Yolonda Barnes, Ed.D., associate dean of sustainability, business, and career technologies, will always put her colleagues' work, intelligence, and passion ahead of her own achievements. When it comes to the movement for change surrounding equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) on campus, her humble nature remains, but her actions resonate in their impact. “I’m just here to roll up my sleeves and work alongside my colleagues with whatever they need to do to help our students and other colleagues across campus better understand what EDI is and truly means,” said Barnes.
Barnes rolls up her sleeves and puts in the work through multiple organizations and projects advancing EDI practices at ECC. She is currently the co-chair of the Student Success Infrastructure (SSI) and is a member of TIDE-Teaching/Learning for Inclusivity, Diversity, and Equity. “TIDE is for faculty by faculty, but there are occasions where administrators on campus are asked to be a part of it, and that was really humbling for me to get that call,” said Barnes. She is also part of MAGIC - The Multicultural and Global Initiatives Committee and the Black Employee Support Team, or BEST.
BEST began after the racial unrest following the murder of George Floyd, and Barnes is part of the leadership group of BEST, called the core group. The group has begun a scholarship for Black students, mentoring for faculty going through tenure, and Black student mentoring. “We are doing a lot, and we are doing some really good things,” said Barnes of the support group.
Barns involvement with EDI sparked when two years ago, Dr. Tyler Roeger brought two representatives from the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE) to campus to talk about equity. The NAPE team strives to create equitable learning environments in education by providing data-driven research, training, and evaluations. Barnes went through trainings with other colleagues and community colleges across the state. She also is a voting member of the Illinois Community College Diversity Commission (ICCDC), which brings together Illinois’ community colleges to discuss EDI work on college campuses. “I’ve learned so much from our sister colleges across the state,” said Barnes. “What they’re doing, things that worked, things that haven’t. We really share in best practices. It’s just an eye-opener.”
She brings what she learns into her own work and the work to support others across campus. “What have I done and strive to do is move the needle, and that is more of the training in helping lead our faculty by example when it comes to EDI work and providing those resources and the support I can to them and their classrooms,” said Barnes. She recently joined the ECC Strategic Planning committee, another project she is humbled to be a part of and ready to dive into helping set the course for the college’s next five years.
Barnes work with EDI has been with her since her high school in Nebraska and where she was the only person of color in her grade. Her first act was to bring awareness of Black History Month to her school, so she brought various artifacts from her family to display in a clear glass box in one of the hallways. In addition to that, she had Senator Ernie Chambers, a close friend of hers to this day, come and speak at her high school during BHM.
As her EDI work continues, she’s learned it cannot be done alone but that it takes a village. “This work will take us forever to do, all of us. We always have to practice with EDI. To cause change we have to work together.” To do that, Barnes says creating a space where students, staff, and faculty work together and where everyone feels valued is essential. This work requires heavy lifting that does not end, and Barnes is there to share in that lift. “I do this work to help create a successful, welcoming culture at ECC. Without doing the work to create a strong sense of connection and belonging, true, meaningful change isn’t possible,” said Barnes.