One last column before moving on

Published 11:29 am Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A few weeks ago, I read an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled, “Endings That Set Us Free.” It was about the ways in which people handle endings, exits and goodbyes in life, big and small — from sending a child off to school in the morning to dealing with death. It caught my eye because at the time I was contemplating a move.

Since then I have accepted a position out of state, closer to my son and siblings, that allows me to pursue my passion for social justice work in a more focused way. Who could wish for more than that? Time to celebrate, right?

Not quite. After deciding to take advantage of a wonderful opportunity, the bittersweet process of ending this phase of my life began. With the aforementioned article in mind, I considered how I could end it in a way that not only set me free, but also set others free. I wanted to allow those with whom I interact most closely to move forward in very positive ways.

First I decided to leave as I arrived, with gratitude. My gratitude, as the first African-American vice president at the University of Montevallo, is for the warmth with which I was received by those on campus and in the surrounding community.

Among many kind gestures, I recall Billy Hughes from the university and Ben McCrory, now the mayor of Montevallo, welcoming me and my husband as the moving van was unloaded on our first day in town. The roses presented to me by the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity soon after my arrival also made a positive impression. And I will always be grateful for my voice in the community that the Shelby County Reporter provided by allowing me to be a columnist.

Despite the overall positive reception, like any experience, there were challenges. So I’ve also decided to leave with honesty by making suggestions based on my time at UM regarding how the university might enhance the experience and longevity of employees, particularly those of color.

Finally, as is generally my disposition, I will leave with optimism. Of course I am filled with optimism regarding the life I will begin and what I can achieve in my new position. But I am also optimistic about the continued prosperity of the University of Montevallo along with the city, county and state in which it resides. When it is all said and done, I believe the Roman philosopher Seneca was correct in saying, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” Farewell and all the best!

Kimberly Barrett is the vice president of student affairs at the University of Montevallo. She will begin as the vice president of multicultural affairs and community engagement at Wright State University in August.