Candidate For Secretary/Board of Trustees Administrative Director: Jennifer Barker

Jennifer Barker
Jennifer Barker

Name: Jennifer Barker
Pledge Class/Year: Spring 1989
Officer Position: Secretary/Administrative Director of the BOT

As a prospective officer & leader of the ODPAA, what do you consider your greatest strengths? Weaknesses?

Strengths: Board experience (both ODPAA and other), directness, ability to maintain neutrality, sense of humor. Weaknesses: I sometimes come across as aloof or unfriendly (even though I’m just quiet and very shy). In the past I’ve taken on too many commitments and ended up not being able to give adequate attention to everything, so I need to always be mindful of this so that I don’t bite off more than I can chew and get swamped.

If elected or re-elected to the position you seek, what is your commitment to serving out the full term?

I plan to serve the full term. 🙂

Please describe accomplishments in your career and personal life that would benefit the ODPAA.

I’m currently serving as the ODPAA secretary/BOT admin director on an interim basis, so I now have a bit of experience in the exact position I’m running for.

I have about a decade’s worth of experience serving on another board, and I think this experience would be useful on the ODPAA BOT. I was recently elected to my second term as my union’s secretary and have a lot of experience taking and distributing minutes, scheduling meetings, distributing meeting materials, etc. Since being in this position I’ve updated and streamlined templates for our agendas, minutes, and other documents, and have standardized the process by which the secretary solicits and distributes reports for our monthly meetings. I’ve also assisted our treasurer in updating our financial forms. Prior to serving as secretary, I was the chair of our internal communications committee for several terms—I copyedited all of our emails, website posts, flyers, posters, social-media posts, articles, etc.; prepared the committee’s annual budget request; and chaired and took minutes for our committee meetings.

I’ve also served on my union’s bargaining team twice and have been through two cycles of contract negotiations, one of which needed the help of a state mediator before we reached an agreement with the employer. Being on the bargaining team has helped me stay neutral in my communications—both in person at the table and in our written communications after each day of negotiations. During bargaining I gained a lot of experience in compromising and give and take, and I’ve occasionally had to vote for things that were detrimental to me personally but were the best option for the greater good for our full membership. I think this experience might be useful on the BOT/for the ODPAA.

What is your vision for the future of the ODPAA? What changes would you advocate and why?

I’d like to see the ODPAA grow our membership, of course. I’d like to see diverse representation from and involvement of the full range of our alumnae (from our founding sisters all the way through the newest graduates). I haven’t been active in the ODPAA long enough to feel that I should be advocating for any changes right off the bat—I’d rather continue to observe through the remainder of my interim term and then, if elected, work together with the new officers and BOT to come up with good plans for the future.

If elected or re-elected, please describe what you seek to accomplish:

  • Within your first 90 days: Read Roberts Rules of Order in Brief to bone up on the various guidelines re: meetings, motions, and minutes. Set up document templates, file directories for myself, etc. (I’ve actually done most of this already.) Establish a tentative schedule for future meetings.
  • Within your first year: Once the new BOT and officers are in place, I’d just like to work on establishing workflows for myself to ensure that meetings are held regularly/when needed and go smoothly, that minutes and other information is distributed in a timely manner, etc.
  • Within your full term: Sort of in line with my answer to the question above re: vision/changes for the ODPAA, I think it’s too early to have goals for my full term at such an early stage. If I get elected, ask me again in a year. 🙂 (By the end of the term, I do plan to have some cheat sheets prepared for my successor, so that the office has some standard, useful information to pass along in the future.)

What does Omega Delta Phi mean to you? Please describe your experience as both an active member and an alumna.

I can’t imagine what my college experience would have been like if I hadn’t pledged Omega. I have non-Greek friends from home/college, but most of the friends I feel closest to are my sisters. There’s a lot to be said for having so many shared experiences—from pledging, to functions, to laughing about funny stories at house meetings, etc. I held a number of offices while an active member, and they helped me build skills that I still use today.

I envy my sisters who still live in the NE or elsewhere on the east coast. I’ve only made it back to Potsdam twice (including for our 50th) since I moved to Portland. Social media has its problems, but I’m grateful to have a way to quickly connect with my sisters who are so far away. I’d love to see our alumnae in the Midwest and on the west coast be more active in the ODPAA, take part in some mini-reunions, etc.

How would your sisters describe you?

Funny, compassionate, honest.

Please describe your approach to communicating and working with the active membership.

I think that the ODPAA needs to work on building trust and a good working relationship with the actives, remembering that our role is to provide support for the actives rather than make decisions for them. I think that it would be most helpful to communicate via phone calls or direct emails (or in person when possible/applicable), rather than via social media.

What are the top 3 things you would like the ODPAA and active membership to accomplish together?

Promote Greek life at the colleges/increase our number of active members. Get 51 Elm Street back in shape. Promote the ODPAA to senior actives/encourage their involvement in the ODPAA as new graduates.

How do you deal with difficult people & situations? Please describe a situation in which you took a position that upset someone else, and explain how you handled it.

I try to make sure they really understand what I’m saying and have all the information they need to understand why I’m making a certain decision or taking a certain action, as well as make sure that I’m hearing what their concerns are.

On the other board I serve on, we recently had an officer ask for a stipend increase for 2018. The same officer had asked for and received a stipend increase in 2017 (but for a lower amount than was initially asked for). A couple of members of our executive committee (including myself) recommended a small, temporary increase for the remainder of 2017 and asked the officer to provide additional/more detailed documentation re: what went into calculating the amount of the new request. The officer was extremely frustrated and initially felt that our request indicated a lack of trust, that we expected a to-the-minute accounting of time spent on various projects, etc. I spent about ten minutes speaking with the officer clarifying what additional information we wanted (and offering to help gather some of it where I could), conveying that I understood how much work is involved in the position and suggesting ways to ease the workload, and better explaining why we were asking for the additional information. At the end of the discussion, the officer agreed with the executive committee’s recommendation, which was then presented to our full executive board for a later vote.

How do you motivate others?

I’ve had to get committee members to complete tasks on time, but I don’t think I’ve ever really been in a role that requires me to motivate others.

How do you handle criticism?

Criticism stings, of course, but I try my best not to take it personally and not to react to it immediately. If I do something that needs to be criticized, I want to hear about it—directly, and sooner rather than later. After receiving criticism, I try to sit on it for a while and let any negative or hurt feelings subside before I formulate a response.

What top 3 qualities do you think a leader should have?

Approachability—People need to feel they can go to a leader to express concerns, ideas, etc., as well as feel that their concerns have been heard even if the leader can’t take action on them. Accountability—A leader should own up to it if she makes a mistake; if she doesn’t know the answer to something, she should say so and ask someone who does. Good communication skills—being honest, being direct while still being respectful when communicating something difficult, etc.

Would you rather be liked or respected?

Respected. Over the years I’ve had to work with folks I haven’t clicked with and with people who I don’t think liked me (sometimes the feeling has been mutual, but not always). We just stay focused on the task at hand and communicate professionally. You can still work with people who don’t like you as long as they respect you—I think the reverse is much more difficult.

How do you spend your free time?

Goofing around with my two pet ferrets, cooking and checking out new restaurants with my husband, watching major-junior hockey, doing manicures/nail art, bird-watching, ranting about current events, spending too much time online, working on union projects. 🙂

For fun: What’s your ‘superpower’ or ‘spirit animal’ and why?


Is there anything else you would you like to share with your sisters?

I think I’ve probably shared more than enough already. 🙂 I’m happy to answer any questions folks might still have, though.