Shark Spotlight: Gregory Barton, Director of LIU Brooklyn Promise Office
Updated: Feb 2, 2022
By: JOSEPH SIMILE / SPORTS CO-EDITOR
As he led me through the LIU Brooklyn Promise Office to his back office, the energy of Gregory Barton was positively radiant.
This aura of positivity was profound and as we sat down at his desk, with a custom “Promise” LIU hockey jersey and an acoustic guitar behind him, one thing was clear: this man loves his job.
I had the pleasure of sitting down and interviewing Barton, recently appointed Director of LIU Promise.
Q: What led you to becoming a Promise Coach?
A: I was a classroom teacher for almost a decade. I taught in the Virginia Beach area and absolutely loved it. I had an epiphany, I felt like I had my dream job at 25-26 and I said wait a minute, I think that I can do a little bit more than this. So, I decided to take the plunge into administration and [my first job] ended up coming a year or two later at the college level. I [went to] Athens, Greece, and taught at an international school. I got to be in the classroom as well as do the administrative work in student affairs, which was awesome. Then the pandemic hit but more importantly I felt that I wanted to be back in the United States because our education system needs as much help as anyone else’s does. I was having this sense of homesickness and to be back to help with our students. So the opportunity with LIU popped up, and it was this odd combination of student success with advising, but with a residence life component and student affairs. Promise was just like this perfect mix of all these incredible student affairs opportunities so, I had to go for it. And thank goodness I did and I’m super excited to be here. I never thought I’d be back in New York, honestly. I was born and raised here and it’s amazing where life brings you, you know?
Q: When did you start at LIU?
A: I started in March of 2021, so this is coming up on my ninth month. It feels like years, but honestly it feels that way because we have such a great group of people here and it’s amazing how we’ve developed into a nice, tightly knit family.
Q: Do you have a degree, and if so, what for?
A: I have my Bachelors degree from Washington and Lee University in Art and Art History, and I got my Masters degree from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Historic Preservations, so old buildings & objects. I’m currently working on my Doctorate in education from John Hopkins so, a lot of late nights, but again once I figured out that education is where I wanted to be, I just had to dive in.
Q: What is an average day at the Promise Office like?
A: It’s a healthy mix of meetings with students and adults, the ones with the adults are usually not as fun as the ones with students. We try and I think we do a pretty good job of just having as many students be able to come in here as possible. There are certain times, during registration periods or before the end of the semester, when people are clamoring to get appointments and come in and see us. For me, I got into this because I wanted to be with students and I hope that there will always be students coming in here as a revolving door. It’s good to do the “adult talk” where we’re planning out the future but I love connecting with students and that’s really the highlight of my day so I always make sure there’s a good chunk of time for that in there.
Q: You grew up in New York, you are a Jets fan, correct?
A: Die hard.
Q: Do you find that sports are an important and effective way to connect with students?
A: I’m so glad you asked that. My entire dissertation is on the benefits of students participating in a mix of academics, athletics, and the arts. There are skills and traits that we learn in the classroom, there are skills and traits we learn in the studio, and there are skills and traits we learn on the athletic field. I firmly believe you learn teamwork, leadership, communication skills, and accountability [in these settings.] There’s an entire separate element there that you can’t learn in a math or an english course. I’m 100% for it, and I love that’s why when you said you’re in the sports world with your major, I got so excited because it is such an important part of my life and I hope that our students see that too.
Q: We had a great time at the Jets game, can students expect more sporting events for the CityScapes?
A: That is our goal! The hard thing is that, it’s both good and bad; we have so many sports teams and so many sports fans in our community, so we are hoping to have as many as possible. The fact that the Nets are right down the street is of course a great one; the good thing with the Jets is that tickets are always on sale because we always lose, so we can always get good rates on that. But students can definitely expect that in the future, and I will always be the chaperone for that one. I did the Liberty game, I did the Jets game, so we’re looking forward to whatever's next...We have a lot of students whether you’re a Knicks fan or a Jets fan whatever it may be, a lot of students have never been to a game before. And to be in that environment; we got to see an incredible game (the Jets vs. Bengals Cityscape on Halloween) which was great, but the Cityscapes are a great opportunity for students to really take advantage of everything the city has to offer. You don’t just come to New York City to sit in your dorm room, I’m so glad you got to see it, because what a game to see.
Q: Is there a way for students to request a particular Cityscape event?
A: Oh, for sure. Yeah, absolutely. Quite honestly, they can speak to any of the Promise coaches and we can bring it in. If a student has a great idea, we will find a way to work with them to make it happen. Do you have any ideas?
Q: A Knicks game!
A: Knicks game, yeah let’s see. I know we have already got the Mets and Yankees 100 percent down, we’ll work on the rest though. I’m a Mets guy as well, I love my losing teams.
Q: So, I’m gonna ask you kind of a loaded, rapid fire sort of question here.
A: Go for it.
Q: So I’m going to ask for your top three in four different categories. Top three favorite sports teams?
A: Oh that’s easy: Jets, Rangers, and Mets.
Q: Top three favorite movies?
A: Rocky IV, Empire Strikes Back, and Planet of the Apes…the old one.
Q: That was an interesting mix. Top three favorite shows?
A: Oh god. Friday Night Lights----I’m a football guy. Which is probably in my top three favorite movies also. I love old shows; M*A*S*H*, so good. Oh my goodness. I gotta do this, I can’t have two, it’d be ridiculous, this would be terrible for the article. These are the worst rapid fire comments I’ve ever made here. I don’t know I have to watch more shows apparently, you don’t want to just put one popular show that everyone likes. Aw man, let me come back to that one. I’ll have it for you though.
Q: Alright, top three, you can choose either musical artists or songs
a: Oooh. I love Rock & Roll. I’ve got a guitar behind me as you can probably see. It’s been in every classroom I’ve ever had. Top three favorite bands, Led Zepplin’s gotta be up there. I’m gonna put Jimi Hendrix in there too just because he’s so good and I love John Mayer, nothing I can do about it. You know, I’m not too prideful to admit it... I’m still thinking about that last show. We watched so much TV over the pandemic.
Q: We can move on and come back to that one. What are some of your favorite spots around campus to get lunch?
A: I obviously love pizza from New York City. They changed it from a dollar slice to a dollar fifty slice by the Fulton apartments over by Bond Street so I’m a little bit upset about that. Obviously DeKalb Market is fantastic, I have another one Bedouin Tent. You walk down past Junior's, down Bond, and it’ll be on your left on the corner of Atlantic. It is like Mediterranean food, falafel and hummus, and that kind of stuff is so good. My other top choice is Greene Bites. Classic and so good. I love Mediterranean food, I lived there and that’s where my family's heart is so anytime I get that is good. We have great food in this area.
Q: [Now back to things happening on campus], there are often fliers posted in Connolly Hall for events run by RA’s, game nights, sports tournaments, tie dye nights, etc. If a student wants to host a similar event, what’s the process for going about it?
A: So the process, again it really all comes back to the Promise Coach. We love hosting event and anything we can do to help you all make that happen is great. Obviously it’s even better if we do it through a club or an organization or what have you, but if a student is interested in hosting an event, we’re here to help them along the way to make it happen so just come talk to us; We need more ideas. It’s great for us to sit here and come up with them ourselves, but we really want to make sure the students are the ones producing the ideas because that’s what you want to do, and I love the events, I go to all of them.
Q: Is there a plan in place to allow non-LIU students as visitors in the residence halls at some point?
A: So I think it just changes everyday with COVID. As far as I am concerned, it is our goal to get there but because of COVID we’re at a point where we’re not ready yet. I know that it's a bummer and definitely frustrating but we're just trying to keep everyone safe. Especially with Omicron now, it’s like there’s so many unknowns that are associated with it.
Q: Going off of that, what is the protocol for if there were a COVID outbreak on campus?
A: Good question, so we have a lead COVID contract tracer whom the university has employed to make sure we’re doing adequate contract tracing and we're continuing with quarantining and isolating individuals who need to be. Fortunately because of vaccines, the CDC is being much more lenient with who needs to be quarantined and who needs to be isolated. Of course we are making sure people are tracking their possible symptoms, but essentially everything that we do will be filter through this team of people that we now have and also is gonna follow directly in line with CDC restrictions.
Q: So about that last TV show…
A: Agh. Come on. Friday Night Lights, M*A*S*H*, and… This Is Us just makes me cry, you know?