Dr. Mary Barlow served as the CCCC Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Speaker at the 2016 Commencement Ceremony. A re-entry and first generation college student, Barlow attended both the Kern River Valley and Ridgecrest Campuses before transferring as a junior to Cal State University Bakersfield in 1994. Great Philosopher Lao-Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Barlow told the graduates, “Cerro Coso Community College was my first step in a journey that culminated with my doctorate in Organizational Leadership, helping me to beat the odds and realize my dreams.”
Barlow said her parents loved each other and fought a mental illness to keep their family together which required many moves and hospitalizations that created instability in the home. School became her refuge, a safe place to explore all her possible futures. She married young and found balancing home, family, and work difficult. “I found there were many paths in front of me and I wasn’t yet sure which one to start down,” she continued.
It would be the move her family made to the Kern River Valley in 1989 that put her focus back on obtaining her education. “I remember meeting at the old sheriff’s substation to enroll for my first classes at Cerro Coso’s Kern River campus. I thought…this is a college?”
She attributes her success at Cerro Coso to many of the supportive faculty she encountered. Jean Pack helped build her confidence as a reentry student to study, write, and express her opinions. Her Philosophy instructor Deborah Richmond Johnson who opened her mind to other schools of thought, and allowed her to feel comfortable questioning her long held positions. When she transferred to the Ridgecrest campus, she took her first class with Dr. Rosenberg. “I was fascinated by his ability to weave historical stories from artwork. Dr. Leo who inspirited her interest in psychology and understanding the human condition to help others.
Although money was tight, she became laser focused on finishing her degree. Within a few short years, she transferred to Cal State University Bakersfield and obtained a bachelor’s degree, teaching credential, Master degree, and ultimately her Doctorate in Educational Leadership, “all because of my first class in a tiny classroom above a Vons overlooking a very inauthentic Mexican restaurant. It may have not looked like what I thought a college was supposed to look like at the time, but Cerro Coso built a strong foundation for my educational career.”
One of her favorite quotes is from Margaret Mead, “Never doubt a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed: it’s the only thing that ever has.”
The majority of her career has been spent in education, serving as a teacher, Director of Children and Family Services, and Superintendent. She joined the Kern County Superintendent of Schools in 2009 as the Deputy Administrative Officer and was promoted to Superintendent of Schools in 2016.
“Thank you Cerro Coso Community College for providing the first step in a path that I continue to walk,” concluded Barlow. Cerro Coso celebrates your success!
Read more stories.