SEOP founder James Barber recognized as he retires
Sofia Rositani – Editor-in-Chief
Director of Community Engagement
, Jim Barber is retiring from the university and due to everything he has done, they honored him and the program he helped found at the anniversary event.
“The person who really runs this place is Jim Barber,” President Joe Bertolino said.
The event was held at the Aqua Turf and had 400 people, 59 of them being students. Many alumni attended the event to celebrate the 58th anniversary of the Southern Educational Opportunity Program, also known as SEOP, and Barber who helped them when they attended the university.
“The Southern Educational Opportunity Program or SEOP, which has always been about access and opportunity for our students and Mr. Barber a devoted tireless and change making member of the Southern family for over 58 years, six decades,” Bertolino said.
Barber was one of the few students of color to graduate from university in 1964.
“Today 47% of the students at Southern Connecticut State University identify as students of color. We will within the next couple of years officially become a minority serving institution,” Bertolino said.
The first 50 students for SEOP launched in the summer of 1972. The program was created to help students who are underrepresented and support them so they can gain admittance to the university.
“As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Southern Educational Opportunity Program, we thank him and his vision and his dedication to ensure that everyone, and I mean everyone, who wanted a degree from higher education was given the opportunity and place to achieve it,” Alumnus Col. Adele Hodges, said.
She thanked him for being her mentor and supporting her when she was at the university.
“I’m very grateful for everything that it has given me. It not only got me into college and where I am, but it gave me friends and familiar faces around campus,” social work major Ariana Lopez, a senior, said.
Following Lopez speaking, Jason Edwards created a video, “Love letter to Jim Barber,” that had alumni, faculty, friends and family of Barber thanking him and wishing him a happy retirement.
“There are two important dates in our lives. The day we are born, the other day is the day you know why, and it was because of this man working for him, teaching me, guiding me and directing me I was able to fly without wings and I wanted to do what he was doing here a career,” alumnus Renee Barnett Terry said. “And he’s encouraged me to consider the field go to the library research; that field and I ended up at University of Southern California. I have always envisioned that every student I meet as a professional that I will help them as this man helped me and that I will always be that light for students wherever I am as he was for me.”
English major Emmanual Akuamoa, a junior, spoke about what the SEOP program has done to help him and how he figured out the path he wants to take throughout college and in the professional world. He talked about what it was like to see faculty who are people of color and how it made him feel like he belonged.
“It helped me realize my own potential, my self-confidence and ultimately my belief and for that I’m forever grateful,” Akuamoa said.
University Access Programs Director
, Dawn Stanton spoke about her experience running the program currently and how she was a student who took part in the program too.
The university has created a fundraiser in Barber’s name to continue the success of underrepresented students to get their degrees. Barber and his wife, Doris, were also given a statue of an owl.
“The SEOP program has helped approximately 3,000 students over the past 50 years. So many of us have gone on to earn multiple degrees and enjoy meaningful careers,” Stanton said. “We’ve gone on to raise our kids and our grandkids illuminating how SEOP positively impacts not just individuals but generations. My own career is evidence. Not just SEOP’s positive outcomes but of the ethos that Mr. Barber baked into the program.”