Cloning saguaro cactuses with eighth graders, earning a Ph.D. in zoology, teaching genetics, authoring science books and developing a patent for an antibody kit are just some of the highlights of Dr. William Perry Baker’s distinguished career rooted in community college.

Baker is making a triumphant return to his roots as the new Associate Dean of Science, Math and Adult Basic Education at Yavapai College.

“I’m really excited about giving back and being at Yavapai College. I believe in the open-door mission and the opportunities we offer our students,” said Baker, who arrived at YC earlier this month.

A first-generation college student, Baker enrolled at Highline Community College in the Seattle area after high school. Without a clear career path at the time, he recalls being lured by the college’s accessibility and affordability. At Highline, he also benefited from an instructor who fostered his interest in science and suggested he consider a career in higher education. The instructor became a lifelong mentor and friend, Baker said. “I wouldn’t have known how to move through the higher education process if I didn’t have great mentors and opportunities at the local community college.”

Baker transferred from Highline to the University of Washington where he earned a bachelor’s degree in microbiology. He earned a master’s degree in education at Grand Canyon University and his zoology doctorate at Arizona State University.

Baker’s affinity for science and education grew as he achieved higher levels of education and served as a teaching assistant at GCU. “That role gave me a chance to understand the content area that I like – science – but also to work with people and see them successful as they applied what we were teaching.”

Seeing students flourish in school and achieve career success are the greatest rewards of working in higher education, Baker said. “I’m proud to have been a part of the journey for students who have gone on to become leaders in the allied health area and faculty members as well.”

Another valuable mentor, this one at ASU, spurred Baker’s transition from teaching to academic leadership. Outside of the classroom he was able to influence change and innovation at multiple institutions, many of them in Arizona, including Arizona Christian University, Midwestern University and Maricopa Community College District’s Office of Public Schools Program. While at MCC, he developed inquiry-based science activities and professional development materials for middle schools, high schools and community colleges.

At YC, Baker will continue to be on the threshold of innovation. Multiple educational and workforce advancements are on the horizon, including expanding Allied Health programs and facilities.

“It’s an exciting time for the college with new opportunities for growth. I’m really looking forward to getting to know everyone and helping the college move forward,” he said.

Baker and his wife, Belinda, are hiking and outdoor enthusiasts. A native of Australia, Belinda is looking forward to taking non-credit classes at YC, Baker said.

“We are really excited to be here, to be back in Arizona. It’s the right place and time. It’s an exciting time for the college and we’re happy to be part of that.”