William “Bill” Baker recently won the Alumni Achievement Award, which recognizes the expanding achievements or leadership of alumni, whether professional or civic. This mid-career award honors alumni whose ongoing achievements have brought distinction to themselves as well as recognition to Ball State University.
Bill, ’95, graduated from Ball State with a bachelor’s degree in Architecture and bachelor’s of science in Environmental Design. He is the principal and one of three owners of MSA Design, a national architecture, interior, and graphic design practice headquartered in Cincinnati with offices in Columbus and Florida. One of Bill’s key responsibilities at MSA is leading significant projects of MSA Sport, one of the “Top Twenty” sports architecture practices in the United States. Bill also hosts the firm’s podcast, Building Ideas, available on all major platforms.
In the following interview, Bill talks about how the professors at Ball State changed his life and how embracing the college experience set a course for his success. Read below for more on Bill, how he supports his alma mater, his family, and more.
What experiences or critical lessons from your time at Ball State proved helpful in getting where you are now?
“One of the things that appealed to me when I chose Ball State as an out-of-state kid was a nationally renowned Architecture program, and financial aid. I could afford to go there. And I had small, intimate classes. That gave me some flexibility to have one-on-one experiences at a professorial level, which I thought was a great selling point to the University.
I was able to get, what I like to say, a small-college experience with all the benefits of a major university. The Division I sports, the fun stuff, the concerts, the events, but I had lots of one-on-one professorial experience that were all profound to me across all the different departments.”
What advice do you have for students at Ball State who may wish to follow in your footsteps?
“Embrace Muncie and embrace the Ball State experience.
It was big enough to get lost, but small enough that you always ran into people you knew. So, depending on what you wanted, if you wanted to be kind of a small fish in a big sea, you could do that. Or if you want to be a big fish in a small pond, you had the options and the opportunities.
So, I would say really embrace the experience; go to games, go to matches, get involved in clubs, get heavily involved in your major.”
If you could re-live one day from your Ball State experience, what would it be?
“The very first game in Worthen Arena against Miami. We were both Top 40 basketball programs at the time. We had to wait up all night for tickets in the arena, which was sold out, and it was probably one of the most dynamic, crazy sports experiences I’ve ever experienced.
I also took a summer learning opportunity in Italy called ArkItalia with a professor, Michele Chiunini, who is now retired. That was an amazing experience to go to Europe with a professor to his hometown. It felt like we were living in a tv commercial for Italy, for lack of a better term. We’re walking through streets in Perugia, old friends of his are leaning out of windows above the street and greeting us, and it’s this old medieval city center. That summer-long experience was amazing.”
Can you remember a class or an experience that changed your life?
“I was thinking of getting out of Architecture and changing my major. Tony Costello was my professor. And, he said it would be a mistake if I got out. ‘You need to stick with it,’ he said. ‘You need to stay with it. You’re going to make a great architect.’
I love my vocation and my wife is a classmate at CAP. If I had gotten out of Architecture, we wouldn’t have eventually ended up where we are as a family. I think having Tony Costello be very demonstrative about what he saw in me to convince me to stay in this major was one of the most consequential moments of my Ball State experience and my life.”
What instructor made the most significant impact on you, and why?
“I would say dozens of instructors were amazing. Tony is up there. He was just a great leader. He has taught me about the importance of architecture as a civic duty. As an architect, you’re not only doing your professional practice; you always need to give back to the community. He does a lot of pro bono work in Haiti, did a lot of urban planning on the south side of Muncie—a lot of community investment and leadership. Most importantly, he has become a lifelong friend and mentor.
Another key influence for me has been Andrea Swartz, who’s now the associate dean of the College of Architecture and Planning. I was in her first studio when she came to Muncie from the East Coast. She was tough on me in a great way. At the time there were few, if any, professors in the program who were women as our profession was heavily male-dominated. As a result of her influence as an amazing professor, architect, and leader, I never thought of gender having any impact on anyone’s talent as an architect.
Andrea also gave me some tough love at a point when I needed to get refocused on my work. Like my conversation with Tony Costello a few years earlier, her guidance kept me on the right path to complete my studies and has been influential on my practice of architecture to this day.
How did Ball State contribute to your success in life?
“First of all, Ball State gave me an amazing education and a degree that is well respected across our industry. It helped me find my passion. It confirmed that this was the path I was supposed to take in life. It gave me the tools to succeed professionally.
I came from a family of college graduates, but nobody in my family was involved in design or architecture. I got a great architecture and design education. I got a great general studies education. I would put the value of my education at Ball State up there with any college or university in the country.”
Why have you continued to maintain a relationship with your alma mater?
“I think people like Tony and Andrea instilled the importance of giving back. At MSA, we typically have six or seven Ball State grads as employees. I believe one of the most important things I can do as an alumnus of Ball State is to provide the opportunity for graduates of CAP to come and work for our firm.”
What are your passions outside of work?
“Most importantly, my kids and my wife Amanda, who is a fellow Cardinal. That’s my main focus. I love Cincinnati and being a part of a community amid a total Renaissance. I love living here. This is one of America’s great cities.
I am passionate about being involved in civic, professional, and religious organizations and Boards. One of my current efforts is involvement on the Local Organizing Committee for Cincinnati’s bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup. We’re a finalist to be a site for early-round/quarterfinal matches and should find out this spring. This came to fruition through my involvement as a board member of the Cincinnati USA Sports Commission and work with FC Cincinnati of Major League Soccer, a client of our firm.”
To celebrate the many alumni who have demonstrated outstanding service and support to the university, excelled in their professions or served their communities with great distinction, the following awards are presented each year: the Alumni Achievement Award, Benny Award, Distinguished Alumni Award, Graduate of the Last Decade (G.O.L.D.) Award, and Honorary Alumni Award. If you would like to submit your own nominations, please submit this form by January 31.
For Society, College, and Department Awards, please consider the following directory:
- Estopinal College of Architecture and Planning – Nominations due February 26
- Miller College of Business
- College of Fine Arts
- College of Health – Nominations due January 15
- Natural Resources and Environmental Management
- Teachers College
More on William “Bill” Baker
Since graduating from Ball State in 1995, Bill has been an ardent supporter of Ball State, having served on the Department of Architecture’s advisory board since its inception. Bill has been a tireless contributor to advancing the quality of all the departmental programs and initiatives. He also frequently returns to campus and participates in reviews with current students. Bill has consistently supported CAP’s student internship program in his leadership role at MSA, hiring Ball State student interns and Bachelor and Master of Architecture graduates.
According to Andrea Swartz, Associate Dean of CAP, Bill “is a bright light of Ball State love in Cincinnati.”
Bill is also a member of the local Cincinnati BSU Alumni Chapter. Reinforcing Bill’s knowledge and love of sport, he is a professional associate member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Directors of Athletics and NIRSA: Leaders in Collegiate Recreation. Bill is a native of Central Ohio and resides in Cincinnati’s Mt. Lookout neighborhood with his wife, Amanda (Fritz) Baker ’95, and their three children.
Bill is an active participant in multiple community-based organizations, including the Cincinnati Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati, Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church, and the Cincinnati USA Sports Commission. Currently, Bill is serving on the Cincinnati World Cup 2026 Local Organizing Committee, a group dedicated to bringing the FIFA 2026 World Cup Soccer Tournament to Cincinnati.
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