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BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Barriteau ready for next phase

Tony Best

BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Barriteau ready for next phase

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As she prepares to assume the leadership of the University of the West Indies in Barbados, Professor Eudene Barriteau acknowledges the wicket on which she will bat for the next five years was well-prepared by her immediate predecessor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles.

A look at the modern lecture theatres, living accommodation, sporting facilities, and the scholarships, plus the expansion of academic programmes and the diverse services provided to students, would tell much of the story.

“Sir Hilary, Barriteau told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY, “has left a legacy of a fantastic infrastructural platform, both as to the physical plant and also a programmatic situation.”

And a key plank of that platform was the strong supportive relationship between the well-oiled campus and Barbados’ private sector.

Indeed, corporate Bridgetown, if you will, has played a strategic role in helping to fuel much of the expansion and the upgrading that have occurred at Cave Hill in the last decade or two.

“It would be short-sighted of any successor to Sir Hilary not to grow that platform,” Barriteau said. “It has served the campus very well.”

What then is her message to business and economic organisations in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean? If invited by the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry to articulate her vision for Cave Hill, Barriteau would tell the titans of industry and commerce that a change from Sir Hilary to the first woman to head the school wouldn’t see a weakening of the partnership with business Barbados. If anything, the relationship would be strengthened.

“I would talk to the Chamber about the importance of the partnership, I would like to strengthen it, because it is already developed,” she said.

“Sir Hilary has left a strong platform. I would like to convey the message of the economic importance of a fully functioning, well thought out Cave Hill campus to the Barbados economy,” as a whole.

Barriteau is eager to have a continuous dialogue with the private sector about its needs and how it can help Cave Hill achieve its goal of financial stability and a boost in student numbers.

Corrective action

Without using the actual words of Bert Lance, a former director of the White House Office of Management and Budget under President Jimmy Carter in 1977, a time when Barriteau was studying at Cave Hill for a degree in accounting and public administration, the

principal-designate suggested that if something was working effectively there wasn’t a need for corrective action.

Lance, a former bank president in Georgia, had put it in ungrammatical English, but straightforward terms to a business magazine: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That expression caught fire across the US and many parts of the planet, becoming something of an inspiration.

Barriteau, who served as Cave Hill’s deputy principal before being appointed last August to head the UWI Open Campus, insisted that by following the course set by Sir Hilary “I will be moving to deepen or continue” what he had built.

That’s why she plans to continue the annual gala which offers awards to corporate leaders who, through their grants, scholarships to students, had in diverse ways to Cave Hill, have helped to transform the campus and in the process made a substantial difference to student life and what happens on campus.

That sentiment was expressed by Professor Nigel Harris, the retiring vice-chancellor who is being succeeded by Sir Hilary.

He said the Barbadian had shown how the private sector and a campus can and should work together.

But Cave Hill isn’t alone. Other campuses in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago have reaped significant benefits from their partnerships with ccmmerce and industry.

Barriteau isn’t a stranger to the private sector. She currently sits on the board of directors of Cave Shepherd and plans to continue doing so, unless her corporate duties interfere with her main responsibilities to the UWI and to Cave Hill.

“Cave Hill will take precedence. I would say right now that I would decline the directorship of Cave Shepherd” if it prevented her from functioning well, she pointed out.

“When I became principal of the Open Campus I wrote to the chairman [of Cave Shepherd] and informed the company that if I see the demands of such that they wouldn’t allow me to serve in the way I would like to, then I would withdraw; and they understood that. So far everything has been manageable and that’s the same approach I would use with my appointment to the Cave Hill campus”.

The strategy makes eminent sense. For one thing, corporate board membership can be a useful networking avenue for an institution which understands that it must integrate its activities into the wider society.

For another, the campus needs the private sector if the school is to fullfil its mandate to prepare the next generation of corporate and other leaders, not simply in Barbados but across the English-speaking Caribbean.