Working At LSI Is A Powerful Experience For Dr. Barnes-Story

November 30, 2022

By Larissa Martins/LSI Communications Intern

"Graphic featuring the LSI logo and the headline "Working At LSI Is A Powerful Experience For Dr. Barnes-Story" with a selfie photo of Dr. Barnes-Story and a large group of children in Malawi. "As someone who aspires to make a difference in the world, Dr. Adrienne Barnes-Story was naturally drawn to the field of education. Her role in leading various international development projects with the Learning Systems Institute (LSI) has allowed her to do just that. Her job at LSI gives her opportunities to make an impact and watch it unfold in multiple countries.

Barnes-Story graduated from FSU with a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis on literacy, education, and research in 2015. Soon after, she began working with LSI as a consultant for a project in Ethiopia. She was eventually hired full-time as a research faculty member. She is currently in charge of directing three projects in Africa and plays a complex role at LSI.

“I do a little bit of everything,” said Dr. Barnes-Story. “I do proposal development and technical work on my projects and my colleagues’ projects. I help mentor new faculty members. I support our team as they go overseas, and basically whatever is needed.”

Barnes-Story was working as an elementary school teacher when she became fascinated by the process of her students learning to read, which propelled her to obtain her Masters in Reading and Language Arts. Halfway through the program, one of her professors offered to be her advisor if she was interested in pursuing a doctorate. She took the offer and was accepted as a pre-doctoral interdisciplinary research-training fellow in the Psychology department of the Florida Center of Reading Research. While working towards her doctorate degree, she was given the opportunity to participate in a teacher training program, which she accepted without knowing it would be taking place in Ethiopia.

This opportunity changed the course of Dr. Barnes-Story’s life. While she helped train 200 teacher educators, she realized the effect this project would have on the country. “It’s so satisfying knowing that you’re making an impact on not just one class of children and not just one school, but you’re impacting the entire education system in the country.”

This experience was monumental for Dr. Barnes-Story because she began falling in love with the people and cultures in Africa. “There’s this level of humanity you don’t get in the United States. It’s a level of genuine love and concern for other human beings.”

Currently, Dr. Barnes-Story is leading two projects in Malawi. The first is a five-year project called Strengthening Teacher Education and Practice. Dr. Barnes-Story is leading her team to help improve literacy and pedagogy practices throughout 24 teacher-training colleges across the country. An exciting part of the program begins in January when they will provide a foundational graduate-level course in literacy for seven months. This will include four full weeks of face-to-face instruction, where 130 instructors will work on research projects and present their findings at a national symposium.

Barnes-Story is enjoying her time working in Malawi. “It’s beautiful here, it’s a very resource-poor country, but people here are on fire to make a change.”

The second project she directs in Malawi is the National Reading Program Implementation and Expansion. A team from LSI is working with local writers, editors, and the Malawi Institute of Education, to develop new language arts curricula for grades 5-8 in English and Chichewa.

Additionally, Dr. Barnes-Story is directing a program in Rwanda, where they are supporting teacher training colleges. She mentions they are teaching a foundational literacy course similar to the one in Malawi, but on a smaller scale (and all in Kinyarwanda).

An important aspect of Dr. Barnes-Story’s work is ensuring that it will continue to impact countries once she and the LSI team are gone.

“You have to think about your goal. If you want it to be sustainable after you leave, they have to own it,” she said. “It has to come from them. Otherwise, you’re going to leave, the project will end, and everything you’ve been doing will end.”

When asked about her favorite part of her job, Dr. Barnes-Story answered, “I love making those real, heart-to-heart connections with people. Being able to make those friends and having that human connection is why I keep doing it.”

She is excited to keep exploring the world and experiencing new cultures while making an impact. She feels fortunate that she loves working as much as she does.

“I get to see other cultures and get to know people from all over the world,” she said. “It’s a really powerful experience. It makes my heart sing!”