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From President Jill Baren

Welcome to the President’s Corner, a collection of messages for the students, faculty, and staff of Lake Forest College.

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May 12, 2023

Dear Forester Family,

This weekend, the Class of 2023 will cross the graduation stage to join the ranks of our accomplished alumni. Commencement will also mark the close of my first academic year serving as President of the College. It has been a privilege to interact with students across all classes and academic disciplines and to see how they explore their areas of interest, discover new opportunities, and grow into people we know will make an impact on the world around them. We can be very proud of the role we played in helping to shape their paths forward.

This year has been characterized by some very significant changes at the College and some very significant achievements:

  • We opened our doors again to the public after navigating the challenges of the pandemic, while skillfully managing COVID precautions. There was the excitement of our first in-person Homecoming since 2019, lectures, films screenings, and increasing engagement with the local community and the Chicago business community. We hosted more than 50 public lectures, performances, and events that showcased the intellectual and cultural expertise present at the College. Among these events was the Privacy and the Internet speaker series, which raised pertinent questions of data protection in the digital era. I personally had the opportunity to engage with business and academic leaders at the Chicago Club and at the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce and with alumni at our In the Loop Mixer downtown. Gatherings such as these have helped us extend the College’s boundaries beyond our campus and into our communities to form deeper connections with people and organizations both in the Forest and in the Loop.
  • Our athletics teams have seen immense success. The men’s soccer, football, and lacrosse teams captured conference titles and were joined by women’s lacrosse as four sports earned their respective leagues’ automatic bids into the NCAA Division III Tournament. Congratulations to the teams and to the coaching staff for this achievement. Student athletes bring so much to this campus. Their academic accomplishments are as impressive as their athletic performances.
  • We have continued to embrace and uplift the presence of the international student community. Last semester, Parkhurst provided a multicultural meal for international students who were staying on campus for Thanksgiving, which was well attended and much appreciated. Global Fest was another signature event that returned and generated huge enthusiasm. For the third consecutive year, Lake Forest College placed second in the Davis Cup—an award given annually to the college with the most first-year students from the United World Colleges program. This is a testament to the superb academics these students are seeking and to the opportunities we create where they can flourish.
  • Throughout the academic year, our students have won awards at academic conferences and presentations held across the US, including prizes at a food-system sustainability hackathon, Model Illinois Government, a national analytics showcase, and tuberculosis research symposium. We supported student achievement through the Public Policy Analysis Challenge, and the Venture Design Challenge within our Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program. Both opportunities provided cash prizes to students whose projects were judged to have great potential to effect positive change and solve pressing issues in the world. The winning team of this year’s Venture Design Challenge, Project Rummana, secured $5,000 to develop a mental health program for school children in Bangladesh teaching resilience and positive coping skills. Another great example is Bilaal Ansari ’25, who is leading a team of friends from various Chicago-area universities to tackle a looming public health crisis for Chicagoland Rohingya refugees with the help of a Projects for Peace grant. Our students’ commitment to facilitating change sets Lake Forest College apart as an institution. I could not be more impressed with the caliber of students dedicated to improving lives on a global scale.

The year culminated with the great news of a continued record of enrollment success. After the incoming class in Fall 2022 broke all previous records of enrollment, we are now seeing that interest in Lake Forest College as the first choice for many applicants is growing, along with the academic profile of each class. We are rapidly assessing how we can better support our growing and changing student population through new strategic initiatives. The significance of this growth in our community is more than mere numbers; it shows how Lake Forest College stands out as a dynamic institution with a strong community that prepares students for the future. This is directly attributable to the world class, highly dedicated faculty and staff in our midst.

I am excited as I look forward to next year, where we will embrace even greater change through the implementation of a new strategic framework. As we move into the future, we must not only be ready to change, we must be a catalyst for it. I am confident that there will be much to celebrate.

Have a wonderful summer, Foresters!

Jill M. Baren, MD
President, Lake Forest College

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Message from March 24, 2023

Dear Forester Family,

After what I hope was a restful and restorative Spring Break, I want to warmly welcome you back to campus for the final few weeks of the semester!  I cannot believe that we are fast approaching the end of the 2022–23 academic year—my first as President—and the start of a Jill Baren in armchairnew beginning. It gives me great joy to reflect on the thoughtful and exciting work of many over the past several months; we’re poised at an inflection point at the College with the formation of a new strategic framework. Reaffirming the talent and expertise among our ranks, we’re tying the planning work together with some very important goals and strategic priorities for the College’s future—a future that is, most assuredly, very bright. We’ve already shown that we can thrive as a small liberal arts college in a challenging higher education environment. This new direction will build on that momentum. Watch for upcoming communications for information on the new strategic framework.  

Looking back to the beginning of the spring semester, there were many important events that took place and I’ve chosen to write with my own viewpoint about a few: 

  • In February, the Athletics Department, the Office of Intercultural Relations, and the United Black Association (UBA) sponsored a screening of the incredibly moving documentary "The Loyola Project" as part of Black History Month. The screening was followed by a discussion that featured Fred Mitchell, longtime Chicago Tribune sports columnist and author of “The History of Loyola Basketball: More Than a Shot and a Prayer.” The movie documented how in 1963, at the height of the civil rights movement, the Loyola Ramblers of Chicago broke racial barriers and changed college basketball forever. It’s a story of courage, difficulty, and overcoming obstacles in life. I found the documentary and discussion to be quite compelling, and I enjoyed watching our students connect with the panelists and the story. These kinds of co-curricular events make learning so much more real on this campus. Hosting them underscores both our commitment to a holistic liberal arts education and to important events in the world outside of our campus.
  • Also related to Black History Month, I want to clearly state the importance of having a strong department of African American studies at Lake Forest College. As many of you know, this rather new department was approved by the faculty with full administrative support in the spring of 2021. Yet, it has already developed into a thriving academic and scholarly unit in which faculty and students are actively engaged in cutting-edge research and broadly meaningful discourse. I am very proud that we have such a high level of expertise within this discipline that is so inextricably connected to the history of this country. Moreover, African American studies is an important discipline in this country, and I am dismayed at attempts to restrict and eliminate, the full and academically rigorous discussion of the issues it raises. Current efforts to restrict student access to African American studies Advanced Placement materials is a particularly troubling example. As president of a liberal arts college, a place where we encourage students to think deeply and broadly across multiple academic disciplines, I am saddened to see any effort taking place to tear down the study of such an important part of this country’s history. African American Studies has never been more important, and Lake Forest College is proud to support its study.

Jill Baren teaching in front of class

  • In early March, I was asked by Professor John Pappas to be a guest speaker in the ENTP 350–Intrapreneurship: Innovation in Existing Organizations class. I discussed elements of my career path from emergency physician to college president. I talked about the similarities between the skills I used when taking care of patients and overseeing the emergency department and the skills I use today as a college president overseeing our campus operations. It was so much fun being in the classroom with students. I was happy to see they were engaged to learn about the transition I’ve had from one career to another and how they can leverage those same options in their own careers. It was also reaffirming to see firsthand just how our liberal arts curriculum gets applied to the real world and real-life work situations – it was obvious in that class! That is the true value of what we do at Lake Forest College. I was also excited to receive multiple invitations to connect with many ENTP 350 students on LinkedIn.

President Baren and others at Chamber meeting

  • Just before Spring Break, I spoke to the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce and used it as an opportunity to strengthen our place in the local community. It was an honor and a privilege to educate local community members about the fact that Lake Forest College is an incredible cultural and intellectual asset located within their midst. I accepted the invitation to speak so that we can keep Lake Forest College top-of-mind among business and civic leaders, and all Lake Forest-Lake Bluff residents. I wanted to remind them that we’re producing great thinkers and doers—the next generation of people that are going to make incredible contributions, not just in the surrounding area, but well beyond. We are proud to be part of this community and I am committed to seeing our relationship flourish and grow.

As we approach Commencement—my first as president of the College—I am moved by the fact that the resumes of our graduates will forever carry the Lake Forest College degree. Just as the Class of 2023 will always hold a special place in my heart, I hope they will proudly remember that they were the first class to graduate under the College’s first woman president. That is one of the reasons why I am so excited that this year’s Commencement speaker will be Julianne Sitch, the first woman in NCAA history to lead a men’s team to a national championship. Julianne coached the University of Chicago men’s soccer team to that historic win. It never occurred to her that she couldn’t achieve her place in history, so she just went and did it. That’s what I’d like our graduates to carry with them as they make their way in the world. It’s time for the Class of 2023 to reflect proudly on their achievements and to have hope and confidence in their hearts about the future ahead. While the graduation ceremony on May 13th will mark the end of their time as students at Lake Forest College, Commencement also marks a new beginning. Don’t let anything stand in the way of achieving your goals and dreams!

Have a great rest of the semester!


Jill M. Baren, MD
President, Lake Forest College