Campus News

High heels, high energy, and high hopes: meet the newest criminal justice professor

By Jenna Wheeler, Head Designer

A new criminal justice professor at Shenandoah University, Dana Baxter, favors bright heels and sling backs for the classroom.

After getting her first pair of red suede high heels for a ninth grade dance, Baxter knew that she found a lifetime long love. Her closet says everything for itself with a total of 132 pairs of shoes and 80 of them being high heels.

“I mean, I’m a platinum customer at for shoes!” she said while laughing, without any embarrassment.


Professor Dana Baxter poses in Henkel Hall. (Photo by Jenna Wheeler)

Aside from her extensive shoe collection, she is also known for her love of heavy metal music like 5 Finger Death Punch, Slipknot, Halestorm, and Flyleaf.

“It’s the emotion of the music. I am such a happy person, so it’s my outlet for frustration.”

Baxter joined the Shenandoah faculty at the end of 2016 after teaching for four years at Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia. She was a featured speaker at a general education meeting held there, where several colleges attended. Gina Daddario, a professor of mass communication at Shenandoah, discovered her. Daddario approached Baxter after hearing her 20-minute presentation.

“I remember thinking, ‘If she’s on the job market, we need her at Shenandoah.’ Her energy is wonderful. Dana has a dynamic nature and great enthusiasm. You could tell she was a professor who truly cared about her students.”

Not only was Daddario impressed with Baxter’s speech, but also with her ideas for the classroom.

“She talked about simulating a crime scene on campus, and having hands on involvement, which was great.”

Once applying for the job, Baxter quickly got a sense of how different Shenandoah was from Davis and Elkins. “It was hard to walk away from what I built for the crim[inology] program there…but after meeting the SU students, faculty, and the administration, I could see it was a million times better here.”

She did not just bring her bold fashion sense, but she also brought three of her previous students with her. Travis Brown, a junior criminal justice major, followed Baxter here from Davis and Elkins. After taking only one class with her there, he decided to make the transfer to Shenandoah, too.

“She is loud and always prepared! She has a lot of information and opinions, and talks to you about anything. She’s very personable!”

Three candidates interviewed for the position and some students were asked to be a part of the interview process by attending a lunch with each potential applicant. Tyra Horton, a junior criminal justice major, was one of the students who attended the interview lunches.

“I thought she was lively, outgoing, and very engaging. Her energy made her stand out, like her shoes!”

Horton is currently taking Baxter’s Court class and it is one of her favorites.

“You’re supposed to care about your job, as well as your students, and she does,” she said.

Her confidence does not just come when walking up the stairs in Henkel Hall, but also when teaching students. Everyday, Baxter walks into the classroom with high heels, high energy, and high hopes that her students will learn something new in each class.

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