Carolyn Barber-Pierre, 2015 New Orleans Top Female Achiever
Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, Tulane University and Co-Founder, Casa Samba
Photographed by Jeffery Johnston
Everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, race or religion, should be treated equally and with respect.
It seems like a simple concept, but it’s something Carolyn R. Barber-Pierre has spent her career working toward.
Since 1984, Barber-Pierre has held a variety of positions at Tulane University, including associate dean of students, director of multicultural affairs and director of special services. Since 2003, she has served as the university’s assistant vice president for student affairs, eventually adding to her role with director of the Center for International Students and Scholars and the Office of Multicultural Affairs, LGBT Student Life and Religious Life – an office she created almost 30 years ago.
When pressed to pick a few of her proudest accomplishments, Barber-Pierre named growing the Office of Multicultural Affairs, including specifically the office’s mentoring program. “We’ve had alumni come back and tell us, ‘If it wasn’t for this office and my mentor, I don’t know if I would have made it.’”
She also notes her work on the Martin Luther King Week for Peace – a weeklong collaborative celebration between Tulane, Xavier, Dillard and Loyola universities. “We’re ready to celebrate our 30th year,” she says. “It’s very exciting.”
And to relax? Barber-Pierre, along with her husband, has run Casa Samba, a samba dance group, since the late 1980s. The nonprofit offers dance classes, weekly free kids' classes and routinely performs at events throughout New Orleans.
“The idea started as a new Mardi Gras club,” Barber-Pierre explains. “I always wanted to be in a parade, and my husband is a musician who has studied Brazilian music and folk art.” The krewe, Quilombo, paraded for a few years before morphing into what’s now known as Casa Samba.
Casa Samba members have performed for Mardi Gras in Washington D.C., opened for Sergio Mendez at the Houston International Fest and even demonstrated their skills on national commercials for Toyota and American Express.
Mentor: Definitely my mother. She was such a courageous woman who loved her family and really encouraged me to go after my dreams. She was my confidante, my inspiration. With work, I would say Dr. Ron Mason. I have been honored to work with him regarding improving diversity issues.
Defining moment: I think either the death of my mom, 20 years ago, or the birth of my son. They were so close together. My son was born Aug. 27 and my mom died Sept. 3.
Advice for young women: There’s so much, I guess because I work with young women everyday. Be responsible. Choose thoughts and actions that lead you on a path to success. Take responsibility for your actions. Love yourself more than anything or anyone. Most importantly, maybe do things that intimidate and inspire you.
Goals: I would say I’d like my legacy to be having developed an international cultural center at Tulane. When I retire, I want to focus on developing a cultural center for the African diaspora arts her in the city. We have so many cultural groups here and no center where that’s celebrated.
Favorite thing about what I do: I love to dance. That makes me happy. It’s how I relieve stress – really connecting with the music.