‘Stars aligned’ to bring Julianna Barnes to Mesa

Kate Fraser, Staff Writer

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Julianna Barnes, Ed. D., is new to Mesa this semester, but she looks right at home in her office at the new Student Services Center. As Vice President of Student Services, Barnes has a busy schedule, but she made the time to talk to the Mesa Press about her family, her lifelong passion for martial arts, and her goals for Student Services.


Why did you leave Cuyamaca College to come to work here at Mesa?

“I had a wonderful experience [at Cuyamaca College] as the Vice President…I don’t know if you know – my brother used to work here. He was the Vice President of Business and Administrative Services and so I always figured Mesa was off limits to me because you can’t have a brother-sister Vice Presidency team; I just don’t think that they would allow that. So I never really had my eye on it, but frankly once he departed and I saw the opening…I was like, oh my gosh, I’m there…In my early childhood, I lived right around the corner. I went to Linda Vista Elementary School for a couple years in my early childhood, and my grandmother bought her house there in the 40s in Linda Vista. So I have family there…I just know this community, so I feel like the stars aligned when the position was open”


So it was kind of like coming home?

“Oh totally. And so, in fact when I was driving here for my interview, I passed by the backside of my grandmother’s house. I swear, it was freaky…She passed a few years ago, so it was like this was meant to be. So I had the interview and I felt really good…It was my community, and it felt like I was returning to it.”


Why do you prefer working at community colleges?

“Honestly it’s the student population. I mean, it just really rings true for me. For me, I was first generation college. Yeah, I even beat my older brother into college…I have a huge, huge family. So honestly, community colleges kind of represent my family. It’s the college for the people, so to speak. Everyone from all walks of life are able to step foot here and get a second chance. It’s kind of like we fulfill peoples’ dreams, and we provide access to people who may not have otherwise had access.”


So, I’m curious – what were you like when you were in college?

“That’s funny, I hadn’t thought about that in a while… When I was in high school, I happened to be in some of the honors and AP classes. You know, I studied hard, but I didn’t really know about the college world. And so at home, nobody was saying, oh now it’s time to apply to college; I knew nothing of it…I only applied to one college, and it was UCSD, and luckily I got in. So then I found myself at the university, lived in the dorm, and honestly I was really lost.…I was really quiet. And kind of shy. And just sort of confused, but I found my way, you know, eventually, and ended up loving it in the end.”


What were some of your more memorable experiences in college?

“In the first year of college, I had three jobs…I almost got kicked out, and it’s not a unique experience. Back then I used to be ashamed of it; I had some medical issues when I was younger; it was all in my first year at college, and actually it strengthened who I am, but I had a lot of struggles in addition to being first generation: I had medical issues, I was financially struggling, and so I worked at 7/11 on the weekends…I used to sell sunglasses on the weekend at the swap meet, and then I worked in the cafeteria cleaning. I was the one with the tray on the conveyor belt who was washing off the dishes. And then a friend said I needed to get a job on campus. And so I got a job as a counselor aid [with Early Academic Outreach]…and I loved it. Honestly, having that experience shaped my interest in going into education.”


“And the other thing was, towards the end of college, they used to make you take PE, and I ended up saying I want to take something different, rather than weightlifting or aerobics or whatever. So I ended up taking karate just through the recreation class, ‘self development through self defense’…Anyway, I ended up taking karate for like twenty years. I’m technically a second degree black belt.”


You come from a big family – what’s your family like now?

“I have two daughters – a nine-year-old and a fifteen-year-old…I’m really proud because they’re so smart. And then I have my husband, too; he’s a good supporter of me. I always say I couldn’t have my life honestly without my husband and my mom. My mom doesn’t live with us, but she’s retired, and she’s pretty much at my house every day and helps with the kids; she’s very integrated into my family”


What would you consider some of your biggest accomplishments?

“Well, you know, I just really believe that things happen for a reason – I am a believer in that. Having my family, you know, of course that’s always number one for me…I’m really proud, not so much for getting the title of doctor and all of that, but being able to have that learning experience. Having the opportunity to pursue my education is a great opportunity that not everyone has.”


So what’s a day in the life of the Vice President of Student Services like?

“A typical day is working within teams, what we’re calling committees, and lots of email, you know. I kind of say it’s a balance between management and leadership…We’re working on fine-tuning our delivery of services just to maximize the student experience so they ultimately are successful. I mean, that’s the bottom line”


Julianna Barnes smiles broadly as she tells her story at her office in the new Student Services Center

Julianna Barnes smiles broadly as she tells her story at her office in the new Student Services Center