For many citizens of the United States, voting is a privilege that is often taken for granted. Inge Baird, however, has lived more than half of her life in the U.S. without being able to vote in elections. In November, the assistant professor of Spanish and German at Anderson University became an official citizen of the United States, and she looks forward to voting from now on.
Inge came to the United States in 1981 from Parana, Brazil to study at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor, Mich. It was there that she met David Baird, who was living in Michigan and would eventually join the AU faculty as a professor of communication. “I saw Inge at a going away party for a youth pastor, so I went over to talk to her,” said David. “It turned out that she had just arrived in the United States to study, and she had very limited English skills at that point.” However, they managed to communicate, started dating, and got married the following summer.
[Photo: Inge Baird proudly smiles during her naturalization ceremony in November.]
Following their wedding, the Bairds moved to Anderson, where Inge finished her degree. “I had attended the Church of God in Brazil, so I was very happy to study here,” said Inge. The couple never really considered moving back to Brazil, though they have visited a number of times. Anderson University also reconnected her with Willi Kant, director of international and intercultural studies, and his wife Esther, who had been missionaries in Curitiba, Brazil where Inge attended youth group.
After graduating from AU in 1985, Inge worked for the Church of God radio ministry, Christians Broadcasting Hope, as a tri-lingual secretary before a part-time teaching position at AU opened up. “The chair of the department asked me if I wanted to teach some German classes. I accepted the offer and have been teaching at AU since then,” said Inge.
For the past 30 years, Inge has been a permanent U.S. resident. However, her original “analog” green card had become outdated in the digital era, which made international travel a little more difficult. She also had a strong desire to be allowed to vote, something that only citizens are permitted to do.
So, in 2012, Inge began the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. Overall, the process was not very difficult. First, she had to fill out application forms and submit a fee, and then she went to the immigration office in Indianapolis for fingerprinting. “Later I had to take a test that focused mostly on U.S. history and government,” she said. “Once I passed the test, they told me when and where to report for the naturalization ceremony.”
The naturalization ceremony, which took place on Nov. 16, 2012, was held at the state fairgrounds in Indianapolis as a part of the annual International Festival. “It’s been a great experience to live in the United States, so it was a special day when I took the oath of citizenship with a couple hundred other people at the Indiana State Fairgrounds,” said Inge. The families of the many new citizens enjoyed the ceremony and the festival as well. “It was a great atmosphere for the proceedings,” said David.
Inge is excited to partake in the privileges that come with being a U.S. citizen. “Dave jokingly tweeted that he hopes I don’t start canceling out his vote,” said Inge. However, she will always be grateful for her childhood in Brazil and the experiences that brought her to this point in her life. She grew up speaking not only Brazil’s native language of Portuguese, but also German, because her ancestors were German immigrants to the country.
“I love telling my students about the Brazilian and German cultural influences in my background,” said Inge. “I believe my classes are richer because of the cultural experiences I’ve had.”
— Marissa Phillips is a senior from Brookville, Ohio, majoring in communication arts. Phillips is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of about 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.