Jim Baker is not an elected official but he is often the face of the Ozarks. Whether he is meeting with executives in China to expand educational opportunities for local or international students or working on a business development board in Jefferson City to bring jobs home, Baker represents the Springfield area.
Baker serves Missouri State University as the vice president for research, economic development and international programs and his list of accomplishments is as long as his occupational title.
In his position, Baker has been instrumental in developing several major university programs including IDEA Commons, the Ozarks Study Institute, the Ozarks Environmental and Water Resources Center, the Community and Social Issues Institute, the Roy Blunt Jordan Valley Innovation Center, the Robert W. Plaster Center for Free Enterprise and Business Development and the MSU branch campus in Dalian, China – and he’s not done there, currently in the process of helping establish the MSU International Leadership and Training Center.
In downtown Springfield, MSU’s footprint continues to expand as the university, with Baker’s guidance, is actively supporting business development and spurring job growth. Through IDEA Commons – an 88-acre, Center City initiative focused on fostering innovation, design, entrepreneurship and the arts – JVIC is home to research and development efforts led by organizations such as Mercy Research & Development; through the Plaster Center the university offers business support services to entrepreneurs throughout the region.
“My major interest in these facilities is the creation of quality job opportunities in Springfield that will attract and retain young talent in our community,” Baker says. “Companies such as Lockheed Nanosystems that currently lease space in the Roy Blunt Jordan Valley Innovation Center employ a number of Missouri State graduates. If these jobs were not available in Springfield, the graduates would have had to move to another city to find equally attractive jobs.”
Beyond being heavily involved in expanding opportunities for students and others downtown, Baker works to expand horizons abroad.
“A major area of interest in my office is cultural diversity. We are working hard to ensure that our students have a better understanding and appreciation of other cultures,” Baker says, noting the university sends 10 to 20 students each year to study in China. “They return to the United States as changed people. They learn a great deal from their contact with another culture and their experiences help them to better understand their own culture and themselves.”
In 2012, Baker was recognized with the National Friendship Award of China in Beijing, the highest honor the Chinese government bestows to foreigners who have made contributions to China and peaceful relations with other countries.
Through strategic partnerships with 30 universities around the world, Missouri State has hosted 1,400 international students from 85 countries.
Baker also represents many local groups by serving on the boards of organizations including Mercy Health Systems, the Missouri Technology Corp., Springfield Regional Arts Council and the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.[[In-content Ad]]