Dr. Charles “Chuck” Barber built his career on the idea that investing in oneself, one’s education, is sure to bear fruit. To his mother, education was a necessity, a requirement for growth.
“My mom made sure I was just as effective in the classroom as I was in sports or anything else in life” he said. “I don’t look at obtaining a degree as just an academic requirement, I look at it as growing yourself as a person.”
Dr. Barber, a CSU alumnus and Army veteran, earned his master’s degree in organizational leadership in 2013. He then went on to complete his doctorate degree in transformational leadership, followed by completing the Senior Executive Fellows program at Harvard University where he also served as a guest lecturer on the importance of transformational leadership in the workplace.
Prior to his current role, he served as the director of DEI programs for the United States Department of the Navy where he was responsible for providing strategic leadership and process improvement expertise for components, military services and organizations supporting the Department of Defense initiatives. The beauty of this job, says Dr. Barber, is “no day is the same.”
“There may be a day when I am talking with lawmakers on the hill about why diversity is important and why it is necessary,” he said. “Another day I could be talking to a four-star official for the department of defense. Being able to operate and interact with high-level officials in that capacity—none of that would be possible without the training obtained from schools that I received from CSU.”
Currently, Dr. Barber works as the chief diversity officer at the National Science Foundation, where he serves as the agency’s subject matter expert regarding DEI.
“It is my hope that the work and foundation we put in place at the National Science Foundation provides a blueprint that you can harmonize diversity and meritocracy without compromising one another,” he said. “My goal is put the right focus on equity, that we rethink what a meritocracy can and should be. I want to develop a multi-cultural meritocracy. A framework that has nothing to do with quotas, but a framework that considers the different starting lines we have in life and incorporates empathy. With empathy being the gateway to psychological safety, this will help to also develop environments of increased respect and belonging.”
Dr. Barber was also featured as the Diversity Equity and Inclusion TED speaker at the 2022 TEDx conference hosted by the Defense Acquisition University.
“Not in a million years did I ever think I would deliver a TED Talk, but because of the things I learned at Columbia Southern, combined with my work experience and my background, I think it all attributed to the talk being an overall success,” he said. “Being labeled as a TED Talk speaker is a highlight in my career and a lot of it is attributed to the education I obtained at Columbia Southern University.”
Having always felt enamored with leadership, Dr. Barber felt diving into the aspects of both organizational and transformational leadership would better prepare him for his calling.
“The diversity space is one that can be very political, emotional and passionate, and you have to be able to manage all of those tenants,” he said. “When you think about organizational leadership/change and the and transformational leadership where you build relationships, you will see all of that comes into play while on the job.”
Throughout his career, Dr. Barber has seen success in the classroom, in the Army and now, firsthand. The fruits of his labor come in many forms.
“Whenever I get emails or phone calls from minority organizations or individuals, and they tell me that the work we are doing is absolutely making a difference. That is my favorite part of the job,” he said. “When they can tell me things like how they are not being excluded in the workforce, that brings great joy to me.”
When asked about the vital role he plays in impacting the change that is happening with diversity and inclusion, he said it is a responsibility he does not take lightly.
“I want to teach others how to constructively focus on the organizational change work needed to advance DEI. While I advocate for social change, I’m not an activist. I’m a true DEI practitioner and thought leader in this space. I want to teach others how to be that too. In doing so, we give our youth, the underserved, the unheard and minorities a champion in this space.”
One of the ways Dr. Barber invites DEI into workspaces is through celebrating and educating annual observances such as Black History Month.
“Black History Month is an opportunity to acknowledge past and present accomplishments of the black community,” he said. “It should be a time in which we use to constructively build culture intelligence so that others can continue to learn about or community just as we do for other observances. This helps with the fact that we can absolutely show love and pride for this country while we reconcile for past indiscretions and vice versa.”
Thanks to the foundation his mother built for him all those years ago, Dr. Barber continues to use his platform to encourage the necessity of education, opportunity and democracy.
“A lot of folks will tell you diversity and equity are good for business, but truth be told, this work is also good for humanity.”