24, No. 22, June 2, 2005
the job: Barb Robbins
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
photo to enlarge
by Clark Brooks
is a UI police officer in the Division of Public Safety.
is police officer Barb Robbins’ vocation, whether she is responding
to calls in University Housing or doing volunteer work with campus or
community organizations. In July, Robbins will celebrate her ninth anniversary
with the UI Police. During her career she has been honored with the
Excellence in Community Policing Award (2001), the Director of Public
Safety Recognition Award (2002) and the Valor Award, which she earned
in 2003 when her quick response to a shooting in Urbana enabled police
to later apprehend a murder suspect. Robbins earned an associate’s
degree in criminal justice from Parkland College, a bachelor’s
degree in career occupations from Eastern Illinois University and is
studying for a master’s degree in education at Illinois with a
concentration in training and development.
Tell me about your job.
I’m one of three officers assigned to Housing, which probably
has the highest volume of calls. It keeps you busy, especially between
2 and 4 a.m. after the bars close and people are all wound up when they
get back home. It appears there’s a small group of students who
never sleep. Mainly the calls at night are about intoxicated people
who have passed out, fights, property damage and some domestic incidents
between roommates or boyfriends and girlfriends.
We do resident adviser training for Housing every summer and freshman
orientation, so the officers get a chance to meet all the RAs (resident
advisers). There are usually around 250 of them. I can’t remember
all of their names but they remember me from going to activities. I
really enjoy Housing. I think it helps that I’m a woman because
we do stand out and people remember us.
I also work part-time for the Police Training Institute to help train
new police officers from around the state about domestic violence and
sexual assault. I’m either the victim or the facilitator in role-playing
What kinds of skills do you need to work with a college population?
You have to have a lot of tolerance and good communication skills. On
third shift (overnight) mostly you’re communicating with impaired
people whose personalities have been altered by drugs or alcohol, and
they can act aggressively and be unpredictable. You have to be aware
that they’re not going to be cooperative and you may have to get
in foot chases with them. Sometimes the residence halls are like houses,
and the residents are like sisters and brothers, and when one gets in
trouble the rest come to the rescue. You have to be able to multi-task
and keep control of the situation.
Each crop of new freshmen creates a totally different campus environment
and new challenges for us Housing officers.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy working with the students, but I always feel I could be doing
The most fun part of my job is public speaking. I’ve done talks
in Housing and to the general public – Emergency Medical Technicians,
high school teachers and guidance counselors – about drug and
alcohol prevention and education.
I’m on the board of the Illinois Drug Education Alliance, which
is a statewide volunteer coalition focused on drug and alcohol prevention
and education for kids ages 8 to 18. We lobby in Springfield when bills
come up that deal with underage drinking. I write a lot of letters to
legislators. Being involved with IDEA gives me information and resources
that I can use in my job.
I really believe that within our community we need to do something about
alcohol because it is the root of a lot of problems that our students
What do you do when you’re not working?
Anything outdoors. I just got back from a trip to Florida, where I did
some cave diving. I got certified in scuba diving at IMPE three years
ago and have done 32 dives. I’ve gone diving in the Caribbean
– the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. I went diving
in Hawaii earlier this year. Two years ago, I went on a 10-day canoe
trip to Canada with Campus Recreation. It was spectacular.