Sara Baker: Knoxville's Free Spirit

Sara Baker's an adventurous spirit.

She left her hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, to go to Maryville College. Though she originally had her sights set on Broadway, Baker says she really wanted to study English as well. But it wasn't theater that ultimately held her attention; Baker double majored in English and religion simply because "it was interesting."

Then, while her boyfriend (now her husband) was looking into studying abroad, the couple picked Poland. Baker had studied in Wales and traveled throughout Western Europe and Prague. Eastern Europe would be a piece of cake, she thought. And after looking for a job teaching English, the pair picked Wroclaw (pronounced vrots-waff), Poland.

"It was an interesting, sometimes crazy, experience," Baker says. "I could not have been more surprised at how different it was from Western Europe."

After a year in Poland, Baker returned to Knoxville, where she became an advertising writer. She says working there "felt like a breakthrough" because "I went to work and wrote every day."

But when writing ads began to drain her creativity, she joined the YWCA of Knoxville as a part-time grant writer, Baker found a more creative outline that could actually work to help people.

"You get to write a 20-page narrative on a problem," she says. And there's less of a wait to see what happens because of the research and energy put into writing about a problem that needs funding to be solved, she says.

Almost two years ago, Baker became the director of women's advocacy and written communications. That new position includes working on projects like helping craft legislation and partnering with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to create a service for women who are victims of violence and don't speak English.

The variety of the work isn't lost on Baker.

"Since it's a new position, there's a lot of possibility of what it can be," she says.

Off the clock, Baker still acts and flexes her creative muscles. She was recently in a small science fiction film called Neptune about a famous scientist (Baker) who invented a love potion without an antidote, and must find a cure. Baker says she got to wear a rubber suit of armor and wield a sword for a scene.

"It was so amateur!" she says with a laugh about the sword fight. She had no training whatsoever, but somehow it turned out well. Baker says she wants to try on a different character and play a villain next.

At 35, Baker has accomplished a lot. But she admits she was a bit sad on her last birthday.

"I've never been sad about a birthday until 35," she says. "You usually know where you're going by now. I still don't know where life is going to take me. When I was younger, I thought I'd have all this stuff done [by now.]"

But Baker isn't shutting any doors the future might open.

"I've done a lot of cool things," she says. "[But] there's a lot more I want to do."