Barnes brings fierce leadership as MSA chief of staff

The junior worked the job as interim over the summer but will stay on permanently to replace Cara Hartwig.
MU student Kelcea Barnes poses for a portrait Sept. 15, 2015, outside the Student Center. Barnes was recently appointed as the chief of staff of the Missouri Students Association executive cabinet.

The Missouri Students Association’s full Senate and the Operations Committee both unanimously confirmed junior Kelcea Barnes on Sept. 8 and 9.

After confirmation, Barnes now holds the position for the remainder of MSA President Payton Head’s term until the end of the calendar year.

Barnes worked as interim chief of staff this summer after her predecessor, Cara Hartwig, went to New York to intern at an investment bank. Hartwig left her position to focus on an accepted full-time position upon her graduation in May with the company. So, a permanent replacement had to be found.

“Three things that are definitely the capstones of her personality are her charisma, her sense of respect and her passion,” Operations Committee Chairman Dan Paterson said. “I think her experiences and her stories definitely tie into those three things.”

Barnes is double majoring in sociology and international studies and minoring in leadership and public service. Her supporters describe her as an assertive leader. When introducing her to the first full Senate, Head said that “Kelcea don’t play,” and Social Justice Committee Chairwoman Greer Wetherington described her as “fierce.”

“I don’t take no for an answer,” Barnes said. “A lot of people, when something doesn’t work out they say ‘ok fine, I’m done,’ and especially with things related to student interest, we can’t just be done.”

As told by Paterson, the only “red flags” that came up in her Operations confirmation were her academic progress and late involvement. She is close to the minimum GPA of 2.5 required to serve as chief of staff. With regards to her late involvement, Barnes said that it was actually a strength of hers.

“MSA is kind of a bubble,” she said. “You see the same people, you go to the same events and sometimes I think being in the bubble makes it very hard to hear what the rest of campus is saying.”

Wetherington agreed that her delayed involvement should not be a cause for concern.

“Everybody gets involved at MSA at different times,” she said. “Involvement comes in many different ways, and everybody is actually a part of the association whether they like it or not.”

One of the topics Barnes emphasized throughout the confirmation process was the concept of servant leadership. In her eyes, being a part of student government should be about more than the “gold nametag.”

“(Servant leadership) is not glamorous,” she said. “It’s not fake eyelashes and nice dresses and pretty necklaces. It’s the sweatpants, the hoodie and sitting down at meetings with people you may not want to sit down with. It’s the things that make us uncomfortable that help us to grow.”

Wetherington got to know Barnes while working with her at a project called Community 360, which aims to educate people about inequality, prejudice and discrimination, and promote empathy among people.

“She is a really good friend of mine and so I have a lot of respect for her, and I know she will definitely fulfill every need of this job,” Wetherington said. “She is a go-getter, she stands up for herself, she leans in, she is assertive, and she’s very insightful.”

While much of the chief of staff position entails assisting the president and vice president however they need and serving on executive cabinet, Barnes also hopes to use her position to work on issues she’s passionate about. One of these is It’s On Us, the White House’s national campaign to end sexual assault on campuses.

“(It’s On Us is about) holding everybody accountable to the standard we’re setting so that everybody who comes here knows what’s expected of them,” Barnes said.

She said she thinks there’s a place for the accused to go through Title IX and possible rehabilitation and to still be held accountable for Respect, Responsibility, Excellence and Discovery.

Other projects she wants to work on include outreach to other campus student governments and ensuring that student athletes can access the same quality of education as other students. Barnes hopes to use her direct communication skills to improve the campus as a whole.

“Sometimes it may make me seem very harsh or blunt, but I also think it’s a strength,” Barnes said. “Yes, I could probably be a little more personable sometimes, I could smile a lot more, I could shake a lot more hands, but at the end of the day, it comes down to business.”

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