Low Plaza

Father and Daughter Graduate Together

By Ileana Ferreras

Claudia, left, and Ansell Barrett

Rarely is a father able to attend his son or daughter's college graduation ceremony in a cap and gown of his own. Such is the case for Ansell Barrett, 45, Manager of Budget Operations for Columbia's University Residence Halls (URH), who will receive his Executive Masters of Public Administration (EMPA) from the School of International and Public Affairs and will also have the honor of seeing his daughter Claudia, 22, graduate with a B.A. in psychology from Columbia College on the same day.

Ansell, who has worked at Columbia since July of 1998, says helping his daughter assimilate not only on campus but in a city he has called home for the past 15 years, has been rewarding. Born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, Claudia had to adjust to life in New York.

Claudia wasn't always sure about attending Columbia after also having been accepted at Emory and Vassar. But she decided, "New York City had much more to offer than Atlanta or Poughkeepsie." Claudia also wanted to be close to her father.

"Most students can only call home when they are homesick," says Claudia. Having her father a short distance from her dorm made her feel like she had the comforts of home right on campus.

The two have always been close, and meeting for lunch in Ansell's campus office, to communicate the joys and frustrations of their Columbia experience, allowed this father and daughter to share more educational challenges than most. Claudia and her father have even proofread each other's papers and brainstormed together for up-coming projects.

"Being at SIPA, he understood pressure and could relate not only as a parent but as a student as well," said Claudia.

"One time Claudia helped me work my way through a difficult calculus equation," says Ansell. "She has the math brain."

Likewise, Claudia feels her dad was a great help during her Contemporary Civilization core course, "My father is very knowledgeable about W.E.B. Dubois," says Claudia.

When it comes to future plans, Claudia, who concentrated in pre med, hopes to take her MCATs next year after taking some time off to work in the medical field assisting a dermatologist in the city.

As for Ansell, "My short term objective is to apply the skills I have learned at SIPA here at Columbia." He studied public administration out of a desire to continue in academia, non-for-profit or government.

Being a father, student and full time employee was a challenge. "I had a very supportive superior," says Ansell. "Ross Fraser really encouraged me to pursue my MPA." In addition to Fraser, other colleagues were also helpful.

So, how does the graduating father feel? "I am happy for both of us." Ansell and Claudia will be taking a trip to Kingston and the North Coast of Jamaica to celebrate their accomplishments.

The two have a combined eight graduation tickets for the entire family, half of whom will be flying in from Jamaica just to see father and daughter graduate on Low Plaza on May 22.

Published: May 22, 2002
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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