Alumni SpotlightBlack Alumni Stories

Lora Bailey ’87: From The Plains To New Mexico

Lora Bailey’s journey to becoming a dean in the college of education at New Mexico Highlands University took a lot of effort. She worked in five other schools before coming to the public university of 70 percent Hispanic students in Las Vegas, N.M.

One of Bailey’s biggest projects at New Mexico Highlands University was to write a $2.9 million grant for the education department for students wanting to pursue STEM fields. Through this grant, students could move more quickly through the program, avoiding remedial courses.

Part of what made Bailey so successful at New Mexico Highlands University was her years of experience leading up to her deanship, such as her doctorate in early childhood education from Auburn University.

When Bailey came to the Plains to pursue her doctorate degree in 1998 in early childhood education, she hadn’t planned on staying long. She left in 2002 to work as an assistant professorship at the University of South Carolina, then as an associate professor and program chair for the Early Childhood Education program at the University of Louisville.

Despite having left, Bailey was recruited back to Auburn and began serving as an associate professor and early childhood program coordinator.

Known for its work with local schools, Bailey helped the Auburn program partner with Loachapoka and Opelika elementary schools and strengthen those collaborations. Bailey said that working as a professor gave her a chance to directly impact the local schools by producing teachers.

“That was really a point of pride for me, making sure that we had a very strong caliber of graduate who was leaving our early childhood program both as an undergraduate, as a masters student but also as a doctorate student,” Bailey said. “That really gave me a lot of pride to work along with our masters students. I had a lot of masters students who were my graduate assistants.”

Bailey also worked with the Holmes Scholar Group, which supports women and students of color throughout their education.

“As a former Holmes scholar, it was just my pride to come back to Auburn and lead that program as well,” Bailey said.

After three years, Bailey moved on from Auburn – but never forgot her alma mater. She knew it was time to move up into a deanship, something which Auburn could not offer her at the time.

Moving to Brenau University in Gainesville, Georgia, Bailey’s new position as a dean at the private college lasted four years. Following Brenau, Bailey became a dean at Indiana University – a school that was both larger and more urban.

“I really appreciated not only having an impact on the college of education, but on the city of Gary,” Bailey said.

During her three years at Indiana University, Bailey addressed one of Gary’s prominent needs- homelessness – especially for veterans and their families.

When Bailey moved onto New Mexico Highlands University, her children began to pursue their own undergraduate degrees. Following in their mother’s footprints, her daughter and son both attended Auburn.

At this point in her career, Bailey is ready to move back into a position of education, rather than a new deanship, and is also involved in chartering a professional grant writing consulting firm, EdCauses, Inc. EdCauses (EdCauses.org) helps not only schools and universities, but businesses and organizations as well.

Bailey said that she often wonders if she did the right thing by leaving Auburn, and even described ‘the loveliest village on the plains’ as home, but is happy to share the knowledge and experience she gained here with the rest of the world

“Auburn is a great place, it’s a hard place to leave, as I said, but at a point you do have to figure out the next phase of your career,” Bailey said. “I think that perhaps my story will allow people to understand that sometimes the next phase of your career is not in the place where you currently are, and it’s ok to move on.”