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Bobby Barber Institute For Shipboard Education Semester At Sea

Bobby Barber

VP of Finance & CFO

Institute for Shipboard Education / Semester at Sea

Location: Fort Collins

Founded: 1963

Industry: Nonprofit | Education

Growing up in a small town in West Virginia, Bobby Barber witnessed the beauty of his surroundings but always sought out a more expansive view of the world. “In a state where many rarely venture outside of state lines, I became acutely aware of how lucky I was to live in a diverse small town and how exposure to different cultural perspectives and experiences have transformative power and shape lives,” said Barber.

It has always been this realization that led Barber to his 15-year career at the Institute for Shipboard Education where he serves as the chief financial officer.

The mission of the Institute for Shipboard Education and Semester at Sea is to provide journeys of discovery that spark bold solutions to global challenges. The institute does this by educating individuals with the global understanding necessary to address the challenges of our interdependent world. Semester at Sea delivers experiential learning aboard a cruise ship with a focus on hosting undergraduate, gap year and graduate study abroad programs.

“The traditional classroom is confined to the ideas within those walls while Semester at Sea makes the world your classroom and offers the complexity of ideas from around the world,” said Barber.

As the CFO, Barber has a pivotal role in ensuring the company’s financial stability, ensuring the organization will be around for many generations to come after celebrating 60 years of existence. Barber’s efforts have included creating a fund cash reserve and generating excess operational cash of $17 million that proved to be essential for the nonprofit’s survival during the pandemic. In addition, he generated an additional $5 million in federal grants and relief for the organization while growing the endowment from $5.7 million to $12 million.

“Every financial decision I make, I am aware of the ripple effect it has on students and participants who embark on a journey of discovery,” he said.

In his role, Barber is the executive of the finance, information technology and financial aid departments. Under his leadership, his teams have adopted cloud-based systems, automation and artificial technology. He has also led implementations of systems that include enterprise resource planners, cloud accounting systems, medical information systems, reservation systems, expense and travel management and human resource information systems.

Leading with grit has been at the core of Barber’s career with the institute. “Resilience is not only helpful in my position as CFO, but it has been imperative as we have had to navigate tough unexpected situations,” he said. “My grit is the superpower that sets the tone for my leadership and my personal life.”

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Did you know?

My secret superpower is grit. When I confront a challenge or have a vision, I have an unwavering determination and perseverance to meet these challenges head on and see them through resolution. I don’t back down from doing hard things and regularly take on difficult challenges. I face adversity and see it as another obstacle to tackle that will help me grow in the process. This resilience is not only helpful in my position with Semester at Sea as CFO, it has been imperative as we have had to navigate tough unexpected situations. My grit is the superpower that sets the tone for my leadership and for my personal life.


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