Susan Baden’s passions for the environment and environmental activism were ignited in high school by her best friend in their hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
When her best friend of 15 years passed away a year ago, Baden thought she may have to put her time at Colorado State University on hold, but with the support of a community she found a way to keep going.
This spring, Baden will graduate with a degree that continues her passion – a Bachelor of Science in natural resources management from the Forest and Rangeland Stewardship department in the Warner College of Natural Resources. She also minored in restoration ecology.
After her friend’s passing, Baden opened up to her academic advisor, Megan Mardesen, about what she was going through. She credits Mardesen with the support that helped her persevere and finish her degree.
“I remember the last day of classes last year; I just finished my last final. Megan called me to congratulate me and tell me how proud of me she was for pulling through,” Baden said. “And it was something that really helped me get through a lot.”
Shortly after the news about her friend, she began an independent study project in restoration ecology that helped her to keep going.
While working in the Restoration Ecology Lab, Baden got to travel to different sites to identify rare plant species and learned to enter and interpret data. This research experience helped her land a job with an environmental consulting company after graduation.
While working with lab leader and FRS faculty member Mark Paschke, she found he was supportive on both a professional and personal level.
“There were moments where I was really feeling like I was behind, and he just continued to keep reminding me that there’s nothing I could do to disappoint him,” Baden said.
Not only did Baden persevere through multiple personal setbacks, she also prioritized taking care of her young daughter. She said the support and compassion she found at Warner College made all the difference in getting to graduation day.
However, it wasn’t just others who boosted her up and reminded her of the excellent work she was contributing; Baden advocated for herself throughout her program to get the most of her experience.
“Equipped with the support and encouragement to ask for what she needs to be successful has gotten her here to graduation: a goal she set out to accomplish many years ago,” Mardesen said, “Her determination and self-awareness is unmatched. I am incredibly proud of her.”
“Thinking about how I saw myself prior to coming into CSU versus now, there’s so much more strength in who I am as a person,” Baden said.
In her own words: A Q&A with Susan Baden
Q: What’s a moment you will remember?
A: The moment I will always remember in my CSU journey is the moment I stepped on CSU’s campus. I had visited several colleges across the western United States but as soon as I stepped foot on campus, I instantly felt like I was at home.
Q: What was a challenge you overcame to get to this point?
A: Since my second semester junior year, every semester has hit me hard with one personal setback after another. The support of my academic advisor, professors, and peers has pushed me through to graduation. Friends that reached out to me to keep tabs on progress of assignments, professors who showed continued compassion and understanding, and the overall dynamic and nature of the Warner College proved to me that my initial instinct of feeling at home on campus far exceeded any of my expectations of what it means to genuinely feel at home.
Q: Do you have any advice for incoming freshmen?
A: Get involved. Don’t be afraid to just put yourself out there and take opportunities– there could be so much that comes out of it. By putting yourself out there you realize that you are worthy and the mentors that you’ll gain from those experiences will impact you for the rest of your life.
Q: What will you miss most about CSU?
A: The community at Warner. Coming back on the campus after being at home during the pandemic and being around people, I realized that I was in the right place. It is that sense of home that I felt whenever I stepped on campus for the first time. Building those friendships with people is going to be the thing that I am going to miss the most.