Jahnae Barnett has a motto: The greatest risk we run is if we take no risk.
She said this to faculty members and leaders at the University of William Woods before the institution launched its now successful cohort model, bringing William Woods professors and courses to students in rural Missouri. She said it again before the former women's university took the leap to become a student
After a long career as president of the small private college in Fulton, Missouri, Barnett will take a personal risk and ask the college to take another. She announced last month that she plans to retire in December, in the middle of her 31 years as president. William Woods will seek a new president for the first time in decades.
Barnett, William Woods' first female president, will leave behind a list of accomplishments, having grown the university from an undergraduate women's college of 800 students to a coeducational university that enrolls more than 2,000 students and offers a variety of programs. graduate and undergraduate. .
His mandate is noteworthy in part because of its length. Many college presidents spend less than 10 years at a single institution. In 2016, the average tenure for a college president in their current job was 6.5 years, according to a 2017 study by the American Council on Education.
But Barnett's many years as president of William Woods were also productive. In an interview, he reflected on some of his greatest accomplishments, including establishing the LEAD Award program, which awards students up to $ 5,000 for tuition to attend cultural events. She also increased the college's endowment, eliminated the college's long-term debt, and became the first college president to open American Royal, an equestrian show in Kansas City, Missouri.
“ I grew up in the south. So I understood that education is usually not accessible if you are in rural areas, ”said Barnett. "It was a bold move, but it certainly helped our enrollment."
After the cohort model, William Woods created his graduate, online, and study abroad programs. Although William Woods is a liberal arts institution, Barnett calls it a career-oriented university, and many of the university's graduate programs reflect that. William Woods graduate students can earn degrees in various areas of educational leadership, health management, and business administration. Williams Woods also participates in the Show-Me Guard Officer Leadership Development, or Show-Me GOLD program, which trains students to become members of the Missouri National Guard.
Barnett is particularly proud of the LEAD Award program, which was established in 2000. Today, the program offers a tuition discount of up to $ 5,000 for residential students and $ 2,500 for commuters attending a number of sporting events, seminars , concerts, movies, comedy shows, performances, art exhibitions and other cultural events every year. Tuition at William Woods for the 2021-22 academic year stickers at $ 25,750 before financial aid.
Barnett used to host black tie dinners as part of the LEAD program.
“I still get emails from kids who graduated years ago and they say, 'I went out to eat with my employer and I know exactly what to do because of those black tie dinners,'” he said.
" I felt like I should, "he said." So I went to the stables and asked a teacher who had You've been a teacher with me, can you teach me to ride? ”
Barnett took lessons with the students. In time, she became the only university president to open the American Royal and successfully went on a hike , trot, gallop, slow gait and run on a flat horse mado Copycat at the Kansas City, Missouri horse show
He has learned more than horseback riding. Each year, Barnett attends a class taught by all of William Woods' teachers.
“I would sit down and go to a communications class. I would sit down and go to an art class. And it was really just as a participating student – they knew it was coming, ”Barnett said. “I did everything I could to make myself accessible. And they really responded. ”
Being an accessible president has always been important to Barnett. She recalled a time early in her presidency when she learned that she had to work harder so that students saw her as a normal person and not as a larger-than-life university official.
“One day a student came to my door at home to deliver something, and I opened the door and she said, 'Dr. Barnett? You're in jeans, '”Barnett said. "I said, 'Oh my God, I have to correct this.'"
She brought her concern to an alumni meeting.
“I said, 'I can't get the kids to see me now. They just see me as a president in a three-piece suit, "Barnett said." And one of the students said, 'Get yourself a dog.' "
He did. That year, Barnett adopted a standard poodle. called Cognac. In blue sweatpants or jeans, he would walk with Cognac around campus and students would stop to meet him. He was also a troublemaker, he said.
"My house was on campus and the soccer field I was in front of our house. One day on the weekend, I was sitting in the back and I was in an armchair reading, and I had Cognac with me, but I guess I was not paying attention, "she said." And I heard two young people say, 'Dr. Barnett?… We're bringing Cognac back because we can't play our soccer game. Keep collecting the balls. "