A biweekly publication for faculty and staff

Program Coordinator Finds Rewarding Journey to UC Merced

October 21, 2015

Angi Baxter joined UC Merced in 2014 as coordinator of Women's Programs and LGBTQ+ Initiatives.Angi Baxter says the past nine months have been an absolute whirlwind. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Baxter joined UC Merced in January 2015 as the campus’s first coordinator of Women’s Programs and LGBTQ+ Initiatives in the Office of Student Life.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to create two very strong programs at a new university while growing my career,” Baxter said.

Raised in the Midwest, Baxter was the first in her family to attend college. Challenges she faced while growing up helped her realize that education would provide the best means for her to change her life.

“I grew up impoverished and in an abusive household,” she said. “I was taught that a woman’s worth was tied to how she served her husband, so this orange fell very far from the apple tree. I was always challenging my family; I didn’t fit in. I saw that my only escape was education, and it became my goal.”

Baxter worked and saved enough money to move to Oregon, a place she visited with her grandparents when she was 9 years old.

“It just felt right to me and I said, at age 9, ‘This is where I want to live,’” Baxter said.

After living there long enough to establish residency, she attended Oregon State University in Corvallis. While there, she volunteered for that campus’s Queer Resource Center and women’s center, which helped her cultivate many professional relationships and connections. She co-developed that campus’s LGBTQ Advocacy Team that established a Safe Zone program to identify students, faculty and staff members who will provide empathy, acceptance, support and resources for LGBTQ+ students.

She ended up back in the Midwest and was there when the position she now holds at UC Merced became available.

“I applied on a lark and didn’t think that I would get the job,” she recalled.

She couldn’t be more pleased to have been wrong.

Please describe what your job entails.

I have the opportunity to serve two amazing communities on campus: women and the LGBTQ+ community. I get to spend time working on issues and developing events and programs that directly impact both of these communities. I also work with stakeholders across campus to continue making UC Merced a welcoming, safe and affirming environment for women and the LGBTQ+ populations. Furthermore, I assist in increasing retention, engagement and the students' overall experience while at UC Merced by offering support services and resources.

What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your job?

Working with such an amazing student population and professional colleagues. The students here are absolutely amazing! They are very dynamic, thoughtful, appreciative and very sharing of themselves. I have the opportunity to really understand who the students are, their backgrounds and where they are going. I have the privilege of being part of their journey and even planting a few seeds while also watering others.

In addition, I am learning a significant amount from not only the students but also my colleagues. The professional staff and faculty members at UC Merced are open, welcoming and gracious with their time, energy and willingness to support. Both the students and professionals I work with challenge me every day to be a better, more educated person and for this, I will always be thankful.

What are some of the challenges you face in your role?

First and foremost is learning how the UC system works. I came from a singular university versus a university system. It’s a lot different. Sometimes it is very complicated and difficult to navigate. However, what is amazing about this challenge is having the opportunity to engage with a university system that connects me directly with other campuses. I have really enjoyed the opportunities to work with colleagues from other UC campuses.

What new initiatives, projects or plans are you looking forward to in the coming year?

There are so many. The first is LGBTQ+ Initiatives, a new program within the Office of Student Life. This initiative will be the foundation for creating a campus that supports and affirms the lives and experiences of our LGBTQ+ population. It will provide support, opportunities for leadership and resources across campus while also engaging with the LGBTQ+ community across the entire UC system and California as a whole. I have a great opportunity to create it from the ground up with the support of amazing LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff members.

Angi Baxter waves as she takes a stroll during the UC Walks event in May.The second project I’m very excited about is developing a Women’s Leadership Initiative. This year, we are implementing the inaugural Women in Leadership Retreat. At the retreat, we will examine what it means to be a woman-identified leader and how our experiences affect our leadership, and we will practice ways to effectively lead. Next year, I am looking forward to expanding the initiative to include monthly curriculum-based programs to continue developing and supporting the women who participate in the retreat.

I’m also part of an initiative to create an LBGTQ+ Advisory Committee that works on climate issues for the LGBTQ+ and ally students, faculty and staff at UC Merced. We’re hosting a mix n’ mingle for those who identify as LGBTQ+ on Oct. 28. And, lastly, I’m part of the Women’s Empowerment Conference committee and Women’s History Month planning committees. Anyone who is interested in serving on these committees can contact me.

Tell us something about you that people on campus might not know.

I love to dance, read and spend time camping, hiking and backpacking. I really enjoy spending time in nature to help rejuvenate and ground myself. I have two amazing daughters who constantly challenge me to be a better person.