Every day, the residents of Niedfeldt go to class, take notes, and enjoy college life. They take advantage of office hours with faculty and hang out with friends. But it is easy to forget an entirely different side of Hillsdale, one that keeps things running smoothly right at home.
Vicki Baker is one such hidden hero. While students carry on their crazy, paper-riddled lives, she quietly makes sure Niedfeldt Residence is organized and livable. She is a friendly face in the dorm, and she always takes an opportunity to greet students. She cares for the residents through her dedication to her work. Baker began working as a custodian on Dec. 30, 1996. Nearly 21 years later, she is still dedicated to her job, but she began her work after an interesting turn of events.
After getting married in July 1982, Baker and her husband moved to Jackson, Michigan. Her husband mentioned to her that a mutual friend worked at the college bookstore and that their friend’s children received free tuition. For this reason, he encouraged her to look into a job at the college.
“I had never heard of Hillsdale College,” Baker said. “I didn’t even know what he was talking about.”
But she found the college and applied for a job. She called every month to check on the status of her application. One day, the Dow Center offered her a job cleaning the hotel.
Baker was as teacher’s aide for Reading Schools at the time, so she was hired as a sub-custodian.
After one of the custodians at the Dow retired, Baker began working full time. Not quite a year afterward, an opening came up for a custodian at Simpson residence. She applied and got the job. When she began working there, she said, Simpson was hosting football camp. She worked at Simpson for 13 years before eventually moving on to custodial roles at the Ambler Health and Wellness Center and Niedfeldt Residence. This year is her second year working in Niedfeldt.
“It’s a great place to work, and I like talking to the students and getting to know them every day,” she said. “I usually just talk to them when I’m cleaning their room or when I see them in the halls. That’s about it, unless I see them in the store or something; then I’ll say ‘Hi.’”
Baker said she works most closely with the house director, but she maintains contact with the Resident Assistants in case something needs to be cleaned or fixed. If an issue comes up when she isn’t on campus, she puts in a work order request with maintenance.
Junior Mitchell Moutard, Niedfeldt house director, said that Baker keeps the RA team updated on various maintenance issues in the dorm. He said that she is essential to keeping Niedfeldt running smoothly.
“Vicki’s work affects the residents and the Niedfeldt community at large by creating a healthier and more aesthetically-pleasing environment which frees up more time for the students to foster their liberal arts education,” he said.
Baker has a positive influence on the dorm at large, according to Moutard.
“She is a very personable lady and a valuable asset to the dorm,” he said. “She does her job well and communicates effectively with the RA Team and me to help students care for Niedfeldt, their home away from home.”
With her custodial job, Baker could put her son and daughter through Hillsdale. Her son Brian graduated in 2007 with a degree in financial management and computational math, and her daughter Ashley graduated in 2009 with an accounting degree.
“I was very happy and glad and proud of them,” she said.
Baker’s son and daughter received free tuition, but were required to pay the fees for on-campus housing.
“We paid for their books, and their tuition was free. They got student loans when they moved in here.”
Although their family lived about six miles from campus, Baker said her son was set on living in the dorms. He found it difficult to make friends on campus when he commuted, so he decided to move on campus.
“He said he wanted to live on campus to meet people, so I said, ‘Good for you!,’” she said.
Her son attended Hillsdale for five years. The first four, he lived in Simpson, and during the last year, he lived at a house on Fayette Street.
She said that both her son and daughter made close friends at Hillsdale who they keep in contact with to this day. Her daughter, she said, had Hillsdale friends attend her wedding this year.
“She just got married in October, so a lot of them came here,” she said. “They flew in from California and a couple other states. She’s been to their weddings.”
While her son lived in Simpson, his room was on the floor she cleaned. So it seems as if she cleaned his room anyways, even though he didn’t live at home during his college years.
“I ended up cleaning his room,” she said.