Interview with Dr. R. Barnes, November 26, 2020
Dean, School of Engineering & Technologies, Mathematics, Sciences, & Nursing
How did you get into this field/industry/position?
Dr. Barnes said he originally took a temp job for six weeks, and then that turned into a part-time job in administration at the community college (I believe it was San Diego Miramar College as, fun fact, that’s also where he met my mom!) After he graduated with his bachelor’s degree, a math teacher didn’t show up for the first day of class, and his boss asked if he could go teach that night. That’s how he got his first teaching job teaching adult school math. Eventually he was hired as an adjunct professor as well, and that’s what I remember–he was an adjunct professor teaching economics one night a week while I was growing up, in addition to his administrative roles. He eventually got his master’s degree and started working in leadership positions in the San Diego Community College District, first as an Associate Dean, and now Dean of the School of Engineering & Technologies, Mathematics, Sciences, & Nursing at San Diego City College. He has since earned his PhD in Community College Leadership.
What do you like most about your work?
Dr. Barnes likes the variety of work, and says he works with some great professors and students. He also has autonomy, and usually doesn’t have to work nights and weekends.
What do you like least about your work?
He said that work has gotten very political lately. They’ve hired some people who are not qualified, or people’s egos get in the way. Racial tensions are getting worse. Students have become more aggressive. After 39 years in this career, he’s a bit burnt out and looking forward to retirement.
How does your job affect your lifestyle?
He mostly answered this question when he shared what he liked most about his work (above), but he added that it’s a job with benefits, which he appreciates. It’s been really good for our family.
How do most people get into this field/industry/position?
He said that a lot of people who get into leadership positions at the community college start with teaching or counseling experience. Lately, he’s been seeing more people come from administrative roles. He said it’s important to become known–knowing people, and having great qualifications on your resume.
What skills/abilities/attributes are essential to success in your job/field/industry?
He said that a good education will get your foot in the door. You should also have a good reputation, get along with people, be a team player, and be flexible.
He added that it’s good to not have a strong opinion on anything, but I don’t know if I completely agree with that statement. I personally think it’s important to be aware of one’s values and live those, but be open to learning different standpoints, being able to communicate coherently and with compassion, and standing up for one’s beliefs if needed.
What should I be doing during my college career to prepare to seek a position in this field?
He suggested looking for an internship, or doing student teaching to lead into an adjunct teaching position. He also noted that it could be good to submit papers to well-known publications in the field, or present at conferences.
He noted the importance of being involved with the college and finding ways to stand out. He shared the experience of hiring someone recently who was an adjunct professor, but also found ways to volunteer and support the college in other ways, causing him to stand out from other applicants.
What advice would you give someone who is considering this type of job/field/industry?
Dr. Barnes mentioned a few different options here, such as looking for a job with the Workforce Investment Board, writing grants, looking for a federally funded job, working for a public utilities company, or working in HR.
If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
He said that he has no regrets, but noted that he didn’t expect to stay in that position until retirement.
How much teaching experience do you expect from new faculty members?
What’s a good way to get their foot in the door?
What are some alternative teaching experiences you’ve seen on a resume?
We basically combined all of these questions as we finished the interview. He recommended getting a teaching assistantship, making sure the educational requirements are met for the positions I’m looking at, recommended looking at private universities rather than public, and trying to find volunteer internship positions. He noted that having a specialization can help give me an advantage.