Blake's Life So Far...

You can call me Blake...just Blake. No need for the formal Mr. or Professor Barron.

To get to know me better, please find below the desciption of my life that was published when I was SBCC's Faculty Lecturer of the Year in 2013-14. This is the highest honor bestowed on an SBCC faculty member for their diligent dedication to teaching and the SBCC college community. I am thoroughly honored and humbled to have earned this award.

I LOVE was what I was always supposed to do and it is easy to come to work in the classroom everyday or teach online from my dinner table with the amazing students we have at SBCC.

Blakely (Blake) Barron was raised, together with his taller “little” brother Matt, by his loving and devoted parents, Paul and Neva Barron in Ventura County.  It is from watching his parents work so hard that Blake learned his work ethic.  While he was born in Fort Sill, Oklahoma (in an army hospital as his father was returning from Vietnam) he grew up entirely in Southern California.  Blake’s passion for understanding the natural world stems from an innate curiosity about the wonders of nature, his childhood experiences playing in the dirt, adventures in Boy Scouts and family vacations.  Fond thoughts of explorations in the outdoors dominate Blake’s childhood memories.  Tucked in the corner of a window in one of his middle school classrooms, he vividly remembers watching an orb weaver spider spin a web over and over again and pondering what it would be like to be an arachnid.  Hiking, camping, swimming and reading were and still are among his favorite activities.  Recently, Blake has developed a keen interest in nature photography which he hopes will help to increase his effectiveness in the classroom.  He has always been a voracious reader and not surprisingly was drawn into the worlds of science fiction and fantasy.  As a self-described science geek, Blake spent plenty of time in the nerdy worlds of Dungeons and Dragons and computers.  He was excited when his parents got him one of the earliest home computers, a TI-99/4A, with a whopping 16K of memory!  A fascination with technology, data collection and analysis was born.

He is a proud graduate of the public education system in California from elementary school to the University of California, Santa Barbara.  During high school Blake was fortunate to have some very effective and committed science teachers.  Some of his abilities as an instructor today come from this early exposure to innovative teaching.  He has always been attracted by the sea and after graduating Moorpark High School in 1986 he washed up on the beaches near UCSB.

While working toward his undergraduate degree, Blake worked many hours each week as a part-time waiter and continued to do so through the beginning of his graduate school experiences.   He remembers and therefore understands the daily struggles our students face balancing the requirements of classes, work and an active social life.  In 1991, Blake earned his Bachelor of Arts in Physiology and Cell Biology from UC Santa Barbara.

As Blake was completing his undergraduate degree at UCSB, he started working in the lab of Dr. Peter M. Collins.  The Collins lab was focused on various aspects of reproductive physiology from studies of gonadal function in primates to the hormonal regulation of seasonal reproduction in fish.  This experience would lead Blake to continue at UCSB for his graduate studies.  Questions about how our environment shapes the animal world had pervaded Blake’s thoughts for years.  His research included early work on the Japanese Medaka (Oryzias latipes) which was primarily focused on understanding how environmental variations such as photoperiod and temperature influence the neuroendocrine systems that regulate reproduction.  Companion seasonal studies of Pacific rockfish focused on changes in the neuroendocrine and endocrine factors regulating specific phases of reproductive function and growth.  The centerpiece of this work was a seasonal study of grass rockfish (Sebastes rastrelliger) aimed at obtaining specific endocrine correlates of rockfish reproduction.  This was the first such study on this species and the first comprehensive work on the integrated responses of the neuroendocrine and gonadal systems to seasonal changes in any rockfish species.  Additionally, this was the first study to identify four different molecular variants of Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone, GnRH, in a single species of fish, including the first identification of a previously unknown novel GnRH form.  Blake gained a greater appreciation for the value of international collaboration as some of this work involved scientists in Southeast Asia.  Blake participated in several international scientific conferences and performed collaborative research at the Oregon National Primate Research Center and the University of Victoria in Canada.

In graduate school, Blake was given the opportunity to not only be a Teaching Assistant for three different biology courses, but also to lecture for one semester for an upper division vertebrate reproduction course while his major advisor was on sabbatical.  These rich experiences kindled a fiery interest in teaching.  Blake earned his Master of Arts in Biological Science with an emphasis in Comparative Physiology in 1996 with the knowledge that, while research was indeed fascinating, a career focused on teaching was his desired goal.

Blake reflects on the period when he was finishing graduate school as one of the luckiest times in his life.  As one of his last T.A. positions at UCSB was ending, Blake was exceedingly fortunate to be hired by the Department of Biological Sciences at Santa Barbara City College in 1996.  Initially he taught BMS 108, Human Physiology and then Biology 100, Concepts of Biology as an adjunct faculty member.  Between 1998 and 1999, Blake married his lovely wife Janet, purchased his first new car and was hired as a full-time tenure-track professor at SBCC.

The past 17 years at SBCC have been tremendously fulfilling for Blake.  With wonderful mentors in his department and around campus, Blake has learned to be the best teacher he can while simultaneously he has experienced great personal growth.  Much of his professional development comes from the opportunities Blake had to teach a range of fourteen different majors and non-majors courses in the Biological Sciences Department.  This diversity has provided Blake with a breadth of knowledge that he can continually integrate and share with students.  In service to the needs of his fairly large and diverse department, Blake has been both Biomedical Sciences Coordinator and Biology 100 Coordinator. 

Blake enjoys being involved in multiple aspects of our campus culture.  After briefly serving on the Honors Advisory Committee and Student Services Committee, Blake jumped in the deep end of the committee assignment pool.  He had the privilege of doing the important and sometimes difficult work performed by the Academic Senate when he was elected by the Sciences Division in ??.  He currently serves as Department Chair for Biological Sciences and has previously served as co-chair.   The STEM Transfer Program Faculty Workgroup is one of his favorite current committees as they develop strategies and pedagogy to facilitate student success in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses and increase the number of students majoring in STEM fields.   As a member of the Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) Workgroup he hopes we can further transform the SLO mandate into a more meaningful and useful process.

Blake was very proud to serve as the lead coordinator to write and guide the A.A. in Liberal Arts: Biomedical Sciences Emphasis degree through the campus and chancellor’s office approval processes.  This now approved degree has increased the options for our students and significantly expanded the number of students earning Associate of Arts degrees in our department at SBCC.

There is a true sense of community at SBCC.  Blake has collaborated with and/or mentored many SBCC faculty and staff on a variety of other specific projects within the Department of Biological Sciences and across the SBCC campus.  It is always a joy to welcome new, highly qualified faculty and staff to our campus and to help evaluate our on-going efforts on behalf of our students.  Blake has chaired or been a member of many faculty and staff hiring and evaluation committees including the Biological Sciences Lab Coordination Team (LCT).

He is a member of the One Planet faculty program initiated by Dr. Adam Green to integrate sustainability issues into the curriculum across the campus.  As a college level human sexuality educator, Blake was thrilled to participate in a group meeting during summer 2010 with many local sexual health educators. This engaging group discussion helped to increase the effectiveness of teaching of this vital subject to college students.  This is one example of the many opportunities that Blake’s colleagues have encouraged him to take advantage of to become a better teacher.  In 2011-12 Blake was honored to earn a SBCC Faculty Excellence Award.

Santa Barbara City College is #1 because our students are the focus.  Blake is most proud to be the Faculty Advisor for the Biology Club since Fall 2008.  We have all been impressed by the level of dedication to service and exploration exemplified by the devoted student members of the SBCC Biology Club.  Thanks goes out to the campus for supporting the Bio Club with their bake sale and car wash fundraisers.  Every year the “Bio-Clubbers” are involved in a variety of activities from local elementary school biology education presentations to SCUBA classes to tidepooling and hiking trips to our annual adventurous camping excursion.  It is clear from the Facebook posts to the SBCC Biology Club group that these students are not just interested in camping and hiking, but enthusiastic about the process and progression of science. 

On July 31, 2003 his son Eli was born, which also happened to be Blake’s birthday.  Six years later Lucas was born into their clan.  As with many fathers, Blake now sees the world through the fresh eyes of his sons.  He has a greater appreciation for the wonders of the human brain as he observes his children grow and explore the world.

Blake’s teaching philosophy is characterized by high expectations for both himself and his students tempered with compassionate consideration of the diversity of our students and recognition of both their fears and potential.  Blake suggests that instructors should “challenge and entertain your students at the same time.  Most students are eager to learn so set the bar for your students high and then give them specific support and learning techniques to help them build the rungs of their own ladder to greater understanding.  There is a difference between a teacher teaching and a student learning.  Just because you think you have taught a concept to a student does not mean they have actually learned it.  Ask them – many times.”  As primates, humans are social critters.  Our survival and ability to thrive is predicated on our establishing effective relationships, staying connected and helping each other.

Blake looks forward to many more years of adventure, discovery and fun at SBCC!

Students - feel free to email me anything you would like about yourself so I can get to know you better too.