When Dustin Baker, Arts ’10, arrived at Kennesaw State University in 2008, he had no idea…

Georgia (Jan 20, 2012)

When Dustin Baker, Arts ’10, arrived at Kennesaw State University in 2008, he had no idea what he was going to study.
A transfer student, Baker was an unfocused kid whose high school grade-point average wasn’t good enough to gain admittance into Kennesaw State as a freshman.
“When I went to orientation, I had no idea there was an arts program at KSU,” Baker said. “I was with a friend who was a business major and he seemed really sure about it. I thought about doing the same thing, but the thought of studying business law and practices just sounded so boring. I was not looking forward to it at all.”
A last-minute decision to join the group of new students touring the arts building eradicated any thoughts of a suit-and-tie job.
Now Baker is a National Park Service ranger at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, where he also serves as the sculptor-in-residence.
“Just as much as I love art and sculpture, I love, love, love the park service,” Baker said from his home in the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota. “I can see Mount Rushmore from my apartment.”
Besides “the stuff everyone makes in elementary school,” Baker had no experience creating art before taking a ceramics class. He met assistant art professor Keith Smith, who took him to his first iron pour — a process of filling artist’s pre-sculpted molds with molten iron.
“From the minute I went to that iron pour, I was hooked on sculpture,” Baker said.
Baker served as Smith’s teaching assistant until he graduated in May 2010.
Fresh out of college and unemployed, Baker began the slow, disheartening process of sending out dozens of resumes only to hear nothing back. In October, he landed an internship at Red Top Mountain State Park. Because it’s a joint park system, Baker also had the opportunity to work at Etowah Indian Mounds, Picketts Mill Battlefield and Allatoona Pass Battlefield.
“I was excited to be there because Red Top Mountain was historically an iron mining town,” he said. “They did iron pours, which is what got me into sculpture in the first place.”
But the job ended in April 2011and Baker was back to scouring the help-wanted ads.
“I saw this job on USAJOBS and applied for it just like anyone else would,” he said. “My degree from KSU and my experience there as president of the sculpture club was invaluable in helping me to get this job.”
As sculptor-in-residence at the most visited national park in the country, Baker spends more than eight hours a day carving stone in view of the public. His work area is the “Grand View Terrace” and Gutzon Borglum’s former studio. Borglum is the artist that became famous for the Mount Rushmore sculpture of four U.S. presidents, as well as the carving on Stone Mountain in Georgia.
“I have the honor of being responsible for a studio that was used by Gutzon Borglum to sculpt the model for Mount Rushmore,” Baker said. “The room where I keep my tools and materials is the same room where they stored a 70-foot flag from 1941 to 1998 that unveiled each new face.”
Baker has created five works of art so far, which will be auctioned with proceeds going to a local orphanage.
“This whole experience has been more than I could ever ask for,” Baker said. “It’s an honor to work here and be a part of the history of Mount Rushmore.”
-- Jennifer Hafer


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit