Alumni Spotlight: Barbara Keirnes-Young

image of Barbara Keirnes-Young as new principal 1974

Learn more about Barbara Keirnes-Young alumni, through our Alumni Spotlight series

Paving The Way for Women Educators

Graduating Year: ‘67, ‘71, ‘84 

Programs: Elementary Education, Special Education, Educational Policy and Management 

How did your University of Oregon experience help prepare you for your career?

During my time at the UO, there were many women professors engaged in research on women in educational leadership. We met to share our research and stories. They provided mentoring and support for me as a woman in the principalship and a doctoral student. During my time as a doctoral student, I was a single mother to four children. Fellowships and government/UO grants to alleviate the teacher shortage made it possible for me to do graduate work.

I met a Canadian student in my doctoral program, married, and moved to Canada for a 41-year-career in education as Provincial Superintendent, Director of K-12 Policy and Superintendent of the Regina, Saskatchewan Public School Division. I completed my career in Canada as a School Board Trustee and Chair of the Board followed by eight years as a Regina City Councilor.

I have recently returned to Oregon, living in Waldport, and I volunteer as a member of the League of Women Voters of Lincoln County. I am writing my memoirs to share with my 12 grandchildren about my educational and political careers with an emphasis on being the first woman to hold many positions and what it was like to immigrate to Canada at a time of great change in education. 

image of individuals sitting together looking at camera and smiling

Tell us about your career path. How did your work make a difference?

My DEd thesis was titled “The Principal as a Change Agent.” My program in Administration and Policy Development included a strong focus on organizational development and involvement in a team-teaching research program. This provided me with a background and skills that I was able to use during my career in Eugene and Canada. The fellowships and research experience I had at the University of Oregon were progressive at the time and prepared me for leading change at the school, district, and provincial level in Canada. My career, from the 1970s through 2012 in Eugene and Regina, Saskatchewan, occurred at a time when few women were in leadership positions. I was fortunate to be the first woman principal in Eugene and superintendent of schools in Saskatchewan, and the first woman to chair the Administrator’s Professional Association. While working on my doctoral program in the ‘80s I worked with the University of Oregon and the Eugene School District to develop an internship program for woman entering the principalship. The program included a year of weekly meetings and two summer terms leading to a master’s degree. All of the women were appointed principals at the conclusion of the internship.  

Share one piece of advice you have for current students:

A strong background in conflict resolution and organizational development is important in any career in education you choose to follow. Working with people to build consensus and deal with differences of opinion is an invaluable leadership skill.