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Ria Baker
Ria Baker

UTSA Commencement Close-Up: First counselor education Ph.D. candidate plans to start a new career after a lifetime of experiences

By Ashley Harris
Public Affairs Specialist

(Dec. 14, 2007)--At a time when most adults are thinking about retirement, Ria Baker is thinking about a new career.

A native of Aruba, Baker will walk the commencement stage Saturday, Dec. 15 as UTSA's first Ph.D. candidate in counselor education and supervision. Only one other university in the region offers a similar doctoral program.

After becoming involved in missionary and counseling work in college, Baker moved to South Africa to organize relief efforts for the country's orphans who lived in refuse landfills. In addition to South Africa, Baker also participated in missionary and counseling work in Aruba, The Netherlands, India, Soweto, Urntata and Transkei.

After moving to Texas in 1991 with her husband, Baker became involved with the Somali-Bantu refugees relocating to San Antonio and trying to rebuild their lives after enduring terrible atrocities.

As a clinical care worker for the refugees, Baker's dissertation, "Don't You See Me, God? A Phenomenological Study of the Resettlement Experiences and Mental Health Needs of Somali-Bantu Refugee Women," deals directly with her experiences in this area.

Baker became interested in UTSA and its counseling program after meeting Marcheta Evans, associate professor and chair of the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Adult and Higher Education at a hair salon several years ago.

"Dr. Evans' dedication to UTSA and to its counseling program really struck me in that first meeting," said Baker. "Obtaining this Ph.D. hasn't been easy, but the professors in the department have a tremendous dedication to the students and their success."

In the last four years, Baker worked as a counselor in various schools and community settings and spent a year counseling students in the juvenile justice system. She currently works as a clinical case worker for Communities in Schools, a nonprofit organization that helps connect community resources with schools to help young people learn, stay in school and prepare for life.

With her Ph.D. in hand, Baker plans to pursue a teaching position in counselor education.

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