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Meet Carolyn Barr

Carolyn Barr
International Relations Adviser
Leiden University (The Netherlands)

What drew you to the world of college admission?
Circumstance and an affinity for service! While studying at the University of Western Ontario (Canada) years ago, I thought working within a university would be a good fit and challenge for me. My initial career in consultative sales steered me away from that but gave me the means to travel. That led me to meet my husband, develop an appreciation for all things international, and move to the Netherlands as a result. It just so happened that my first job after relocation was working for one of the largest online education companies in the world. Getting to work with students around the globe reach their higher educational goals was very fulfilling and made me realize that I wanted to work with students face-to-face, and to make higher education my next career. From there, opportunities opened for me to join the recruitment and admission world at “brick and mortar” institutions - first at a satellite campus of an American university, and now Leiden University (The Netherlands). The differences in systems, types of work environments, and cultural experiences have been vast, but what a journey! I have always loved helping others and higher education, so it was a perfect match and has kept me in the profession since then!

What is your favorite part of the job?
In the past I would say that I love connecting with students most, but that is not as much a part of my job as it used to be. Therefore, my favorite part of my job is connecting with counselors. Knowing that I can help educate, give expert advice, connect them with others in my network, and make a difference in their level of knowledge about the Netherlands and my institution is very rewarding. Emails, Messenger, phone calls, Instagram, LinkedIn – wherever you can find me, I’ll be your go-to person! Presenting at the NACAC conference and the International ACAC affiliate conferences and getting such positive feedback is also quite a professional thrill for me, even after many years of doing it.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
NACAC has played a role mainly in helping me grow professionally through the International ACAC affiliate as well as the national conference. These connections have allowed me to deepen my knowledge on ethics and behavioral guidelines within our industry, connect me to new colleagues and friends over the years, contribute to resources available to members, and give me a platform to tell others about studying in the Netherlands and my current institution. It has been a guiding force and a source of a huge amount of information for me – quite an education!

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
There are so many challenges – the admission industrial complex seems to be barreling out of control with scandals, ever-decreasing admit rates, shockingly high student debt and a lack of financial literacy, lack of access (in every context), ethical concerns, and much more. I think one of the biggest challenges at a very macro level in our profession is the biggest challenge facing the world – so much information/distraction vs. meaningful knowledge. Students, counselors, and institutions have so much information to read, analyze, make complicated decisions from, follow instructions(!) with, and more – but finding meaning in that information, building knowledge and connections, as well as delivering what is required can be difficult for all sides of the desk. This speaks to all areas of our profession – communication, marketing, recruitment, counseling, administration, and admission.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I like to travel for fun instead of just for work! Aside from that I like to cook (but I like to eat more!), hike, and spend time at my cottage with family in Canada.

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Iron Man. I would be a part of the best team ever, I could fly, kick anyone’s butt, get the job done on my own terms, be a role model for kids, save the world, and be a rockstar all in one. ‘Nuff said.

Describe yourself in five words.
Impatient, dedicated, conscientious, reliable, and imperfect.

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