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Interview with Billie Barnett

Elgin Community College Archives
Polly Nash, Interviewer |
Elgin Community College Archives |

0:00 - Introduction of Interview with Billie Barnett

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Partial Transcript: This is an interview with Billie Barnett, …

Segment Synopsis: Polly Nash introduces the interview, states why Barnett was selected to give her oral history, including the fact that she was an Elgin Community College student who subsequently became an employee of the college.

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0:57 - Billie’s Very Early Heritage in Elgin

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Partial Transcript: May we start out with just a little bit about yourself…

Segment Synopsis: Billie tells of her own heritage by revealing that her great grandmother came to Elgin in 1862 as a young child who had had been a slave but who had escaped with her family. She eventually had two male children, one of which was Billie’s grandfather. When her great grandmother died at the age of 87, she was the last ex-slave to have lived in Elgin. Barnett discloses that her great grandmother’s husband served in the Civil War and one of her sons served in World War I.

Keywords: American War Mothers; Eugene Wheeler; Mary Ellen Newsome Wheeler; Project 231; Wanda Wheeler Austin

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4:44 - Her Own Early History

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Partial Transcript: So, tell me about the family you were born into.

Segment Synopsis: Billie describes the family in which she was born, including two other sisters and one brother. She explains that her extended family encompassed lots of aunts and uncles and cousins. She recounts that they were “poor but didn’t know it;” that she always felt that they had everything that they needed. She elaborates that she grew up on the east side of Elgin and attended schools in the Elgin school district. She graduated from Elgin High School in 1965 at the time it was in the 300 block of East Chicago Street. She recalls that when she graduated, she wanted to be a social worker and go to college to prepare for it. However, she got married and rather quickly had three children, thus postponing that dream.

Keywords: Elgin High School; Larsen Junior High School; Sheridan Elementary School

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7:17 - Billie’s Decision to Enroll at Elgin Community College

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Partial Transcript: And, at some point, you decided to go to school.

Segment Synopsis: After her divorce and being responsible for her three children, Billie remembers that she wanted to obtain some education so that she could support her family. She explains that she at first considered a court stenographer program which allowed students to begin at Elgin Community College but had to be completed at Oakton Community College. Because she couldn’t commute to Oakton, she reveals that she decided to obtain employment after completing her first semester at ECC and then return later to work on a degree in business.

Keywords: Dick Jansen; Oakton Community College

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10:25 - Specific Recollections of ECC, 1975-77; Impact of Dean of Students

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Partial Transcript: So, what did you think about the campus?

Segment Synopsis: Billie discusses her impressions of the ECC campus when she attended from 1975-77, which had then relocated to Spartan Drive. She recalls her time as a student when many students were returning adults, oftentimes single moms, just as she was. Billie reminisces how she loved learning, particularly in the humanities area and how she would check out tapes of classical music and play them at home (much to the chagrin of her children). Further, she recollects her management course and, in particular, learning about Management by Objectives. She also describes the impact of her interactions with Judy Jobe who was then the Dean of Students. Even though it took her ten years to complete her associate degree, she remembers how Judy implored her to “march” at graduation, stressing its importance to her and her teenage children.

Keywords: Judy Jobe; Paul Hegele; Walter Garrett

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18:04 - Multiple Roles of Returning Adult Students

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Partial Transcript: So, you had multiple roles.

Segment Synopsis: Barnett illuminates how she balanced all the roles that she had – mother, wife, student – and how she often studied with her children.

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19:32 - Decision to Apply for Position with ECC

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Partial Transcript: What did you do after you graduated?

Segment Synopsis: After she completed her degree in 1989, Billie discloses what enticed her to apply for a position at Elgin Community College. In addition to needing benefits, she shares that she kept looking for openings at the college, in part because she liked the atmosphere that she observed while as a student. She reveals that her first position was as a receptionist in the Counseling Center in 1992 and talks about the importance of that position. Desiring to advance her career at the college, she later accepted a position in the Registration Office and talks about how both of these two positions provided her with a “great foundation” for her future roles at the college. She recalls that she then moved to a role as administrative assistant to the Dean of Learning Resources and describes her excitement about landing that position and the particular skills that she brought to it. She shares what she liked most about working in that position and that her departmental colleagues were all like a family.

Keywords: Arturo Vasquez; Beth Santell; Edna Baehre; Ethel Russell-Ajisimo; Gayle Saunders; Gretl Kramer; Jack Weiss; Judy Jobe; Judy Mavros; Linda McEwan; Marilyn Binda; Nancy Hake; Sharron Meade

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29:34 - Barnett’s Continued Education

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Partial Transcript: Then you moved.

Segment Synopsis: Billie recounts that during this time she was also enrolled in an accelerated bachelor’s degree program from which she graduated in 1997 and the stress created with the multiple roles that she had. She expresses her pleasure with the opportunity that she had to attend Roosevelt for her master’s degree in Human Services which she completed in 2001, again balancing all the interests in being a wife, mother, student and employee.

Keywords: Judson College AIM Program; Roosevelt University

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33:38 - Her Role in the Distance Learning Program

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Partial Transcript: Distance learning was part of that division, but…

Segment Synopsis: Barnett reveals how she moved to take on a new role in the college as program developer in the Distance Learning Program. She talks about her anxiety about taking on this new role and the encouragement she received from Jack Weiss. Billie further describes several distinct elements of the Distance Learning Program: Telecourses, Interactive Television; Online. She discusses the last one and how it really began before the college adopted a course management system. She describes how they would work with students in order to get them enrolled in online classes and how labor-intensive it was in the early years of that program. She elaborates how, in 2004, they adopted a course management system and the process the college used to make that selection. She clarifies that, with its implementation, staff could spend more time working with faculty than before.

Keywords: Christian Zehelein; D2L Course Management System; Interactive Television Program; Jack Weiss; John Putz; Online Program; Telecourses

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42:38 - Billie’s Additional Leadership in the College

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Partial Transcript: You were also, outside of your work responsibilities, providing leadership to the college…

Segment Synopsis: Billie describes the various committees on which she served, in particular Black History Month, Women’s History Month, the American Association of Women in Community Colleges (AAWCC), and the Multicultural and Global Initiatives Committee (MAGIC). With each of these, she shares some of the activities she particularly remembered.

Keywords: AAWCC, American Association of Women in Community Colleges; Clark Hallpike; Dr. Vincent Gaddis, Benedictine University; Eartha Washington; Ethel Russell-Ajisimo; Gloria (Glory) Smith; Gospel Fest: Wheaton College; Gretl Kramer; Joey Campbell; Joyce Fountain; Joyce Parker; MAGIC; Petrina Jackson; Roy Flores; Sandra Anthony; Sandra Green; Soynia Gilliam; The Bottomless Closet; The Boys and Girls Club

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52:56 - Her Teaching Responsibilities

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Partial Transcript: You also taught!

Segment Synopsis: Billie talks about how, after she finished her master’s degree in human services, she could teach the introduction course in the human services program. She discusses the qualities that she worked to inculcate into her students in that first course.

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54:39 - Barnett’s Greatest Accomplishment

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Partial Transcript: When you think about your career, what would you say…

Segment Synopsis: Barnett shares what she saw as her greatest accomplishment – the selection of the course management system.

Keywords: Desire to Learn (D2L)

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55:50 - Decision to Retire

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Partial Transcript: Recently, in 2016, you decided to retire.

Segment Synopsis: Billie discusses her decision to retire and the impact of the support staff contract. She also shares what she’s been doing in retirement, mostly traveling within the United States, and her involvement in her church.

Keywords: Clark Hallpike; Serena Williams; St. James AME Church; U.S. Open; Venus Williams

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59:37 - Reflections on Colleagues

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Partial Transcript: As we’re starting to wrap up, let’s think about…

Segment Synopsis: Billie reflects on some of the colleagues with whom she worked over the 24 years that she was at ECC.

Keywords: Christian Zehelein; Dennece Jefferson; Jack Weiss; Mi Hu; Tammy Ray; Terrance Stanton; Tim Moore

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62:14 - Reflections on Career at ECC

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Partial Transcript: As we close, could you reflect on your time at ECC…

Segment Synopsis: Billie expounds that her times at Elgin Community College were the best years of her life, with few exceptions. Because of her time as a student and how much she enjoyed it, she elaborates that she loved it so much that she wanted to come back to work. She shares that it felt like family while she worked at the college.

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