• Kemal Atkins ’92 ’96
  • Sarah Mbiki
  • Brian Shangwa ’15
  • Guin Thi
  • Ray Christian
  • Fidel Leal
  • Susan M. Branch ’99
  • Traci Royster

Debbie Bauer ’05

Monday, January 6, 2014
By Kate Durham '13

Debbie Bauer knows something about determination, diversity and innovation.

As an adult college student and single mom of three children, she took night classes, worked full time and graduated from Appalachian State University with a degree in English and a minor in geology at 53 years old.

It was difficult, but she was determined.

“It took me 17 years to get my degree, but I finally did,” Bauer said.

When Bauer married her husband in 1996, they decided to move from Florida to the mountains of Colorado.

But they “hated it,” she said, and after six months they moved to the mountains of North Carolina. Bauer was hired by the university bookstore at Appalachian in 1996. She transferred college credits that she had earned in Florida to Appalachian and enrolled in classes a year later.

Aside from the instructor, Bauer was often the oldest person in the classroom, but she never felt out of place or uncomfortable.

“I’m a pretty easy going person and get along with people of all ages,” Bauer said. “Throughout my school and work career, I’ve always been around diverse people.”

Bauer got to know the Appalachian community both from a student’s perspective and a staff member’s perspective.

After graduating in 2005, Bauer took an administrative assistant position at the university’s Center for Appalachian Studies, which offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Appalachian studies. She also works as an administrative assistant for the Department of Cultural, Gender and Global studies, which offers degrees in global studies, interdisciplinary studies and women's studies.

Bauer’s work allows her to interact with students of many races and from many countries and backgrounds, she said. Students are accepted to the Appalachian studies master’s programs regardless of what they earned their undergraduate degrees in, and they go on to work in a variety of careers, such as museum curators, environmental attorneys, musicians and teachers, Bauer said.

“Debbie looks for ways to improve life around her,” said Patricia Beaver, professor of anthropology and director of the Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian.

Bauer’s interest and expertise in organic gardening have led to her work in the Edible Schoolyard, an innovative after-hours project that offers students, faculty, staff and community an opportunity to adopt a garden plot on campus free of charge.

Bauer has managed the project for the last three years. In her time off, she arranges workdays, fundraisers and students internships.

In March 2013, Bauer organized and participated in a roundtable discussion called “Edible Schoolyards, Community Gardens, Food, and Sustainability in Appalachia,” for the Appalachian Studies Association Conference.

In September 2013, the university recognized Bauer with a Staff Award for her service to the Appalachian community. She was one of four university employees honored.

Bauer’s nominators called her a role model because of her ability to balance work, family and academics. They also noted her dedication to serving undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty and staff.

“Debbie leads by example, by energetic determination, by invitations and by taking joy in her work,” Beaver said.

Bauer enjoys quilting, raising chickens and tending her own garden beds both in the Edible Garden and at home. She lives with her husband, Michael Bauer, in Vilas, and they have five grown children and six grandchildren.

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