consultant, whatever you call them. She worked in claims.

Lacey Wilson: When you were in high school, what were you drawn to before you started looking at colleges?

Denise Baker: I was always good in English. I remember one of my high school teachers wrote, "You should major in English, Denise." I liked a lot of other subjects. I was good at all subjects because I studied hard, but I loved to write critical papers, not creative writing, and I just had a knack for 2:00language, and I loved literature. So, English was always my favorite.

Lacey Wilson: Gotcha. So, you knew you were gonna major in that almost off the bat?

Denise Baker: Yeah. I didn't think of anything else. I certainly never wanted to do biology or math or physics or chemistry.

Lacey Wilson: What colleges were you looking at?

Denise Baker: Well, I went to an all-girls Catholic high school, which I loved. It was a wonderful education, and so I was only applying to all-girls Catholic colleges. Now, my parents didn't like that. They wanted me to go to the University of Michigan. They were right. I can't remember what colleges I applied to, but I ended up at Rosary College in River Forest, Illinois. It was just outside Chicago, and I knew almost immediately that I wanted to be at U of M. So by October, I was applying to transfer to University of Michigan.


Lacey Wilson: Once you got there, it was just an immediate better fit?

Denise Baker: Yeah. It was a better fit. I mean, the classes at Rosary College were fine. The teachers were good. They were all nuns, but Michigan was more exciting, obviously a bigger school, but I only went to half a football game. I always tell this story. We would get free tickets as students to various athletic events. We would get season passes for football and my friend and I ... I roomed with a friend that I had known through grade school and high school, and so we went to one game. By halftime, we were completely bored. We didn't know what was going on, and we decided we would sell our tickets, so we did. Someone bought them. I don't know exactly ... that was before Craigslist or any of these ways now.

Lacey Wilson: Just on the street?

Denise Baker: I don't know. We must have put a sign up somewhere. I can't remember, but I do remember people coming to buy them. I don't remember if we 4:00ever got them again. Maybe we just never asked for the football tickets.

Lacey Wilson: Maybe.

Denise Baker: Yeah because I don't remember ever doing it again.

Lacey Wilson: So, you were at U of M doing English?

Denise Baker: Yes.

Lacey Wilson: And did you have a focus off the bat immediately or were you just trying many different things because English is pretty broad. There's a lot of things you can focus on.

Denise Baker: Yeah. I think we ... now, I can't remember whether there were certain courses we had to take. I do know I only took one course in American literature because I love British literature. I did get into the honors program my junior year, and they had a sequence you had to take. You had to start with medieval and go through 19th century, and I still remember this was a, I would say, formative experience. I remember a lecture that a professor gave in the 5:00medieval literature course on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and for some reason, that particular lecture really moved me, and even though at the time I wasn't thinking about graduate school or I wasn't thinking what I would specialize in, I think that lecture had something to do with it.

Denise Baker: All the professors I had at Michigan were great. I can't think of ... well, maybe I can think of one, but most of the time they were very, very good, and especially in those honors seminars, I just learned so much. I remember my professor who did 18th and 19th century, and especially the romantics, which was what I thought I would go into when I went to graduate school because ... I'm getting ahead of myself, but also in my master's program 6:00I had a fantastic professor who taught romantic poetry.

Denise Baker: What else do I remember about Michigan? Okay, here's a funny thing I remember. During finals time, it was always hard to get a place in the library. Library was packed. So, my roommates and I would go to the library early in the morning, put our books down on a table, and then go and get breakfast or go back to sleep or something just so we could have a place to study later in the day.

Lacey Wilson: Not a bad tactic.

Denise Baker: Yeah. It was a good place to be. And of course, I was there from 1964 to 1968, so lots is happening in terms of the student movement. University 7:00of Michigan was actually the home of SDS--Students for a Democratic Society--although by that time, it really had not ... it was no longer very important on campus.

Lacey Wilson: Were you involved in any of those movements?

Denise Baker: Not really. Not as much as I maybe I would do now, but it was exciting. I think I can remember going on march, probably against the war at Michigan, just around campus, but I never went to Washington. I never went to the South, but it was an exciting time to be a student.

Lacey Wilson: And so, you're graduating and you're thinking about grad school at that point?

Denise Baker: Well, I'm thinking about it, but my parents want me to get a job.

Lacey Wilson: Parents are like that.

Denise Baker: Yes, they are. So, I quickly ... my senior year--in fact, I 8:00probably did it second semester senior year--I started taking education courses because in those days, really, pretty much women only got jobs as teachers or nurses. All the time I was at Michigan, there was only one woman on the faculty. In fact, she was a linguist. Okay, no. I'm getting ahead of myself. That was Santa Barbara. I can't think of any women on the faculty in the English department at Michigan, but I could be wrong. I had two female teachers when I was at Michigan. Both were TAs. One was a TA in biology, and one was a TA in philosophy, and the TA in philosophy, I remember her. She was a chain smoker, 9:00and what I remember from her was this statement, "If you write a half ass paper, you get a half ass grade." That stuck with me.

Lacey Wilson: That's a very true statement.

Denise Baker: Yes. She was a very good teacher, especially of writing. She made you think and develop your arguments, but those are the only two women I remember having at Michigan.

Lacey Wilson: Interesting.

Denise Baker: And as we talk, I can kind of see scenes in Ann Arbor that I haven't thought about in a long time. It was an exciting time to be in college. So, I hurried up and got my courses to get a teaching certificate, licensure. I actually had to take student teaching in the summertime, and then my aunt worked 10:00in this small district--Flat Rock, Michigan--so I got a job there.

Lacey Wilson: How was teaching first time?

Denise Baker: It was okay. The biggest difficulty was that I was too close to the age of the students, and I was the coordinator for the ... or, I don't know. Faculty supervisor for the student newspaper and the students who were on the newspaper were, compared to the rest of the students and compared to the administration, were more radical, and so they would write the articles that the principal wouldn't like. I remember one, and of course-

Lacey Wilson: Did you have to censor them?

Denise Baker: Pardon me?

Lacey Wilson: Did you have to censor them?

Denise Baker: I didn't have to, but I would hear the football coach didn't like the articles that referred to long hair, and I remember someone wrote an article about, and this was all a satire, getting addicted to Milk Duds, and that was 11:00kind of controversial, but I tried to, let's say, guide them, but I never, at least that I can remember, censored them.

Lacey Wilson: Cool.

Denise Baker: Yeah. But it was difficult. I didn't see a future there. I did not want to stay at that small school district in Michigan outside of Detroit, between Detroit and Toledo. I was actually living with one of my aunts there, and it just wasn't very exciting.

Lacey Wilson: Especially compared to just leaving U of M.

Denise Baker: Yeah. So, then I decided, of course this is 1969, I'm gonna go to California.


Lacey Wilson: How did your parents react to that?

Denise Baker: Well, you know, it was really ... by that point, my father was dead. He had been murdered in the store. When I think back on it, I'm amazed my mother let me do it.

Lacey Wilson: I was gonna say. Yeah.

Denise Baker: Because she was running the store now by herself, and one of my sisters who was going to Oakland University, came back to live in Detroit and she finished her work at Wayne, but they got robbed several times, and it was pretty dangerous. You know, I think how thoughtless I was to do this. But my mother never complained. I think her view was you have to live your life. You have to go where you want to go, and this even brings tears to my eyes.

Lacey Wilson: You need a tissue?


Denise Baker: I got some.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: So, my sister and I drove to California in a ... I can't remember the year, but it was an old, red Chevy convertible, and the top had holes in it, so every time it rained, it leaked a little. Not on us if we were in the car, but it all collected on the bottom of the backseat. Then when it was cold, of course in Michigan, it would turn to ice. So, we drove across country, and while we were driving across country, there's the news of this Sharon Tate murder in California. You wouldn't remember it, but you've probably heard of it.

Lacey Wilson: I think I've heard of it, yeah.

Denise Baker: This was before cell phones. This was before you really communicated very much except maybe a phone call once a week. So, we got to 14:00California, and I think maybe ... I can't remember whether they had found the Manson gang by then. I don't think they had yet. So, that was kind of ... not scary because we weren't in LA.

Lacey Wilson: Worrisome?

Denise Baker: Yeah. It was just a little upsetting.

Lacey Wilson: Were you rethinking going to California a little bit?

Denise Baker: Nope.

Lacey Wilson: Wow.

Denise Baker: Not at all. Then, I remember my sister had gone to study abroad maybe two years before, and she met a guy from California there who was later going to go to Canada because he got drafted, but we went and stayed with his family first in Riverside. I had applied to two schools. I'm kind of not doing this chronologically. I applied to Riverside and I applied to Santa Barbara, and 15:00I said, because the purpose of the trip was more to go to California than to go to graduate school, I said, "I'll go to the one with the more beautiful campus." And that ended being Santa Barbara. But when we first got to LA--or to California--we spent a few days in Riverside with my sister's boyfriend's sister, the parents were gone, and there I remember--so that must have been July '69--I remember watching the moon landing.

Lacey Wilson: Really?

Denise Baker: I can remember that on TV in Riverside.

Lacey Wilson: Oh, that's so cool.

Denise Baker: Yeah, that was really, really cool, and seeing that happen ... I do believe it actually happened.

Lacey Wilson: I do as well. I don't encounter a lot of people in real life who tell me that they didn't. It just seems to be a weird rumor online that it didn't.

Denise Baker: Yeah, people that spend too much time online.

Lacey Wilson: I guess so, yeah.

Denise Baker: Are living in an alternate reality, I'm afraid. We traveled around 16:00before school started, and I remember going to San Francisco. That was fun.

Lacey Wilson: Cool. San Francisco in 1969.

Denise Baker: Yeah. We didn't go to Haight-Ashbury.

Lacey Wilson: Well, it's a big city for one thing. It's big and it's a very different city from Detroit.

Denise Baker: Yes, yes. Beautiful, beautiful city. It's getting to be August, so I went to Santa Barbara, found an apartment with a roommate, and Santa Barbara is beautiful, too, and the UCSB campus is right there on the ocean. It's just gorgeous. So, I started classes, and I was very lonely after my sister left, and 17:00one of my friends fixed me up with a blind date, and he became my husband. So, we've been married for ... gosh. I think we got married ... see, I can't even remember very well. April 3rd, 1970.

Lacey Wilson: Oh, that's really cute.

Denise Baker: So, it's gonna be 47 years.

Lacey Wilson: That's really cute.

Denise Baker: So, it was good to go to Santa Barbara for that reason.

Lacey Wilson: That's true. You met your husband.

Denise Baker: I met my husband.

Lacey Wilson: That's a great reason immediately.

Denise Baker: Yeah. He always says that I charmed him, because at that time I was studying romantic writers, the early 19th century, and so when he came to pick me up at my apartment, I had a cigarette in one hand and the Mirror and the Lamp, which was an important critical book by M. H. Abrams, in the other. And 18:00the other thing I remember ... funny things that you remember. I went to the laundromat to do my laundry, and I must have thrown this library book for the same class that was on reserve. It was maybe the only copy. I must've thrown it in the laundry basket. Well, I go to get my clothes out after their wash, and there's all this confetti in the wash.

Lacey Wilson: It disintegrated?

Denise Baker: I had thrown the book in the washing machine.

Lacey Wilson: A library book.

Denise Baker: A library book that was on reserve for the class.

Lacey Wilson: The whole class. Oh, God.

Denise Baker: I can't remember if I ever fessed up to it.

Lacey Wilson: It just disappeared from the class.

Denise Baker: I had to pay for the book, and maybe there were other copies somewhere. It was Coleridge's Biographia Literaria.


Lacey Wilson: Oh, my God.

Denise Baker: But again, the teachers at UCSB were great. I really had a good experience there. I had never thought about what I was gonna do after I got my master's. I just wanted to go to California. Well, my husband wanted to get a PhD, and so, I decided, "Why not?" I don't think I would've set that goal for myself, but since he was doing it, I thought, "Yeah, I should do it, too."

Lacey Wilson: Did you stay at Santa Barbara for the PhD?

Denise Baker: No, no. We actually went to Virginia, to UVA.

Lacey Wilson: Just hopping all over the country, aren't you?

Denise Baker: Yep. In some ways, I wish we had stayed in Santa Barbara because of course, we couldn't have afforded to buy a house even then, but if we had bought, let's say, a tiny little two bedroom house? It would be worth millions today.


Lacey Wilson: It really would have. You could've sold it. Oh, gosh. Yeah.

Denise Baker: And then move somewhere else, because if we sold it in California, we couldn't find another place to live in California.

Lacey Wilson: Right. But you pack up and you head to UV?

Denise Baker: UVA. Yeah, we called it UVA. Do people call it UV?

Lacey Wilson: I don't know. I only ...

Denise Baker: UV is groovy. I remember people saying that.

Lacey Wilson: That's cute. That sounds very 70s.

Denise Baker: Yeah, exactly. UV is groovy.

Lacey Wilson: Did you, at this point, still think you were gonna be doing romantic literature?

Denise Baker: Yes. That's what I was ... and I was either in the first or the second year that UVA admitted women. They would admit local women, and they might have been admitting women to graduate school, but for undergraduates? This was the beginning. So, I feel like I was at the beginning of a lot of things, 21:00which is wonderful. I had a lot of opportunities just because of the timing.

Lacey Wilson: Could you feel that on campus because Santa Barbara and U of M didn't.

Denise Baker: Yeah, they admitted women from the beginning.

Lacey Wilson: They've had women forever. Right. So, could you feel that on the campus at all?

Denise Baker: Yeah because there was such a strong fraternity culture at UVA. I'm sure there was a fraternity culture at U of M, but I was never a part of that. At UVA, let's say because it was a smaller campus, because the fraternities were right there on the main drag, Rugby Road, their presence was more marked, and the second year, we moved to an apartment building on a street that was just behind Rugby Road. In fact, our parking lot faced the parking lot of a fraternity. There were certain times when it was really, really loud, and 22:00they had this big weekend called Easters where they would make a mud ball, and that was fun, slogging along in the mud. And so, we would always go stay with a friend somewhere else because you couldn't sleep during that weekend. But, it was a great apartment building. It was a great location.

Denise Baker: Again, at UVA, there was only one woman in the English department on the faculty, and she was the wife of someone else on the faculty in English. So, I didn't have any women professors. But again, at that point, my husband decided he was gonna go into Victorian literature, so I thought, "Well, I'll go back to medieval." And that's kind of how I made the decision. In those days, it 23:00was hard for a couple to get a job in the same department, and it probably would've been impossible to be in the same basic period, 19th century British, although we weren't thinking that far ahead, really.

Denise Baker: What else happened? So, we were at UVA for four years, I think. It was a very good school. I had very good professors, but I got my dissertation finished before my husband got his finished, and so I went on the job market, and it was just about that time--1975--that the job market in English and probably in lots of the humanities disciplines kind of started to collapse. There weren't as many jobs. After World War II, you had this big increase in the 24:00number of people going to college, so in the 60s, there were a lot of jobs in English and History and all of those fields, but then things started to taper off a little. Those jobs had been filled, and those people who were hired in the 60s were nowhere near retirement.

Denise Baker: So by 1975, there just weren't as many jobs left, and it's been kind of--both for English and History--up and down since then. There was this prediction that in the 1990s there would be a whole lot of jobs because all these people who were hired in the 60s would be retiring, but that just never happened. So, the job market in the humanities has been depressed since about '75, which is unfortunate. Partly because the universities have changed and 25:00they're hiring more, let's say, contingent labor, more lecturers that are on one year or three year contracts to teach.

Lacey Wilson: Hiring differently.

Denise Baker: Yeah, hiring differently.

Lacey Wilson: Not full time and not on the tenure track.

Denise Baker: Exactly, exactly. So again, I think I was very fortunate. Of course, I applied to lots of different places, and I'd actually had an article published in a very ... like, the top medieval journal, so I got a lot of interviews at MLA, and I had two job offers. One was from Texas A&M, and I knew I damn well didn't wanna live in Texas, especially not go to a military school. Agriculture and military. I think that's what A&M stands for.

Lacey Wilson: That sounds right.

Denise Baker: So, I had had an interview for the job at UNCG at a earlier 26:00conference--SAMLA--and when I got the offer from Texas A&M, I immediately called here and said ... well, I guess ... yeah, called because it was before email. Hard to believe that was before email, 1975, and said, "I've got this other job offer," and so the head of the department said, "Well, why don't you come to visit our campus before you go to Texas A&M?" So, I came down from Charlottesville on the train, and I hate for my young colleagues to hear this, but boy, was it easy to come on campus for the interview. I just had to have lunch with the full professors, didn't have to teach a class, didn't have to give a lecture, meet with the dean and the ... I guess I met with the provost, yeah, and I think I was only on campus for a day. I came on a Sunday night, had 27:00dinner by myself, which was fine, got back on the train late Monday, that was it.

Lacey Wilson: What did you think of the campus? What did the campus look like then because it was not as big?

Denise Baker: Oh, it was so different. I mean, College Avenue was an avenue you could park on. There weren't all these pedestrian spaces. So many of the buildings are new. But Eberhart was here. Of course, McIver is where both English and History were located, as well as the languages, so that was kind of the old humanities building, and you know what MHRA is like, the new humanities building. The art department was also in McIver. There were two wings, and the newer wing was the art department and the Weatherspoon gallery, so that 28:00building, McIver, was much more central to the campus. Of course, it's coming down soon. I always used to say, "McIver's gonna stand longer than I do," but it's coming down.

Lacey Wilson: Oh, wow.

Denise Baker: When I retire. I mean, I had offices in McIver from '75 probably 'til 2005. So, that was the building I spent the most time in, and those offices are teeny, as you know. They're very, very small.

Lacey Wilson: Yes, they are.

Denise Baker: And my first office was near the elevator, and it seemed like that elevator was always stalling. You would hear the bell. "The elevator's stuck." I never used that elevator. I would use the stairs.

Lacey Wilson: 'Cause you knew.

Denise Baker: It was nice being in the building with History. I had a lot of 29:00friends in the History department, and you probably never met Bobbi, their secretary up there. She had a coffee service. The English department wouldn't do that, so I would always go up and get my coffee in the History department. I knew a lot of people in History then, being in the same building, and I always thought it was such a wonderful department. They had a very dynamic head, Richard Bardolph.

Lacey Wilson: Just through research.

Denise Baker: Yeah. His wife, Dorothy, was on the city council, and the human services building in Greensboro was named after Dorothy Bardolph.

Lacey Wilson: Really?

Denise Baker: Yeah. They were really ... not only leaders. He was the leader at UNCG, but also in the community.

Lacey Wilson: Oh, wow. I did not know that. That's very cool.

Denise Baker: Yeah it really was. Allen Trelease, the other ... he was another 30:00head of the History department, wrote the history of UNCG. I think there are two different volumes of it. There's a pictorial and-

Lacey Wilson: The much longer one, yeah.

Denise Baker: Mm-hmm (affirmative). The much longer one. Right.

Lacey Wilson: That one I have.

Denise Baker: Yeah. So, it was very excellent people in that department. Lots of friends. I had lots of friends there. Then when I moved to the deans office, of course I've kind of lost touch with all those different departments, so I don't know ... I've even lost touch with my own department, but I don't know all the new people in history. But I'm getting way ahead of myself.

Lacey Wilson: A little bit. Let's backtrack a little bit. This is your first time on campus and you've come and you've met the dean. Who was the dean that you met that time?

Denise Baker: Robert Miller and the provost was Stan Jones, and they were both very nice. I can't remember what they asked me.


Lacey Wilson: Sure. Apparently, you answered correctly.

Denise Baker: Yeah, I think so. At those times, I think they only brought in one candidate, and if they were satisfied with one candidate-

Lacey Wilson: They just accepted you.

Denise Baker: Yeah because I was offered the job within the next few days, and I could cancel my visit to Texas A&M, which I really wanted to do.

Lacey Wilson: Right. Were there more women on the faculty at that point?

Denise Baker: There were two tenured women. Amy Charles and Jean Buchert. They were both in what used to be called Renaissance. Amy was a specialist in poetry, and she actually was very well known. She wrote a biography of George Herbert, and she had a big personal collection of George Herbert editions, which she bequeathed to the library, so I think we have one of the best ... in special 32:00collections, you'll have to look at the George Herbert collection.

Lacey Wilson: I shall.

Denise Baker: It's kind of ... when you did research, we used to use actual books. I mean, bibliographies and our George Herbert collection was mentioned in one of the famous bibliographies for English literature special collections as one of the top ones in the country, so that was Amy. Amy was a formidable presence. She was quite a bit overweight, and she had a really strong personality, and she used some swear words I have never heard before, so she was lots of fun. Both Amy and Jean became chair.


Denise Baker: We became ... both Amy and Jean became chair of the ... It wasn't called the senate then.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: But, the faculty governance. Oh, and here's another funny story. On the first floor of the McIver building, we had a faculty women's restroom. And just a plain old men's restroom. 'Cause this used to be the woman's college.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: So, one morning, I guess it was a Monday morning, we get to campus. And the ... I don't know on whose orders, but anyway the men's restroom, which had one urinal and one stall, became the faculty women's restroom. And the faculty women's restroom became the ... I think, it became the men's restroom or it became the women student's restroom. I don't know exactly what.

Lacey Wilson: Sure.

Denise Baker: Well, Amy was irritate. She went straight to Jim Ferguson's office. And that was changed immediately. So, it was a very different campus then.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: I think we had maybe 8,000 students.


Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: And it was more, let's say, more run like a family.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: I mean, I think people knew each other. Faculty were in their offices in the McIver building. You know how the offices are all there on the first floor. And the classrooms are across. And in English, we had a mail room at the end of the hall. And people would actually go in to check their mail and stop and talk. There was like a little place where you could sit down. Where you would sometimes hold small meetings there. There were sofas. And people were just ... faculty were just around more. There wasn't so much pressure to publish.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: And do your research. And although people did research, it wasn't like it is now. I got ... And again, I hope my young colleagues don't get upset. 35:00I was promoted with at least, I don't know, four or five articles. But, two of them were in the best journal in my field. My promotion file ... Because that was before computers. So, to make copies ... It might have even been before photocopiers. I can't remember. But, there was a carbon copy. So, if you had to make a correction on anything, it was a major, major job.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: So, people didn't write these huge promotion and tenure documents.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: I still have mine. And it maybe, at most, 25 pages long if that, if that. So, as soon as computers came in, it was actually more work for everyone. You had to write these much longer promotion and tenure files. And of course, the standards went up.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: So now in English to get promoted, you really have to have a book.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: So, yeah. Things changed very, very much.


Lacey Wilson: Do you think that's ... It's probably both. It's probably both in due the depression that humanities is going through as well as the campus getting bigger?

Denise Baker: Probably both. Yes.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: The standards just were up. We became ... Well, how long ago was it? I think it was under Pat Sullivan and Ed Uprichard. Probably in the 90s. Our Carnegie classification ... Well, Carnegie changed their classifications.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: And then, in a sense, we went up. Because you had to have a certain number of doctoral programs.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: And we added, at least in the college. And I'm sure there were a lot more across the board, we added five doctoral programs in the college in the 90s, including History. And prior to that, we only had English and Psychology 37:00that had doctoral programs through the late 60s. So, when I came to the English department, we already had a doctoral program.

Lacey Wilson: Was it unusual to have that old of a English doctoral program?

Denise Baker: It was unusual to have that new of an English doctoral program.

Lacey Wilson: Really? Okay.

Denise Baker: It was really pretty new. Most, you know, most major universities have had English PhDs since the inception.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: Since they start ... You know, I think.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: Since they started PhD programs. So, it was pretty ... in comparison to other universities, it was a new program. But for UNCG, it was one of the first.

Lacey Wilson: It was an older. Right.

Denise Baker: Because, well, you know the change happened when it went from being the women's college, actually sometime in the 60s, to being UNCG. And then the whole kind of focus of the institution changed.


Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: And so, there was an effort to recruit more men and build up the research profile. So, that we got those first two PhD programs. And then in the 90s, we added ... I'm trying to ... One, two, three ... I think five more in the college.

Lacey Wilson: Wow.

Denise Baker: So, the campus looked very different. It was much smaller. Although when you come in as a new faculty member, you're kind of not really aware of what's going on.

Lacey Wilson: Sure. It's all new.

Denise Baker: It's like being a student looking in. And it takes time to kind of figure out the system. Or get to know exactly what's going on.

Lacey Wilson: Acclimate.

Denise Baker: Because even as a graduate student, you're not aware of how a university functions.

Lacey Wilson: Right. It's all new to you.

Denise Baker: Yeah.

Lacey Wilson: 'Cause it's literally new to you.


Denise Baker: Exactly. So we had, as I said, two female faculty members who were tenured. Jean Buchert was also a formidable presence on campus. She became head of the faculty ... It wasn't called the senate. It was called something else, but.

Lacey Wilson: Faculty Governance.

Denise Baker: Yeah. The Faculty Governance. And they were both very prestigious not only within the department, but outside. But, they had very different personalities. And of course, I had wonderful colleagues in the English department. Everybody was very friendly. Everybody was very ... Of course, people always socialize by age.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: So, the younger faculty socialized a lot together.


Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: We used to do ... Those were the days when many of the wives didn't work. So, we used to have dinner parties. Now, nobody has dinner parties.

Lacey Wilson: No one has time.

Denise Baker: No one has time. I mean, if you're gonna have a meal with someone, you go out to a restaurant.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: 'Cause dinner parties are an awful lot of work.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: But, you know. It was just the way things were back then. People had more time. Or at least thought they had more time.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: Let's say now we think we have less time.

Lacey Wilson: Right. They use their time differently.

Denise Baker: Yeah. Use their time differently. Exactly.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah. So, how did it feel going in ... 'Cause you kept bringing up through education how many women faculty there were. But, you're entering a faculty where there were two women tenured already.

Denise Baker: Right.

Lacey Wilson: That feel different.

Denise Baker: That's different. That's a little bit different.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: Yeah. So, I thought that was a good situation. We also had a very 41:00long term lecturer, Ruth Hege who taught Victorian. But, she was just wonderful.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah?

Denise Baker: She became a pretty good friend of mine. Yeah. It was a very welcoming department. I never felt somehow out of place. Everybody was nice.

Lacey Wilson: But, you also moved to North Carolina.

Denise Baker: Yeah.

Lacey Wilson: So, that's a difference as well.

Denise Baker: Yes. But, compared to Virginia.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah. Not really.

Denise Baker: Well, except Virginia ... Well, Charlottesville, Virginia.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: Charlottesville, Virginia is a special place.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: I think it has, that county, Albemarle County, may be the richest county in America. I can't believe it. That's probably no longer true. Maybe the richest county on the East Coast.

Lacey Wilson: Maybe.

Denise Baker: So, there was a real feel of old. Well, you know FFV, do you know what that means?

Lacey Wilson: I do not.

Denise Baker: First Families of Virginia.


Lacey Wilson: Gotcha.

Denise Baker: I can't say it.

Lacey Wilson: Old money.

Denise Baker: We're Virginians. We're old money.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: There was that sense at UVA. You've got the rotunda built by Jefferson. You're not fair from Monticello. You're not far from Monroe's birth home. I can't remember the name of it. So, there's really ... I don't know. Virginia always seems so old South. North Carolina doesn't feel that way.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: At least not this part of North Carolina.

Lacey Wilson: It does not. No.

Denise Baker: Yeah. So, this seemed much more comfortable. Although again, here's a funny story. When we moved here in 75, you could not buy liquor by the drink in a restaurant. You had to ... Some restaurants would allow you to bring your bottle of alcohol in a brown bag. Wine. I don't know if you could buy beer. But, you couldn't buy wine. You couldn't buy other kinds of alcohol. So, you 43:00could bring a brown bottle with your ... I mean a brown bag with your bottle. And then they'd charge you a corkage fee to open your bottle. And you could drink your own wine in the restaurant.

Lacey Wilson: Oh, what an interesting ...

Denise Baker: Yeah. Have you ever heard of that before?

Lacey Wilson: No. I've never heard of that before.

Denise Baker: Yeah.

Lacey Wilson: I've heard of the no buying alcohol on Sundays.

Denise Baker: Yeah.

Lacey Wilson: That's common enough in a lot of places.

Denise Baker: Yeah.

Lacey Wilson: But, the corkage fee is interesting.

Denise Baker: Yeah. So, that changed pretty quickly.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: So, Greensboro became a little more, let's say, metropolitan. A little more cosmopolitan.

Lacey Wilson: Sure.

Denise Baker: But, I think it's a pretty good place to live. I like it because everything's very convenient.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: I live within a mile of campus. So, I can walk to school. If it snows, I can walk to the Bestway on the corner of Walker. I could even walk to the Friendly shopping center.

Lacey Wilson: It all seems very comfortable.


Denise Baker: Yeah.

Lacey Wilson: Is how I would describe it as well.

Denise Baker: Yeah. Very comfortable. Very convenient. Maybe not very exciting, but very convenient.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: People always said, both when I was being recruited and when recruiting new faculty, it's a good place to raise children. So, now I'm kind of rambling here.

Lacey Wilson: Completely fine.

Denise Baker: Okay. Do you wanna get me back on a particular topic?

Lacey Wilson: Yeah. Let's ... Did you have favorite classes you taught?

Denise Baker: I always loved teaching Literature. I did teach composition, which is the hardest class to teach.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: It's very difficult 'cause you're really trying to help students learn how to think and organize arguments.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: And it's very labor intensive. Because you wanna give them a lot of writing assignments. But, you also have to give them feedback on those writing assignments.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: So, yeah. I used to teach composition. I pretty much like 45:00everything I taught. Maybe except composition because it was so time consuming.

Lacey Wilson: Labor intensive.

Denise Baker: Yeah.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: I love teaching Medieval Literature. But, I also like teaching different kinds of literature. So, let's think of ... I used to teach Bibliography and Methods. So, this was before computers.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: When you had all of those reference books you had to go to. But, I had taken that as a graduate student. So, I kind of ... I knew that material. But, boy. It's so much easier now. It's incredible.

Lacey Wilson: We have a lot ... I didn't want to interrupt.

Denise Baker: Go ahead.

Lacey Wilson: UNCG has a history of literary magazines. Were you involved with any of those? Were those also ...?

Denise Baker: Not really. I mean, the big literary magazine is the Greensboro Review. Which is published by the MFA in creative writing in the English 46:00department. So, that's pretty much run by the MFA program.

Lacey Wilson: Gotcha.

Denise Baker: And the students in that program serve as the editors. So, I was never involved in that. I was never involved in the student magazine, Coraddi. In fact, I don't even think they had an English department sponsor. I don't know. It's kind of a student organization. And I don't know if there's even a faculty person who works with them.

Lacey Wilson: That's interesting. Yeah.

Denise Baker: There may be. But, I don't know who it would've been.

Lacey Wilson: So, technology changing is a big sort of change in your time here in the English department. Can you think of any other big changes that occurred in the English department?

Denise Baker: Well, I think it was the big change in the university that occurred when we became research intensive.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: Again as you mentioned earlier, the growth, both in the student 47:00body and the number of PhD programs, and the greater emphasis on publishing, doing research in the sciences, big emphasis on getting grants. That all kind of began to happen probably in the late 80s and early 90s as we moved toward that higher Carnegie classification.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: And I'm saying early 90s. It might have been mid 90s. It started in the early 90s and then it built. And finally, I think the History and Geography PhDs which were the next were maybe 2004.

Lacey Wilson: Sure.

Denise Baker: And then we got Biology, Chemistry, and Math between 2008 and 2010. I know that because I was in the dean's office by that time. And one of my 48:00duties was graduate education.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: Graduate programs. So as an English department member, I might not have paid much attention to it.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: But, certainly the standards for promotion and tenure went up in the late 80s. And I was actually an associate professor for a long time. For 14 years, partly because I didn't publish a book until 2004. And I also did a lot of service. I don't really regret it.

Lacey Wilson: Sure.

Denise Baker: But looking back, I can see that I fell into a pattern. That probably wasn't the best for my career. If I had ever ... You know, I never had any desire to leave UNCG. I was fairly happy here. But, if I had wanted to move on, it would've been smarter for me to do less service. Not serve as Graduate Director.

Lacey Wilson: So, when did you serve as Graduate Director? When did you get that?


Denise Baker: You gave me the dates.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah. I did. Yes. I wanted to make sure.

Denise Baker: If I can remember the dates.

Lacey Wilson: I wanted to make sure it was the right date.

Denise Baker: I guess it was 1989.

Lacey Wilson: That's this date I had.

Denise Baker: Yeah. Well, how did you find all that?

Lacey Wilson: It was ... You have a file in the special collections.

Denise Baker: Oh.

Lacey Wilson: That includes your CV.

Denise Baker: Oh, okay.

Lacey Wilson: So, I can see the dates as they go. So, I tried to make it as narratively good. But as usual, it usually devolves into a conversation, which is better to listen to anyway. But, yeah. That's how I found the dates. I know. I'm hoping they're right.

Denise Baker: I think they're right.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: They're better than any dates I remember.

Lacey Wilson: Okay. All right.

Denise Baker: So, I was Graduate Director in a period. Now even though the English PhD started in 69, or 68, or 69, I can't remember.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: It really didn't get off the ground until the 90s.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: Because we mainly ... When I started as Graduate Director, we 50:00primarily had PhD students who were more local or regional. They weren't really coming from far away. And then in the 90s, we started kind of advertising the program more. And suddenly ... Oh, and this was the important thing. The new field in English studies was Rhetoric and Composition. And because of one of our faculty members, Walter Beale who later became dean. He started out as a medievalist. Then he saw this growth in interest in rhetoric and composition. So, he proposed, some time in the 80s, that we start a specialization within the PhD program in rhetoric and comp. So, we were pretty early in starting that 51:00specialization. And so, due to that and due to more promotion on the part of the department, the PhD program begin to attract more students from nationwide. And it grew tremendously. It really ... By, I would say by 2000, it was the biggest PhD program in the college. Partly because we could give students teaching assistantships to teach composition.

Lacey Wilson: Gotcha.

Denise Baker: That was the typical way that English departments functioned. You had graduate students teaching composition. And then the tenured faculty teaching literature courses.

Lacey Wilson: Gotcha.

Denise Baker: And that ... There was kind of a lot of, let's say, on the part of faculty members who decided to specialize early in rhetoric and composition. And 52:00again, this is probably something I shouldn't say, but I will. And I'm not talking specifically about the faculty in our department.

Lacey Wilson: Sure.

Denise Baker: But nationwide, there was this sense that the people who taught composition were being taken advantage of by the people who taught literature. So, there was a kind of, let's say, some ill feelings. And there were some departments, like in Texas, that broke off from English and became their own departments of rhetoric and composition. So, that was a nationwide kind of disciplinary change that was going on.

Lacey Wilson: Okay. Right. Didn't really have that effect here. They didn't break off in that way.

Denise Baker: No. No. But, we just built up that part of the department. We hired some very good people. And we attracted a lot of students.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: And also attracted a lot of students in literature.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: Particularly American Literature. That's always been a big 53:00strength here. 19th Century British was very strong when I started here. And up until we lost faculty in that area. So, yeah. There've been changes. The kind of profiling of the department has changed.

Lacey Wilson: Gotcha.

Denise Baker: But being Graduate Director, was extremely time consuming because, again, there was a crazy program called ... I think it was called A licensure. Capital A licensure.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: So, if people wanted to come back. People who already had their undergraduate degree in English wanted to come back to get licensed to teach high school, they had to go through the English department rather than the 54:00school of education. And there were a lot of people then who were coming back and getting A licensure. So, I think I spent a lot of time on that.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: And of course we had a pretty big Master's program then, too. So, I just remember advising a lot of students. And they weren't all in a sense English graduate students.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: But, I also enjoyed that very much. Because I got to meet the new students coming in. That was lots of fun. I really ... I would chair the committee that decided who got admitted. And it was always exciting to see who would accept our offer. And then to get to know them. And even know them personally, not just as students. And kind of know a little bit about their 55:00lives. That was always fun. There was some people from back then that I remember very well, some students.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: And then I guess when that ended. Let's see, I haven't talked about our English department heads.

Lacey Wilson: Oh, okay. Let's get to that.

Denise Baker: Would you like to hear about that?

Lacey Wilson: I would very much.

Denise Baker: Okay. How are we set for time? Oh, we got more time.

Lacey Wilson: We have plenty of time.

Denise Baker: Yeah.

Lacey Wilson: We haven't even been an hour yet.

Denise Baker: Yeah. So, when I came here, the head of the department was Bill Lane. He had his degree from Harvard. He was a Victorianist.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: But, he grew up in Reidsville. So, he had taught at University of Colorado. But, then came here to take the job. I think because of the Reidsville connection.

Lacey Wilson: Sure.


Denise Baker: He wasn't head for too many years after I got here.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: He's very traditional, Harvard kind of type. Then Bob Stevens.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: Became head for two terms out of the eight years. He was an Americanist. I'm not sure if he was from Texas. But, he certainly had that kind of gangly Texas walk.

Lacey Wilson: Sure.

Denise Baker: I remember him smoking a pipe. He was a very, very nice guy. And at that point, the English department was the first department to decide that we wanted our head called chair. And he ... And that might have even been his idea.

Lacey Wilson: Sure.

Denise Baker: We were a pretty egalitarian department in that regard.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: And he was a very ... He had been Director of Graduate Studies for 57:00a long time. So, he knew the department well. And he just ran things very well. At least from my perspective.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: Everything seemed to be going smoothly. Then we had another very good head, Jim Evans. Both these guys had a wonderful sense of humor and that makes so much difference. You know when people can laugh together.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: It really makes a big difference. In between Bob Stevens and Jim Evans, we had one year of Walter Beale.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: We had actually had a kind of election ... I can't remember how much input. I'm sure the faculty had a lot of input in the appointment of Bob Stevens. But, when it came to the next head, we actually had a kind of internal 58:00search process. And Walter and Jim had come at the same time. And then another person again who's got a great sense of humor and was very well liked, was Don Darnell. He was an Americanist. And the three of them kind of ran for head. And they had to make presentations to the department. Which I thought was kind of awkward.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: And as it turns out, Walter won by maybe one vote. So, he became head for one year. And then the dean at that time, Joanne Creighton which was our first woman dean.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: She wasn't here very long.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: But, she got a job at, I think it was Wesleyan, a very good school. And Walter became the dean. And then he served as dean for ...


Lacey Wilson: A long time.

Denise Baker: Gosh. 12 years. A long time. I don't know. 12, 13 years. A long time. Did a very good job. But, Jim became head of the department. And he, again, was a really good leader. That was, from my point of view, a very happy time in the English department. People were very collegial. We hired a couple, Russ and Gail McDonald, who were again very outgoing. They both had great senses of humor. I'm putting a lot of emphasis on this. But, I remember laughing a lot at department meetings. And Russ and Gail, let's say, were a little better heeled than most of us. Russ had inherited a lot of, I don't wanna say, a lot of money. Enough to have a trust fund, let's say.


Lacey Wilson: Sure. Okay.

Denise Baker: And they would have great parties. They were ... I always referred to them as the Nick and Nora of the English department. Now, do you know who Nick and Nora are?

Lacey Wilson: I do not.

Denise Baker: Famous movies. The Thin Man movies.

Lacey Wilson: Yes. I know.

Denise Baker: Okay. They have a little dog, Ast ... I think it was called Asta.

Lacey Wilson: Something like that. Yeah.

Denise Baker: Yeah. So, very sophisticated, very cosmopolitan. Lots of fun. Unfortunately, they ... Well, I won't say unfortunately. They left UNCG maybe in 2006. Yeah. Six or seven. 'Cause Russ got a job in England, in London.

Lacey Wilson: Oh, wow.

Denise Baker: Yeah. He was a pretty high powered Shakespearean.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: He became head of the Shakespeare Association of America.

Lacey Wilson: Oh, wow. That's big. Yeah.

Denise Baker: Yeah. It was very big. And then Gail followed. But, she got a job 61:00at South Hampton. And he got his job at Goldsmith in London. She lives somewhere else. But, they finally both got to Goldsmith. And unfortunately, this summer, on the eve before his 68th birthday, he had a stroke and died.

Lacey Wilson: Oh, no.

Denise Baker: It was just a shock.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: You know. Someone who was so full of life. Always, always laughing and joking. So, he had a massive stroke. He died. Gail's coming back to live in New York. But again, that gets me way ahead of my narrative. But, they were important people in the English department. And so things were very well. And Jim served like two terms. So, people were happy with him. And then when it came time for me to become head of the English department, I don't know if there was 62:00no one else who wanted to do it, but I didn't have to go through that awful process.

Lacey Wilson: You didn't have to present?

Denise Baker: I didn't have to present. I was kind of the next in line. Which was, I guess, fortunate.

Lacey Wilson: Sure.

Denise Baker: So, I became head of the English department. But, I only served for five years. Because then I went on to become an Associate Dean.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: But, even in that short time that I was head, and I'm sure this was true for Jim, too, the amount of work increased exponentially. Because we had computers.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: So all of a sudden, at least it seemed to me, there were all of these extra reports that were required. So many more policies, and rules, and 63:00regulations. It became a very ... I would say it is the hardest job in the universe to be a department head.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: 'Cause you're actually answering to two bosses. Although the administration thinks it's your boss, you got your colleagues.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: And you don't wanna be caught in the middle.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: You've gotta finesse it and walk this kind of very delicate balance.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: Between the two. Because you're an administrator, but you're really still faculty. And I would say that my allegiance was always to the faculty. So, I can remember one time ... This was in Ed Uprichard and Pat Sullivan ... I'll back track for a while.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: Were Chancellor and Provost. And they were a really good team. Pat 64:00Sullivan was low keyed. But, she got a lot done. And she was so ... She had so many people skills. She knew, at least it was my impression, she knew everybody's name. And when you did something out of the ordinary, she would write you a handwritten note.

Lacey Wilson: Wow.

Denise Baker: She was just so good at remembering people's names and kind of addressing you as an individual. And Ed was good at that, too. I mean, they really brought about a lot of growth. Both in the student body and, of course as 65:00I've already said, all the new programs.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: But, the 90s were kind of the, the early 90s were kind of the golden era for education in North Carolina. There was money.

Lacey Wilson: That's important.

Denise Baker: Yeah.

Lacey Wilson: You need that.

Denise Baker: You need that. We had Democratic control of the legislature and the State House. So, there was value placed on education.

Lacey Wilson: There was support coming from the government.

Denise Baker: Yeah.

Lacey Wilson: Is that true?

Denise Baker: A lot more support coming from the state. And I do have to say North Carolina still, even under these dire straights, still provides more support for public education than most other states. But, obviously, it's gone down.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: And with the 2008 recession, I mean, UNCG really saw some problems. But, getting back ... I'm gonna go back even further.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: Because I failed to mention Bill Moran.


Lacey Wilson: Yes.

Denise Baker: I failed to mention Bill Moran. Again, Bill Moran was an excellent chancellor. I always had a warm spot in my heart for Bill Moran because he became chancellor right after I became faculty member here. He had been a chancellor at a U of M campus- I'm not sure if it was Dearborn or Flint but there was that Michigan connection and he had initially gotten his Bachelor's degree at Princeton with an English major.

Lacey Wilson: Lots of connections.

Denise Baker: Yeah. He knew the poetry of George Herbert and T.S. Eliot. I think he loved poetry. He was soft spoken. He was not someone who wanted to be in the lime light but his project here was to improve the infrastructure and the look 67:00of the campus. A lot of what happened closing off College Avenue, making that a pedestrian area, the renovation of the dining hall, renovation of some of the dorms. I'm trying to think of any buildings were built under Moran. I can't remember. But certainly places I used to be able to park, I can no longer park. So parking got squeezed but the campus looked much nicer.

Denise Baker: For some reason, I got appointed to all these big committees when I was a young assistant professor, or just associate. First of all when I got 68:00here, I think my second year, again I'm rambling but this is funny. For some reason I was placed on this major College committee to revamp the College General Education requirements. I think this was just College. It was not General Education. We have something called CAR. College Additional Requirements, but it used to be called AULER. What did AULER stand for? No, AULER was All University Liberal Education Requirements. This might have been something just in the college.

Denise Baker: It was one of those committees where, and I will mention him by name because he's retiring, Jarrett Leplin from Philosophy, really did not like the fact and did not think that the English Department did a good job in 69:00teaching Composition. He thought that it needed to be really a course in logic. I felt very, very under attack as a person from the English Department. I felt I had to defend Composition because I don't think teaching logic per se really teaches you how to write. There's more to it than just doing a syllogism. Finally the compromise, if anybody ever wonders how in the college curriculum we have the category called Reasoning and Discourse, which includes Philosophy courses and English Composition courses and now it includes some other strange stuff like the Psychology weird beliefs. It was a compromise brought about by 70:00the Schleunes committee to resolve this very strong objection that Jarrett Leplin had to English Composition.

Denise Baker: So many things that happen when you've been on a campus for a long time. You realize that so many things that happen are a result of one person's strong personality and efforts by everyone else to achieve compromise. Often times the compromise is not very elegant but it's a compromise. We can't all have our own way.

Lacey Wilson: No, we cannot. It's not one person's university.

Denise Baker: Exactly. Or one parties' country. Parties in Congress and the White House have to learn to compromise and not just say no unless it's to 71:00current administration.

Lacey Wilson: What other committees were you on?

Denise Baker: Let me go back to Bill Moran for a minute. This is another committee, actually that's a good segue.

Lacey Wilson: Oh, good.

Denise Baker: The other committee I was on, under Bill Moran, was the University Mission Statement. And that was again, a huge committee. I didn't know how I ever got on it but I was. I remember it was chaired by someone who just retired. No, I'm sorry. That's the old General Education Committee. Jim Clotfelter. He became some kind of an associate provost. I never remember what those big titles at the top mean. He was, for a very, very long time, in charge of IT and 72:00Telephone Services at a high level, some kind of provost level.

Denise Baker: I remember he was the chair and the other person I remember being on it was Roch Smith in Language and, used to be French or Romance Languages Department. Now it's Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. We had to come up with a mission statement and Roch Smith proposed this as one of the missions of the university. Students should learn the joy of reasoned inquiry. And I thought, yes. That is a beautiful way of putting it. That is what we should all try to teach and learn. Unfortunately, that...

Lacey Wilson: Didn't make it?

Denise Baker: No, it made it to our mission statement. But it's kind of not made it to others.

Lacey Wilson: Gotcha.

Denise Baker: I wanted to preserve that for the record. The joy of reasoned inquiry.


Lacey Wilson: Yeah. It's very idealistic.

Denise Baker: Very idealistic. What's a university for?

Lacey Wilson: Idealism.

Denise Baker: Idealism. Exactly. This is our opportunity. This is our place where young people can...

Lacey Wilson: Learn the joy.

Denise Baker: Learn the joy. Examine their values. Decide on their life's work.

Lacey Wilson: And inquire further.

Denise Baker: Yeah. Exactly. Have an open mind. But society nowadays has gotten far from that.

Lacey Wilson: It'll swing back.

Denise Baker: Let's hope so.

Lacey Wilson: We'll make it.

Denise Baker: The other reason. Bill Moran was a very nice person and it was under Bill Moran that I get tenure.

Lacey Wilson: Gotcha. That's another very important connection.

Denise Baker: Yes. Very important but unfortunately, he did some things that some members of the faculty didn't like. I probably didn't like them at the time either. He introduced fraternities and sororities to the campus. I think he was 74:00starting to push more for sports. We became Division I maybe in soccer.

Lacey Wilson: Something like that.

Denise Baker: Something like that. That was changing the kind of liberal arts and small college feel of UNCG. Unfortunately, there was kind of a faculty rebellion led by Charles Tisdale in the English Department and I can't even remember what the reason was. The other people that Moran got in trouble with were alumnae for some reason. I don't remember all the details but it had something to do maybe with the alumni house even.

Lacey Wilson: Really?

Denise Baker: Yeah.

Lacey Wilson: I'll have to look into that.

Denise Baker: Yeah. I don't know all the details. Of course, the renovation of 75:00the dining hall is now called Moran Commons because he was the one that did the first renovation. Then we got to Pat and Ed and I'm trying to think who was provost under Moran. I can't remember. I think in those days the chancellor played a bigger role internally. Whoever it was, I'm sorry. I'm sure I know who you were but I can't remember right now.

Denise Baker: Pat Sullivan was a bit of a controversial hire because the first woman chancellor. I believe she was the first woman chancellor in the UNC system. I'm sure of that.


Lacey Wilson: Okay. Wow.

Denise Baker: And of course now the chancellor at Chapel Hill is a woman. It was a little bit controversial when she was first hired. She didn't have a big research CV. She came from Texas, I think it was called Texas Christian Woman's College. Maybe it was just Texas Woman's College. In any case she got here and she won people over. She and Ed built the Doctoral programs, the research profile of the university and also put a lot more emphasis on science. That was when we started to see growth in the sciences. The Sullivan Science Building was built under her leadership. As I said before, she had great people skills and I 77:00think managed to get some big donations for equipment and what not for that science building.

Denise Baker: Ed Uprichard, we always that they would both retire together but he actually retired a year or two earlier. She had pancreatic cancer and died very quickly. I can remember you asked something in the questions about big events. The big party to celebrate Pat Sullivan's, not so much celebrate as recognize her on her retirement. I think everybody knew she was dying, though she kept it secret for a long time. It was very quick. It happened in about a 78:00year and a half. There was this huge, huge dinner and the entire home ballroom can be divided into three but when you take out all of the walls, it is really huge. And that's where there was a dinner that had lots of faculty, lots of alums, lots of friends of the campus. It was a very nice event. Very spectacular.

Denise Baker: I remember I sat next to JoAnne Smart Drane, I can't remember which way her name goes. But one of the first African American students on campus when it was still the woman's college. She is now featured on the UNCG website. Did you see the picture of the very elegant looking black woman?


Lacey Wilson: Yes I did.

Denise Baker: That's her. She was at that dinner and I remember sitting next to her and talking to her about her time at UNCG and she said that she always appreciated Amy Charles in the English Department. Amy was one of the professors who went out of her way to make JoAnne feel welcome.

Lacey Wilson: That's lovely.

Denise Baker: Yeah. When she heard I was in English she mentioned Amy.

Lacey Wilson: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Denise Baker: Things kind of go full circle in our interview.

Lacey Wilson: They really do. Ideally, yeah.

Lacey Wilson: And then we had Brady after Sullivan?

Denise Baker: Yeah. Brady came in at a very unfortunate time. All of the sudden, after all these golden years when we're growing and building we have the recession. Brady. I don't know whether. This is just speculation on my part. She 80:00did several things in addition to the recession that made her very unpopular.

Denise Baker: First of all, she came in and immediately moved the Department of Theater out of the College into the School of Music. It might have been a smart move but it was not something that the faculty initially wanted because there had been a faculty committee studying the move of the arts into one school with music and they had decided against it. But again, I'm just speculating. The provost under Linda Brady was Dave Perrin. From what used to be called HHP, Health and Human Performance, and that school included Dance which really didn't 81:00fit. I think Dance and Dave Perrin wanted to get out of HHP. To move that small department to the School of Music without theater maybe wouldn't have made any sense.

Lacey Wilson: Sure.

Denise Baker: Linda Brady moved theater out of the College and there are still faculty in Theater today who don't like that. They want to be back in the College. Then she reorganized, combining, and again I actually thought this was a good idea. Because we have two small colleges. HHP, Health and Human Performances and HES, Human Environmental Studies. I call them PE and Home Ec.

Lacey Wilson: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Denise Baker: From the days of the woman's college. She combined those two 82:00colleges and the people especially in Human Environmental Sciences did not like it. They were really angry. It was done in a kind of secretive way. The plan was first discussed with the deans in the summertime and the dean of HES told her faculty so they weren't brought into the planning. She ended up having to leave because she lost her deanship. Some of the departments that were in these two schools didn't fit in the new school which I think is called Health and Human Sciences. Or Human Services. HHS.

Lacey Wilson: I think so.

Denise Baker: Yeah. I think it's maybe Human Services.

Lacey Wilson: I think it's Services.

Denise Baker: Yeah. One of the departments that left the new college was Interior Architecture and they came to the College of Arts and Sciences which was good for us.


Lacey Wilson: Seems like it'd fit into there anyways.

Denise Baker: Yeah. It fits better there. Two major reorganization that Brady did which, at least the second one made a lot of sense to me because why have two small, small schools? Even now, the combined HHS is not as big as the College of Arts and Sciences.

Denise Baker: Then, because there was this recession and I think Brady was assuming that we were going to be asked to cut a lot of programs, she had us do a preemptive academic review program. Academic program review. It was an awful lot of work. Every department had to justify according to these certain criteria, every concentration. In a way, it was probably strategically good we 84:00could say. We discontinued some programs before the legislature or GA made us do so. In a way we were able to do very minimal damage to ourselves because we could choose what we were going to discontinue. And it ended up that we discontinued a lot of programs that were just on the books. Again, I shouldn't be revealing this but it was preemptive strike. It was probably a good idea but it raised a lot of anxiety among the faculty and it made for a lot of work. Some pay off, but I don't know if we really preempted GA.

Denise Baker: Those three things, then number four. Again, this is recent 85:00history. The firing of three people in, I'm trying to think of the name. I'm going to call the Public Relations Office and have another name. Brady brought in a lot of new associate provost level people. She hired someone to manage, it's called University Advancement. Kind of public relations. He was from the private sector. He discovered that these two photographers were, he called it running their own business out of the university. It wasn't, I don't think, all that much of a violation. But he fired them and a woman who worked with them. And boy, the campus was up in arms because everybody knew these three people. The police actually came on campus and led them away in handcuffs.


Lacey Wilson: Oh, wow.

Denise Baker: It didn't have to be handled that way.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: I don't know how much he consulted with the provost before he did that. How much he talked to those people and told them, you can't do this anymore. They claimed they had permission from their previous supervisor to do this.

Lacey Wilson: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Denise Baker: Then, Linda Brady supported him and that just turned a lot of people against her. There was such an uproar. It became a PR disaster. Here's our PR office making the front page of the Greensboro News Record because of these firings. They become the focus of bad PR. At the same time, we're getting all these budget cuts. That was a very recent disaster for the university and 87:00then, and I think this was under Brady.

Denise Baker: We lost a lot of enrollment one year.

Lacey Wilson: Oh really.

Denise Baker: The state does the budget for the University in two year intervals, and you project what your enrollment is going to be for those two years beforehand. There was a formula the administration was using to project enrollment so we got the money for a certain enrollment and we came way under. And the next year, we had to return millions of dollars. This was, I'm going to say eight million, but I'm not sure that's the amount.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: That's just my kind of guesstimate. Which is a lot of money. That 88:00really put the campus into a tailspin. A lot of lecturers had to be let go. It was just awful. Fortunately we came out of it, but by that time- and Linda Brady, by that time Dave Perrin had left the provost office. He fortunately got a job somewhere else so he left the campus.

Lacey Wilson: He fled.

Denise Baker: And Linda had hired Dana Dunn as the provost. When Linda Brady finally stepped down, unfortunately she had a heart attack. Then Dana Dunn had to serve as chancellor when she first got here her first year. Linda Brady retired and she has come back to the Political Science Department, or at least 89:00did for a year. This was another thing she did which was so funny. There was a big front page story about her in the Chronicle of Higher Education. She had worked in the 80's on nuclear deterrence. She had negotiated with Russia. She said in the story, it's harder to negotiate with faculty than Russians, which is probably true!

Lacey Wilson: Probably true, yeah.

Denise Baker: But that didn't win her any points either. I think she was- oh! I'm forgetting so many things. This is recent history. The other big thing that was very controversial. She signed a contract with the Greensboro Colosseum to have the basketball teams play there.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: Here we go. Sports? No. We don't want that. By the faculty. My 90:00theory, and this is just a theory. I have no proof of it. My conspiracy theory is that one of the conditions of her being hired was that she try to promote UNCG basketball. But who knows. Signing a contract with the Colosseum costs a lot of money.

Lacey Wilson: It does.

Denise Baker: And when you come into a campus and try to make change and you make it too quickly and without consulting the right people, it can be very dangerous. I do feel sorry for her because also some of these things were not of her causing.

Lacey Wilson: Right. The recession.

Denise Baker: Yeah. The recession. The big dip in enrollment.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah. A lot of this is just timing.

Denise Baker: Timing. Yeah. Timing. She stepped down and then Dana Dunn, who had 91:00just come as provost, took over as acting chancellor and provost and the search went on for Frank Gilliam who, so far I think has dome a great job. He's got an entirely different profile from Linda Brady.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: He's looking outside, he's trying to promote the image of the university in the community and in the state. I think he's doing a great job of that. He doesn't seem to be that involved in the day to day academics of it. He did again, from my point of view. And since I'm retiring I'll say this, I think he came here and Dana Dunn had already come up with the strategic plan and he gave it his imprimatur, which is fine. But one of my- and I said this at the 92:00faculty forum. It didn't lead to any changes.

Denise Baker: The humanities were not represented in the strategic plan. That did cause a lot of the faculty in the humanities to get more active and so, we now have humanities network and just by coincidence, this national organization called the National Humanities Alliance picked UNCG to be a home base for that particular organization in this region. A lot is changing.

Denise Baker: I've forgotten a lot of things I probably should have talked about.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah. I was going to swing us back.

Denise Baker: Then come back to some things you'd like to.

Lacey Wilson: I don't think we talked about you being Associate Dean at all.

Denise Baker: No. And that's what I've done for 13 years. And 12 of those years 93:00were under Tim Johnston. Tim was head of the Psychology. Tim had a very illustrious and successful career as an administrator. I think he was really a superb Dean of the College. Even before he became Dean, he was an Associate Dean under Joanne Creighton. Again, I'm going to have to go back and talk about the Creighton-Zinser war. For history.

Denise Baker: And then he went back and was head of the Psychology department while I was head of English. And then when Walter Beale retired from the Dean's office, Tim was interim head for a year because of course the faculty always thinks we can do better if we go with an outsider which I think is not the case. 94:00But when they couldn't find someone outside, Tim came in as full dean and he did a superb job for 14 years. These were years of plenty and years of paucity. It was really difficult during that latter period but he provided superb leadership. The College had to take huge budget cuts. He and Karen Patrick, who was the budget manager for the College, did a great job in providing information for the departments and allowing them to take the cuts where they thought they could best afford them.

Denise Baker: Unfortunately, some departments just had no wiggle room. If your main budget is tenure faculty lines, your tenure track faculty, you can't cut that. 95:00Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: Some departments, very few had to cut graduate assistantships which really hurt their grad programs. Other had to cut what's called OTP, Other Than Personnel, which is what's called to buy equipment other than personnel.

Lacey Wilson: Gotcha.

Denise Baker: A lot had to lose lecturers but I think Tim did it in the way that was best for the College. Let each department make its own decisions. He was also a very fine public speaker. He instilled a lot of confidence in the faculty; they really trusted him. He showed very good judgment. I think it was an exhausting job and I think it took a great toll on him personally because 96:00he's British. Stiff upper lip, keep it all inside. He was very discreet, very even tempered. You seldom saw him lose his temper or show whatever he was really feeling. He had a good sense of humor but it was dry. Very, very witty. But I know a job like that takes a toll.

Lacey Wilson: Sure.

Denise Baker: I know that everybody really, really admired him. I don't think there was any dissatisfaction with Tim in the College.

Denise Baker: Now, going back to Joanne Creighton and Elisabeth Zinser. Another 97:00great story at UNCG. This would have been late 80's. Have you heard anything about Elisabeth Zinser?

Lacey Wilson: I have not.

Denise Baker: Again, this was one of the committees I was on. I don't know how I got on all these big committees, but the committee to select the provost. This would have been under Bill Moran. I'm on the committee and we bring in the candidates and I remember there were two finalists. Elisabeth Zinser who grew up in Palo Alto, I think she went to Stanford but she had a degree in Nursing. That was controversial. But she was a woman. Then, a guy from University of Illinois 98:00who was in English. I think at least in the College, there was lots of suspicion about Zinser because she really, from our point of view, didn't have academic credentials.

Lacey Wilson: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Denise Baker: I can't even remember, she must have had an administrative post somewhere else. But I can't remember what it was. Maybe she was Dean of the School of Nursing. But nursing is not, in those days, it was a very small school on our campus. She didn't seem to have to liberal arts background that you expect to have from a provost. But she did get the job and of course, then she started reorganization. And she wrote this very controversial plan called Quo Vadis. Or Quo Vadimus. Where do we go?


Denise Baker: Or Quo Vadimus, where do we go?, Quo Vadimus, and one of her plans was to take ... which was one department at this time and I'll mention the name, the head was John Jellicorse very, very good head in the sense of promoting his own department, but this department consisted of communications studies, what is now known as media studies, and I think communication sciences and disorders, and Zinser's plan was to make this a separate school. It was a huge department, make it into a separate school of communications. Well, Joanne Creighton and Elisabeth Zinser didn't really hit it off because Joanne was very much a liberal arts person and I'll give some background. She came from Wayne State University, she was an English, her area of specialization was Faulkner, I think.


Denise Baker: So, there was another plan to revise the general education curriculum, and it would have taken requirements out of the college, water down the general education requirement and so it became kind of a competition, let's say, a battle between the provost's plan and the dean's plan and when it came to a vote, 'cause we were supposed to vote on these things, curriculum requirements in the general faculty, which is all of the faculty, I can remember Joanne mustering the troops. We were all urged to go over and vote and I can't remember what ... I don't remember whether there were two plans up for a vote or one plan that we defeated but in any case the college was successful.


Denise Baker: And I think it was at that point that we got AULER, A-U-L-E-R, All University Liberal Education Requirements, but maybe not, maybe we got something else. I can't remember. No, I think I'm wrong. I think it replaced AULER. Our current system, we got our current system-

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: Which replaced AULER.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: So, then both of them left very quickly but with Zinser it was kind of a funny ... When it was over, I remember it was over a spring break, it was in March. We learned that she had received an offer and she'd accepted an offer from Gallaudet and you probably know, Gallaudet is a college or university for the deaf. Well, the students there were in rebellion. They did not want a hearing person to become provost. So, Zinser resigned and Moran offered her her 102:00job here back, so she came back and she didn't stay long, nor did Joanne Creighton. Zinser then went on, I think, to be chancellor at the University of Kentucky perhaps or Nebraska and to be the head of a big organization. I think it was the ... Maybe American Association of Land-Grant Colleges or something. I don't know what it was. Then Joanne went to Wesleyan to become provost and then she became president of, I believe, it was Wellesley, one of the seven sisters schools, and she just retired recently. So, both of them ... Everybody who leaves UNCG goes on to an illustrious career-

Lacey Wilson: That's good to know.

Denise Baker: In academia. There was Ron Crutcher, who was in the school of music, I think he's a cellist, he was African American. He went onto Miami of 103:00Ohio and then he became head of the AACU, American Association of Colleges and Universities. Debra ... Gosh, what was ... We had a person who was like acting chancellor for one year between Moran and Sullivan and she went on to become the head of the Graduate School Council nationwide, so leaving UNCG is a big boost for your career.

Lacey Wilson: That is good to tell me at this point.

Denise Baker: Yeah. Unfortunately ... Well, I shouldn't say ... Unfortunately for Linda Brady was at the end of ... She didn't want to be an administrator anymore so she went back to political science and she has a years research assignment, so she was not here. I thought it was really brave of her to come 104:00back to teach and the head of the political science department said she was so collegial and she was there all the time and wanted to know what she could do to help the department. So, she's on research assignment for a year. Her husband and she go to Australia, coming back and she has had a heart attack like the previous March, coming back on the plane, she thinks he's sleeping, they land, he's dead.

Lacey Wilson: Oh, no.

Denise Baker: I mean it was just ... That poor woman-

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: Has had the worst decade, so she did come back and teach in political science and I believe she is retiring now.

Lacey Wilson: Okay, wow.

Denise Baker: So, yeah.

Lacey Wilson: That's heavy.

Denise Baker: It is.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: I mean that's sad.


Lacey Wilson: It is.

Denise Baker: And as I'm thinking back on it, gosh, I've lived through some interesting things. Not so much in ... I will say my own life has been kind of smooth.

Lacey Wilson: Sure.

Denise Baker: But I've witnessed a lot of history and yeah, this has been a really interesting experience for me, just to think back ... Mainly I'm just telling stories.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: But yeah, the institution's really changed and I haven't told any stories about students. I love the students at UNCG.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: They are wonderful people. They're not ... Well, I've seen more grade grubbers recently but usually the grade grubbers are the ones that aren't doing very well anyway, so I really couldn't justify raising their grade. It's not like what I hear it's like at those private institutions where everybody's a 106:00grade grubber and you have to give them all As 'cause they're paying a high tuition.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: I do remember hearing two funny stories about students. One was my first plagiarism and this was ... I was a really young assistant professor and these two girls, I know they're not friends, they're so different, hand in the same paper. I'm thinking how did this happen? So, I call them in. They both plagiarized from Cliff's Notes. Did you have ...

Lacey Wilson: I knew what Cliff's Notes was.

Denise Baker: So, that was an easy one.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: But so many students were so hard working and good hearted and curious and just a delight to teach, especially I will have to say I enjoy 107:00teaching English majors the most, 'cause they really do love the subject. They're not there just because they have to be.

Lacey Wilson: To get the grade. Right, no, that's fair.

Denise Baker: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lacey Wilson: 'Cause they have the inquisitive mind for English as it is.

Denise Baker: Exactly, exactly and they love to read. Now, I do think that they're more pressured now, it's just become so much harder to be a student. There're so many distractions. So many of them are working and of course, the job market is not easy, so I feel very sorry for young people today. It's not an easy world.

Lacey Wilson: No. There's so much to do.

Denise Baker: Yeah, yeah. And I hope, I mean I think ... I hope kids realize 108:00that you have to ... And I know there's a lot of concern about getting a job and making money and that's an important issue, that is important, but you also have to do something you love. So, I hope they have the opportunity I did, 'cause I really did get to do something I love and not many people can say that.

Lacey Wilson: No, very fortunate.

Denise Baker: Very fortunate. See, I'm crying again because I realize how fortunate I am.

Lacey Wilson: That's good tears. We're lucky to be here, the right time-

Denise Baker: I'm lucky to be here, exactly. So much of it was just the right timing and now you look at the English department, it's probably 75% women.

Lacey Wilson: What a change.

Denise Baker: What a change but of course, the whole status of the university 109:00has declined, not that they're connected but-

Lacey Wilson: No, they're not.

Denise Baker: But it's sad when you have all these attacks, you see them all the time on university professors as being some kind of people who are brainwashing students. I don't know of anybody who's trying to brainwash students. We're just trying to help them understand what they're living in.

Lacey Wilson: Just connect them to the joys of inquiry.

Denise Baker: Recent inquiry, yes.

Lacey Wilson: That's literally all it is.

Denise Baker: Yes.

Lacey Wilson: There's no brainwashing about that.

Denise Baker: That's right.

Lacey Wilson: No time to brainwash is my understanding.

Denise Baker: Yeah, we're not number one. I think parents are much more influential on children than teachers. If anything, we just want students to 110:00look at the evidence and make their own decisions.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: And certainly as a literary critic, you have to look at the text and they're the ones who have to ... not that ... I mean it does have a meaning as a text but it's relevance to your life is something you have to decide on. Well, anything else that I've-

Lacey Wilson: We still haven't talked about you being an associate dean.

Denise Baker: Oh, well, I loved ... And I shouldn't make this confession but I loved being an associate dean because I was not the one making the decisions. I was just carrying them out.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: I reached ... they talk about ... Well, I shouldn't say this ... I was gonna say I reached my degree of incompetence, but I didn't. I mean I did a good job. I'm not saying I was incompetent, but I didn't feel ... It wasn't as 111:00difficult as being department head because I was just answering to one boss, and I had an opportunity to represent different points of view, but I was not the one making the decision and so I didn't feel as a department head sometimes does, caught in the middle. Also, I would say that ... Well, the thing that made it hard in a sense was that it's a year-round job, so I did miss ... I did always teach, this is like maybe the first semester I didn't teach, so I always felt that the teaching kept me in touch not only with students but with the discipline, so that was good, but lots of times it was just tedious.


Lacey Wilson: Sure.

Denise Baker: Lots of times I was doing things I really didn't enjoy but they had to be done. Sometimes it was exciting but most of all, I was happy that I was not the one that had to make these hard, hard decisions.

Lacey Wilson: What made it exciting?

Denise Baker: Well, it was exciting when I felt like I was doing something good like well, one of my jobs is to ... This is a small part of it, give money to graduate students in the form of retroactive tuition waivers so when we had money left over at the end of the year, if a student hadn't gotten a waiver originally, then the departments would nominate them and I would ... I mean it was really a very small part of my job but just seeing these students getting a 113:00refund, that was exciting.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah, they're so appreciative.

Denise Baker: I know because it's ... Especially if you're out of state.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: It's expensive.

Lacey Wilson: It is.

Denise Baker: And then well, just working since I was in charge of graduate programs, I really liked helping the departments. I always thought of my role as associate dean as trying to make the work of the department heads easier because I do know that the department heads have the hardest job on campus.

Lacey Wilson: You know from experience.

Denise Baker: Yeah, I know from experience and it's only gotten harder since I did it, much harder. So, I tried to provide information that would help them. Sometimes if they didn't submit reports that I didn't think were all that important, just let it slide. I shouldn't confess that but ... So, I think one 114:00of the things that's really not been good for the university is this greater and greater top down management. We're supposed to be accountable but the ways that we're asked to be accountable don't account for anything. You set student learning goals and then you're supposed to not go by the basis of what the students did in class. I don't know, you're supposed to have another test beyond the test, not of content but of what they learned, I don't know.

Denise Baker: The whole accountability system, I think we need some accountability on the part of the upper administration. There's just so many rules and policies coming down and I think lots of times they're just busy work but now I'm speaking like a faculty member and not an administrator.


Lacey Wilson: You spent longer as a faculty member than as administrator.

Denise Baker: Yeah, well, I would say I was always a faculty member. That was my primary identity. I never really ... As an associate dean, you're not really up there, you're just ... I have great attachment to the college of arts and sciences, so faculty member in the English department in the college of arts and sciences.

Lacey Wilson: Right, that's how you'd identify yourself?

Denise Baker: That's how I identify myself, not so much UNCG faculty, but for me, UNCG is the college of arts and sciences, so, I've shown my biases. Tim Johnson always used to say the college is the heart of the university and the brains. He didn't say brains but I would say brains. So, yeah, being an 116:00associate dean was interesting but I had to work 12 months and I really got tired of working summers.

Lacey Wilson: Sure.

Denise Baker: Coming into the office but when there wasn't much to do in the summer, I could do my research, so, that was good.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: And now I'm looking forward to getting back to doing research and publishing maybe and traveling a lot.

Lacey Wilson: That'll be fun.

Denise Baker: Yeah, I will say I'm apprehensive about retirement because this is my social life. All my friends are here. You don't have ... Well, it's probably true for almost anybody who works in a big institution. The people you know are the people you work with. So, I will certainly miss that but I will be on phased retirement for three years, so I'll be back to teaching, which will be good.


Lacey Wilson: There you go.

Denise Baker: That'll be a nice way to kind of ease out of it and be phased in two senses of the term, phased out and get less attached.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah, there you go, so you can realize what retirement even is.

Denise Baker: Yeah, exactly.

Lacey Wilson: Okay, we have hit two hours.

Denise Baker: Wow, the time went by quickly.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah, it did. So, I'm gonna ... I have a couple of questions about campus culture and then we'll do wrap up questions and then I'll let you go.

Denise Baker: Okay.

Lacey Wilson: So, how would you think ... How do you think you'd define campus culture at UNCG? Culture at UNCG?

Denise Baker: Boy, I know faculty culture-

Lacey Wilson: Sure.

Denise Baker: I'm not sure I know student culture. I know the young people on our campus as students. I don't know them as young people.

Lacey Wilson: Gotcha.

Denise Baker: So, what happens in the dorms, what happens ... I mean my daughter 118:00did go to UNCG. I'll tell you when my daughter was a student here, I learned a lot about campus culture. We used to have a ... And maybe we still do, WUAG?

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: Yeah, I mean that was really big to her. Her boyfriend became ... There was a lot more money going into WUAG then and they used to put on concerts on campus. They used to ... He worked for the radio station and he ... I can remember them having open air concerts on campus and a lot more kind of social ... What can I call it, entertainment going on. What else did I learn? Well, things I won't reveal on tape.

Lacey Wilson: Fair.

Denise Baker: So-

Lacey Wilson: Well, your daughter went here?

Denise Baker: Yeah, my daughter went here.

Lacey Wilson: What did she major in?

Denise Baker: Spanish.

Lacey Wilson: Ah.


Denise Baker: Yeah.

Lacey Wilson: Did she like it here?

Denise Baker: Yeah, I think she was ... I mean I think she did. She liked it here but then she's also sometimes sad she didn't go somewhere else but I don't think she was really ready. She had some problems in high school and this was a good ... This was good for her to stay here.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: Yeah. And then she went and taught in Spain for a year, which was a good experience ... Well, it wasn't a good experience for her but she did get to leave and go far away.

Lacey Wilson: Sure. Got to have that experience.

Denise Baker: It was a good experience overall but she didn't like life in Spain that much.

Lacey Wilson: Sure.

Denise Baker: So, yeah, I'm not ... I can't say I know that much about student culture.

Lacey Wilson: That's fair.

Denise Baker: I mean you obviously know a lot more but even as a master's student, you probably don't-

Lacey Wilson: Not really, no, I'm a master's student. I'm here for class. I'm here to do work for these interviews. Sometimes I eat here but my apartment's 120:00fairly close, so I could go back and do work or I'm doing work in the library.

Denise Baker: Mm-hmm (affirmative), exactly.

Lacey Wilson: I pass student culture consistently.

Denise Baker: Yeah, exactly and I'm always ... Lately, I've been going to the library and been very impressed by the number of students who were there.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: They really use the library now.

Lacey Wilson: We really do, yeah. There's barely an empty seat that you can find.

Denise Baker: Yeah.

Lacey Wilson: You reserve rooms and if you reserve room, I've passed people who've reserved the rooms and they're not slacking off in there. They're doing work.

Denise Baker: Yeah, so the library's really become even more central-

Lacey Wilson: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Denise Baker: Than it used to be.

Lacey Wilson: So, as little as you know about student culture, you can tell that at library's a hub of some kind.

Denise Baker: Yeah, exactly. Now that they allow coffee in there.

Lacey Wilson: That is very helpful.

Denise Baker: Yes, that's very helpful.

Lacey Wilson: I'm very appreciative of that.

Denise Baker: At first, when they were gonna build that extension that goes to EUC, I thought god, why do we need that but now I see how important it was.

Lacey Wilson: So, they can go right to the Starbucks, yeah.

Denise Baker: Yeah, exactly.

Lacey Wilson: Alright, so we have two wrap up questions and then we'll see if 121:00there's anything else ... Oh, we have a couple wrap up questions, okay. Well, how do you think you serve beyond UNCG in professional organizations and the community of Greensboro?

Denise Baker: Well, I can't take very much credit for those things. I think the ... Then again, the main thing I get involved in, in Greensboro is campaigning for Democratic candidates. I can't say that I do too much else.

Lacey Wilson: Sure, that's important though.

Denise Baker: Yeah.

Lacey Wilson: It's something.

Denise Baker: It's something, unfortunately it hasn't been very successful lately but it's something. Professionally, I haven't really been very involved in professional organizations.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: I really don't like to go to conferences.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: So, I think that was a mistake I made early in my career. If I had gone to conferences and networked more, I might have ... I guess I put my 122:00teaching before my research.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Denise Baker: And my job on campus before my own career in a sense. I mean I had a career here and it was a good career but nowadays, I think people tend to look outward more and think about their career in the profession rather than the career on the campus. It's kind of like the change that has occurred in the whole workforce. When I came in, in '75, you came into a university, chances are you're gonna stay there for your whole career. That's not the way it is anymore. It's like superstars trying to move up the ladder, for some people.

Lacey Wilson: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Denise Baker: A lot of people, though, at UNCG, in the English department are happy here and want to stay.

Lacey Wilson: Tell me how UNCG has effected your life and what it means to you?

Denise Baker: Oh my god!

Lacey Wilson: Everyone always groans at that question.

Denise Baker: I'm gonna cry. I mean it's been a wonderful part of my life and 123:00now that I'm retiring, I hate to give it up.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: I'm happy to give up the work but-

Lacey Wilson: But the UNCG of it.

Denise Baker: Yeah, I think it's a wonderful place to be a faculty member and to be a student. I think we still have a faculty that really values teaching and really cares about students. I'm sorry.

Lacey Wilson: It's okay.

Denise Baker: It's a big milestone to retire and although people look forward to it and I'm sure I'll enjoy it, it really does cause a lot of anxiety 'cause how am I gonna keep myself busy.

Lacey Wilson: Right.

Denise Baker: When you have a job to go to, you don't have to think about-

Lacey Wilson: What you're gonna do.

Denise Baker: What you're gonna do and you don't have to ... I mean I have ... My husband always says I'm the most ... And I'm no longer a practicing Catholic 124:00but I'm the most Protestant Catholic he knows, because I always have to be working, I can't sit still. So, what am I gonna do? I gotta find new outlets but I'm sure there'll be stuff that will be connected to UNCG.

Lacey Wilson: Of course. Okay and then here's our last question, so these interviews are for the 125th, which is an excellent opportunity for reflection but also helps us think about where we're headed in the future. So, what is the future for UNCG? Where do you see UNCG going as an institution in the next 25-50 years? Heavy stuff.

Denise Baker: Very hard question.

Lacey Wilson: Last question though.

Denise Baker: Last question. Well, I hope that Chancellor Gilliam realizes his goal of making UNCG no longer a secret. You've heard him say the best kept 125:00secret, yeah, I think he's doing a good job, a great job of kind of getting out there. I love the way he writes emails to the faculty and students.

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: He's so genuine. He's so thoughtful. I don't know if he writes those himself but he sends them out in his name so they represent him and they speak to what he values. I think he's a wonderful ambassador. I hope UNCG continues to maintain its core values which I think are respect for students and respect for learning and trying to inculcate that joy of reasoned inquiry. I don't know where higher education is going. That's what's scary. Where is higher 126:00education going in this country? What kind of support is there gonna be? How are students going to manage to pay for it?

Lacey Wilson: Yeah.

Denise Baker: We're in a crisis period because higher education is becoming much more expensive. I have to tell you this, when I was an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, now I'm not sure whether this was for one semester or the whole year, I remember my tuition being 500 dollars. Of course, those were the days when you could buy a car for 2000 dollars. I remember my parents buying a Chevrolet in the 60s for 2000 dollars. Can you believe that?

Lacey Wilson: No.

Denise Baker: And for a dollar, you could get three gallons of milk or three half gallons of milk, three half gallons maybe. Isn't that incredible?

Lacey Wilson: Unbelievable.

Denise Baker: It is unbelievable.


Lacey Wilson: 500 dollars. Even if that's for just a semester, that's insane. I cannot imagine.

Denise Baker: And that's because number one, it was because really it wasn't until Reagan that prices skyrocketed and people forget that. They think Ronnie was good for the economy. He was the pits, but he was bad for the country but somehow, almost overnight, prices went up really sky high or my memory is wrong, one or the other. But I used to go to school and I'm sure my parents paid for my apartment but see, I don't remember all that but I would work, like we would get out late April, I would substitute teach for ... Until mid June maybe and I'd always make enough money to pay my tuition. So, yeah, it was ... So, what's happening, tuition's going up, universities are under attack. I think even ... 128:00We've lost the focus on, to some extent, on what's important, which is helping students to discover what's important to them and what they want to do with their lives and unfortunately, they don't have as much choice about what they want to do with their lives anymore.

Denise Baker: The things that used to be like sure bet jobs like being a lawyer, I mean-

Lacey Wilson: Who can afford to?

Denise Baker: Yeah, lawyers are driving Uber cabs. It's sad. I don't know what ... I think basically we've just, in America, lost the sense of ... And maybe we 129:00never had it, maybe it was all an illusion, but I think we used to have the sense, we're all Americans, we're all in this together, those were the days when I'll call them bosses but now they're called CEOs, maybe made 40 times as much as their employees, now they're making 4000 times as much. So, you've got workers oppressed, no jobs, oh, this is getting bleak, this is getting too bleak. And then I have to say, I was so lucky.

Lacey Wilson: Okay, we can end it there.

Denise Baker: Yes. I'm sorry.

OH002 (Completed 08/04/18)

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