Don’t expect Professor Eudine Barriteau to try to follow in the footsteps left by her predecessor when she takes over as principal of the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Cave Hill Campus.
Don’t expect her to suddenly lose her passion for jumping at Kadooment either.
You’d be waiting in vain on both counts.
Professor Barriteau is adamant that in April when she assumes the position which, before her, had never been held by a woman, she will not only leave her unique mark on the Barbados campus, but also remain true to who she is – a woman who loves her work, family, friends, and all things Caribbean.
When it was announced that the Grenadian-born academic would head the Cave Hill Campus, after a career there spanning 30 years, she became to the media and others who commented on her rise in the ranks at the UWI, “the first woman to hold the position”.
No doubt that as feminists celebrated the victory for women in academia, some others compared Professor Barriteau, current principal of the UWI Open Campus, to Professor Sir Hilary Beckles and wondered whether she would be able to fill his shoes.
But Professor Barriteau insists she has no intention of even trying to do that.
“I always think that it is a mistake for one to follow an outstanding leader and try to mimic what he or she has done . . . It is inspiring to be chosen to replace an incredible leader like Sir Hilary Beckles, someone who makes things happen, and it could be daunting, except that I’ve worked with him,” says the distinguished Caribbean scholar and administrator.
“The only reason that it is not daunting is that I have no intention of following that cliché thing about walking in his footsteps. Sir Hilary Beckles’ footsteps are his and only his; no one can walk in them.”
With a chuckle, she adds: “I will bring Eudine Barriteau’s style, Eudine Barriteau’s flair.”
Professor Barriteau, who describes herself as decisive, competent, confident and “not afraid of making tough decisions”, says her focus as principal of the Cave Hill Campus will be on student growth, financial viability and quality assurance.
“Not that Sir Hilary didn’t do that,” the professor adds quickly. “I’m saying that I will do it in my own style, in my own way of leadership.”
Before she officially starts doing that, Professor Barriteau continues to be hailed for creating history.
She doesn’t brush off the compliments, praises or tributes, or pretend that her accomplishment is nothing to be celebrated.
But Professor Barriteau makes it clear that she is under no illusion that she is the only one capable of doing the job.
“I am very conscious of being woman and very conscious it is the first time that a woman has had that position. To the extent that it hasn’t happened before, then it is in fact significant for women, because it is saying to younger academics that there is no barrier to you becoming Principal of the Cave Hill Campus, or even Vice-Chancellor. So I think it is significant that it has happened.
“I certainly think there would have been a number of excellent women in the past who could have easily been principal of the Cave Hill Campus . . . but perhaps the time was not right.”
Interestingly, Professor Barriteau says she never had any aspirations of reaching the position she is now in.
“Most people won’t believe that, but the truth of the matter is I just work very hard at whatever is the job at hand.”
Professor Barriteau joined the UWI in 1993 when she headed the Centre for Gender and Development Studies, a position she held for 15 years. In 2004, she added first female Campus Coordinator of the School for Graduate Studies and Research to her portfolio and served for four years until she became the second woman to be appointed deputy principal at the Cave Hill Campus.
Ten years later, she became principal of the UWI Open Campus.
“I could have easily retired from UWI as Professor of Gender and Public Policy and head of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies,” she says.
It was only after she became deputy principal and Sir Hilary served as “an excellent leader”, giving her the opportunity to test her leadership skills, that Professor Barriteau realized she could be a principal.
“Still, I never said to myself ‘I want to be principal before I leave UWI’.”
So when she was chosen to lead the Cave Hill Campus of the UWI, “which represents, in a sense, the pinnacle of tertiary education in Barbados and the Caribbean”, she felt “honoured, humbled, inspired and excited” that the leadership of the institution believed she could get the job done.
It was no surprise Professor Barriteau got the university’s vote of confidence, though. Her impressive CV includes not only her service to the UWI in various roles, but also national, regional and international awards and recognition.
Those include the Gold Crown of Merit from the Barbados Government for her invaluable contribution to gender and development.
She also became the first Caribbean scholar to be awarded the Margaret McNamara Memorial Fund Scholarship in 1991, was awarded a Howard University Doctoral Fellowship and became a Scholar of the American Association of University Women in 1992, and was bestowed with the 10th CARICOM Triennial Award for Women in 2011.
While Professor Barriteau counts all that, along with her elevation at the UWI as major accomplishments, they share the title of her proudest achievements with something, or rather someone, else.
He is Cabral Barriteau-Foster, her only child.
Professor Barriteau speaks passionately about her love for the 27-year-old coastal engineer who enjoys boxing, and whom she goes out to support, even though she cringes every time her son takes a hit.
You would think that with the massive amount of work on her plate that Professor Barriteau wouldn’t have time for much else.
But she makes sure she does.
“I love to dance, I love to swim, I love to read, I love to argue politics. I love the study of politics and I love Caribbean politics. In my earlier life I used to do electoral research and political science research . . . For a lime I would go to political meetings across the Caribbean. Whenever there’s a political season in Barbados I run around like crazy!”
“I love my family and I am very loyal to my friends. I have a close circle of friends,” she adds, as she continues to identify the things she is most passionate about.
Professor Barriteau was sure not to leave Crop Over, Carnival, and Caribbean food and music off that list.
“During the Crop Over season I come alive. I jump in bands. I have been doing this since the 70s in Barbados . . . so I get very annoyed or concerned when people say ‘look at the Professor jumping’ because, as you know, I’m from Grenada and my mother and father loved Carnival and so I have this thing in my bones.”
“I have been doing this for a long time, but people discover me as deputy principal. Yes, Professor Barriteau did those things and Professor Barriteau doesn’t want to stop doing them either!” she declared with a laugh. (DP)