HomepageAlumniCarolyn McNamara Barry ’96, Ph.D.

Carolyn McNamara Barry ’96, Ph.D.

2023 Alumni Professional Achievement Award recipient

Carolyn McNamara Barry, Ph.D., Class of 1996, graduated summa cum laude from Ursinus with a B.S. and departmental honors in psychology. She went on to earn her Ph.D. in human development at the University of Maryland, specializing in educational psychology. In addition to being a professor of psychology at Loyola for more than 20 years, she has served in an administrative capacity since 2009. In her current role as associate dean for social sciences and graduate programs in the College of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Barry has revitalized the schools pre-law program and broadened mental health education opportunities for current students, faculty, and alumni.

Dr. Barry is an eminent scholar in the human development field of emerging adulthood. She has published 41 peer-reviewed articles, 12 peer-reviewed chapters/encyclopedia entries, eight literature reviews published in peer-reviewed journals for undergraduate students, and one edited book with Oxford University Press, titled Emerging Adults’ Religiousness and Spirituality: Meaning-Making in and Age of Transition.

Despite her many achievements in scholarship, what Dr. Barry is most proud of is her work with undergraduate students. As an advisor and a teacher, she displays an unshakeable commitment to student learning and well-being. She is determined to provide them the tools to flourish as whole persons.

Dr. Barry’s colleagues call her “the consummate teacher.”

Among her published works, Dr. Barry is proud that 34 of her 62 publications are co-authored by her students. Her commitment to enabling student research comes directly from her undergraduate experience at Ursinus, under the transformative mentorship of Dr. Eileen England.

Dr. Barry currently lives in Columbia, Maryland, betweenin Baltimore and Washington D.C., with her two teenage sons and her husband, fellow Ursinus alumnus, Daniel Barry ’95.

Q&A with Carolyn McNamara Barry ’96, Ph.D.

How is winning an Ursinus Alumni Award significant for you personally and professionally?

I often find myself talking about what a formative experience I had as an undergraduate student when advising undergraduate students and speaking to prospective undergraduate students and their families. I explain that the small class size, superb mentoring, caring faculty invested in my individual progress, and opportunity to engage in lots of undergraduate research, were the primary reasons I went onto a doctoral program with the hopes of becoming a faculty member at a liberal arts institution. Therefore, receiving an alumni award from my college, that I have treasured so deeply, for the work that I have gone on to do at another liberal arts institution, Loyola University Maryland, is tremendously humbling and gratifying.


How did Ursinus College prepare you for your career?

There are so many parts of my Ursinus experience that prepared me for my career. First, the superb research training I received from the Psychology faculty allowed me to gain entrance into a Ph.D. program and be fully funded as a result. I am particularly grateful to the late Dr. Eileen England, who worked with me for a year and a half on a research project that resulted in me earning departmental honors, presenting this research at two conferences, and yielding my first peer-reviewed publication. Additionally, Dr. Bruce Rideout taught me the rigors of research methods and design, as well as chose me to serve as an unofficial teaching assistant to students who came after me in that course. These experiences whet my appetite for teaching and mentoring about research.


My freshman advisor, Dr. Tom Gallagher, later agreed to teach a handful of interested upper-class students the Sociology of Religion. In the final project, he allowed me to deviate from focusing on a single religion to examine an order of Roman Catholic priests, the Society of Jesus. As luck would have it, that deep dive into this order helped me to write an effective mission essay five years later, which resulted in a tenure-track job at my current institution. That paper fueled my now deep commitment to the Jesuit tradition and Ignatian spirituality, as well as one of my research projects (both empirical articles and my book) on meaning-making among emerging adults.


Second, Ursinus’s small size allowed me to get involved and eventually serve in leadership roles in so many different clubs to feed my varied interests, as well as start a club of my own. Such experiences in planning and coordinating events, setting meeting agendas, leading discussions, and enacting action plans, strengthened my organizational, managerial, and leadership skills. Those skills have proven useful, not only as a faculty member planning a course, but particularly in the last ten years as I have held numerous faculty and academic administrator leadership positions.


How have your Ursinus mentors shaped your role as a leader in your industry?

Dr. Eileen England taught me during my undergraduate honors research process to pursue research that particularly intrigues you and to realize that coming up with solutions to complex problems cannot be solved on a single occasion but requires persistence. Dr. Rideout’s consistent support of me as I discerned a range of professions, from guidance counselor to school psychologist to, eventually, developmental psychologist, allowed me to find my life’s calling, for which I am most grateful. Lastly, my mentor from Phi Beta Kappa, then president of the Ursinus chapter, Dr. Jeff Neslen, underscored the value of finding work-life balance in every stage of my adult life. In my roles as Chair of the Faculty Affairs Committee, Chair of the Academic Senate, Psychology Department Chair, and now as an Associate Dean, I have worked in the creation and advancement of policies, processes, and initiatives to support faculty wellness.


What has been your proudest contribution to your professional community?

I have taught, advised, and mentored undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral students in Psychology at Loyola University Maryland for over 21 years. However, I am most proud of my work as an advisor to undergraduate students, particularly when I have the privilege of serving in this capacity from the moment they arrive on campus throughout their four years, and sometimes beyond when some stay on for graduate work in my department. Such work allows me to reflect often upon my own transition to, and navigation through, college, as well as utilize my decades of research on the transition to adulthood, particularly the role that close relationships can play in fostering said transition.


What was your proudest UC moment?

My proudest UC moment was being inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. While I worked hard and got good grades during my college years, I perceived others of my peers as smarter than me. This imposter syndrome contributed to my surprise when I was one of two juniors inducted into this prestigious and original honor society. I learned that I was I was not an imposter, but rather, with intrinsic motivation and grit combined with supportive faculty, I could achieve more than I had ever anticipated. I continue to think about this moment each spring as an active member of my own Phi Beta Kappa chapter at Loyola, where I have the pleasure of reviewing applications and inducting seniors and select juniors into our chapter.

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