As a student, I can not even begin to count the times I have heard the age old questions asked in class, “But why do we need to know that? When are we going to need that?” In today’s society where answers can be found with the click of a mouse, or by sending a text message, it is hard to inspire students to learn for the sake of learning. Actually, it’s a challenge to get anyone, whether they are a student or not, to get excited about being lectured to, when they think they can find the answers quickly on their own. It is in a technologically advanced society like ours, that we need teachers and professors who truly know what it means to inspire. We need to be encouraged and set on fire. Dr. Kenneth Barron, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology here, is doing that very thing at James Madison University.
As a senior at this University, I know how wonderful the professors are here. I know that I am lucky to have attended a place where getting students the knowledge and information they need is such a priority. Once in awhile though, a professor comes along who really goes above and beyond to instill passion into a student’s studies. Although I have not had the pleasure of learning directly under Dr. Barron, the words of praise from his colleagues and students are enough to show what a great man he truly is. Even in the short time I have had to learn more about him, I have been inspired. To be able to have a student impacted through what others are saying about you is incredible. Imagine what he has done with those students who have had the honor of learning under him. As one student put it, “There is no exaggeration in saying I am not only a more capable psych student as a direct result of my interactions with Dr. Barron, but I am also a more capable person as a whole. The passion Dr. Barron has for what he does is admirable and inspiring. He truly cares about making a positive influence on the lives of students.”
Dr. Barron has been working for students here for eight years. In that time he has created an atmosphere for learning that goes far beyond what a student could ever hope for in their college experience. He has taught over 14 undergraduate and graduate courses. Dr. Barron has also developed and taught four new courses that became part of the Psychology Major in 2006. Some of his former students even nominated him for “Who’s Who Among American Teachers.” His biography appeared in the 9th edition.
Dr. Barron is not just a professor here, but also a mentor and an advisor. The process of transitioning into college is extremely difficult. Students need a positive role model, a great advisor, to go to for direction during this time. Dr. Barron has made this process a little easier on students entering the psychology program by developing and implementing the Freshmen Psychological Residential Learning Community. This program allows 20 first-year students dedicated to pursuing psychology, to live together and get a “jump start” on the major through a specifically designed program just for them. 40% of the learning community goes on to get involved in independent research, compared to the 1% outside the community, that get involved. Learning Community members have been co-presenters at Choices Day and the annual President’s Day. When asked about their JMU experiences almost all bring up the positive impact the learning community had on them. These comments never are without the mention of Dr. Barron. Many of the learning community students refer to him as the “Learning Community Father.”
As someone who knows many friends who were able to be a part of the learning community Dr. Barron fostered, I know how much of an impact his dedication and work has had. One student claimed that they were a little bit unsure about their major but got into the learning community and wanted to stick with it. She said that the learning community changed her life from day 1. The students were not just a group of 20 they were a community.
Anyone who knows him says that advising and mentoring is his life. People have needed help at 4 am and found their emails to him answered within minutes. He gives of himself ay anytime, asking nothing in return. He is one of the department’s most popular advisors.
Dr. Barron uses his human motivation specialty by passing on his knowledge at conferences and publishing on teaching related topics. Since 2000, he has made six professional presentations at teaching conferences, and he has been invited to write two chapters in books about “Best Practices” in the teaching of psychology. He is not only well respected by his students but by his faculty as well. He has been elected Chair of the Departmental Personnel Advisory Committee (PAC), the committee responsible for recommending faculty for promotion, tenure and evaluates faculty each year. Dr. Michael Stoloff, the Dean of Psychology here at JMU, praises Dr. Barron by stating that, “There are many excellent teachers at JMU but Kenn Barron stands out among his peers. Kenn has had (and will continue to have) a significant impact on the lives of his students. As a teacher, he is indeed distinctive.”
Dr. Barron empowers students to strive for great things, to learn as much as possible, and to know they are never alone. He impacts the lives of the students he comes in contact with by making them proud of who they are and what they accomplish. He empowers students and many claim they would not be the same without him. Students say, it’s not just that he gives everything he has to his students, it's that he's amazing at what he does. He lets us realize ourselves that we matter and that we're doing a great job. That’s just the type of person he is.”
I am extremely honored to be able to spread awareness of the incredibly selfless way that Dr. Kenneth Barron has given of himself, is inspiring students, and will impact the sense of community felt on this campus for years to come. It is with deep respect and reverence that I present Dr. Barron with the All Together One Award.
Omicron Delta Kappa