In a classroom at Ralph H. Metcalfe School in Milwaukee, standing among students working at whiteboards, MSOE Corporation member Jackie Herd-Barber ’84 is completely in her element. “My passion is education and kids,” she said.
It’s a passion that Herd-Barber has been able to fully embrace since retiring from Motorola in 2009 after a successful 25-year career in sales management. The electrical engineering alumna spends about 20 hours a week at Metcalfe through her involvement in the Milwaukee chapter of The Links, Incorporated. She also dedicates a considerable amount of time to Milwaukee Succeeds, a collaborative community effort, made up of over 300 cross-sector organizations, that aims to change the way adults work together to improve educational achievement from cradle to career.
“I do everything from volunteering in the cafeteria to working with kids on their reading, math and letters; to coaching kids on how to get to high school,” she said. “I think I have brought some of my engineering tactics and techniques to the school as I have been working with the principal and teachers.”
Even before she retired, volunteering was an important part of Herd-Barber’s life and at any given time she served on several boards. Along with a strong work ethic, community service is a value her parents instilled in her when she was very young. “They always said if you could do more you should do more.”
Education was also of utmost importance—and something she and her husband, fellow MSOE alum Michael Barber ’82, passed on to their children: Dr. Lauren Barber, who is an orthopedic surgeon resident at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, and Justin Barber, who earned his master’s degree and works at GE as an operations management program trainee.
“Education must remain an open door for all children to enter and to go as far as their ability takes them,” she said.
MSOE awarded Herd-Barber an Honorary Doctor of Engineering during the 2018 Spring Commencement in recognition of her civic and community service, her commitment to education and her ongoing support of MSOE. She co-founded the university’s National Society of Black Engineers when she was a student and has served as Alumni Association president and a mentor in the Upward Bound program.
“One of the reasons I appreciate MSOE so much is because of the servant-leadership opportunities,” she said. “When leaders shift their mindset and serve first they unlock purpose and ingenuity in those around them, resulting in higher performance and engaged, fulfilled employees. MSOE remains a special place to which I owe so much. My experiences at MSOE changed my life.”