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Alumni Spotlight: July 2024

Each month we connect with alumni who are making a difference in their careers and communities and find out how Baker helped them along their way.

Dr. Mark Foland, ’04, and Rebecca (Steinle) Foland, ’04
Dr. Mark Foland, ’04, and Rebecca (Steinle) Foland, ’04
Mark and Rebecca (Steinle) Foland

What was the first moment that made Baker feel like home? 

Mark: For me, it was meeting Norma, who worked at the cafeteria scanning our lunch cards. She always greeted everyone with a warm smile and a “hello.” What I didn’t expect was before the end of the first week, the greeting became “Hello, Mark!” before I could even get my student ID out to scan. Norma took the time to get to know every student and faculty member who came to the cafeteria every day. Already there was someone from the university who called you by your first name, and it was such a comfort as I adjusted to life on campus. It’s really amazing how small gestures like that can make all the difference. That’s when I first felt like Baker was home.

Rebecca: I remember feeling very comfortable and welcomed on move-in day by both the student helpers and the other freshmen. Almost immediately, all of the ladies throughout our hall were getting to know each other, borrowing each other’s clothes, getting ready together, and having the best time. 

What was your favorite class and why?

Mark: I had several amazing professors who taught me everything I needed to know to succeed, but if I had to pick a favorite, there was one class that I will always remember that had nothing to do with my degree or major. Interterm classes were always my favorite, and the scuba diving course taught by Rand Ziegler was by far the best! We spent two weeks working on our open-water diver certification at a facility in Lawrence, then spent the last two weeks in the Bahamas on a live-aboard diving vessel cruising to multiple locations and diving every day. As much as I love Dr. Russell, there’s no way that Cell Bio can compete with that!

Rebecca: My favorite class was World Religions. Learning about the beliefs and practices of others was very interesting and helped me to broaden my perspective. 

Who made the biggest impact on you while at Baker?

Mark: It’s really not fair to pick just one person from Baker who made the biggest impact on my life. The professors were tremendous, the administrative staff worked hard to make campus life enjoyable, and I have so many classmates I still call good friends to this day. However, one of the main reasons that I came to Baker was to play football. The man who I feel prepared me the most to meet the challenges of this world was John Frangoulis. From day one, he let me and my teammates know what the expectations were for being a part of the football program. It was tough. There were days you felt like you wanted to quit and definitely times where you felt like you were not at your best. But Coach was also there to push us through to the other side and be there when you made a big play, when it finally clicked, to laugh with us, to lead us through adversity. He was one of the first to show us how to run to the fire when others were running away. I still lean heavily on what he taught us all those years ago. His recent passing is still something I’m trying to come to terms with, and my biggest regret is not being able to be at his funeral and the spreading of his ashes. I know that I take him with me everywhere I go, and that gives me comfort. I also blame him for some of the colorful language that I regretfully admit I still use today! He was always full of great one-liners; I just can’t repeat most of them in a public forum.

Rebecca: Ira DeSpain, our campus minister, had the biggest impact on me. He was always so open with students and involved on campus. It was odd if he wasn’t in attendance at an event! He made an effort to get to know all of the students and connect with them. Ira led Mark and I through premarital counseling before we graduated and participated in our wedding ceremony. 

What are two things you would tell current students?

Mark: Dive headfirst deep into the college experience! There is nothing like this time in your life, and it is the best time to discover who you are as a person. Take a course in a subject you’ve never tried before. Talk to as many people as you can. Go through fraternity or sorority rush. Sign up for clubs. Be present in your classes and learn as much as you possibly can. Take it all in and enjoy every moment. If you do, the real world won’t know what hit it when you hit the scene.

You will fail or fall short at times. You will feel insecure, out of place, heartbroken, dejected, etc. This is normal, and it’s OK. You are getting a taste of the real world. Tomorrow is another day and another opportunity to get it right. Believe in yourself, and the rest will take care of itself.

Rebecca: 1. The path that you end up taking might not be what you expected when you started your college journey, and that’s OK. You are learning things not only in your classes, but also about yourself along the way, and that is valuable. 2. Study hard while you are at Baker, but also enjoy your time and soak up everything the Baker community has to offer. It’s special!

How did your Baker experience shape your journey or career?

Mark: Learning in a smaller class size environment gave me the opportunity to get to know my professors better, and this allowed me to get any extra help that I needed to succeed in my coursework. I felt prepared to take on the next step, earning my medical degree and fulfilling my dream of becoming a physician. Though the road has had and still presents challenges to overcome, my time at Baker gave me the confidence to set out and face them head on.

Rebecca: My time at Baker provided me with a well-rounded education that has not only helped me in the traditional workforce, but also in my current role at home. I feel I had a great balance of technology, critical thinking, communication, and public speaking. The list goes on.

Can you briefly describe your career path since graduating from Baker?

Mark: After graduating from Baker, I earned my medical degree in 2009 at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, followed by completion of residency training in 2012 at the Texas A&M/Corpus Christi Emergency Medicine Residency Program in Corpus Christi, Texas. I am a board-certified Emergency Physician, practicing medicine for the last 12 years in the greater Kansas City area, and I currently serve as medical director in emergency departments in Leavenworth and Kansas City, Kansas.

Rebecca: After I graduated from Baker, I started working for the Social Security Administration. I was there from 2004 through 2012. I worked in Kansas City as well as Texas during that time. With the birth of our daughter in 2012, I decided to stay home. I began working as a group exercise instructor in 2017, and I currently maintain that position. 

What do you love about Baker the most?

Mark: Baker was where I figured out who I was and what I was going to be. I arrived at Baker with a very limited perspective on life, not knowing where I fit in. In almost no time at all, I got to know hundreds of new classmates and faculty and how to figure out how to manage my own schedule and negotiate the challenges of being a student-athlete, and I learned how to pick myself up off the floor when I fell flat on my face (figuratively and literally). I met the love of my life on campus and now have three amazing children, with the oldest only two years away from starting his own path after high school. To this day, I have amazing friends from Baker who are all doing amazing things in this world. What’s not to love?

Rebecca: I love the lifelong connections I have made through the Baker community.

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