The summer before his freshman year of college, Brandon Baker was planning to attend the University of Colorado on an academic scholarship. But, a series of encounters brought him to LCU, a decision and an experience he attributes for setting the amazing trajectory of his professional career and his life.
He grew up in western Colorado, in a small town named Cedaredge. His journey to LCU began when he entered high school. “My youth group began attending Encounter each summer, so my first introduction to LCU was during my freshman year of high school when I first attended the camp,” he explained. “I went every summer.”
Brandon’s older brother had attended the University of Colorado, and as college approached, that became his target school, and he applied. “My application was accepted, and going into my senior year of high school, that was the plan—to go study business at the University of Colorado,” he recalled. His plan was in place because his academic scholarships were lined up for him at University of Colorado.
“When that next summer came around and I got to camp, however, I was approached by John King, who asked me what my plans were for college.” Brandon told the long-time director of the camp that he had been accepted and was planning on attending the University of Colorado. “Of course, he just looked at me and told me, ‘You know what? I think you’re supposed to come to LCU.’”
At that point, Brandon had been under the impression that, as a private school in a different state, there was simply no way that he would be able to afford to attend LCU.
“Finances were a huge part of the decision for me,” he explained. “I told this to John on Monday or Tuesday of camp. His response was to set up a meeting with me and Mondy Brewer, who was in financial aid, to see what kind of package they could get me. As we started working through my test scores and classes, I discovered that, if I enrolled in what was at that time just the Honors Program, then LCU would actually be more affordable to attend than my original choice,” he recalled.
The revelation was stunning. ‘At that point,” he said, “it was a no-brainer—I was more comfortable and at-home on LCU’s campus than anywhere else I’d visited.” Brandon also said that he had already come to know several of the professors and staff members during his time on campus. “Within one week, I’d completely changed my mind on where I was going to go to get my education.”
The quality of the program also drew Brandon in. “There weren’t any reservations as to the quality of the education,” he recalled. “I knew the people there, having already met and spoken with several of the professors—I had full confidence that LCU was going to be a great decision.”
Another factor drew Brandon to LCU—the atmosphere. “It’s all about the Christ-centeredness,” he recalled. “It all came down to the people. People caring for everyone around them. It was all built on relationships and encouragement.” Brandon shared that it was already evident just through his time at Encounter that there was something special about LCU, and that was one of the highlights of his time there before college.
Brandon flourished as soon as he stepped on campus and took full advantage of Honors College. “While my technical skills in finance and investing were honed very well in the business school, being able to take a broader approach during my time that I spent in the Honors Program really helped work on those soft skills,” he recalled. “Being shown many different disciplines and being able to apply those skills from a broader education really filled out my experience and served well in giving me a different take on the work that I do, which differs from many of my colleagues. It also helps keep me grounded and seeing my work and the impact that it brings in a broader light. It has really helped me find a lot of fulfillment.”
Brandon also fondly recalled his relationship with many who influenced him at LCU, including then-Dean of Students Randal Dement. “While I was specifically involved in student senate, and later as student body president, I had the opportunity to participate in many conversations with Randal and learn a lot about myself, and a lot of my personal strengths and weaknesses,” he shared. “He spent a lot of time helping me find the calling that God has placed in my life and see how God had been working with me and molding me as a person to advance His kingdom.” Brandon added that Randal had taught him about true leadership—what it looks like, and how to be a leader in many different facets of life. “He was an incredible influence both during my time at LCU and beyond.”
In 2009, Brandon graduated with two degrees—one in finance, and another in accounting. After taking a year off to travel and spend some time with family, he accepted a position as an internal auditor with a large public corporation in Philadelphia. Brandon used his skills gained at LCU to further his career while gaining valuable experience.
“I spent a couple of years working in that capacity, and during that time completed my CPA, which was something that I am certain that I wouldn’t have been able to achieve without the training of Dr. Vanda Pauwels,” he said. “The many classes that I had with her set me up incredibly well to attain that CPA, and that has really been the cornerstone license and certification that has given me a great advantage in my career.”
“After those few years in the corporate world,” he continued, “I began transitioning more into the finance field, where I’ve been for the past six years. I began working in wealth management and financial planning for families, individuals, and nonprofits.” Brandon shared that that transition put him into a spot that was more in-line with his passions and interests, again coming back to relationships—a fundamental part of the job. Combining that with his education, he felt confident stepping into his new career.
The education that I received in financing and investing, much of which I attribute to Dr. Brian Starr and Dr. Tracy Mack, really set me up to succeed in my current job. I really can’t say enough about the skills that they’ve given me.”
While Brandon certainly credits his technical education and training during his time in Lubbock for a lot of his success in his career, he found just as much value in the life lessons gained during his college years.
“The friendships that you’ll make at LCU will be deeply profound,” he said. “You’ll form lifelong friendships that will follow you in your career, help you with your spiritual life. I’ve got many good friends from my time there, and even living on the east coast, we still keep in contact on a consistent basis.” But perhaps even more so than those of his friends, he was surprised by the things he learned from mentors, professors, and staff on campus.
“There are so many others from LCU who really gave me deep examples in how to approach life. From the way that they approached their students, academia and education, and even life in general, it really rubbed off on me and helped me move forward into my career with confidence because of those examples,” he shared. “The lesson that putting others first really causes good things to happen and being able to set that as my mission and know that I’m doing what I do to really have an impact on others—that’s really probably the deepest, most important thing that I took from LCU.”
Numerous students just like Brandon have had opportunities to pursue their education from a number of exceptional universities, but he chose LCU because he recognized that he would get an excellent education from Christian mentors. For prospective students considering LCU, Brandon had some encouragement. “You can come to this place knowing that your life will be changed for the better. You will be prepared for life beyond college, both from an academic standpoint and of careers and connections. But even more than that, you’re going to be set up for success beyond your career—you’ll have resources to help you have a healthy family and marriage, if you pursue those things. You’ll have life skills, the ability to prioritize things, and through it all, you’ll gain a powerful spiritual foundation. The people at LCU will love you every day that you’re there, and even after you leave.”
Brandon shared that he continues to feel the influence of his mentors following his college career from the LCU community. “There have been many phone calls, emails, and just check-ins from professors, mentors, and so many individuals from this place just wanting to do whatever they can to help me—and that continues even to this day.”