Alums to Know: Dr. Barbara Brittingham
Updated: Jan 16, 2020
While a student at Roosevelt, Barbara Brittingham ’63, was fortunate to have teachers who instilled a love of learning in her—a passion for education that she’s pursued throughout her career.
“I had Jennie Brody as my English teacher at Roosevelt,” she says. “She was tough, but very, very good. Also, Herman Kirkpatrick was an exceptional physics teacher. He taught us about momentum by skateboarding off the end of the lab bench!” [Ed. note: The Roosevelt Foundation offers scholarships in both of these educators’ names.]
Today, serving as president of the New England Commission of Higher Education, Dr. Brittingham draws on this lifelong passion to oversee accreditation for 220 college and universities across six New England states, as well as 11 American-style institutions in other countries, including Lebanon, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Morocco, Greece, and Bermuda.
Dr. Brittingham assumed the role of president in 2007, and works with 29 commissioners who evaluate member institutions on their achievements and their advancement of educational excellence.
“Our institutions include four Ivy League Schools, Brown, Yale, Harvard, and Dartmouth; Southern New Hampshire University, which has the largest student population in the country, more than 130,000 online students; and one of the smallest institutions, the Conway School of Landscape Design, which educates 18 graduate-level students,” Dr. Brittingham says. “There’s a fascinating breadth of size and missions that we work with.”
Her role includes visiting campuses to meet with administrators and faculty, working with public higher education systems (comparable to the Iowa Board of Regents), and providing insights to congressional members on educational issues.
Her route to this prestigious position followed undergrad, masters, and doctorate degrees from Iowa State University. Initially a 7th grade teacher in Des Moines, Marshalltown, and Casper, WY, Dr. Brittingham then spent 25 years working with the University of Rhode Island. In addition, before joining the Commission, she was involved with a World Bank project in Turkey and the establishment of a new university for women in Dubai.
In what little free time she has, Dr. Brittingham likes to travel—a side benefit of the job she holds—and reading. She also enjoys committee work with her counterparts in Iceland and Ireland and the chance to see how education functions in other countries.
As to her Roosevelt days, Dr. Brittingham is pleased to hear how strong the school continues to be.
“It really is a sign of a quality school to have the interest and support of so many alums,” she says.
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