Josh Barnes was ready to take the next step in his career.

It was the summer of 2012, and he had just completed his fifth year in Student Affairs at Newberry College. But he was eager to be closer to family. His parents lived in Commerce, Ga., while his wife’s family resided in Toccoa, just 35 miles from the Clemson University campus.

As fate would have it, the dots connected and Barnes suddenly found himself in the proverbial right place at the right time.

“Clemson fell in that search radius for us, and luckily a position came open at the time for the senior associate director of Campus Life,” Barnes said.

Mandy Hays, who oversees what is now known as Campus Activities & Events — one of many departments within Clemson’s Division of Student Affairs — needed a young and energetic presence to help spearhead advisement of several student organizations.

Barnes stood out in the hiring process and ultimately landed the position.

“Josh was hired primarily to advise ClemsonLiVE, Central Spirit and Tiger Paw Productions,” Hays said. “Because of the liability and scope of the types of events they did — parades, concerts and Homecoming events — we needed someone that understood that type of work. I was looking for an intentional development program for student leaders of those organizations.”

Josh Barnes, Clemson's director of student involvement & leadership

Josh Barnes enters his sixth year with Campus Activities & Events in 2017-18.
Image Credit: Ashley Jones

Shortly after he was brought on board, Barnes introduced the PAW advising model still used by the department today. PAW is an acronym that stands for “Purposefully Affecting the Why.” Its goal was intentional: help students reach their potential to positively impact the world. Each director or officer within those three student organizations was responsible for meeting with a team of advisors on a weekly basis. The meetings included conversations that focused on self-exploration, impact of experience, position responsibilities and event planning.

Prior to Barnes’ arrival, advising was described as an unstructured burden. It wasn’t meeting the expectation of student leaders. After the model was implemented and learning outcomes were measured, Barnes was able to produce tangible evidence that it was mutually beneficial and that it fostered the development of positive relationships.

By January 2014, he was demonstrating the PAW model’s value in a presentation at the National Association of Campus Activities (NACA) annual conference.

“Our advising structure is a point of pride,” Barnes said. “We are very intentional in how we work with those student leaders, and it’s been great to see their development.”

Another point of pride for Barnes has been Clemson’s transformation when it comes to late-night programming.

In the fall of 2013, Barnes and Hays teamed with associate vice president George Smith to secure one year’s worth of funding to create late night and weekend entertainment programs for the student body.

What resulted was U-NITES!, a moonlight series free to all Clemson students held typically on Friday nights at various dates throughout the year.

“We had to demonstrate its worth,” Barnes explained of the funding model. “Fortunately, we had 14 events lined up and they all did great. We showed concrete evidence it was important to students.”

U-NITES! attracted over 3,000 students in 2013-14 and has been going strong ever since, hitting a high attendance mark in the most recent academic year. Its success has carried over into the newest programming initiative, the Barnes Center.

Opening in February of this year, the Barnes Center is a renovated sheep barn on the east side of campus that serves as a late-night programming hub every Thursday through Saturday. In its first three months of operation, it attracted nearly 3,000 students.

“Once the project was developed, the Frank Barnes (no relation) family stepped forward to fund the facility to create a social destination on campus for students on the weekends,” Barnes said. “Our student data was telling us there was little to do on campus on the weekends. The Barnes Center was created in part to help fill that gap.”

The facility will be an instrumental part of Campus Activities & Events moving forward.

With programming on an uptick, Barnes has turned most of his attention to a new venture. Shortly after Almeda Jacks returned to Clemson as vice president for Student Affairs, leadership emerged as a divisional priority. Barnes was tasked with creating a framework that was capable of reaching the entire student population.

What emerged is LeadershipForward, a centralized process of programs designed to develop impactful leadership experiences for students. The framework launches this academic year, and its rollout features increases in service opportunities, community partners and academic collaborations.

Josh Barnes, director of student involvement & leadership at Clemson

Barnes has spearheaded the LeadershipForward initiative within Student Affairs.
Image Credit: Ashley Jones

Barnes has called it the biggest challenge in his young career, but admits it is off to a great start. Last academic year, over 500 students participated in some form of leadership development through Campus Activities & Events.

“Josh is great at putting things together,” Hays said. “Just like our late-night programming hit the mark, this is it. We’ve got data that shows how our programming is impacting our students and campus, and I feel very confident that will be the case with our LeadershipForward framework as well. It’s only going to build relationships within the Division of Student Affairs, which is going to make us be able to do our jobs better.”

Few do it better than Barnes, who has grown comfortable in his role as director of student involvement and leadership.

“This is a great place to raise a family,” said Barnes, whose wife Heather is a third-grade teacher at Clemson Elementary. The couple has two children, Barrett and Blakely. “I’ve been challenged professionally, but it’s been a great work experience. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being at Clemson.”