Student’s choice of career stemmed from when her dog was there for her during tough times

Five years later, she is receiving degree in nonprofit leadership and management

Kari Barber, SCRD, graduate, nonprofit leadership, animal care

Kari Barber visits with a canine friend at the Arizona Animal Welfare League. Photo courtesy Kari Barber


Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

After the birth of her child, Kari Barber said she was struggling with postpartum depression to a point where, “the only thing that made me feel better was my dog.”

The comfort and support that her dog, Bentley, provided led her to apply for a job as a part-time animal care technician for dogs at the Arizona Animal Welfare League, where she fed, walked, cleaned and cared for the dogs in its care.

While there, she decided she wanted to study nonprofit leadership and management to learn more about running a shelter. Now, Barber is graduating in May 2022 with a Bachelor of Science in that field, with a minor in criminology and criminal justice. She has worked at AAWL for more than five years.

“I have since moved up to medical animal care technician, animal transport, adoption counselor, and now an administrative assistant,” Barber said. “I decided I wanted to go to school to study nonprofits while working in these positions to be able to move up the ladder into a leadership or administrative role. I have helped over 600 dogs find their forever homes.”

Read on to learn more about Barber’s ASU journey:

Question: Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from?

Answer: I was raised in the mountains of Wyoming with my mom and two older brothers. I moved to Phoenix about 10 years ago to start a new life with more opportunities. I have been working in animal welfare for over five years and I am hoping to use my degree to help run a nonprofit in animal welfare or within juvenile rehabilitation.

Q. Which professor(s) taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A. There were two professors who each taught me a lesson that stayed with me the moment it was taught. The first was Jess Amato’s lesson on emotional intelligence in my sustainable community class. The second was Gordon Shockley’s lesson on social entrepreneurs in my social entrepreneurship class. I knew nothing about either going in and since I’ve been able to apply each of them to my everyday life.

Q. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned at ASU – about yourself, about what you’re studying, anything – that came to you as a complete surprise?

A.The most important thing that I have learned at ASU about myself is how resilient I am. I completed my degree while I was overcoming my depression. I had a baby, I continued through the pandemic and was struggling through the difficult time of losing my father, which happened recently. All of these challenges are things that can hinder success in school. I have overcome them all while maintaining a high GPA, making the Dean’s list four semesters in a row, working a job and being a mom.

Q. If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A. Hard question. I think I would tackle housing/homelessness or the hunger crisis. I believe all children should have a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs.

Q. What is something you think would surprise people to learn about you?

A. That I am ambidextrous.

Q. What’s your life motto in one sentence?

A. Be better than you were yesterday.

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