GBL Interview with Julie Barefoot: The Goizueta Business School’s Corporate Memory (Part 1)

Julie Barefoot is Associate Dean of Engagement and Partnerships at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School and has led the 100th Anniversary Celebrations at the school. During her 31+ years at Emory, Julie has held many positions including Associate Director of Admissions (both BBA and MBA), Director of MBA Admissions and management of Student and Career Services, Assistant Dean of MBA Admissions, and Associate Dean of MBA Admissions before accepting her current role as Associate Dean of Engagement and Partnerships.

Earlier this year, business librarian Susan Klopper had the pleasure of spending time with Julie Barefoot and learning more about her three decade journey at the Goizueta Business School.

What did you do prior to coming to GBS?

Prior to coming to GBS, I worked for 5 years as a commercial loan officer at a bank in Atlanta. Prior to that, I received my MBA at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

What attracted you to come to Emory?

When I worked at the bank, I learned that I was really a people person, but my job, which focused on bringing new business into the bank, did not really allow me to spend as much time developing relationships with customers as I would have liked. I was passionate about learning and education and had always wanted to work in academia and my husband encouraged me to apply for a job at Emory. I wrote a letter to John Robson, the Dean of the Emory Business School as it was then called, and to my surprise, I got an interview for the position of Director of Admissions. However, since I didn’t have any admissions experience, and they had already interviewed Andrea Hershatter who had worked in admissions at Fuqua, the school decided to create an Associate position in Admissions – and I was hired for that position, where I worked for 3 years for Andrea. 

Accepting this position was one of the best decisions I ever made. At that time, our office was very small and it combined admissions for both the MBA and BBA students as well as student services for both programs. Andrea focused on the MBAs and, for the first 6 years, I focused on recruiting and admitting candidates to our BBA Program. I can still remember visiting undergraduate students at Oxford College; I made so many wonderful friendships with administrators there. Several years later, after Andrea moved on to become dean of the BBA Program, I was made the head of MBA Admissions. In those days, I also oversaw student services for all the programs. It’s amazing to think back and realize how much the programs have changed and grown over the years.

What was the school’s student population when you started?

For the 2 Yr full-time MBAs, we enrolled fewer than 100 students; the 1 Yr full-time MBAs numbered around 15. There were between 150-170 BBAs in total and the Weekend Exec MBA enrolled about 35 students; the EvMBA Program didn’t even exist when I first started.

It’s always remarkable to think about our student orientations – they used to run between ½ day to a full day, compared to the 2 Yr full-time MBA on-boarding that is now 2 weeks long!

Are you still in touch with students you have recruited over the past 30 years?

Absolutely. I receive Christmas cards during the holidays. Many of these alumni have children who are now applying to Emory. They will email me and even stop by to say hi when they are touring campus with their children. It has been so rewarding to see how well our alumni have done in their careers. It’s wonderful to celebrate their success.

When you think back on your years at GBS, what memories stand out?

I feel so fortunate to have had this job. Thirty years ago, it never entered my mind that I would have the experiences I’ve had. Meeting people and traveling all over the world to recruit MBA applicants. I also had the privilege of meeting Mr. Goizueta several times. For several years, I took our ten MBA Woodruff Scholar finalists to Mr. Goizueta’s office for a private meeting. He would spend about 20 minutes answering their questions. During our final visit with him, Mr. Goizueta spent 1.5 hours with these candidates. He really enjoyed talking to our MBAs. His assistant kept pointing to his watch, but Mr. Goizueta just kept on talking with these candidates. One scholar asked him how he started his day and Mr. Goizueta shared that he read three newspapers every morning: the Wall Street Journal, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and the New York Times in order to learn what was going on around the world.

And, some of my favorite memories are visiting with our international alumni when I have traveled overseas to recruit MBA applicants. I’ve been to Japan and Korea just about every year for the past two decades and have been able to stay connected with these alumni. They are enormously supportive of Goizueta’s student recruiting efforts overseas and that’s been very rewarding.

How has GBS changed over the years?

Since I started work here in 1988, to best prepare our students for their business careers, there has been a tremendous expansion of student services and academic offerings. From technology to study abroad opportunities to career prep workshops, we have dramatically expanded our capabilities in all these areas, to both stay current and stay ahead of the curve. In addition, the number of faculty and concentrations have grown as the economy has changed. Goizueta is a wholly different school than we were in 1988– we were known then as a good regional school; now we are recognized internationally for providing an exceptional educational experience.

My son, Jason, graduated from the BBA program in 2016 and is a consultant at Accenture. Through Jason’s experience, I was able to see firsthand how transformative the program is and the high quality of education that our students are receiving.

GBS has always been known for its intimacy of community. As the school has grown, has it been able to preserve this?

This may be our most meaningful value-add. Many things have changed over the past 30 years – but our strong community is at the core of who we are –our programs enable students to develop meaningful and lasting one-on-one relationships with classmates, between faculty and students and between staff and students – it’s part of our DNA.

My final question is about Mr. Goizueta. I never had the chance to meet him, but I heard so many stories about his success as a businessman, his intelligence, warm sense of humor, graciousness, kindness, and more. If he was still with us today and could see how the school has grown and developed – what would he say?

He would be very proud of what we have accomplished. He’d be immensely excited to know that someone like Erika James, who is very dynamic and forward thinking, is the school’s dean. 

He would also be very proud to know that our graduates are highly sought after by companies. In one of his speeches he shared his expectation that Goizueta would provide an education that would prepare students well for the future of business. We do an excellent good job in that regard. At Goizueta, our students develop the skills and frameworks to be good problem solvers and nimble thinkers, enabling them to bring value to the businesses that employ them. These are the outcomes that the Mr. Goizueta believed were critically important and ultimately determined the value of the business school.