WWU President Honored as Icon of Education

Jahnae H. BarnettDr. Jahnae H. Barnett, president of William Woods University for the past 20 years, has been named an Icon of Education by Ingram’s, Kansas City’s business magazine.


Barnett was one of nine Missouri and Kansas leaders chosen for the honor. Ingram’s described them as “people who have devoted their careers to passing the torch of knowledge on to future generations . . . (Their) contributions (have) helped make this region’s educational system a foundational element of our business environment and our quality of life.”


In the same issue, William Woods University’s master of business administration program, which Barnett introduced, is ranked in the Top 10 of MBA Programs in Missouri and Kansas.


“This ranking solidifies William Woods University’s position among the elite graduate business programs in the region,” Barnett said. “This ranking is excellent news for our stakeholders, particularly our alumni and students, as the value of their educational investment continues to increase. I am delighted that the William Woods MBA program is receiving the recognition it richly deserves.” 


The programs were ranked by fall 2009 enrollment and reported in the January issue of Ingram’s.  With an enrollment of 417 MBA students, WWU finished ahead of such schools as the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri—both Kansas City and Columbia campuses.


Since 1973, when she joined the WWU faculty, Barnett has been a catalyst for monumental change at William Woods. Her achievements have included the introduction of undergraduate and graduate degree programs (including the MBA) for working adults and the transition from a single-sex college to a coeducational university.


Under Barnett’s guidance, William Woods University has expanded to more than 150 degree program locations in Missouri and Arkansas, with enrollment increasing from 500 to approximately 3,800 students who represent most states and many foreign countries.


WWU also has maintained strong fiscal standing. The 2008-2009 year marked the eighth consecutive year of a balanced budget.


This award marks the third major recognition in the past year that Barnett has received. She was recognized by The University of Mississippi as the School of Education Alumnus of the Year and she was named one of the 100 most successful leaders by the Arkansas State University Alumni Association during ASU’s centennial.


Barnett earned a bachelor of science degree in business from Arkansas State University at age 19. By age 24, she had earned two graduate degrees from The University of Mississippi—a master of business education degree and a Ph.D. in higher education and student personnel services.


Based on her position and commitment to William Woods University, Barnett is a rarity in higher education. She is William Woods University’s only woman president in its 140-year history. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, only 8 percent of college presidents have held the position for 16-20 years, and only 23 percent of colleges and universities have a female president.   


Barnett’s recent recognition follows a strong history of accomplishment, including the Inaugural First Lady in Education Award for the State of Missouri in 2008, “National Chief Executive Leadership Award” from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) in 2000 and “Arkansas State University Distinguished Alumnus” in 1995.


She has also been honored as “Arkansas State University Outstanding Business Alumni,” Mid-Missouri Magazine‘s “Twenty Most Influential Women in Mid-Missouri” and “Woman of Achievement,” selected by the National Alpha Omicron Pi Foundation.


CUTLINE: Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett, president of William Woods University