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Award-winning excellence: Cynthia Baron, FYS

Profiling a Distinguished Service Award recipient and one of the chief student advocates for first-year success.

By Cory Phare

June 6, 2017

MSU Denver President Stephen Jordan presents Cynthia Baron with a Distinguished Service Award.
MSU Denver President Stephen Jordan presents Cynthia Baron with a Distinguished Service Award.

The Distinguished Service and Faculty Senate Teaching Excellence award winners were announced by MSU Denver President Stephen Jordan at the recent Faculty and Staff Appreciation Barbecue. Over the following weeks, we’re profiling the award recipients and what goes into the making of these remarkable Roadrunner success stories.

Here’s our conversation with Cynthia Baron, associate director of First Year Success.  

What is your background?

I’m a Roadrunner alumna myself! I graduated in 1999 with a degree in human services and an emphasis in high-risk-youth studies. I returned to MSU Denver in August of 2001 after a couple of years in the social work arena to help others find their own path to personal and professional transformation.

As a first-generation Latina student, education was the key to career mobility and access to opportunity. I am grateful to be surrounded by colleagues who not only embrace, but live out the mission of the University in their work every day.

Where do you draw inspiration?

I have mentors; extremely strong women who balance their careers, families and education and are great examples of what it means to achieve. Of course, the students inspire me, and my family – my children, my parents. They all play big roles. Being the first in my family to go to college, it means so much to have their support and encouragement to keep doing this meaningful work.

What’s one day on campus you’ll never forget?

There are so many… New Student Convocation is my favorite! It is a day every year that really celebrates what it means to be an MSU Denver Roadrunner! It is a day where administrators, faculty, student leaders and alumnae come together in community with true MSU Denver pride in a very powerful way to welcome the incoming first-year students and their families. For me, every year is different and unique, but powerful; I feel very proud about having initiated the program and helped make it a University tradition. Convocation promotes sense of belonging for all students from diverse backgrounds and sets the tone for their time at the university centered on academic success, community and engagement.

What does it mean to you to win the Distinguished Service Award?

I feel deeply honored and humbled to be recognized for the contributions I have made to the institution, particularly the HSI effort, which I have been a part of before the initiative kicked off. For me, it is very rewarding and important to be a part of a university that is transforming access to higher education for the community through its commitment to addressing the profound equity-achievement gap in the Denver metro area and Colorado. Achieving Hispanic Serving Institution status is a dream of mine and I plan to continue to lead these important efforts in First Year Success and through service to the community.

It’s nighttime, and you’re reflecting on a successful day. What are you thinking about?

Oh, there’s so much that happens on the second floor, it’s hard to pin one thing down! I’m reflecting on not just success, but the transformation of our students – watching them grow, homing in on their potential, taking risks and taking ownership of their future and leadership development. It culminates in graduation, but it’s more than that; it’s the little steps and milestones along the way. I love being part of that journey, specifically when I know I am playing a critical role for underrepresented students who need additional mentoring and navigation support. Student development and success is what this work is all about.

What does it mean to you to be a Roadrunner?

To me, it means strength and resiliency. Roadrunners come from diverse backgrounds, from everywhere – but we are all unique, strong and community-focused. Roadrunners make a difference and embody the values of the University: community, access, diversity, respect, and entrepreneurship.

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