skip to main content
Home  /  Interviews  /  Barbara Green

Barbara Green

An Oral History with Barbara Green

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students (Ret.)

By David Zierler, Director of the Caltech Heritage Project

January 18, 2024

DAVID ZIERLER: This is David Zierler, Director of the Caltech Heritage Project. It's Thursday, January 18th, 2024. I'm delighted to be here with Barbara Green. Barbara, so nice to be with you. Thank you for joining me today.

BARBARA GREEN: Thank you. Thank you for inviting me.

ZIERLER: Wonderful. Barbara, to start, would you tell me your most recent title here at Caltech before you retired?

GREEN: Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students.

ZIERLER: Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students, where does that sit administratively within Caltech? Who do you or whom did you report to, and who reported to you?

GREEN: I reported to the dean of students, who then reported to the vice president for student affairs. My administrative assistant and our receptionist reported to me.

ZIERLER: It's a flat organization?

GREEN: Yes. Yes, that's right.

ZIERLER: Associate Dean of Students, so between the associate dean and the dean of students, are those always not faculty? Are they sometimes faculty. Does it depend? How does that work?

GREEN: The tradition at Caltech is that the dean of students is always a faculty member. I was the interim dean of students for a while when no faculty member was available for the job.

ZIERLER: Tell me your academic background, your training. What did you go to school for?

GREEN: As an undergraduate , I was a government major. After college I earned a master's degree in guidance and counseling at Columbia University, thinking that I might become a high school counselor. When I did an internship in a suburban New Jersey high school, I loved the kids, but did not like the bureaucracy of the high school. After finishing my M.A. I took a job for a couple of years as the east coast recruiter for a very small midwestern college. Eventually I moved to the Midwest and helped establish a career counseling and placement office on that campus. I then applied and was admitted to the doctoral program in education at Purdue University. The VP who I worked for had encouraged me to earn my PhD. He had previously worked in the Dean of Men's Office at Purdue and supported my efforts to get an internship then in what was the Dean of Women's Office .

ZIERLER: Men's and women's office? This is a throwback.

GREEN: It really is. I arrived int he fall of 1973. By the fall of 1974, the two offices had combined, and the individual who was the dean of women became the dean of students at Purdue. A female serving as Dean of Students was unusual in the Big Ten in that era.

At the beginning of my second year I was hired as a half time Assistant Dean of Students and continued in that position until the summer of 1977 while working on my degree I took courses on counseling students, on understanding college student development and of course statistical analysis. I also took and later taught counseling practica. .The hands-on experience in the dean's office was extremely instructive. The older female deans were excellent role models. I learned a lot while I was there in my mid twenties.

ZIERLER: Barbara, the PhD, besides obviously the value of the education, did you see it primarily as a credential for pursuing a career in academic administration?


ZIERLER: Did you ever think about going the faculty route?

GREEN: No. I have a couple friends who did, but I did not think of that. I really liked the hands-on work with the students.

ZIERLER: We'll establish all of this in real time. I just want an overview picture. When did you come to Caltech?

GREEN: I came in 1989, September 1st, 1989.

ZIERLER: Directly from Purdue?

GREEN: No. I was actually Dean of Students at Whittier College, which is—

ZIERLER: Oh yes, of course.

GREEN: Yeah. Everyone says Richard Nixon, right? [laugh]


GREEN: I was hired as the Whittier College dean of students the summer after I left Purdue I held the position at Whittier from September 1997 through June 1989. I was 29 when I started in that position.

ZIERLER: [laugh]

ZIERLER: You were a woman in an executive position—


ZIERLER: —a relatively long time ago.

GREEN: I was the only woman for quite a few years on what the College President called his Cabinet. It was a good experience. It was a learning experience. At that time, Whittier had a very close-knit group of faculty. I felt quite welcomed by most of them.

ZIERLER: It was coed?


ZIERLER: Then the broad brush strokes of your career, you came to Caltech in '89.

GREEN: I came to Caltech in '89.

ZIERLER: You've been here—

GREEN: I left [laugh]—

ZIERLER: —since you retired?

GREEN: Right. I retired on August 1st, 2018, so I served for almost 29 years.

ZIERLER: Wow. You came here as Associate Dean of Students?


ZIERLER: That was your role when you retired?

GREEN: I don't think I was particularly ambitious. I loved my job. Someone else in that job might have been wanting to go somewhere where they could be the dean of students or be a VP. But for me, it was a great opportunity. We also only lived three miles from here.

Both of our children were born while I was at Caltech.

ZIERLER: A nice place to raise a family.


ZIERLER: Where did your kids go to school?

GREEN: They both went to La Salle High School. Prior to that Nick and Hannah went to the Gooden School, which is in Sierra Madre. I was lucky because, if something came up during the day, if I wasn't right in the middle of something , I could get to them very easily. My husband taught at Whittier College for 40 years. It's only 15 miles from here, but it's not quite as easy to get home in an emergency..

ZIERLER: He stayed teaching at Whittier?

GREEN: Uh-huh.

ZIERLER: He had the tougher commute than you? That's how that worked out?

GREEN: Yes, that's right, he did. But it was fine.

ZIERLER: Although faculty don't have to go in as often as administrators, so that makes sense.

GREEN: Yeah.

ZIERLER: Associate dean of students, so which students? Undergraduates and graduates?

GREEN: Undergraduates primarily. Because our office was next door to the graduate office, I had occasional interaction with graduate students, especially the student leaders. For a while, maybe for as long as 15 years actually, I also was the person who worked with students with disabilities. I supported both grads and undergrads with disabilities, until I retired. Now, of course, a specialist handles that role. I did interact with graduate students that way, and also interacted very closely with the graduate students who were called resident advisors, who lived in the undergraduate houses.

ZIERLER: Roughly 20 years, how many deans of students did you work for, and how many vice presidents for student affairs, roughly, in those two decades?

GREEN: I was at Caltech for almost 29 years. I'll just say the names just to help me count.


GREEN: Chris hired me.

ZIERLER: This is Professor Christopher Brennen?

GREEN: Yes. Then the next dean was Rod Kiewiet, He actually served in that role twice. Then Jean-Paul Revel, he was a professor of biology. Then John Hall, John Dabiri, and Kevin Gilmartin.

ZIERLER: Kevin Gilmartin as dean of students before he became VP of student affairs?

GREEN: Yes. When I left, he was dean of students. He continued for one more year as dean of students.

ZIERLER: Is that a common stepping stone, dean of students to VP for student affairs?

GREEN: Yes, Chris Brennen was VP for student affairs after serving as dean. Gary Lorden, who you may or may not know about—

ZIERLER: Yeah. Unfortunately he passed.

GREEN: Gary was the VP for student affairs when Chris Brennen hired me. Joe Shepherd, who was the VP for student affairs, was first the dean of the graduate students, and then moved into the VP role. Yes, it's a common path though I doubt if they deans saw it as a stepping stone -more like service to the Institute.

ZIERLER: Also from '89 to 2018, you got to see the presidencies of Tom Everhart, David Baltimore, Jean-Lou Chameau and, of course, Tom Rosenbaum.

GREEN: Right, exactly.

ZIERLER: That's a lot of Caltech history right there.

GREEN: Yeah, it is.

ZIERLER: Your office was here in Parsons-Gates?

GREEN: For a good part of the time but not the whole time. We were here in Parsons-Gates until the fall until 2002, when the office moved over to the Center for Student Services The move was good in many ways because it brought together many of the student affairs offices. The registrar's office was downstairs from us and the residence life and housing offices were there, as well. The career center was upstairs. It was a good arrangement . It wasn't as nice a building as Parsons-Gates.. I wonder sometimes if Student Affairs staff became less obvious, not to the students but to the administration. I'm not sure. But I liked working in both places.

ZIERLER: In concentric circles, in terms of who was in the position and how that affected both your day-to-day and your overall annual priorities, was it most important who the dean of students was, and then from there the VP for student affairs?

GREEN: Yes. There may have been discussions between the VP and the dean that set the dean's priorities . But the dean was the one who had influence on me. I, in turn, I believe, because of my experience, had some influence on him too.

ZIERLER: Now, it's a few steps removed, obviously, but where do the provost and the president fit in? Do you feel their priorities, their agenda? Does that filter down to what you're doing?

GREEN: Not so much. I'm quite sure it probably affects the VP for student affairs, but I didn't feel it that much.

ZIERLER: What is—and this is obviously going to depend on who the dean of students is—what is the overall division of labor between the associate dean of students and the dean of students? Obviously, if they're faculty, they have a whole research life that they're leading.

GREEN: Right.

ZIERLER: How does that work?

GREEN: It depends, as you said, a lot on who the dean is. Some of the deans were very hands-on, very involved in interacting with students. For example, a student who comes into the office maybe, and wants to see one of us, me or the dean. If I was busy with another student or out of the office, the dean would pick up that person, regardless of what the issue was. -it could be just something quite small. But the dean made final decisions regarding about asking students to leave Caltech, and made final decisions regarding recommendations from the Board of Control. Are you familiar with that Board?


ZIERLER: But for our readers, why don't you explain.

GREEN: The Board of Control is a group of undergraduate students who basically administer the honor code. Let's say a student has been reported for cheating by a faculty member. The Board interviews the student, they talk with the faculty member, and they come to conclusions about students's possible violations of the Honor Code. The decision, the final decision is up to the dean, who meets with the two leaders of the Board of Control to get a summary of the case and see the evidence. At least, that's how it used to be. I don't know exactly what's happening now. But I am a strong believer in the honor code. I don't think every faculty member, every administrator is. But I believe that it worked well because there was a norm among the students that you don't take unfair advantage of other students. Of course, there were some cheaters, and there were some people who did terrible things.

ZIERLER: But isn't that life? Doesn't that—?

GREEN: Yeah, that's life, right. But I thought the Honor Code system was effective because the students then bought into it, and it was run by their peers. Anyway, the dean was the one who made the decisions, final decisions about things like that. Of course, there were always appeals built in that would go to the VP and so forth, if the student thought the decision was not fair.

ZIERLER: Faculty's perspective on administrative service, there's a range. Some people do it out of a sense of duty, some do it because they get their arms twisted, some do it because they actually discover that they love it and they're good at it. Knowing all of my conversations with Chris Brennen, my question is, Chris obviously loved the students, and he was passionate about them. Just as a rough sketch, is that sort of a prerequisite for dean of student affairs, that it has to be a faculty that is not doing it because they got their arms twisted, out of a sense of duty, but they really cared about the student experience? They cared about education? They cared about wellbeing? Has that been your general experience?

GREEN: Yes, that's my general experience. There's also sometimes some arm-twisting involved, but that does not take away from the fact that the faculty who ultimately ended up in the job were people in every case who really cared about the students. But some had to be encouraged a lot. There were times when there were no faculty members willing to take on the position, so I served as the interim dean . Lesley Nye is the acting dean of students, and she's been in that role for four years.

ZIERLER: [laugh]

GREEN: You probably know there is a person who's on leave right now, a faculty member, who will be the dean of students when she returns. In earlier years, there were more faculty members who were interested in getting involved in student affairs. The world is different now, and there's probably more pressure on the younger ones to produce and publish, and so forth.

ZIERLER: To do research to get grants, things like that?

GREEN: Yeah. Even though they may really love students, and be willing to serve on committees and so forth, taking on a job of dean of students is a perhaps too big a commitment.

ZIERLER: Working in the same job for almost 29 years, how did you manage personal growth, even if administratively there wasn't anywhere to go? Was it about just accruing wisdom, and deploying that, or did you actually have some leeway to take on responsibility, and add to your portfolio, or again, did that really depend on who the dean of students was?

GREEN: I was one of the few professionals in student affairs and my deans trusted my judgement. I took on more responsibility as the years went by

.ZIERLER: Who was actually credentialed to do what you were doing?

GREEN: There weren't as many professional staff, in the early years. So, I did a lot of things.. I was involved in a greater variety of responsibilities during the first half of my time at Caltech than during the last half. It was great to be joined by a number of terrific professional who were hired by Student Affairs during the last 15 years.. In my first few years, I handled undergraduate sexual harassment cases but eventually a whole office was established for that purpose.

ZIERLER: Student-to-student or even staff-to-student or any iteration?

GREEN: Any iteration involving an undergraduate.

ZIERLER: No two days were alike?

GREEN: Right. It was a very interesting job. For example, The Deans Office planned and carried out freshman orientation and organized an annual New Student Parents Day each fall. There were lots of different things to do,. All along, starting right from the beginning, I was the link from the dean of students office to the counseling center. Students would come into the office with various issues that affected their academic work. Sometimes students just needed a little support but other times, they had serious mental health issues and needed professional treatment. I really was very involved with providing some informal support to students, and then referring them to the psychologists. There were several times where I walked a nervous or reluctant student across campus to the Counseling Center.

ZIERLER: Barbara, before the imperative to have a more diverse and inclusive campus became formalized into of and people who specialized in this, for students from underrepresented groups who might have felt alienation, aggression, things like that, would you be the person that they would come to before those kinds of specialists existed?

GREEN: Yes, but a special office was soon established for Minority Students.

. ZIERLER: Since '89?

GREEN: The Minority Student Affairs Office was established in 1989 or 1990. The Deans Office always worked very closely with that office, and was doing so at the time I retired, though the name of the office has changed over the years..


GREEN: The deans office was very supportive to the students in the Freshman Summer Research Institute and would meet with that group of students right as they arrived, so that they would know what kind of resources we had. It would depend on the student, but certainly there were some minority students who saw our office—I don't want to say as primary—but as a support, a big support.

ZIERLER: You mentioned the counseling office. These Caltech students, they're brilliant, but they're also under an extraordinary amount of pressure.

GREEN: Yes, they are.

ZIERLER: What are some of the big takeaways in interacting with Caltech students about how they manage, first of all, the crucible of the curriculum here, how they manage coming from high school where they were probably the smartest kid or they thought of themselves as the smartest kid, and then everybody becomes middle of the pack here? How did you manage all that? What did you learn from those experiences?

GREEN: You bring up for me one of the key issues, and that is they all come in being brilliant, being tops or close to tops in their high school class. Then, all of a sudden, some of them are going to be below average, half of them, right?

ZIERLER: Right. [laugh]

GREEN: It is a real adjustment. Some people manage that just fine. For others, it's really difficult for them if they get a B. For some people, it's just tough, but it doesn't mean a psychological breakdown; it just means it's hard. Then for others, I am not sure if it's just challenging or whether it's something deeper or whether it's lack of organization. Some of the very best students were very involved in all sorts of student life activities, e.g. the president of their undergraduate house, but they knew how to get their work done, and still have fun, so to speak. It was just that it was important to listen to them, to support them and challenge them when appropriate.

ZIERLER: It sounds like for students to have outlets beyond the lab and the classroom was really important.

GREEN: It is very important. It's very important but not everybody utilized the outlets. To have support, and to have friends, all those kinds of things are really important. Caltech changed a lot as more and more women were admitted. the whole atmosphere improved tremendously as more women undergrads enrolled.

ZIERLER: What were the numbers when you started, roughly? Today it's amazing. It's almost fifty-fifty. It wasn't close to that then.

GREEN: I am pretty sure the year before I arrived, the number of women allowed to be admitted was 15%.

ZIERLER: Meaning there was a quota?

GREEN: This is where we really should check the data because then the year I came, the percentage of women grew to something like 25%. There was no more quota. There was an effort to bring in women. My first year, which was '89–'90, the freshman class included 30% women.. Then it dropped back a little bit. It is great that now it's almost 50% female. Even when it was 30%, it was difficult because the women still stood out, the men would follow them around and the women didn't have a female peer group to hang out with as much. It has become a much healthier environment.

ZIERLER: Was there a similar push for minority students along the same track as the push for women students?

GREEN: Yes there was, but I don't think it was as successful. But there was interest, for sure. I wasn't directly involved with either of those pushes. But we were able to increase the number of minority students eventually.

ZIERLER: Let's go back. Let's establish some personal history. Where did you grow up?

GREEN: I grew up in Massachusetts, in Salisbury, Massachusetts, which is on the border of New Hampshire, and on the ocean.

ZIERLER: Oh wow.

GREEN: My house was not on the ocean, unfortunately but that's where I grew up.

ZIERLER: Does your family have a long history in New England?

GREEN: Yes, a long one.

ZIERLER: Like Mayflower long?

GREEN: No, I don't think so. I don't really know much before grandparents, who all were living in the general area between the North Shore and Boston/

ZIERLER: Was this a suburban upbringing? More rural?

GREEN: I'd say more rural. There were cornfields on either side of my house.

ZIERLER: That counts.

GREEN: But now there are houses. It was a smallish town. We didn't even have our own high school, but we went to the high school across the Merrimack River, Newburyport High School.

ZIERLER: What were your parents' professions?

GREEN: My father worked for General Electric in Lynn, which is closer to Boston. I have some pictures of him sitting at a big, like, easel drafting figures. He was an artist on the side—


GREEN: —meaning he's painted a lot, and so forth, but that was not his profession. ~

ZIERLER: What kind of paintings did he do?

GREEN: Mostly seascapes and landscapes. I am lucky to have a few of his paintings hung at home. My mom was a stay-at-home mother until I was about 12, and then worked at a local office supply store as a bookkeeper. She loved going back to work, and getting out, and earning money.

ZIERLER: What were your interests as a kid?

GREEN: Oh, I just was like a regular kid, I liked spending time with my friends. My father was always very interested in what's going on in politics and in the government and so forth. As I got a little bit older, I was interested too. I remember him learning that for five cents a week, we could get The New York Times at our high school. He really wanted me to get that. I liked hanging out with my friends. I was quite shy but still social, meaning, I had a lot of friends and I had a very happy high school experience.

ZIERLER: Was going to college a foregone conclusion for you?


ZIERLER: That was the expectation?

GREEN: Yes. I don't think there was ever any thought that I wouldn't.

ZIERLER: Is that a generational progress? Do you think the same would've been true for your parents?

GREEN: They did not go to college.Yes, it was generational progress. My father was a smart man who was very, very interested in everything , and read widely. My mom was very supportive . They both wanted me to go to college, and I never thought of anything else. My peer group in high school all went to college too.

ZIERLER: I'm thinking of the women's liberation movement and things like that. Did you go to college thinking that this is not for the MRS? There's a career ahead of you?


ZIERLER: That was the basis?

GREEN: Yes. I didn't know what the career would be. It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do. My college was a women's college, which has now become coed. I was in the last graduating class that had no men.

ZIERLER: What was the college?

GREEN: Connecticut College. It was Connecticut College for Women before 1970. All my friends went on to various professions. Three of them are lawyers, and one's a minister. and another was an editor. They really had excellent careers.

ZIERLER: It was a women's college when you were there?

GREEN: Yes, it was.

ZIERLER: Was that good for you, you think, not having a coed experience?

GREEN: Good and bad. I think for someone who's somewhat introverted, it wasn't good in that way, because I wasn't as comfortable interacting with males as I had been in high school. But it was good in so many other ways. I developed very close friendships and still see my college friends annually.

ZIERLER: Were there mixer events at nearby men's colleges?

GREEN: There were, yes.

ZIERLER: What were the men's colleges around?

GREEN: Wesleyan College was nearby. Yale was nearby. The Coast Guard Academy was pretty much across the street. For me, the mixers were awkward. At 18, I didn't know how to talk to somebody that I've just met.

ZIERLER: [laugh]

ZIERLER: What was your major?

GREEN: Government, same as political science, but they called it government.

ZIERLER: What year did you graduate?

GREEN: I graduated in 1970.

ZIERLER: Did you experience the '60s in college?

GREEN: Yeah.

ZIERLER: Was campus political at all?

GREEN: Somewhat, but perhaps because it was a women's college, it was calm yet still quite political. During the Vietnam War there were teach-ins. There was a lot of political awareness but no violence. After Kent State at end and of my my senior year, I remember and we went out into the neighborhoods, doing some canvassing. I don't even remember what we said or did, but I remember going with my friend, and knocking on doors, and I guess asking about the war. It's vague to me now. My senior year, finals were canceled, and classes were canceled, because that was right around when the killings at Kent State happened. That was a pretty tough time. But is was also an exciting time fun time. Three of my friends were getting married that summer, and I was going to be in two of the weddings.

ZIERLER: What were your options after graduating? What did you want to do?

GREEN: I didn't know. My senior year, I took the federal civil service test, I applied to law school, and I applied to a master's in guidance and counseling. This is me just covering my bases. In the end, I ended up going to Teachers' College, which is part of Columbia, to get a master's in guidance and counseling.

ZIERLER: You went to New York?

GREEN: Three of my friends from college and I shared shared an apartment. in Riverdale in the Bronx. They were all connected with Columbia. One was becoming a physical therapist. One was getting a master's in teaching and the other a masters in the history of education.

ZIERLER: The campus, just a few years earlier, was literally on fire.

GREEN: It was.

ZIERLER: Was it still like that when you arrived, or that had sort of calmed down?

GREEN: It had calmed down. Teachers College is right next door to the main campus. The student there are usually older and focused on their professional aspirations. There were some people young like me, but I was one of the youngest ones in the group of my cohort.

ZIERLER: From where you grew up, going to an all-women's college, how was the adjustment of gritty Upper Manhattan for you?

GREEN: Good. I always liked New York. My best friend from college lived in Scarsdale, right outside New York City. Sometimes I would visit her on spring break, and we'd go into New York. I wasn't sophisticated, and didn't know New York that well, but I loved being there. I still like New York, but I don't really have much occasion to visit.

ZIERLER: It was a master's in education?

GREEN: Mm-hmm, with a focus on guidance and counseling, because I thought I would become a high school guidance counselor, but then I changed my mind.

ZIERLER: Was that realization in real time at Columbia or, from your first job, you realized this wasn't what you wanted to do?

GREEN: No, it was while I was at Columbia that I decided that I did not want to work in a high school. But I liked the idea of being involved with students, and so I thought maybe I could get a position in an admissions office. I got a job in Northern Wisconsin at the small school that I mentioned earlier. Very few professional people were on staff. I was there for two years, and that's when I was encouraged to get a PhD, and maybe have a chance to work in the dean of students office at Purdue.

ZIERLER: Who gave you that advice to go for the PhD?

GREEN: The man who was the dean of students in the office where I worked. He had worked in the dean of men's office at Purdue. Then he had moved on to be the dean of students at this small school. He just said, "You should do that - get a Ph.D."

ZIERLER: You're single too? It's just you?

GREEN: I'm single, yes.

ZIERLER: Unfettered, you can go wherever?

GREEN: Yes. I didn't get married till I was 38, so I was single for a long time in my life.

ZIERLER: What year did you arrive at Purdue?

GREEN: The Fall of 1973.

.ZIERLER: It was for the PhD program?


ZIERLER: Did you work in administration during the PhD also?

GREEN: Yes, I had an internship first in the dean of women's office, as I mentioned earlier, and then those offices combined. The next year, I was hired for a part-time position as assistant dean of students. For the next three years, while I was in school, I was also a half-time assistant dean of students.

ZIERLER: From [laugh] '73 to 2018, you go from assistant dean of students to associate dean of students?

GREEN: Right, not so much different in title but very different in terms of responsibility.

ZIERLER: [laugh] Was that useful having the professional experience embedded in the PhD program?

GREEN: Yes, very useful—very useful for me.

ZIERLER: You're being a practitioner while you're learning.

GREEN: Right, exactly. It was also extremely convenient because I could just walk across campus to see my PhD advisor. I didn't have to work or intern at another campus. It was easily accessible.

ZIERLER: What did you do your thesis on?

GREEN: It was called something like Behavioral Self-Control and Academic Achievement. I did experiments with small groups of students who were on academic probation.One group received training in a behavioral self-control technique, which is self-reward. Another group received support and career advice. There were one or two control groups who received no treatment This was almost 50 years ago. I don't think my professors cared as much that I came up with some discovery as that I had the experience of knowing how to do research, how to do the statistics, how to design it, and so forth. I was hurrying through it because my advisor was going to Germany the next year, and I didn't want to have to be just—

ZIERLER: In limbo?

GREEN: Yes, for a whole year. I just worked really hard to do as much as I could as quickly as I could.

ZIERLER: You defended what year?

GREEN: In 1976, and then I stayed as a full-time assistant dean after that for a year at Purdue, knowing that I just wanted a year to figure out what I want to do, where I'd go,. Then I left in '77 to come to Whittier College.

ZIERLER: What was the opportunity at Whittier? How did you hear about it?

GREEN: I found the ad in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

ZIERLER: Southern California seemed attractive to you?

GREEN: It did, and I had a couple of friends here.

ZIERLER: It helped?

GREEN: Yeah, it did. I had two friends, three actually, who lived within the LA area, and that made it easier when I first got here, just to know a few people.

ZIERLER: Tell me about Whittier, how far back it goes, what its mission is.

GREEN: It's been around for a long time, maybe since 1887. I think it was established in a certain way, and then maybe changed a bit. It has a Quaker heritage, and I believe that was something special about it. The way the faculty made decisions at that time in the faculty meeting was through consensus, and there was no voting. There was something charming about it. It was a small school, liberal arts, with a group of very devoted faculty who cared a lot about students, but obviously about education and so forth. Whittier has had some problems recently, but they're back on the right track. It had a fair number of Latino students, because of the location. That number has increased a lot now. I got a lot of support coming in with a professional degree as the dean of students there. They had had deans before, but a professional had never held the position. I really liked my time there.

ZIERLER: How did you hear about the opportunity at Caltech? Was there a Southern California connection there?

GREEN: Kind of. I knew Chris, and I knew Gary Lorden.

ZIERLER: From where?

GREEN: The deans in the area at the small schools would get together usually twice a year.

ZIERLER: Oh wow.

GREEN: It was great. The Claremont deans, the Caltech people, Occidental deans , deans from as far out as Redlands would—

ZIERLER: A meeting of the minds?

GREEN: Yeah. It was great, because we'd usually have an informal program, for example a speaker of interest. But then the lunch was probably just as valuable, because we just got to know each other, and talk about the problems and the good things that were going on on our campuses. I liked that, and so I knew them—David Wales also. It's just been a sad year with David. I also read his interview too.

ZIERLER: I'm very lucky I got him.

GREEN: Yes, I know. I wish you got Gary Lorden too. That would've been good.


GREEN: They're very good friends of mine.


GREEN: Whittier got a new president in 1989 He had come from the University of Miami. He didn't have a lot of experience with student affairs professionals, and really believed that faculty members should lead any office like that. Before his first official day, I met with him, and he said, "I'm going to appoint faculty member so-and-so as the dean of students, and you don't have a job anymore." It wasn't quite as mean sounding as that. It was a shock to me, because I had never had—I mean, no one's perfect, right—but I never had had any criticism really. Anyway, my associate dean and I, we no longer had jobs. I wrote—this was in the days where we didn't have email—I wrote letters to all my contacts in the area, mostly the vice presidents for student affairs in the different schools in the area. I wrote to Professor Jim Morgan who was VP here, because I had met him when I had been on a WASC team, Western Area Schools and Colleges accreditation team at Caltech a couple years prior to that. That was another way that I knew these faculty members.

GREEN: I had to write a report for WASC on what I thought about the way things were going in student affairs . I guess Caltech found it helpful Anyway, Jim Morgan, must have thought I did a good job. There happened to be a vacancy in the associate dean position, because the current associate dean just had been appointed by Gary Lorden as his assistant vice president for student affairs One afternoon I got a phone call from Dean Chris Brennen, and he said, "Are you still available?" I said, "Yes." He said, "I can't say anything right now, but there may be a vacancy." It unfolded from there. I interviewed for an interim position, because they needed someone right away. They interviewed me, and I got the job. Then they did a search during the spring term of my first year, and they interviewed some other people, and I got the job again, so here I am.

ZIERLER: Had you known Chris well enough, what a lovely man he is, how good it would be worked for him?

GREEN: I did not know him well, but I knew him somewhat, and I certainly had a very good feeling about him. I knew Gary maybe even a little better than I knew Chris at that time.

ZIERLER: Now, at this point, you're married already?

GREEN: I had just gotten married in 1987

ZIERLER: To a Whittier professor?

GREEN: To a Whittier professor.

ZIERLER: You get this job. The decision is made, move to Pasadena?

GREEN: My husband had been married previously, and already was living in Pasadena. His son was at Polytechnic School and so forth. There was no—

ZIERLER: He was already making the commute?

GREEN: Yeah. He'd been making the commute for years. It was just great that I got a job in Pasadena, because I had an offer at a Marymount College on the peninsula. That would have been a very long drive. But, anyway, I was very lucky, because we lived in the house we live in now, and so it's three miles from my office to here, and it was a great job.

ZIERLER: How was the transition? Obviously, Caltech and Whittier are—

GREEN: So different.

ZIERLER: —very different schools.

GREEN: So different.

ZIERLER: How did that register on a day-to-day basis for you?

GREEN: The main thing I realized pretty quickly, even though, of course, the students here are extraordinary in terms of ability and so forth, that students are students.

ZIERLER: That doesn't make them any more mature or wise to the world?

GREEN: No, and they had some of the same issues. There wasn't the academic struggle. Well, anyway, for some people at Whittier, there was a struggle. But mostly it was just the way you talk to people, the way you support students is really not different. I learned at Whittier that it was very important to connect with faculty members, and I made a point of doing that here so I knew—

ZIERLER: Are there formal channels to do that, or is it more just—

GREEN: Not really.

ZIERLER: —visiting and schmoozing and getting to know people?

GREEN: Having lunch, yeah. No, there weren't any real formal channels. Chris probably said, "Oh, you should get to know so-and-so." I was on an academic review committee. It's called UASH, Undergraduate Academic Standards and Honors Committee. Through that committee, which was mostly faculty, I met a lot of faculty members, including people who became the dean. Rod Kiewiet was on that committee at one point. Jean-Paul Revel was on that committee. It was a good way to get to know faculty who were interested in students. I think it paid off in ways of just, well, I like people. But also it was useful to have a relationship so that if I had a student who was having some real difficulty I could just call the faculty member, and say, "So-and-so is really struggling." I tried not to ask too often, because I wanted people to know that I would try to be very thoughtful, and not let students take unfair advantage of me, because I was willing to try to be helpful. Having the trusting relationships with faculty members was good. I hope that I had respect, and so therefore I maybe was able to accomplish some things for individual students.

ZIERLER: In developing those relationships with faculty, how did that improve your capacity to do your job well? What did that mean, developing those relationships?

GREEN: It meant that people knew my reputation, and so if I said something they'd know I would be thoughtful.

ZIERLER: Was it important for faculty to know that you're a resource?


ZIERLER: Are faculty often the first line of defense for when it's apparent that students are having problems?

GREEN: Yes, particularly certain faculty members. Others were not so aware.

ZIERLER: Some are clueless?

GREEN: It was very important for faculty to know that they could call me, and that I would help handle the situation. Absolutely. Most of my work was working with individual students. Of course, we had programs we planned, and initiatives we would take. But, for me, the day-to-day work was the students who wanted to come in and talk about what was going on, mostly about their academic situations. But there's always something that affects the academic situation. Maybe the parents are getting divorced. Maybe there's a death in the family. Maybe the kids are sick. Who knows? A lot of my work was really just doing that one-on-one work, which is really what I like. That's the thing I miss.

ZIERLER: Pretty closely related to the guidance and counseling experience from Columbia—

GREEN: Yes, exactly.

ZIERLER: —at least informally.

GREEN: Right. No, that's right.

ZIERLER: Barbara, I wonder if you could reflect on the balance, you know, when a student comes to you, the difference between handing them a solution, and giving them the tools to solve it themselves?

GREEN: That was always my goal, to give them tools. Sometimes you just have to say, "OK, but you really need a tutor." Seeing that they weren't going to do anything about it, I'd say, "I can help you find one." I wouldn't make them do anything. There is a balance. It's not all just saying, "You figure it out." But I remember one student coming in one time, very unhappy with the way a faculty member—I can't remember what the faculty member was doing, nothing terrible, just maybe not happy with the way they were being graded. This was in the old days where there was no email. I think that student wanted me to intervene. But instead I helped them compose a letter—because they were too shy to go see this professor—just a very nice letter, explaining, and maybe asking if they could meet. I tried to do things—not that I was helping people write letters later on—but helping them do things where they would learn, so then later in life, they would have those kinds of skills. But I did help them directly too, or I would reach out. I remember this—this is a more recent one—where a young woman was not happy in her major, and was crying about it and told me what she really liked. I knew of a female faculty member in her preferred field. I called the faculty member, and said, "Could you meet with so-and-so? She's thinking of changing into your area, but she's quiet and not so self-confident." The faculty member said, "Absolutely." I got the student to go see her. I did part of it, but I didn't do the whole thing. I just encouraged the student to go and talk. She did switch her major, and graduated, and she went onto grad school in that new major. It's just different kinds of ways. Never wanting to enable them to be too dependent but rather be able to think for themselves, but also knowing that they're 18 and 19 and 20 but not always able to act in the way that a more mature adult could.

ZIERLER: What were the kinds of issues that you would have to kick up the chain of command? It sounds like so many of the things that you did, you're just working with the students, and you're helping them, and it ends there. When would you involve the dean of students, VP for student affairs? What would those kinds of issues look like?

GREEN: I'm trying to think, because a lot of what I did, I just did by myself, But I would usually talk to the dean. This developed more into a more formalized thing as time went on. But in the early days, I would usually talk to Chris or talk to Jean-Paul , just say, "I met with so-and-so, and I'm pretty concerned. I think it's being handled OK, but I want you to know about it." But then starting in 2002, we put together a group called Students of Concern. I chaired it . It included the head of the counseling center, the head of residence life, some of the younger staff called residence life coordinators who lived in with the students but were paid professionals. It was obviously confidential. We would talk about different concerns we have. The counseling center director of course, wouldn't share anything that she knew or he knew, but would take in and hear information so that that might even help them as they're working with individual students. It'd be more likely that I would involve the counseling center rather than like the VP for student affairs if I was worried about the safety of a student or for example, an eating disorder. I also involved the health center. I didn't work all on my own. I did talk to other staff because I valued the input from other people. There were excellent staff and the numbers of them increased over time. But for the minor routine issues I didn't really consult with others.. There were some students who came to see me a lot. They might have just needed some kind of emotional support—maybe sometimes they didn't even need anything; they just wanted to check in with me.

ZIERLER: What about the moral and legal considerations of involving parents? What kind of latitude do you have there when you see that parental involvement? They're adults even though they're so young. What are the considerations there?

GREEN: There are a lot of considerations. It's tricky because you—

ZIERLER: Can you ever go to the parents without the students knowing about it?

GREEN: I would always tell a student first if I was going to talk to their parents. For example, there was a student who was really abusing alcohol, and he'd gotten himself into trouble in town. I don't think he was arrested. I had known that he had been drinking way too much for at least six months. I can't remember exactly. But once it got to where I thought his safety was involved or jeopardized, I said, "I have to call your parents. This is really serious. But what I'd like you to do is call them first from my office. Then when you're done talking with them, I'm going to come in and talk with them too." That's just an example of a way to handle it if the parents really need to be involved. When students—unfortunately, this has happened—when students have threatened to take their life or lives, I consult with the counseling center. It got to the point where the lawyers, pretty much, if there was an attempt, then the lawyers insisted that we tell the parents. Things changed a lot over the years with regards to the involvement of attorneys and understandably so because—

ZIERLER: There are liabilities at stake here.

GREEN: Yes. In the early days, I'm sure there were liabilities as well, but it just didn't feel quite like things had to be cleared all the time. I had, in some ways, more autonomy in the early days.

ZIERLER: It's a difficult question, but unfortunately there have been students who have taken their lives at Caltech. It's an extraordinarily difficult set of circumstances. What does that mean for you when that horrible event happens? Are you in crisis mode because of the cascading effects this could have on the student community as a whole?

GREEN: Yes. Not just me though.

ZIERLER: Yeah. The campus kicks into gear?

GREEN: Yes, particularly the counseling center, the residence life people, the RAs. In some of the cases, I've been the point person with the parents. Usually the police would tell the parents. For my first 10 years at Caltech, there was no suicide of an enrolled undergraduate. Then more recently it became a much more serious issue on campus. But it takes a lot of involvement with family, with all parts of the Caltech community/. Of course, the president's involved. In one case, Jean-Lou and I went together visit the family of a student who took his life.

ZIERLER: It's a tough, tough question.

GREEN: Yeah. It's a legitimate question. The Dean's office would be—heaven forbid there's another one—they would be involved, and it's appropriate. Even when an undergraduate student died due to illness I was the main contact with the family,

ZIERLER: Barbara, let's move on to the happier side. It's not all doom and gloom with the students.

GREEN: I know.

ZIERLER: What are some of the things where students would share their successes and their joys with you?

GREEN: Our office was responsible for supporting students for particular kinds of fellowships . There's a fellowship's office that does certain things, but then our office handled something called the Goldwater Fellowship. Very often, we would—especially my administrative assistant with my help—would help prepare the applications and so forth, and we'd coach the students. When they'd win, it would be very exciting.

ZIERLER: Would students follow up if they were experiencing difficulties, and then you helped them overcome that, and they would want to share that good news, express appreciation?

GREEN: Yes. It's really interesting how some people that we helped wouldn't express much, and then others that you didn't know you helped much—I remember, especially around graduation times, some years, I would get some flowers from somebody, and "Thank you so much, Dean Green, for all your help." I would be like, "I didn't help them that much." Then there'd occasionally be others that I spent a ton of time with and

ZIERLER: It didn't register with them?

GREEN: Right, and that's OK too. It's just that people are different. Families are different. Some families knew that I helped, and were so gracious, and others didn't. But that's OK.

ZIERLER: Would students ever see you as a resource for, you know, "I'm a senior. What do I do with my life now?" Would you engage with them on that level?

GREEN: Very informally, yeah, but not regularly. I remember one person who was sure she was going to go to medical school. Then at the end, she really decided she wanted to be a lawyer. It wasn't through a lot of conversation with me, but we did talk about it. She stayed in touch with me fro many years after she graduated, But I mostly would try to refer them to the appropriate people who knew more about different career paths. But sometimes I'd try to link people with people, with alums I knew also, like, "Oh you really should meet with so-and-so. He's in the area. If you're thinking about going into a start-up or something, maybe you should talk to so-and-so."That was just a result of the long time that I worked at Caltech, so I knew people. I don't mean I did that all the time, but I was able to be helpful sometimes.

ZIERLER: At least informally, were you active with the alumni groups, the Alumni Association?

GREEN: Informally, not terribly active, mostly because of time. I was just pretty concentrated on what I did, but, yeah, to some degree.

ZIERLER: Were the summers quieter because there's fewer students around? What does that look like?

GREEN: In the early years, yes, but then more and more SURF students were staying on campus. Of course, everybody takes a vacation, so then the people who are there have more to do. Yes, summer was always slower than the academic year, but it really wasn't quiet because we were always planning orientation. I helped out the admissions office a few times. For example I went to San Diego, and a couple of local cities to meet groups of incoming students and their parents. Somehow there was always something to do. But, yes, I was always happy when summer came, because it was a relief, just for a little change.

ZIERLER: Did you have a window at all into how Caltech decided on admissions? Did you see that process?

GREEN: Not much. Most of the time, if there was a very young applicant, they would ask me to also read the application, and give my thoughts.

ZIERLER: You're looking on are they able to come here?

GREEN: Right.

ZIERLER: This is like a whiz kid, who would be fine in the classroom, but how will they hold up as a—

GREEN: How could they live in the residence halls? I would be pretty involved, probably not so much in saying yes or no, but giving my advice.

ZIERLER: How did you take on the students with disabilities role?

GREEN: My colleague, who was the assistant vice president for student affairs, knew a lot about that, and was assisting both grads and undergrads,.. This was probably in 2000. Maybe in 2000, or before that, not that many people with learning disabilities would identify themselves, and so there wouldn't be formal accommodations.

ZIERLER: There might have been stigmas before that might not be so prevalent now.

GREEN: Yes. Many more students are diagnosed with disabilities now. Anyway, my colleague, Assistant VP Dr. Sharyn Miller asked me if I could take over the undergrads, and she would just assist the grads. Then when she left Caltech, I just took over the whole thing. I don't even know if it was official - It was pretty informal. But I went to conferences. I tried to learn as much as possible about how to do this, and what the laws were, and so forth. Then I just kept doing it. Then when I retired a couple of my colleagues did it for a while, but then they decided or the Institute decided, "Let's hire a full-time person." When I was doing it, there was no need for a full-time person.There was a lot of informal accommodation by me for students who had legitimate issues

ZIERLER: Did you ever interact with trustees, particularly those who were interested in student affairs issues?

GREEN: Not much. That would really be more the dean and the vice president for student affairs.

ZIERLER: Who would be relying on your reporting, because you're closest?


ZIERLER: Were there ever—I guess my question is, how did you systematize all of these individual stories for a trustee or a president or a provost who wants, like, what we now call the campus climate, the overall sense of how are our students doing? How would you either formally or informally systematize that information into a digestible bit of information?

GREEN: I don't think I would be the one to really do that. It would be the dean, based on knowing what our work has been. But I don't think I really ever was—I mean, I certainly have, at least once or twice, spoken at trustee retreats. I also was involved in preparing the WASC report, but the focus was there was the honor code.

ZIERLER: What about, just as you look back, were there years or eras where students had it easier or harder like, you saw the rise of social media, and the many ways that this has impacted students. Can you think about, again, the idea of systematizing all of these individual stories, all of these individual interactions, and how you might step back and think about what was the student experience in the '90s versus the 2000s? Are you able to paint that broader picture, or you're so much in the day-to-day, there really isn't that time to step back and look at it like that?

GREEN: I was very much in the day-to-day, but I do think the '90s were easier than the 2000s. It seemed like the number of problems increased the student traffic load. I saw many more students in the 2000's. I can separate it from when I was in this office in Parsons-Gates, versus when I moved over to Center for Student Affairs, Student Services. I'm sure I saw more students with more problems, personal problems, maybe disability issues that were identified. But beyond that, I'm not sure I can really systematize it.

ZIERLER: Would you hazard to, one, explain why things got more difficult from the '90s to the 2000s? Obviously, these are things that go beyond campus?

GREEN:t The media says"Oh, youth in the 2000s or more recently have more problems." I don't know, I really don't. The world may have become more stressful.

ZIERLER: There's September 11th right there as well.

GREEN: Yeah, right. It's just a different world,. Maybe there were—and I'm just speculating—maybe there were more family issues during the recession in 2008 and '09. I can't think of a particular example, but I'm just saying maybe things at home for some of the students were more difficult.

ZIERLER: Did the pullback, the 2008 recession, the way that Caltech had to, like all institutions, really look at its budget in a hard way, did that affect you at all? Were resources scaled back?

GREEN: Yes they were. They were for a while. We had hired, maybe for two or three years previous, an excellent advisor for the student newspaper. I knew him because he advised the Whittier College newspaper too. He wasn't a faculty member there. We had to let him go, even though his salary was rather low. But he really helped the students improve the student newspaper tremendously. That was, for me, a sad thing because The Tech had become a much better newspaper under his guidance, That year also, we were not able to take the freshmen off campus for their orientation. Before that, all the freshmen went to Catalina for two or three nights with faculty members and student affairs staff, and had a variety of programs. It was a great way for the freshmen to bond as a class before they were then sorted into the different houses, and pressured by the upperclassmen during rotation. It was a nice way for faculty members to just hang out and talk informally with the new students and the student leaders who joined us.Usually the faculty who wanted to attend were the ones who really liked students. Catalina was not such a glamorous place to be, but those were really good days. Then Catalina became not acceptable, the food got terrible, and we needed a new location.We went to some other places that were pretty nice and a bit more luxurious . But, anyway, that year, I guess, maybe that was 2009, we had orientation on campus, and I thought that was a loss. It was still OK. Students still met each other but it wasn't the same as being away. Unfortunately, new student orientation is now held on campus. I think it is a loss of a valuable long tradition that began long before I arrived at Caltech.

ZIERLER: You don't get the bonding experience?

GREEN: You don't, I really don't think so. We had to do it. That was a way to try to save money. Maybe we lost a support staff person in that era too. But I always have had good staff to support me.

ZIERLER: Barbara, two big questions that are very unique to Caltech, I wonder if you have insight on. This is a more recent development, but undergraduates have been voting with their feet to major in computer science, which is overwhelmingly the most popular major in the way that physics was in the '50s and '60s, and everybody wanted to be the next Richard Feynman, right?


ZIERLER: What's the takeaway for you in terms of what computer science means in society, what the motivations for students are in focusing on computers, what that means in terms of being more oriented in fundamental learning versus learning that's oriented toward a career? What did you see from your perch?

GREEN: My sense is that some people who went into computer science were just fascinated with it, I mean, not as a career necessarily, but they really liked the subject and were good at it. But my sense is some others just thought, "If I go into computer science, I'll get a job that will pay me very well," which it did. Caltech still requires the core so no matter what a student majors in, the undergraduates get a very well rounded science education. Everybody has had physics and math and biology and all the fundamental areas of knowledge. I don't know how Caltech could accommodate more students in CS.

ZIERLER: Yeah. It's a huge administrative challenge. How do you cater to the student interests while also having the balance of the six divisions?

GREEN: Right.

ZIERLER: I think one exciting opportunity there is that it's computer science X, right, that you can apply computer science to—

GREEN: So much.

ZIERLER: —to biology, to chemistry, to physics.

GREEN: In fact, you have to.

ZIERLER: Yeah, because all sciences now, data science in some way or another—

GREEN: They all need computer people who know about computer science.

ZIERLER: The other overall question—this is much bigger than your tenure at Caltech—people, for as famous and well known as Caltech is, when I tell people there's only 900 students here, it's smaller than a medium-sized high school, from your perspective, what are the advantages and disadvantages of Caltech being so big in terms of its impact and yet so small in terms of its student body? What does that mean for you?

GREEN: There's a real advantage for the undergraduates in terms of the opportunities. If you want to do summer research, you can. You don't have to be—

ZIERLER: You mean real research?

GREEN: Yeah.

ZIERLER: Not like experiential learning?


ZIERLER: Doing real research with a professor?

GREEN: Yes, you can. the summer undergraduate research program( SURF) is terrific. There are some students who've gotten really great opportunities, who were not the best students, but they still were able to get into the lab. Sometimes then that really motivates them, and they can go on. But they also can meet faculty members easily. They can go to the office of most. I'm sure there's some faculty maybe who may not be as available. But most faculty members are available to help students who need it.

The community that's formed among the students is unusual - mostly everybody has seen everybody. They may not know everybody's name. But probably all the undergrads have at least laid eyes on each other. It's a special place, and good in so many ways. They're at a place that's world famous. Having a degree from Caltech is a pretty big deal and opens many doors.. I remember an evening where I was invited to Blacker House when Stephen Hawking was the guest of honor at dinner. It was thrilling for the students to have a chance to interact with him.

The close connections with faculty members, some of whom are Nobel Prize winners, is also impressive. Bob Grubbs is a great example of a faculty member who cared about his students.

ZIERLER: Another person we sadly lost recently.

GREEN: I know. It's terrible. With a particular undergraduate who had difficulties but was brilliant, Bob was just wonderful. He was very interested in the student, and called me occasionally. "Oh, how's our student doing?" But my sense is there's that personal touch from a lot of faculty. Gary Lorden for example. I remember, when he was the VP for student affairs, a student would meet with him regularly for math tutoring in the VP Office. . Impressive - he's teaching, he's doing research, but he has time to—

ZIERLER: Or he makes time.

GREEN: He makes time to help this one student, because the person is struggling in his class. There's a lot good about Caltech. There may be some disadvantages socially .

ZIERLER: You were lucky enough to see Nobel Prizewinning celebrations on campus?


ZIERLER: What was that like? I'm jealous. I've been here only since 2021. I'm waiting for this to happen for the next faculty awards.

GREEN: It was exciting. I remember particularly one year, there were two Nobel Prizes award to Caltech faculty.. One was Ed Lewis, and I can't remember who the other one was. But they had a big celebration that included students out on the lawn in front of the Ath. It was great. I also remember when David Politzer got the prize. He would often come to orientation camp and also taught freshmen physics so we knew him. That was exciting.

ZIERLER: When did you start thinking about retiring?

GREEN: I am not sure when I first thought about it. I didn't think about it for a long time, and then I eventually decide to work until I was 70.

ZIERLER: A nice round number.

GREEN: Yeah. It helps with social security too. I loved my work. I loved the students and the many student affairs colleagues with whom I worked over the years.

ZIERLER: You got out before COVID hit.

GREEN: I did. I am so grateful—


GREEN: —because I know it was tough on my colleagues. Talking face-to-face is so different than talking on Zoom.

ZIERLER: Sure. I can only imagine, for your successor, the students and the isolation that they felt. For all the problems that you had to deal with, at least there wasn't a pandemic raging.

GREEN: Right. Oh yeah.

ZIERLER: It's all of those problems plus the pandemic.

GREEN: I would've been very worried about the students. The students are isolated in their homes, unable to work together, Much of what they do here in the residence halls is approved collaboration. They work together on problems. It's a good way to learn. It's what happens in the real world of science. But there they are, sitting at home.

ZIERLER: Did you have a well-defined retirement plan, how you'd spend your time?

GREEN: Not really. We've traveled quite a bit but, of course, not during COVID.

ZIERLER: You've got two years in—

GREEN: Right.

ZIERLER: —and hopefully you've resumed a little bit.

GREEN: Yes we have

ZIERLER: Are your kids nearby?

GREEN: My son lives in Los Angeles, and my daughter lives in Oakland. She's near enough. I wish she was closer, but I go up and see her. It's so easy to go from Burbank, and get there in an hour. Our son used to come and sit in the backyard during COVID. I didn't have a particular plan. I knew I like traveling. I like to spend time with my husband and my kids. I read. I watch the news on TV too much. I talk to friends. I have lunch with friends. I've just joined the League of Women Voters. I'm not much of a joiner, but I did decide that I wanted to do that. I write letters for this organization called Vote Forward, and it just is an organization that encourages voting. I did that. I've done that before in different elections.

ZIERLER: We need that.

GREEN: Yes. I like doing that. I'm not the kind of person who would like to be on a phone bank, calling people. But writing letters, and there's a format that you use, and then you have your own little paragraph, so it's quite simple. But I've written a lot of letters. It's not taking time right now but it will again. In fact, I have to buy some stamps soon because the price is going up on Sunday.

ZIERLER: OK. [laugh]

GREEN: Every summer, we go east, and see family and friends. Except for the first COVID summer, we've done that.

ZIERLER: Have you remained connected at all, at least informally, with campus, with former colleagues? You keep tabs on what's going on?

GREEN: Yeah, to some degree; not too much. But, yes, I occasionally see them for lunch. During COVID, a couple times, a couple of different colleaguesa would come and meet me in my backyard, and we'd have a glass of wine, and chat about what's going on. I do see them, but I don't know everything that's going on. I'm always interested though, of course, because I was here for so long, and care about how things go too.

ZIERLER: If I may bring our conversation to a close on a reflective note.

GREEN: Sure.

ZIERLER: Caltech is so proud of its undergraduates. They go on to do such amazing things.

GREEN: They do.

ZIERLER: For all the ways that you've helped students over the years, and in light of what they've gone on to do, and revolutionized society through science and engineering and technology, what is most personally satisfactory to you for the role you've played, in a composite sense? Not for any one particular student, but stepping back and putting it all together, what you've been able to do for the students, and how that helped them go on to do what they're doing now, what does that mean for you?

GREEN: I hope, and I guess I believe, that I have helped some students graduate who might not have. The problems had nothing to do with their ability but just psychological or personal issues that have gotten in the way. I've been able to advocate for them, for example—although I am thinking of one person but it's a broader thing—to UASH, the committee that decides whether or not a student can continue if they've failed their classes or fail some classes, because I was on UASH, and would know the student—

ZIERLER: UASH is an acronym, an abbreviation?

GREEN: Yes, it's an abbreviation for Undergraduate Academic Standards and Honors Committee, UASH.


GREEN: Yeah, I know it's—

ZIERLER: It's a jargony one.

GREEN: —jargon, yeah. But that committee, like any Academic Review Committees mostly faculty. There are a couple of students members, and the deans are on it. Because I would almost always know the students who had to appear in front of that committee, I was able to shed some light on what the real issues are, and advocate for giving students another chance. I'm sure some people saw me as maybe too soft. Some of them just would fail out,. But then there were others who could make it through, and go on. There's one student who ended up in David Baltimore's lab when he was a senior. But as a sophomore, he was failing everything, and then later on in life went on to become a doctor. It's not because of me; I don't mean that. But he needed somebody who knew the committee members to say, "OK, but, look when he does his work, he gets A's. When he gets F's, it's not because he can't do his work, ; it's because he didn't."

I've gotten many students to get psychological help,. That makes a difference for people.

ZIERLER: You've probably played a role in saving some students.

GREEN: Yes. I have. I'm sure some people ask why didn't we save everybody? But it's not possible, unfortunately. But, yeah, I am sure that along with others in student affairs we saved quite a few people.

ZIERLER: Finally, Barbara, looking to the future, using your powers of extrapolation, what are the things that the Institute always needs to keep top of mind in its capacity to best serve its undergraduate students? What are some of those timeless values and priorities that you've seen and that are important to keep going into the future?

GREEN: Maybe my answer is obvious. It is very important, of course, to continue to have good faculty and good teaching and research opportunities for undergraduates. There also need to be people who are on campus to really support the students. Everybody who gets into Caltech, I believe, has the ability to graduate. But some of them really need support for a while. I hope Caltech will continue to hire people who will see that, and not think of it, oh, let's try to weed out the weak ones. I don't think there are any really weak ones. There's a range, of course. But it seems to me that it's just important that students be supported, and that we continue to have an excellent the counseling center, and that the students are encouraged to engage in other things besides academics, which lots of them do. We have a good athletic program, not just intercollegiate but intramurals where the undergraduate houses compete against each other , etc..

ZIERLER: There's drama and there's music.

GREEN: There's so much but yet students need to be guided to not get too involved also, because school is their priority.

ZIERLER: It sounds like what you're saying is that all students come in with their potential. It's just a matter of giving them the tools so that they can meet it.

GREEN: Yeah, that's right. It's very, very, very hard to get admitted to Caltech so the Institute should do all to can to help students succeed.

ZIERLER: What a precious investment it is for those who do get in.

GREEN: It is, yes. How difficult it must be for people who don't make it. That's also—and I'm going off track. But I do think it's important to continue to look for diversity, and get a wider variety of diversity, and maintain the population of women, because it makes for a better learning environment as well as helps individual students.

ZIERLER: Barbara, it's been a lovely and insightful conversation. I want to thank you so much for spending this time.

GREEN: Thank you.