“I'll be able to have the time to also enjoy the people that I love, that love me, to be able to experience life with my partner, and travel around,” said Barnard, who announced her retirement at the college's board of governors' meeting Sept. 27.
“I'll just live a full life, and not feel quite as much of the stress and responsibility and accountability that has been on my shoulders.”
She said she's planning to stay in the Sudbury area and contribute to the community in whatever way she can, although she's definitely not going to take on another full-time job.
Now that Barnard has announced her retirement, the search for her replacement will begin. She said a head-hunting firm will work with a board of governors committee to find a new president.
The 58-year-old has been working in the education sector for 35 years – 22 of those years were as a principal and superintendent in the elementary and secondary school system, and another two as the vice-president academic at Georgian College in Barrie.
By the time she leaves Cambrian College next spring, she'll have been the institution's president for 11 years.
The chair of the college's board of governor's, Roger Emdin, thanked Barnard for her commitment to Cambrian and post-secondary education.
“Her leadership has enabled Cambrian to build upon a foundation from which the college will continue to grow,” Emdin said, in a press release.
“Cambrian's graduates are recognized by industry and the public sector as some of the strongest in Canada. Under Sylvia's tenure, Cambrian also recorded the highest graduate satisfaction rate among English-language colleges in Ontario. She led a team through some trying times, but it was her vision and drive that contributed to so many successes.”
While Barnard admits she's been through some “incredibly stressful” times in recent years — the suspension of several of the college's programs earlier this year comes to mind — she said this did not factor in her decision to retire.
“For me, this is part of the job,” she said. “Part of being the president is my responsibility to make sure the organization is set up for sustainability.”
Barnard said that before retiring, she “needed to get to a place where I was happy with having made the changes and had brought the college through some tough times, and set it up for success.”
She said one of the biggest challenges with the role is the fact that the government doesn't provide enough funding for everything she'd like to do for students.
“It has been really hard as the government changed the funding model and isn't recognizing the challenges of operating a college that needs to operate with a full breadth of programs, like any other college, but our numbers are so much lower, so you don't have the economies of scale,” Barnard said.
“I think for me the biggest challenge has been how do we keep figuring out how we keep putting as many resources as we possibly can into the classrooms so we offer the right programs, and offer good-quality programs, even though we have very small classes and are in a much smaller market.”
At the same time, she said it's been a “joy” to see colleges receiving much more respect than they used to.
“It always has been the impression in the past that you went to university, and if you weren't quite smart enough, you went to college,” Barnard said.
“College was always second choice. That isn't always the case anymore. The economy, the employers and parents are recognizing that college-applied learning is essential to our prosperity.”
While the work has been far from easy, she said she's cherished her time at Cambrian because she's made a difference in people's lives.
“Just the fact that every year at convocation, I get to hear from 2,000 students how we've made a difference in their lives, and in the lives of their families and their children,” Barnard said.
“We've taken them from where they didn't have an opportunity for a job to actually having a career, and that's really gratifying.”