Getting to Know Assistant Dean Lisa Barclay

Posted: July 1, 2021
Lisa Barclay
Assistant Dean Lisa Barclay

Our “Getting to Know” Q&A series will feature informal interviews with new leadership at the College of Engineering. Our first installment features Lisa Barclay, assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer. Barclay has served in the role on an interim basis since the summer of 2020. Previously, she was senior director of the college’s Office of Diversity, Outreach and Inclusion (DOI).

As assistant dean and chief diversity officer, Barclay will represent the college on diversity and inclusion matters within the university as well as with peer universities and industry partners. She will lead DOI’s staff of 12 and play a key role on the college’s executive committee.

College of Engineering: What excites you most about this new role?

Lisa Barclay: I'm excited because I think it's a new era for the College of Engineering and Ohio State. I believe many of our colleagues in engineering and across campus want to be actively engaged in anti-racist work and desire an institution that is diverse, equitable and inclusive. And now we have external and internal forces that will move us beyond performative activism to transformative and sustainable actions.

With new opportunities like the RAISE initiative, the JobsOhio partnership, the LEGACY Postdoctoral Scholars Program, the ACCELERATE Bridge Program, and various work groups and task forces focused on faculty hiring, facilities, curriculum and inclusive classrooms, I hear our leadership saying, “Let's do more than talk and put out statements about our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Let's incorporate social justice and equity into our daily operations.” Those are things I’m most excited about.

CoE: You mentioned some of the opportunities that exist. What do you see as the greatest challenges in this role?

Barclay: I think everybody now sees diversity, equity and inclusion as a priority and wants to see those changes immediately, so while I actually think that's a good thing, that added pressure can be challenging. Sometimes you have to not only pace yourself, but take the time to truly assess and evaluate the situation and bring your stakeholders to the table to have a conversation about potential solutions. And that takes time, but there's so much pressure for folks to say, “look what we've done.” My grandmother would say, “fools rush in,” so I’m trying to balance out that desire to rush in, and also be very intentional about the things that we put in place.

CoE: You’ve held various positions within the college since 2002, and your time working at the university dates back to 1996. What’s your favorite part about working at Ohio State?

Barclay: Can I say the free t-shirts? I’m kidding! I know this is going to sound cheesy, but it’s the people. I’ve had four different positions in the college and all of the supervisors and colleagues that I’ve worked with have always been amazing. Aside from the professional standpoint, the best part hands down is working with students. Students challenge you in ways that you don't expect to be by someone who might be younger and not as experienced as you, but they challenge you to bring your best self. It was the motivation from the students that has gotten us to this point—their energy and drive will continue to push the college to its full potential. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to work with them and on their behalf. They also keep me youthful and up to date on music!

CoE: What has been your most impactful job throughout your career?

Barclay: I think my current job is probably the most pivotal role I've had, being that it’s such an important time for the college and the university. It is my hope that this one will be impactful, but as I think back, it has to be my time as a summer counselor with the Young Scholars Program at Ohio State. That's actually how I ended up deciding that I wanted to work with students. The program’s professional staff took time to mentor the counselors—they helped us understand the broad field of education.

At 20-something years old, to be able to talk to middle school and high school students and to change how they saw their future just by being myself and sharing my experiences—it changed me. The role college students can play in having a positive impact on K-12 education is priceless. I know we made a huge difference in many lives that summer simply by sharing our stories and speaking life into our “younger selves.”

CoE: Do you have a favorite mentor or someone you've looked up to?

Barclay: I have a lot, but one who I probably learned the most from and didn't thank enough would be Minnie McGee. I could thank her every day and it wouldn’t be enough. When I was an undergraduate at Ohio State in the mid-90s, even though I wasn't an engineer, everybody knew Dean McGee. When I started working in the College of Engineering, even though I didn't work for her at the time, Dean McGee was generous in sharing her knowledge and her experiences. She put the foundation in place for many bridge programs here at Ohio State and across the country, and was a national leader in creating programming for student academic success. Her love for the students and commitment to academic excellence is forever engrained into our programs. She was a wonderful mentor all the way up until her retirement in 2015. She was the first Black woman to hold an assistant dean position in the college and she made a lot of sacrifices personally and professionally, and so I’m forever grateful because I wouldn't be here as an assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion if it wasn't for her.

CoE: What about your interests and hobbies outside of work?

Barclay: Netflix, although it’s not a hobby I’m proud of, but I have to keep up with what the students are talking about! I also love all sports and enjoy athletic drill type workouts. I’m from Cleveland so I’m a huge Cleveland Browns fan. And I’m a family person so we have family at our house a lot and there is always good food and music. I have southern and Dominican roots so we have amazing southern and Caribbean chefs in the family. I don’t cook a lot, but I do consider myself a foodie!

by Meggie Biss, College of Engineering Communications | biss.11@osu.edu