New LFC President Excited to Guide the School into the Future
By Ean Goldstein
Dr. Jill Baren’s first day as president of Lake Forest College was significant for a number of reasons. Not only is Dr. Baren the first female president in the college’s history; she also succeeded Stephen Schutt, who forged many accomplishments during his 21 years, including creating strong ties between LFC students and Chicago and modernizing campus buildings.
However, this momentous day for both her and the college was overshadowed with a dark cloud. It was July 5, the day after the tragic shooting during the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park next door.
"Nothing gives me greater joy that the opportunity to care about students and their futures." says new Lake Forest College President Dr. Jill Baren.
“I was worried about people and their safety,” Dr. Baren said. Even though it happened over four miles away, Dr. Baren could feel how close to home it felt to everyone around the Lake Forest area. In fact, that sense of community was evident to Dr. Baren as early as her first visit to campus in January and is part of what drew her to the job in the first place. Lake Forest College appealed to her in part because the size of the college allows her to develop close relationships with people, including both students and faculty. She has already been invited to activities by staff and even to a few homes for dinners. Additionally, Lake Forest College’s position as a liberal arts school with proximity to Chicago -- with all of its culture, industry, and history -- appealed to Dr. Baren.
Before coming to Lake Forest, Dr. Baren spent two years as provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. Part of what has made her transition to Lake Forest College president so smooth has been the people that she works most closely with, including other members of the leadership team, student government, and especially Dean of Faculty Davis Schneiderman and Jackie Slaats, vice president of Athletics and Career Advancement. They have been a particularly great help as “guiding directors of getting to know all of the functions of the College.”
Atop Dr. Baren’s list of priorities during her presidency is addressing the mental health of students, which she believes is the biggest issue facing college campuses nationwide. “Students feel disconnected with each other,” Dr. Baren said, “with college life and their futures possibly limited. Economic and political issues, as well as Covid, have caused a lot of students’ anxiety.”
To achieve her mental-health goal, Dr. Baren wants to build an inclusive community, and communicate to the outside world, how Lake Forest College brings a “holistic experience with a focus on liberal arts nationwide.” She would also like to improve campus buildings and bolster partnerships with other institutions.
Dr. Baren wants the Lake Forest College community to know one thing above all. “I want everyone to know how happy I am to be living in this beautiful community, and how excited I am to be part of the college’s future.” She wants to make a significant impact and said, “nothing gives me greater joy that the opportunity to care about students and their futures.”