Kansas native Tim Hodges will return home after a 25-year absence when he assumes his position as the new counseling center director Sept. 29.
Hodges said he has been in Chicago for 25 years, but he still considers Kansas his home.
He is an alumnus of the University of Kansas and his collection of Jayhawk paraphernalia is out of place in his current location, Hodges said
"I have always wanted to be a part of the liberal arts community," he said.
Hodges said he wants to get students past the stigma that is often associated with counseling. He plans to make available some time where students can visit with him individually and judge for themselves if he is going to be a good fit at Baker.
"I think the more students get to know me they can see counseling as a normal aspect of development and not as something that crazy people do," Hodges said.
Hodges said Oct. 6-10 is Mental Illness Awareness Week and he plans to have depression screenings set up for students Oct. 10, which is National Depression Screening Day.
"I am really looking forward to being in a liberal arts atmosphere where there is a much higher view of psychology and social sciences," he said.
Dean of Students Cassy Bailey was the chair of a search committee that began looking for a candidate after former Counseling Center Director Kelly Bowers resigned at the end of July.
"We wanted someone who would be visible at events like theater productions, sporting events and music concerts," Bailey said.
Bailey said the most promising applicants were brought to campus to take a tour of the campus while meeting faculty and students. Plus, Hodges has more than 20 years of experience in counseling and a proven background in outreach programs.
"I appreciate that he didn't know everything about our institution but he is willing to learn," Bailey said.
Bailey said Hodges will be able to help students deal with typical college concerns such as transition issues but also provide special services for students facing other challenges. Hodges hopes to team up with other universities and expand the Counseling Center in order to increase services on Baker's campus as well.
Bailey said one of the goals this year is to normalize counseling and raise awareness of serious problems such as eating disorders.
"I am thrilled to have Tim join our team," she said. "I think he will be a wonderful addition and an asset to Baker."
Ruth Sarna, director of student health services, said she appreciates Hodges' pro-active approach toward counseling. Hodges' plans include having a performance anxiety program for students such as athletes and music majors, Sarna said.
"During his phone interview, (Hodges) said he loved the students," Sarna said. "He is keenly tuned into the students and their activities."
Sophomore Clayton Alexander said he had the opportunity to meet and interview Hodges. Alexander hopes Hodges will put himself out on campus and bring his programs into the residence halls.
"He seemed very genuine," Alexander said. "He was quick-witted and had an answer for everything."