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Sara D. Baumer oral history interview, May 11, 2008

Date: May. 11 2008 | Identifier: 45-05-01-1
Interview with East Carolina University alumna Sara D. Baumer. Mrs. Baumer discusses moving with her family from Massachusetts to North Carolina, her decision to attend college at East Carolina, being the Pee Dee the Pirate mascot for two years, working and getting loans to pay for college expenses, and a college volunteer trip to do conservation work in Australia. Interviewer: Joanne Phipps. Mrs. Baumer's husband Jack Baumer was also present for the interview. more...
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Transcript of Sara D. Baumer Interview
Interviewee:Sara D. Baumer
Interviewer:Joanne Phipps
Date of Interview:May 11, 2008
Location of Interview:Southern Shores, N.C.
Length:One mp3 file, approximately 23 minutes

Joanne Phipps:

This is Joanne Phipps interviewing Sara Baumer for the ECU Centennial Oral History Project. I'll start off with a couple of questions about your background to kind of build on things.

Sara D. Baumer:

Okay.

Joanne Phipps:

What did your parents do for a living?

Sara D. Baumer:

My dad was a fisherman. We're originally from Massachusetts, and he was a fisherman up there, and we moved down here in '90 and he also was a fisherman for awhile, and he worked on boats and yachts and things. And then my mom worked in the school system. She worked at an after school program for awhile and then social services for awhile taking care of elderly people.

Joanne Phipps:

Okay. How much education did they both complete?

Sara D. Baumer:

My dad, I don't even think he graduated high school, because in Massachusetts what happens is they turn eighteen and they want to go on the fishing boats and make a lot of money. So that's where he ended up. My mom graduated high



school, she attended some college, but then she got pregnant with me so she didn't attend anymore. So she only got maybe a year or two.

Joanne Phipps:

Okay. And why did you move down here to North Carolina?

Sara D. Baumer:

I think it was to get away from my family, to be honest. [Laughter] My mom and my dad just decided somewhere different was better for us, and kind of raise the kids somewhere else.

Joanne Phipps:

What was your perception of the importance of education as you were growing up?

Sara D. Baumer:

I felt like it was important if I wanted to make something of myself. I wanted to get an education and have a good job. My mom worked in the school, and I kind of always looked up to her, because even though she didn't have her degree she always was in social service or something in that aspect, and I always tried to look up to that. And a lot of people, because my parents didn't have a degree, looked at me as kind of a bad kid, like I wouldn't make it. So I think that was also a big part of my life, trying to prove them wrong kind of thing, so I definitely was after my degree. [Laughter]

Joanne Phipps:

That kind of sense of adversity, did you also feel that when you were in Massachusetts as well, or was that--.

Sara D. Baumer:

Not at all. No.

Joanne Phipps:

Nobody goes on to college up there?

Sara D. Baumer:

I was only up there until I was in second grade so I don't think I'd really thought about it yet, but it was known if--. All the men in my family were fishermen, so it just never really kind of cued me in until later. [Laughter]



Joanne Phipps:

Okay. When you were in high school in North Carolina, were all of your high school peers planning on going to college as well?

Sara D. Baumer:

Yeah. That was a big part of it too, and I wanted to make sure I was in with that group. I wanted to be the one that went to college, because we had almost, what, three hundred and fifty in our class, and only two fifty graduated.

Joanne Phipps:

Wow.

Sara D. Baumer:

And went to college.

Jack Baumer:

Well we had more than that now. We had the highest entering class at the time and it was six hundred some.

Sara D. Baumer:

Did we? Oh really? Okay.

Jack Baumer:

It was like five or six hundred.

Sara D. Baumer:

I know a good portion of them didn't graduate, and that was kind of--. I didn't want to be known as--. I always didn't want to be looked at as one of those kids that didn't graduate. Does that make sense? Like, I wanted to make sure I got married at a certain age. I wanted to make sure I didn't have my kids too young, that kind of thing. I didn't want to be looked at as one of those hellion kids. [Laughter] You know what I mean? I have a really bad perception of it, but--.

Joanne Phipps:

It sounds like that's kind of been pushed on you over the years.

Sara D. Baumer:

Yeah. I feel like it's kind of got to be in a line for me.

Joanne Phipps:

There are certain milestones in life--.

Sara D. Baumer:

Exactly. And that's why I feel like I guess maybe I've kind of had it ingrained. I want to be like everybody else. [Laughter]

Joanne Phipps:

So what made you consider ECU?



Sara D. Baumer:

We actually--. I was a band dork in high school with him, and we actually visited there to march in a parade, and I just loved the campus. Since seventh grade I just was like, "I'm going there." It's not too far away, because I'm kind of a homebody, and it was only like, what, two and a half hours at the time. So it was close, and I loved the campus. It wasn't too big, it wasn't too small. I liked the city. It was nice.

Joanne Phipps:

A couple of things to do around there.

Sara D. Baumer:

Yeah. A lot of things, and there's actually stores there. [Laughter] Don't have much here.

Joanne Phipps:

Only during, what, May to September or so.

Sara D. Baumer:

Yeah. I mean, we just don't have the Target, we don't have the TJ Maxx, we don't even have a mall, so it's kind of like: Oh, I've got a little bit of everything in such a small nice little area. So, I liked it.

Joanne Phipps:

Ah--. I nearly lost my track so I'm trying to grab it back. Oh. In high school, was there a mentor that was also pushing you to do this, or--?

Sara D. Baumer:

Don't laugh at me! [Spoken to husband] No, not really. Actually there is a kind of a funny story. I had a friend since third grade that I moved next to when I first moved here in third grade. I had her, she's my best friend for a long time, and--this is kind of off track--my parents were all Catholic and she was very Baptist, Southern Baptist. Her father didn't like me because I was Catholic and he didn't want us to be friends. And because we lived in a trailer, and because we lived next door, they just saw us as a bad family. I think that was my push to make it better. And ever since college, I even sent him an invitation when I graduated from college, because on my graduation day at the high school, they asked why my mom was there. Yeah. She was like, "Well,



she's graduating high school." They were like, "Oh, we didn't think she was going to graduate." So that kind of really bothered me, so that was like my other little push to prove them wrong. And I even sent them a graduation for college invitation just to let them know. It still kind of bothers me that somebody would think that. But there's a lot of different things that--. So I think he, in a good way, kind of pushed me. So it was kind of a blessing in disguise, so that was kind of my big, you know, thing. So he was my mentor, [Laughter] in a strange way.

Joanne Phipps:

In a negative sort of way.

Sara D. Baumer:

Yeah. [Laughter] So I didn't really have a mentor.

Joanne Phipps:

So what--? What do--? I'm going to try and get it out here.

Sara D. Baumer:

That's okay.

Joanne Phipps:

What were your experiences on your first day when you came to ECU?

Sara D. Baumer:

Well, I already had a friend there that I went to high school with. She was my RA in Belk. She was my suitemate and RA. But my first experiences there were awesome. I already had kind of a friend to help me out. She was already there for a year. Oh God, I loved it. And I tried out to be Pee Dee. I was actually Pee Dee the mascot, so that was one of my big things. I was like, "You know, I'm going to try something different." I've always been the shy kid. So I tried out to do Pee Dee and I figured if I had a hat on nobody would know it was me, so I could be crazy. [Laughter] That was probably my first good experience. I found some stuff on the bulletin board and I went for it, so kind of expanded my horizons while I was there, my first time.

Joanne Phipps:

Aside from Pee Dee, what other activities did you get involved in?



Sara D. Baumer:

Not a whole lot. Pee Dee was pretty much my life for two years, because I had to do all the basketball games, and there was parties and parades, and all kinds of different things, basketball games. So I was pretty busy with just Pee Dee and I wanted to make sure I concentrated on my studies as well, so I kind of just limited myself a little.

Joanne Phipps:

What did you major in?

Sara D. Baumer:

Psychology.

Joanne Phipps:

Oh, nice.

Sara D. Baumer:

Yeah. [Laughter]

Joanne Phipps:

And psychology brought you out here.

Sara D. Baumer:

Yeah it--.

Joanne Phipps:

Back out here.

Sara D. Baumer:

It's not really helping me here though, unfortunately. But I did that, and I minored in child development and family relations.

Joanne Phipps:

Okay. What challenges did you face when you were at ECU?

Sara D. Baumer:

When I was at ECU? I guess making friends. I don't really drink a whole lot and didn't really experiment with a whole lot of different things, so I think that was the hard part, was keeping good friends that weren't partying so much and weren't really in their studies. That was one of my harder things. I guess trying to stay away from the whole party scene. [Laughter] Trying to keep friends but stay focused was probably one of my hard things.

Joanne Phipps:

You were in the middle of "G Vegas." How'd you expect not to drink? [Laugher]



Sara D. Baumer:

I know. You know, I didn't say I didn't, but it was hard to stay focused. And of course I've been with him since ninth grade, so we were separate. He was at home; I was here. So that was another hard thing, him being home and me being away.

Joanne Phipps:

Were you married at the time that you went?

Sara D. Baumer:

No we were just dating, and then I think in 2003 I got engaged to him and last year we got married.

Joanne Phipps:

Congrats.

Sara D. Baumer:

Thanks.

Joanne Phipps:

Let me see. When you went to college, how did your relationship with your family change?

Sara D. Baumer:

Well my parents got divorced when I was in eleventh grade, so I haven't spoke to him since. And my mom, she got a new boyfriend. They've been dating for like eight years now. And she's been super supportive. She wants me to do the whole college thing because she was trying to, and unfortunately she got--well not unfortunately--but she got pregnant with me, so that kind of held her back a little bit. But she definitely wanted me to go to college and she was very supportive. And when I got accepted to get my master's degree she was very supportive. She was very excited that I did, and then when I didn't want to continue the master's--I said I need experience for it--she wasn't upset that I decided not to go. So she was really supportive.

Joanne Phipps:

What kind of financial support did you get from your family?

Sara D. Baumer:

Not much. Not anything, actually. [Laughter] She was very supportive, and unfortunately we're just, you know, she doesn't have a whole lot of money, so I didn't get anything, actually. She sent me care packages and food and stuff, so she wasn't like



completely ignoring me. But he helped me out a lot, and of course financially, all those loans, was amazing. And then Pee Dee helped me out. I got a little bit of money to help get my books.

Joanne Phipps:

Good. Those keep going up.

Sara D. Baumer:

I know. And it's so sad when they don't reimburse you everything when you bring them back. You get like five dollars, and you're like, "Waah! I paid a hundred." [Laughter]

Joanne Phipps:

There are ways around that though. I keep those secret. Nah, not really. [Laughter] So you said you haven't spoken to your dad after the divorce. Did your mom and her boyfriend come visit you?

Sara D. Baumer:

Actually, my mom did come visit me, but I would come home often because I would go to work. I worked at a party supply store for like six years, so I would come home on the weekends and they really were good and flexible and let me work a few days. But she would come visit me a couple of times when she could, because her car wasn't very good. It's kind of a long drive and I worried about her.

Joanne Phipps:

Let's see. Thinking back to maybe your first year, second year, did you experience something a bit like culture shock?

Sara D. Baumer:

Not really. I grew up in Massachusetts and it's--. No. [Laughter] I mean it's very--. We have tons of different ethnicities and I grew up with the Puerto Rican kids, and the black kids, and white kids, and Portuguese kids, and I'm Portuguese so I mean it was just--. Not really. [Laughter] We were fine.

Joanne Phipps:

Did you have trouble adjusting to studies and--?



Sara D. Baumer:

No, I don't think so. I kind of just got right into it. I was excited to be there. I went to College of the Albemarle for two years then went to ECU, and I was excited to be there. I loved it.

Joanne Phipps:

Oh, I forgot to ask. Who brought you to ECU on your first day?

Sara D. Baumer:

Myself.

Joanne Phipps:

You drove yourself?

Sara D. Baumer:

Yeah. I said, "Nobody can come with me," because I didn't want to get upset and cry. I'm kind of sensitive. I didn't want to leave home kind of thing. So I told him--. No. [Speaking to husband] I moved myself in. Remember? Not to Fayetteville. When I came to ECU I moved myself in. Yes. [Husband speaking] Nope. Nope. I did it--.

Jack Baumer:

Who put a scratch in your car with the refrigerator?

Sara D. Baumer:

You helped me put my stuff in the car. When I got to ECU I was by myself, because Sarah McDowell was supposed to be there and she wasn't with me to help me move. I ended up moving all my stuff on the fourth floor of Belk all by myself the whole day.

Joanne Phipps:

Oh my goodness.

Sara D. Baumer:

It was like ninety degrees. Yeah, so, it was just me.

Joanne Phipps:

How do you feel you changed as a person?

Sara D. Baumer:

As a person? I think I've grown up a lot, being there, got some responsibilities. I rented my own apartment the first time being out there after the dorms, and kind of learned a lot of lessons. Learned who your friends are, and kind of maybe just grew up a little bit, and learned a lot of things at ECU in classes, and just life in general, kind of being on your own for awhile. So, I learned a lot.



Joanne Phipps:

Okay. So tell me about graduation day, then.

Sara D. Baumer:

Graduation day was awesome. I had my mom and her boyfriend there. I had my husband and his mom and his step dad. Everybody was all there. I loved it. And his sister, I think everybody came that day.

Jack Baumer:

Yeah. It was a pile of us.

Sara D. Baumer:

And then my roommate was really awesome and she had her mom put up a tent and we had like a little party. It was so awesome. Graduation day was great. I loved it.

Joanne Phipps:

Did you feel like you'd kind of done the: I showed you?

Sara D. Baumer:

Oh yeah. I was like, "Take a picture of this, because I'm sending it to you," kind of thing. So yeah, I felt really like I had achieved something finally and I would cherish my degree. [Laughter]

Joanne Phipps:

Now you mentioned you applied and actually got accepted to graduate school. What motivated you to go for that?

Sara D. Baumer:

I'm not really sure. I think I just really was trying to go all the way, see how far I can push myself, I guess. See how far--if I can actually get into it, if I was smart, because I always doubted myself kind of. So I applied and I got accepted for--. I was going to go in there for child developmental and family relations. And I got accepted in there, and I actually went, and I got in there, and something just was like, oh, my gosh. I'm the youngest one in there. All of these parents are in there. They have kids, and they've got businesses, and I was like, "I'm straight out. I don't know what I'm doing." So I kind of was overwhelmed, I think, and I finally left to get some experience. I still think about trying to go back and get my master's.



Joanne Phipps:

Okay. That's interesting.

Sara D. Baumer:

Yeah, I know. [Laughter] Took a little turn

Joanne Phipps:

No, that's fine, it's that I just finished a master's in anthropology and most of the students are younger than me. I'm twenty-seven.

Sara D. Baumer:

Really?

Joanne Phipps:

Yeah. They've all gone straight from their bachelor's to their master's.

Sara D. Baumer:

And see that's what I was going to do. I was like, what, twenty-two, twenty-three? So I got in there and I was like the youngest one in the whole class, and I was like, "Oh my gosh!" So I kind of freaked out, I think.

Joanne Phipps:

So tell me where you've been since ECU. What have you done?

Sara D. Baumer:

Since ECU? Well, there was a point in time when I was at ECU that these people from International Student Volunteers came through and they kind of were soliciting, going on these trips to do conservation work in different countries and things. And I actually went to Australia to do the trip.

Joanne Phipps:

Oh, nice.

Sara D. Baumer:

Yeah. So I went there for a whole month and I devoted a hundred and twenty hours of conservation work in the rain forest of Cape Tribulation and was there for two weeks cutting down palm trees, and living in the woods, and peeing in the woods. [Laugher] You know, I'm doing it with a hippie--this guy was like a hippie--and we took care of fruit bats for two weeks. I learned a lot of different things about fruit bats and about conservation and recycling and all kinds of things, so I kind of feel like a hippie now. [Laughter]

Joanne Phipps:

Nah. [Laughter]



Jack Baumer:

normal, she's a hippy.

Sara D. Baumer:

Yeah. So now I'm like a recycling fiend and I don't use plastic bags, as much as I can. And then for the next two weeks we kind of went right from Cape Tribulation all the way down to Sydney and just kind of did like an adventure tour, so that was one of my major awesome things I did right after school. I mean, I graduated and then in June I was out for a month, so that was one of my big things. And then when I came back I had to find a job. [Laughter] And I did successfully find a job because of his mom. I got that mentoring job and I dealt with kids who were at risk for--. What was it?

Jack Baumer:

They had behavioral issues.

Sara D. Baumer:

Yeah. At risk kids in the community. I would get one kid and stay with them in class all day long and kind of help them out and relieve some of the pressure off the teacher and things like that.

Joanne Phipps:

Okay. And that was back here in Southern Shores?

Sara D. Baumer:

Yeah.

Joanne Phipps:

Okay.

Sara D. Baumer:

So that's what I've been doing, and then I got married last May, and here we are. [Laughter]

Joanne Phipps:

Now you told me the mentoring program shut down.

Sara D. Baumer:

Yeah. Unfortunately my supervisor was doing bad paperwork and--.

Joanne Phipps:

Oh--.



Sara D. Baumer:

I know. So she kind of got us shut down, so it wasn't a financial thing at all, it was someone else's fault. So now I've been just kind of looking for something else, got some applications out at social services, and just kind of waiting now.

Joanne Phipps:

If you went back to get your master's, what would you like to do once you have it?

Sara D. Baumer:

See if I can get a better job at like social services. I really enjoy social services, even though it's kind of a tough area to be in. I kind of dealt with them when we were doing the mentoring thing. I don't know. I just kind of like that field, kind of helping kids, and they try to make sure the kids are safe, and I'm all about that kind of area. So I think I would definitely do that, maybe social work, kind of change up a little bit.

Joanne Phipps:

Okay. How do you feel your experiences at ECU prepared you for all this?

Sara D. Baumer:

Experiences? Well, I had good professors. Dr. Handron was my advisor and teacher and he was awesome, kind of directing me in some ways and some options. Just the classes I took were awesome. I learned so much, and it kind of helps me out in the field when I was a mentor, so it was very nice.

Joanne Phipps:

Do you remember other professors that kind of pushed you along or inspired you?

Sara D. Baumer:

I'm really bad with names. There was another psychology--. He was the abnormal psych teacher. What was his name? Oh! It's been, what, three years, four years? I can't remember the--. I can see their--. Dr. Hoane , he was my neuropsychological teacher. He was awesome. But Dr. Handron really sticks out. Actually I have a picture of him over there. I can't remember any other ones.



I'm horrible. There was a few of them. I just can't think of their names, but they were all wonderful. [Laughter] They were all good to me.

Joanne Phipps:

I had a question about the friends you made at ECU. Did you meet any other students that were first generation college students?

Sara D. Baumer:

I think my friend Sarah that we went to school with in high school and elementary school, that I roomed with, I believe she's the only one that--.

Jack Baumer:

Julie didn't go?

Sara D. Baumer:

Oh Julie did go. No, I can't--. Even my roommate, my other roommate, that I made friends with, her mom went to college, so I can' t say I--. [Laughter] All their moms went to school.

Joanne Phipps:

Did you feel a bit disadvantaged?

Sara D. Baumer:

Not really, because my mom was really smart and even though she didn't go to school, she did go it on her own, like she kind of made it through and she was kind of something I looked up to, so she kind of pushed me along.

Joanne Phipps:

That's good.

Sara D. Baumer:

Yeah.

Joanne Phipps:

I think that's sort of all I've got. Was there anything you wanted to add: any experiences or stories that really kind of embodied your whole time there, or some of your time there?

Sara D. Baumer:

Experiences? My experience doing Pee Dee was great. I loved doing that, doing the football games and stuff like that. I had to walk around there.

Joanne Phipps:

Which years were you Pee Dee?



Sara D. Baumer:

Let's see. I was there at 2002, so 2002 to 2004. I was doing it for two years. The last year I didn't do it. I think my classes were getting a little bit more intense so I was like, "I've got to back off a little," [Laughter] especially those last psychology classes that end with the capstone class. I had to write a ten-page paper a week or something like that. It was crazy. So I had to back off a little. I think just the friends that I made there, and the people I met, and different things I did for classes, and watching the daycare they have in there, just going in there, all kinds of stuff. It was a great experience altogether, all in one.

Joanne Phipps:

Okay. Do you still keep in touch with some of the people you met there?

Sara D. Baumer:

Yeah, actually, I do. I kind of feel like a dork, but I have that My Space and we all--. That's kind of the way I--. [Laughter]

Joanne Phipps:

No that's okay. I'm on that too.

Sara D. Baumer:

[Laughter]Okay, now I don't feel so bad. But that's how I kind of like keep in touch with everybody. We don't always get the chance to make phone calls but we do kind of say, "Hey, how's it going?" you know, kind of keep in touch that way.

Joanne Phipps:

Where do some of these people live? Are you kind of all in the same area?

Sara D. Baumer:

Some of them are from Virginia. My best friend that was my roommate for awhile, she lives in Jacksonville, North Carolina, so she wasn't too far away. I think there was one from Florida. They're kind of generally around here. There was one from Pennsylvania--a couple of them from Pennsylvania--and that's it. That's kind of as far as it went, but not too far.

Joanne Phipps:

Well I think that's everything Sara. Thank you very much.

Sara D. Baumer:

Well you're welcome. I hope I was helpful.



Joanne Phipps:

Oh absolutely. Very interesting.

[End of Interview]

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