By Savannah Behrends
When Theresa Barron-McKeagney was in her thirties, she visited New Hampshire’s White Mountains with her husband in tow. They came across a glacier pond one day while hiking and McKeagney automatically wanted to jump in.
“It was a big basin where all of the rocks were smooth, and it just took my breath away. Suddenly, I just wanted to jump in and it was freezing,” Barron-McKeagney said.
Barron-McKeagney’s passion for jumping into new situations is evident in her new position as the Associate Dean for College of Public Affairs and Community Service (CPACS) at University of Nebraska at Omaha. She has previously worked for UNO as the director of the Grace Abbott School of Social Work, which rose to national prominence for its graduate program.
“You have to take risks in life. I don’t want to look back and have to think ‘What would have happened if I would’ve done that,” Barron-McKeagney said.
Barron-McKeagney was raised in a family that took risks. Her parents were immigrants that came from Mexico with barely any education. Once here, they had eleven children, the oldest died within her first year of life.
“My mother was a very strong women. She always told us to go to school and get our education. She inspired me,” Barron-McKeagney said.
Years later, she has achieved much more. From her bachelors degree to her doctorate. she has worked hard to help her community and mentor students who had the same passion. Barron-McKeagney is a first-generation college graduate, and during her time at the Grace Abbott School she started multiple partnerships internally and externally of UNO, including a dual degree with the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and getting social work experience with Douglas County Department of Corrections and Omaha Public Schools.
It was while she was teaching that she discovered her passion for her students, one that she hopes to maintain in her new position.
“Having a relationship with a student is wonderful,” Barron-Mckeagney said. “When you become so close to a student that… they look at you as a role model, that’s the biggest compliment.”