Adam Baker describes himself as “clueless and lost” during his early 20s.
But as a 24-year-old struggling to make ends meet, he’d had enough. He got home from work at 3 a.m., and told his wife that he was going back to school.
“I decided I wanted more for myself,” Baker says.
As much as he wanted to make a new start, Baker had a lot of challenges to overcome. He had just become a father for the first time and he barely graduated from high school with a 1.67 grade point average.
“My wife actually laughed when I told her I was going back to school, because of how much I had hated high school,” he says.
It took seven years, but Baker managed to double-major in communications and philosophy and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in 2010 at age 31.
His first step: When Baker decided to go back to school, he was unfamiliar with the admission requirements and wasn’t sure what he wanted to study. He started talking with the admissions office at IUPUI in November. They walked him through the application process and he enrolled in his first classes in January.
What going back to school was like: “I felt a little out of place at first,” Baker says. “In a lot of classes, I was the oldest person. But that feeling was trumped by the great environment for learning.” There were some logistical and financial challenges, too. Baker’s wife also decided to go to college, so the couple took turns taking classes, worked full-time, and even had another child over the years it took for both of them to earn their degrees. “We just could not stop working to make the future better for our family,” Baker says. With his new commitment to improving his life, Baker was able to succeed in college in ways that he never did in high school.
Best career move: While he was earning his degree, Baker learned of an internship opportunity. “Who does an internship when they are a 28-year-old father of two kids? But I decided I couldn’t pass up the opportunity,” Baker says. The internship ultimately led Baker to a series of full-time jobs with the Indiana Secretary of State’s office, the Indiana Department of Education, the City of Indianapolis and his current job as communications director for the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.
Advice: Networking with other professionals in state and local government has made a big difference in his career path. “I don’t call it networking as much as ‘opportunities along the way’ to sit with folks, have lunch, just chat,” Baker says. “Never turn down an invitation to talk with someone. You never know what could come of it.”