Jackson native Ev Barrett, 56, is the project coordinator at the University of Mississippi. After high school, she attended Ole Miss and majored in accountancy.
Barrett then worked as a certified public accountant before taking time off to be a mother. Then she worked as a CPA again, and is now project coordinator.
After working as a CPA the second time, Barrett realized she wanted to interact more with people. “I always wanted to work on campus,” she said. “I thought that environment would be neat. I applied for and got a job on campus in coordinating the independent study courses.”
Barrett realized she loved the campus atmosphere, so she earned her master’s degree in higher education at 50. She has been working as project coordinator for five years. She works with the dean in the College of Liberal Arts using her master’s and accountant background.
Every day is different for Barrett. As soon as she arrives, she settles in and works with four administrative staff members. Together, they manage the dean and the five other associate dean’s calendars and projects.
“I mainly help with major things that are going on with faculty and chairs,” she said, “like planning workshops, scheduling meetings with different groups, and stuff like that.” Barrett works with 18 departments at UM. “We have fun, but it’s very professional.”
Barrett said the hardest thing about being a project coordinator is when a lot of things are happening simultaneously. However, she said: “The stress level compared to working as a CPA is nothing.”
The biggest lesson Barrett has learned from her job is the value of teamwork. “You can do something by yourself and do it well,” she said, “but when you get other people coming alongside, you have newer, better ideas.”
Within her five years of being a project coordinator, much has changed, especially with having a new dean.
“The first dean had a whole different management style,” she said. “I was not sure I’d like a new dean because I was so used to the old, but I’ve come to enjoy and love the new dean.
“It’s a whole different and more collaborative type work. He has brought in new associate deans. It’s just a whole different atmosphere now than it was five years ago.”
Barrett said the university is growing and changing. More student growth means more faculty, which means more classrooms, which means a lot of new money is needed. Barrett believes, with good leadership, that can happen.
The College of Liberal Arts office is now focused on research programs in graduate education. Barrett said it’s important to support faculty who are doing research by having flexible workloads. She also hopes to see collaborations within different schools.
“A biology faculty member might be interested in some engineering aspect, so maybe two members from each group can collaborate on a research project.”
Barrett said she doesn’t think many college students think about working in higher education as an administrator or working with students, but she believes it is a great career path and encourages others to try it because she loves her job.