Meet the 2003 Outstanding Seniors

April 23, 2003

Last summer, her friendly face put her on the cover of the College’s viewbook.

In October, her popularity crowned her Homecoming Queen.

This semester, her knack for event planning landed her a job in the College’s Advancement offices.

But in an academic awards ceremony held April 12, Amanda Baker’s personification of a liberal arts education made her Maryville College’s Outstanding Senior – possibly her biggest accomplishment yet.

Established by the Maryville College Alumni Association in 1974, the Outstanding Senior Award recognizes those students “whose overall record of academic achievement and participation in extracurricular activities stands out as most exemplary.”

Only those students with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 are considered for nomination.

According to Helen Bruner, director of alumni and parent relations at the College, the purpose of the award is to recognize a senior “who has been active in a broad range of activities in college, who exemplifies an ‘ideal’ Maryville College graduate and who has the potential to be an outstanding alumnus/alumna – both as a representative of the College and in his or her service to the institution.”

Baker was one of five finalists introduced at the April 12 academic awards ceremony. She was presented a framed certificate plus a cash award of $500, and her name will be added to the Outstanding Senior plaque displayed on campus.

A part of the community

Amanda Baker never thought she was destined for a small, liberal arts college.

Throughout most of her time at Clinton High School, Baker, the daughter of Debbie Baker of Clinton and Allen Baker of Knoxville, assumed she would enroll at a large university with her friends and continue her jam-packed schedule of school-related activities.

A spiritual conversion during her senior year, however, caused her to re-evaluate her after-high-school plans. She said she needed friends and an atmosphere that would support her newly declared Christian faith. Baker had a friend enrolled at Maryville, but it was the College’s church affiliation and a waived application fee that made it attractive. She fell in love with the people during a campus visit, and earning several scholarships that would make attending the private college financially possible, Baker knew she would be joining the College’s Class of 2003.

But she joined more than a class. She joined a campus community that welcomed her into a myriad of clubs, organizations and activities. In four years, Baker has been a member of the Student Programming Board, the Academic Integrity Board, the Academic Life Council, the Non-Profit Leadership Development Program, the Window of Opportunity Strategic Planning Committee, the college-community chorus, the College’s gospel choir, the dance team, the school newspaper staff, the campus radio station and theatrical productions.

In introducing his advisee to the crowd during the April 12 awards ceremony, Dr. Carl Gombert, associate professor of art, enumerated her on- and off-campus activities.

“Off campus, she works with YOKE Youth Ministries and the Calvary Chapel Knoxville worship team,” Gombert said. “She has worked as a marketing director of the Y-12 Federal Credit Union and interned at the 2002 [Maryville] Foothills Fall Festival, whose director has already asked that we send more interns ‘just like Amanda.’”

Gombert continued, getting many laughs from the audience: “And the list goes on, but you get the idea. In her spare time, I really think Amanda fights crime and makes the world safe for democracy.”

Everything for a reason

If Baker’s list of extracurricular activities is long, her transcript may be longer. She chose to major in art early in her college career because it was a requirement for a scholarship. Her choice of minors, however, has gone from psychology to music to communication to business.

As it turns out, majoring in art and completing a minor in business will help her as she applies for graduate schools in art management, a calling she discerned only last summer during an internship with one of the world’s best performing arts festivals, the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, S.C.

As a finalist for the Outstanding Senior Award, Baker wrote an essay that was submitted to the award selection committee. In it, she said “… I believe that everything happens for a reason … I came here as an art major not because I knew what I wanted to do, but because I received a scholarship for being an art major. Then, I found out about the Spoleto Festival from doing Maryville’s Summer Experience Program and from that festival, I discovered what I am supposed to do.

“ Now looking for graduate programs in art management, I find that (conveniently enough) most programs require an undergraduate art degree for acceptance to their program,” her essay continued. “Ah! It all makes sense now! It’s so funny how things work out, and how every experience prepares us for something in the future that we don’t even know about yet.

“This is how I feel about Maryville College. Everything here has influenced me and helped me formulate my goals because experiences here have made me who I am or have at least helped me realize.”

Prepared for the future

With a master’s degree in art management, Baker hopes to someday work in – or begin her own – Christian performing arts festival. She envisions it as something like the Spoleto Festival “except with artists from all across the globe who proclaim their faith through their artistic expressions.”

Following graduation in May, Baker might begin a one-year internship in the College’s Admissions Office. In that role, she would travel to high schools and help recruit future students to the College.

Baker can easily speak to prospective students about classes in art and business, but her curiosity has also led her to the classrooms of world religions, golf and tennis. Every semester, she took the maximum amount of hours, even auditing some classes.

“I’m happy to be graduating, but there are still some classes I’d like to take,” she admitted. “I believe there’s something interesting about everything.”

And her essay backs up this belief: “I feel that just taking the classes I have taken has given me a wider perspective of the world and the cultures, opinions and conflicts that fill it. This has hopefully prepared me for and given me a love of learning – learning about all sorts of subjects! My curriculum here has been from painting to economics to sculpture to accounting. Throw in world religions and environmental toxicology, and my fascination for the world is only just beginning!

“ Maryville College has given me a curiosity to know and the courage to ask.


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2013 semester is 1,168.