Purdue Profiles: Ebony Barrett-Kennedy

January 29, 2013  

Ebony Barrett-Kennedy

Ebony Barrett-Kennedy, clerk in Energy and Engineering Services and the former chair of the Clerical and Service Staff Advisory Committee. (Purdue University photo/ Andrew Hancock)
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Ebony Barrett-Kennedy strives to promote communication and a sense of unity at Purdue. Barrett-Kennedy, a clerk in Energy and Engineering Services and the former chair of the Clerical and Service Staff Advisory Committee has worked to bridge communication gaps between staff and administrative groups, and is fostering an effort for employee recognition in the Purdue community.

What does your typical workday look like?

There really isn't a typical workday. For the most part, I support any operational need our staff has; as new projects come up, I work to figure out the best way for our staff to accomplish their tasks, so that their job is more streamlined.

For example, right now we are working on the comprehensive energy master plan (CEMP) implementation plan, which looks at production, demand and distribution. The CEMP Implementation Plan is a strategic plan for energy usage for Purdue’s academic and administrative buildings. Part of what I do is work with our energy data analyst to figure out the best possible way for us to identify and track the areas that could be improved. I help develop reports and tools to make everyone else’s job easier.

I love taking on challenges and problem solving, so I feel very lucky to be in a department that helps me take advantage of those skills. I've always been encouraged to participate and be an active member of the team, and I've had wonderful opportunities to develop professionally.

How have you taken leadership positions in workplace organizations?

I like to be able to positively impact whatever environment I'm in. To do this, I joined the Clerical and Service Staff Advisory Committee in 2009. This committee serves as a conduit of communication between upper administrative staff and the clerical and service staff that we serve. Last year, I was the committee chair. Now I am a member emeritus and serve in an advisory role.

I took a leadership position because I saw a need that I could fill, as the position requires the chair to communicate with a number of other organizations and people. I really enjoy working with a lot of different people, and trying to get two parties on opposite sides of an issue to come together and develop solutions.

How have you seen your efforts improve the committee?

During my time as chair, we started a news bulletin to keep employees updated on our ongoing activities.  We worked closely with Human Resources to ensure our needs were addressed in the new Performance Evaluation Policy. We were also granted a seat on the Advisory Committee of the University Senate, which was a first for us, and increased collaboration with other groups on campus to raise our level of involvement.

As a member emeritus, I hope to see the committee continue to be the go-to resource for people in our community. We've seen an increase in the number of people going to their district representatives as well as administrators seeking our feedback. I feel that is a good indication that more people are aware of who we are and how we can help them.

How else are you working to improve Purdue's working community?

Last year the committee began addressing a concern about employee recognition. I'd really like to make Purdue's staff feel like our jobs are part of a greater cause. There's a lot of publicity about faculty who receive awards and grants, but you rarely hear about the clerk who filled out the tedious paperwork to make that grant happen, or someone in Housing and Food Services who's always smiling and making students feel at home. To me, the service staff plays a very important role in moving the University forward; Purdue would be at a standstill if it weren't for those of us working daily on all of those behind-the-scenes tasks.

Something we're working on as a committee is raising awareness of those everyday things that go on. We all need to stop sometimes and tell those around us -- on all levels -- "I appreciate you too." A true spirit of recognition reaches beyond a plaque.  I try to make someone smile on a daily basis. I hope we can all plant those "kindness seeds" on campus; it’s an invaluable asset that makes Purdue a great place to work.

How are you working to further your own career?

My activity in the committee actually has helped influence me to go back to school, so I am currently taking classes at Purdue to finish a bachelor's degree in communication.

I hope to be able to take a larger advocate role in my position, and also inspire my children. I want to show them that they have the ability to impact people's lives no matter what role they have to play in an organization.

Writer: Rachel Florman, rflorman@purdue.edu

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