22, No. 9, Nov. 7, 2002
On the job: Jenny Barrett
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
(217) 244-1072; email@example.com
by Bill Wiegand
a senior research programmer in the department of psychology.
a senior research programmer in the department of psychology, began
her career with the university in 1988 at the Computer Education Research
Lab and transferred to the department of psychology in 1993. Barrett
earned a bachelor’s degree with dual majors in psychology and
history from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She also holds two
master’s degrees: one in computer science from the University
of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as well as one in history from Northern
the nature of your job?
I provide computer support to the administrative staff in psychology.
Psychology is a big department, and it’s very complicated. We
have lots of undergraduate majors, graduate students, faculty [members]
and employees. The question is how to manage and manipulate all the
data we get concerning all these people as well as the grant money.
do you do each day?
I do everything from database design to implementation to maintenance.
I also do system administration, some network administration, some programming
and sometimes help people in the department with computer problems.
Recently I’ve been bringing some old DOS-based databases into
a Windows-based database system and centralizing them in our department.
The other big component of my job is trying to determine what UI Integrate
will mean to the department in terms of data retrieval and manipulation
and how our databases will interface with that. We require some data
that central administration does not provide so we have to maintain
our own databases. The question is, how can we mesh the two?
It’s an interesting job because first I have to talk to the users
and determine how they want to use the data. Then I go and design. That’s
a creative process because you can design a database many different
ways. Then there’s testing it and getting feedback. It’s
always a challenge because if the user doesn’t like it, they’ll
work around the tools instead of working with them. My goal is always
to make something useful and user friendly.
leisure interests do you have?
I try to keep politically active on the local scale because I think
it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in the community
and be vocal about things if you think a situation’s not fair.
I belong to Women Against Racism and to the Socialist Forum.
I think a lot of people are put off by the name Socialist Forum, but
we are using the term socialist differently than the popular definition.
It’s a group of people who are determined to make a difference
on the local level. For example, the living wage campaign came out of
our group, and we provided support for the A.E. Staley workers in Decatur
when they were on strike.
I am also the chair of the Association of Academic Professionals and
one of the people who organized the group about five years ago. I can
see how academic professionals on campus need a voice to advocate for
things like career ladders and pay. I think it’s important that
we have uniform, fair treatment.
Aside from activism, what other interests do you have?
I’ve been running with some partners since 1984 and on a daily
basis I run a little over three miles. I try to do a longer run, maybe
seven miles, once a week. I do contra dancing too with the Urbana Country
Dancers but I enjoy all kinds of dancing. If I had more time I’d
do more history reading.
I like to cook and make sinfully rich chocolate desserts. I just made
a flourless chocolate torte with a chocolate ganache that had 26 ounces
of chocolate, a cup and a half of whipped cream and a pound of butter.
I’m a little embarrassed to say it but I have about 200 cookbooks.
I like to find recipes that look interesting or different.