A sense of community: Wendy Baxter recognized with Outstanding Staff Award

Co-curricular program director for Colleges Nine and Ten praised for compassion, organizational skills and ability to inspire future leaders

The many admirers of Wendy Baxter (Porter ’84, art) cannot say enough good things about her. No wonder she's the winner of this year’s Outstanding Staff Award.

The award, presented annually by the UC Santa Cruz Alumni Association, recognizes staff members who go "above and beyond" to help students or colleagues, improve programs and contribute to the university’s intellectual and physical environment.

If she merely had “off-the-charts organizational skills” and “boundless energy, compassion, and follow-through," that would have been enough.

But Baxter’s colleagues and students also praise her unique ability to inspire future leaders, create a feeling of home and acceptance for undergraduates, work collaboratively, raise thousands of dollars for nonprofits, and create programs to engage young scholars.

"No one is a stranger to Wendy, and everyone is somebody in her eyes,” writes Jennifer Phan, recent College Nine graduate and former International and Global Perspectives CoCurricular Programs Intern. 

Other staff members will have a chance to congratulate Baxter on the East Field on Thursday, May 28, from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at the annual Staff Appreciation Picnic, which, in addition to the presentation of the outstanding staff member award, will also feature music, the announcement of the new Staff Advisory Board members, and a raffle.

Baxter directs co-curricular programming, affectionately known as “The Co-Co,” at College Nine and College Ten. She’s held this job since those colleges opened in 2000. Baxter also convened and continues to advise the 12-year-old Practical Activism Conference. A group of students comes together each spring to work for six months developing and planning this day-long student-led program featuring keynote speakers and workshops. The conference started small; in the beginning Baxter said it was little more than a germ of an idea and perhaps a dozen students. 

“Now,” she said, "it has taken on a life of its own."

The activism conference workshops cover everything from voting injustices to racial profiling and the criminal justice system. Recent workshop topics included  Homelessness in Transgender Communities, and Community Resistance to Racial Profiling

Activist, author, and emeritus professor Angela Davis and feminist studies professor Bettina Aptheker have been keynote speakers, among many others.

A sense of family, and practical activism, are closely related values for Baxter at UC Santa Cruz, so it seems fitting that she met her partner, Claire Rubach (College Eight ’84, sociology) in Aptheker’s upper-division women’s culture course in the early ‘80s.

Baxter said she was “honored and humbled” when she heard about the award.

"We value engagement," she said. "We love what we do. I love being in a community, working with young people, and doing collaborative work. And it feels like the Co-Co is one of the places where this happens on campus. It only works because the students are amazing and so committed to doing the work and getting other students on board."

Former Colleges Nine and Ten provost Helen Shapiro credited Baxter for creating and developing the Co-Co in the first place, and, in the process, delivering countless programs, events, staff and student-taught courses that bring to life the colleges' themes of social justice and community, and global and international perspectives.   

"Wendy has the unusual talent of bringing out the best in her students by believing in them and making them believe in themselves” wrote Shapiro in her recommendation for Baxter. “Hundreds of students have now had the good fortune to have had this experience."