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71-year-old grandmother to earn doctoral degree from Cal State L.A.

May 26, 2015

She taught high school in West L.A. and worked in the Peace Corps in West Africa

For Barbara Hunt, learning has been a life-long experience.

Hunt will be the oldest student to graduate from Cal State L.A. this spring, when she receives her Ed.D. in educational leadership. As she walks across the commencement stage at the University Athletics Stadium on June 12, she hopes to inspire others to learn and become engaged with their communities.

“My goal is to continue to encourage students to find the joy of learning, to be critical thinkers, and to be educated and active citizens,” says Hunt, 71, who lives in Los Angeles’ Playa del Rey neighborhood.

Hunt has spent more than three decades in education, from teaching toddlers in West Los Angeles to training small business entrepreneurs as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa.

She enrolled as an undergraduate student at Cal State L.A. in 1962—when John F. Kennedy was president. Hunt obtained her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and master’s degree in health and safety from Cal State L.A. She also earned her credentials in secondary, administrative and community college credentials from the University.

“The best part of my experiences at Cal State L.A. were the biological and health sciences classes, where I participated in hands-on activities and learned how theories apply to practical applications in the field,” Hunt says. “These experiences worked along with my natural liking for explaining things to others that influenced me to become a teacher-educator.”

She spent several years teaching at Palisades High School before establishing four childcare centers on Los Angeles’ Westside. She served as chief administrator of the centers for 17 years. 

When her two children graduated from college, Hunt sold her childcare centers and joined the Peace Corps. She traveled to Ghana, West Africa, where she trained small business entrepreneurs. She then helped the agency’s Washington D.C. headquarters develop HIV/AIDS volunteer curriculum. Her efforts led to standardized training that was used across West Africa.

The Peace Corps then assigned her to Malawi in East Africa, where she worked at Domasi Teachers College to train elementary school teachers to teach science. Her experience in Malawi, where she met a number of professors who had Ph.D.s from the United States, motivated her to pursue a doctoral degree. 

"I decided to return to Cal State L.A. so that I could update my educational skills for students in the 21st Century,” says Hunt, who works part-time teaching biology and environmental studies at Woodbury University in Burbank.

Hunt also finds time to volunteer as a health educator for Homeless Health Care of Los Angeles (HHCLA), a non-profit agency that provides services for homeless persons on Skid Row in Los Angeles. Her doctoral dissertation will be focused on “A Study of Counselor Perceptions as Educators for Homeless Adults in Urban Los Angeles.”

She is looking forward to putting her education to practical use in the classroom at Woodbury.

“In order to be an effective global educator,” she says, “I needed to understand the current theories and philosophy of education combined with my formal teacher training and my classroom experiences.”

Photo: Barbara Hunt. (Credit: J. Emilio Flores/Cal State L.A.)



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