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Five Minutes with Wendy Hunter Barker, Assistant Dean of Academic Programs and Marketing, UC San Diego

August 7, 2019 03:13 PM

APPAM’s Five Minutes with… series was introduced in March 2019 to illuminate the work of individual APPAM members, and promote connections between members based on their shared interests.  The opportunity to be profiled on our website and social media through these interviews is an exclusive APPAM member benefit!  We encourage those APPAM members interested in being interviewed to email

Name: Wendy Hunter Barker
Location: San Diego, CA
Place of Employ and Position:  School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California San Diego, Assistant Dean of Academic Programs and Marketing
Degrees, including Institutions: Master of International Peace and Conflict Resolution, American University, BA Political Science and International Relations, UCLA

1. What attracted you to the field?
In my youth, we moved a lot and I experienced many different states and American subcultures.  We often lived with other single-mother families and met a wide variety of people.  In my teens, I was fortunate enough to spend a summer in Europe and my love for exploring different cultures was cemented.  I knew I wanted to work in a field that allowed me access to people from around the world in a way that promoted the best globalism has to offer.
2. Among your institution’s achievements over the last couple of years, what makes you most proud?
During the academic year 18/19, the School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) celebrated its 30th anniversary.  It was an amazing year filled with programming that allowed everyone to see just how much this School has to offer.  We launched a new webinar series, Designing Policy for a Global Impact, to reach people all over the globe; held dynamic events with key policymakers and thought leaders in San Diego on topics such as the fate of democracy and mobilizing technology for policy; and we explored creative new ways to think about policy using the tools of world-building seen in science fiction writing through our program San Diego 2049.  The final day of our celebratory weekend, Forging the Pacific Century, featured TED-like talks by our faculty and everyone came away from the weekend excited and invigorated about the future of the School.
3. When you visualize the future of public policy, what do you see?
I see more voices being heard.  I see increased engagement at a local level - community members using the tools of social media and the internet to coordinate and collaborate.  I see a resurgence in local activism coupled with a greater knowledge of what is happening globally.  We are becoming increasingly interconnected, but that simply highlights the need for starting in your own backyard.
4. Explain what makes your institution an attractive place to work from a values perspective.  Why would our graduate students and professional members want to join your team, given the opportunity?
UC San Diego is a forward-looking institution uniquely grounded in its California location. GPS is nestled in this larger campus, and provides a close-knit community environment. One thing in particular that I appreciate about GPS is that it’s a place that truly values diversity, equity, and inclusion.  I discuss these issues routinely with colleagues from other departments or campuses, and I’m always reminded how strong our leadership’s commitment to these values are.  GPS also has a great deal of international students, so it is a wonderfully culturally diverse place to work.  Everyone here has a passion for education and learning, and students and staff are invited to seminars and events and always able to continue learning and growing.
5. In what ways does your institution help to advance the dialogue on diversity in the field?
We try and encourage diversity in public policy through a variety of methods.  We offer an annual Public Service Weekend in partnership with PPIA and NASPAA to encourage underrepresented undergraduate students in southern California to consider public policy for their career.  We conduct outreach visits to HSIs and HBCUs and demonstrate through our marketing that each voice is important.  Our faculty consider diversity statements when selecting new members to join the School, and they sit on as many dissertation committees as they can. 
6. What advice would you give to students in pursuing their “dream jobs”?
Just start.  Start somewhere and work hard.  I think many people pass up opportunities because they aren’t a perfect fit.  But the truth of the matter is that you can learn valuable lessons no matter what job you take and as long as you keep your eye on the prize, you can grow and move and work your way to that dream job.  It might not be your first job out of college, or even your second or third.  But if you stay focused on your goals, you’d be surprised how much you can tailor your work experience no matter what position you hold.
7. Share with us a time that you rose to a challenge in your career in order to get where you’re at now.
Throughout my career, I’ve always raised my hand when duties needed to be re-assigned because of a layoff or budget cut.  Yes, it was extra work and that’s not pleasant, but it was also a chance to learn something new.  In this way, I engaged in alumni relations, human resources, and writing marketing material.  I also learned about business development, which opened me up to the world of intellectual property, start-up investing, and small-business formation.  My current job doesn’t require those skills in particular, but it shaped how I view workflow, how I read the news, and how I think about what I might do in retirement.  If your employer wants to train you in a new skill, let them!  You never know when it’ll come in handy.
8. Do you believe work-life balance is achievable as a leader in public policy?  If so, please share some tips and tricks for our current and aspiring leaders, and let us know what you do to relax while you’re at it. 
Honestly, in my youth I was content to focus on my career.  I gave it my all for a decade or two.  Now I’m at a point where I want to focus on that balance and while it is hard, and I definitely struggle from time to time, I believe it is possible.  One important thing to do is find an employer who shares your values.  Working at a university, there’s flexibility to telecommute, or take a couple hours in the afternoon to see a taekwondo belt test if I return to my laptop after my daughter has gone to bed.  This flexibility is important to me and has kept me at the university when I may have been able to earn a higher wage elsewhere. 


10. Is there someone you admire who you’ve never met but would love to meet, or something you’ve never done but would love to do?  If so, we’d love to hear about this bucket list item!
I’m a big fan of having a bucket list.  I like to think about things I want to do and then make them happen.  Putting them on a list dramatically increases the likelihood that I’ll do it.  My list includes a lot of travel, as I love seeing the world.  So something I haven’t yet done but want to is learn to tango in Argentina. I love to dance. I love Latin American culture. And I would adore the opportunity to strike a pose in some dark, moody night club in Buenos Aires. 
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