Dr. Jill M. Baren, EMBA’19: From physician to college president

February 06, 2023

Dr. Jill M. Baren, EMBA'19, illustration by Tal Friedlander
Illustration by Tal Friedlander

Dr. Jill M. Baren, EMBA’19, spent nearly 30 years of her career in academic emergency medicine before becoming the 14th president — and first woman president — of Lake Forest College in Illinois in July 2022. With her background, she says some people may be surprised that she’s no longer in health care, but she’s excited by the opportunities of her new role.

“I’m just so lucky to have arrived in a job like this,” she says.

Although her career paths seem drastically different, Baren says practicing emergency medicine is “phenomenal preparation” for becoming a college president. Both roles require strong leadership and management skills to navigate uncertainty and quickly assess team and community dynamics.

“It’s always about matching resources to demand,” she says. “Making instant connections and being able to lead a team suddenly and quickly, as well as being able to assist, manage, and deploy resources is quite similar” in both contexts.

Baren’s experience in Heller’s EMBA program helped her strengthen those skills. Learning about different leadership styles, as well as entrepreneurship and marketing, deepened her understanding of how a business is run.

“Even though I’m not working in health care, I have no regrets about the time I spent in the program. The coursework was fundamental to how I approach this job,” she says. “Whether you’re in a hospital setting or an education setting, those lessons still apply.”

As college president, Baren is excited to shape the campus environment and create a positive experience for students as they work toward becoming productive citizens. She says Lake Forest’s rigorous liberal arts education, combined with pragmatic elements of career preparation, resonates with her own career trajectory.

Baren also emphasizes the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in creating a culture that uplifts everyone. She strives to build teams that reflect different domains of diversity, encouraging people to challenge decisions and make their voices heard. She adds that students can also benefit from seeing diverse leaders in various roles and be inspired to pursue those careers themselves.

As Baren develops the strategic framework for the future of Lake Forest College, she looks forward to tackling issues related to improving access to education, shoring up resources, and growing fundraising and scholarship opportunities.

“I’m most looking forward to addressing how to build the most inclusive campus as I possibly can,” she says.