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Opening doors for all: Meet incoming CEI President Lori Barber

Lori Barber smiles in the John E. Christofferson building at College of Eastern Idaho on Thursday.
IDAHO FALLS — The recently-selected second president of College of Eastern Idaho Lori Barber knows firsthand what it means to be a nontraditional college student.
“I went to college right after high school — went for four years, but never finished because I changed my major and then got married,” she said. “(We) started a family, and education just kind of got lost in time’s wake.”
However she recognized the power of learning from the example of her own family.
“My parents grew up in extreme poverty, and it was through education where they were really able to change their lives,” Barber said. “They both became very successful. My dad became a physician and my mom a dietician, and that was because they knew the power of education.”
At the age of 40, she decided to enroll at Idaho State University, finishing her degree in one year. Eighteen months later, she completed a master’s degree in history and anthropology and soon began teaching as an adjunct professor at ISU’s University Place campus.
“When I heard that there was a possibility for a vote for a community college, I really thought that’s where I wanted to be,” Barber said. “A lot of my students at Idaho State University were working full-time, they had families, and they were spending a lot of money to get their degree, and so I thought that a community college would just be excellent for some of those students.”
She was hired by CEI’s first President, Rick Aman as CEI’s director of general education, eventually becoming the dean and then vice president of academic and student affairs in 2019, where she has worked for the past five years. She also earned a doctorate in education in leadership and innovation from Arizona State University.
Now as CEI’s new President, effective August 1, she is extending the possibilities of education to others.
At College of Eastern Idaho, “we have something for everybody,” she said, “… Anybody who wants just a little bit more training or a lot more training, they can come to us, and we have a program that will suit their needs.”
The college offers a variety of opportunities, Barber shared, including:

“short-term training in our Workforce Training division
“If you need a GED, you can come into our Career and College Readiness Program.
“If you want a traditional degree and transfer, and you want to transfer to a university, you can come and do two years and then transfer on to university
“Also, we have all of those career technical education programs like cybersecurity, nursing, surgical tech, medical assistant, welding, and diesel mechanic.”

“You can come and do a one-year certificate in some of those programs, or you can get a two-year associate’s degree,” she said.
CEI is at the forefront of helping people change their lives by qualifying students for better employment and offering cutting-edge skills employers are looking for in the workforce.
“My ability to be able to become president of a college totally changed the trajectory of my life,” she said. “I want to do that same thing for any student who walks through our doors. Maybe they’re students who come from extreme poverty, and they need us to hold their hand. They need us to walk them through all the processes. … They need us to help give them a vision for what their life could be with education.”
Barber has the track record to prove it. Under her leadership, the college has been able to secure accreditation for two applied baccalaureate degrees, despite being the youngest community college in the state.
“I want to ensure that we are an intentionally innovative institution. ….CEI, right now is on the vanguard of education. I intend to keep us on that vanguard of education, so people know when they come to us, they have a lot of different conduits for training.”
Looking forward, the future is bright — enrollment and credit hours are up 20% this fall, and 300 students will be coming to College of Eastern Idaho on Launch scholarships.
According to its website, in fiscal year 2023, the community college served 3,225 credit students, 529 non-credit students and 17,494 workforce training and career education students for a total of 21,248 students.
It offers 395 degrees and certificates, 97% job placement and and boasts a student-to-teacher ratio of 13:1.
“I feel very honored, and am so excited to lead the college into this new era,” Barber said. “We have been in a startup phase for really the first six to seven years, and we feel like we are moving out of that startup phase into the building phase. I am a builder, and so I am excited to … take the college into the next stage.”
The post Opening doors for all: Meet incoming CEI President Lori Barber appeared first on East Idaho News.

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