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Educational Leadership with Dr. Julianna Asperin Barnes



Learn about leadership to support the student success & equity work.

In this episode, I interview Dr. Julianna Asperin Barnes, Chancellor at the South Orange Community College District.

(Scroll down to access the transcript.)

We cover the following key topics:

3:19:00: Karate principles that influenced her educational leadership

Karate demonstration at UC San Diego

Example Kata (Video)

Karate principles and educational leadership application:

Unrelenting focus on student success & equity.

Don't get distracted by the noise. Be there for your people.

Respect & Kindness
Not just for those you report to. For those that follow you.

Especially when you're the first one in a role/position, paving the way for others.

Hard Work
Doing right by students is hard work.

One's energy flow inside and outside of work is key.

6:58:25: Supporting developmental education reform
Leading the Way: Cuyamaca College Transforms Math Remediation

13:32:00: Breaking board incident and how it turned into a symbol for the necessary teamwork needed to break institutional barriers


19:44:75: The role of one's authentic "energy"

25:59:50: Why female leaders need to play "chess behind the scenes"

33:01:750: Advice for leaders, especially females: focus on internal & external development

39:05:25: Addressing the challenges to implementing change

Select Dr. Julianna Asperin Barnes episode quotes:
"My very first opening session, we call it convocation, I shared some data, looked at various momentum points with regard to student access and disaggregated the data and showed where we had equity gaps along these various student momentum points. I said that we see these gaps and it's no fault of our students, that really we have an institutional responsibility to remove barriers--practice and policy barriers--to be sure that our students are making it to the finish line." 
"Institutional barriers to student success and equity are so entrenched that one person alone cannot break through them. It takes a village."
"It's really important to know yourself, believe in yourself, understand yourself, and how you're being perceived out in the world. We all have traumas, we all have past experiences. It's important for us to understand what those things are, work through them, ground ourselves, and feel good about ourselves. And then bring your authentic self to the table."
"In terms of karate, interestingly, my dojo is called Aionagi Ken Shu Kai. It means green willow tree. The significance is that the green willow tree has really deep roots that are really embedded in the earth, and so that when strong winds blow through, the tree blows back and forth. But the tree remains very grounded in the earth. And so that whole piece on getting to know yourself and feeling grounded, I think is so important because you will get blown around to and fro and you really have to retain your groundedness."

"Certainly it's important to be your authentic self. At the same time, you have to understand the rules of the game and be strategic behind the scenes with the rules of the game."

"Oftentimes we hear, make sure you pick an institution where you fit. Well, many times we are entering into institutions where we don't fit, but we're creating the fit for people who will follow us. We [as women of color], are the ones paving the way. There is no path before us. We're the ones creating the path."

"We're focusing more and more, and rightfully so, on the self care of students, for example, basic needs. Well, as practitioners and leaders, we have that same thing. We often hear practitioners and leaders say, 'I work sixty or seventy hours a week,' and certainly some weeks you are working 60 to 70 hours, but you got to bring yourself back into balance and self-care and do what you need to do in terms of diet, exercise, and sleep to get yourself grounded again."

"Leverage your own life experiences and use them as your superpower. I joke around and say, at the end of the day, I'm just 'Julie from the block.' And so people call me Chancellor Barnes or Dr. Barnes or what have you. But at the end of the day, I am just 'Julie from the block.' I grew up, like many of our students, as a low-income first generation college student, and I used to not see that as a superpower. I used to see that as a liability--that it wasn't a value. But more and more, I know that is one of my superpowers. All of the trials and tribulations that I had as a first generation low-income student, I learned resilience, I learned courage, and I learned determination. I use all of those things in my profession."

"To build institutional capacity, we went through a governance redesign. It took two years, but we went through it. Also, during that time, we changed hiring practices. We were really focused on professional development and learning and elevating practitioner and leadership mindsets where it needed to be to do the work.  When I left my previous institution, there were structures in place and there were practitioners in place who had particular mindsets. It was like an orchestra happening where then I could be there and work in harmony with the orchestra to have that work happen. And when I left, that orchestra was still doing its work and playing this beautiful song."


About Dr. Julianna Asperin Barnes
Dr. Julianna M. Asperin Barnes joined the South Orange County Community College District as Chancellor in August of 2022 with 30 plus years of experience in higher education. Prior to her appointment as Chancellor, she served as President of Cuyamaca College for seven years. Under her leadership, the college emerged as a leading college in equity and innovation. Early adopters in developmental education reform, the college was awarded the John W. Rice Diversity and Equity Award and was recognized nationally by Excelencia in Education.

She is known as an inclusive and engaged leader who has fostered strong internal and external relationships, providing the foundation for equitable student outcomes, a positive campus climate, and a healthy organization. 

About Dr. Al Solano
Al is Founder & Coach at the Continuous Learning Institute. A big believer in kindness, he helps institutions of higher education to plan and implement homegrown practices to improve student success and equity by coaching them through a process based on what he calls the "Three Cs": Clarity, Coherence, Consensus. In addition, his bite-sized, practitioner-based articles on student success strategies, institutional planning & implementation, and educational leadership are implemented at institutions across the country. He has worked directly with over 50 colleges and universities and has trained well over 5,000 educators. He has coached colleges for over a decade, worked at two community colleges, and began his education career in K12. He earned a doctorate in education from UCLA, and is a proud community college student who transferred to Cornell University.

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