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Outstanding Alumni|College of Arts and Sciences

Brian Baird -- 2003 Outstanding Alumnus

Master of Science - 1980 - Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy - 1984 - Psychology

     As a young boy growing up in small town in western Colorado, Congressman Brian Baird learned the importance of caring about and for your neighbor.  Brian’s father was a teacher, and his mother, a small business owner, prided herself on giving back to her community through volunteer work.  An interest in helping under-served rural areas to benefit from psychological treatment and research led Baird to enter the clinical psychology graduate program at the University of Wyoming in 1977.  “My goal was to do something that was intellectually and personally challenging and give something back to the kinds of communities I grew up in,” he said.  “There was no better program in the nation for that than Wyoming’s.”      

     While attending UW, Baird was involved with various environmental and safe energy organizations in the Laramie community and was one of “Walthall’s Warriors,” the department of Psychology’s intramural basketball team.  He spent summer internships at the Wyoming State Hospital in Evanston, the State Boys School in Worland, and a community mental health center in Lander.  Baird did a pre-doctoral internship at the American Lake Veteran’s Hospital in Tacoma, Washington.  After receiving his Ph.D. in 1984, Baird stayed in Washington where he received his clinical psychology license.  Eventually he accepted a faculty position at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU), where he taught for 12 years and ultimately became chair of the Department of Psychology.

     In 1996, while still teaching at PLU and doing clinical work, Baird ran for a seat in the United States Congress.  Although Baird was projected the winner on election night, as the absentee ballots came in over the next few days, it became clear that his opponent had won.  Baird’s second run for congress was successful.  Baird is considered by congress to be “one of the hardest working members of his class” and is enthusiastic about focusing on the direct needs of the communities and people within his district.  Staying true to his early passion, he is a champion of mental health and other health care issues in rural areas.  Other initiatives Baird supports include: tax fairness for states like Washington and Wyoming, the Congressional Caucus to Fight and Control Methamphetamines, and legislation to combat environmental and economic impacts of invasive species, to expand computer security, and to increase financial support for part-time college students.

     Baird is married to Rachel Nugent, an economist with the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Together, they enjoy traveling, sea kayaking, climbing, skiing, and cycling.

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