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Lyles College of Engineering

Tiffany Barber

From truck driving to daycare, civil engineering grad finds success

Tiffany Barber wanted to see the country when she graduated from Bishop Noll Institute in Indiana, so she took on a truck driving job in 2006 that took her from Nashville, Tennessee, to Bakersfield on her first trip. It also led her to drive trucks in Iraq, where she delivered supplies to U.S. military bases.

After five years of truck driving, Barber moved to the Central Valley and started her own home daycare business. She didn’t want to miss any more special moments with her son after his daycare provider told her about something he did for the first time.

“You can't drive trucks and raise kids, so I racked my brain, and a daycare was really the only thing I could come up with where I could spend time with him and still earn money,” Barber said. 

Still wanting a career with a consistent schedule that provided stability for her and her family, Barber decided to go back to school in 2012. She took night classes at Fresno City College before transferring to Fresno State in 2017.

As she reflects on these significant moments of her journey, Barber is preparing to walk across the stage as a Fresno State graduate at the Lyles College of Engineering ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 16 at the Satellite Student Union. 

Barber completed a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering this semester. She is also the student speaker for the ceremony. 

“I can't wait to have my kids there so that they understand what this means,” Barber said. “They will recognize life, how it was before and how it will dramatically change after this, and that'll be the most gratifying for me.”

In 2013, Barber convinced her mother to move from Indiana to California to help run the daycare and care for her son and daughter while she took classes. With her help, Barber has managed what sometimes feels like an impossible balance of school, parenting and internships. 

“I’m so excited, I know how hard she has worked,” said Dorothy Goolsby, Barber’s mother. “I remember times when she would get frustrated, and sometimes the kids would spend the night with me just so that she could study, but I wanted to see her succeed and I knew as long as I kept pushing her forward, she would get there.”

Goolsby describes her daughter as a leader and someone who sets her mind to get things done. She thought engineering was the perfect fit for Barber who determined it was the right career path after taking a career counseling course at Fresno City College. 

Originally a mechanical engineering student when she transferred, Barber switched to civil engineering with a focus on water during her second semester at Fresno State. She is also an active member of the Fresno State Society of Women Engineers.

“I just love being a part of solutions to problems, and we have big issues in water here in California and also in electricity and climate change, and I know that there will always be something I can do to contribute.”

For her senior project, Barber and her classmates worked together to create a desalination plan to lower the salinity in the groundwater near a wastewater treatment plant in southwest Fresno. Barber and her team won best group presentation after presenting to industry members who were invited to judge the class presentations. 

Barber also recently completed a second internship with PG&E after learning about opportunities through Power Up, a professional civil engineering series that teaches students about different parts of the industry.

“I spend a lot of time trying to go to PTA meetings, volunteering in my kids’ classrooms and chaperoning field trips, and I knew that presidents of clubs and students with 4.0s would be applying so I thought, ‘why would they pick me?’” Barber said. “I was shocked when they called.”

During her first internship with PG&E, Barber worked on developing and improving formal work standards in electric operations. She did technical writing and helped implement a visual management program called Lean by adding visuals and charts to dashboards that the company used to meet upcoming goals.

Barber returned for a second internship, this time in gas operations where she helped the company implement mandates aimed at increasing community safety and helped teammates with the recommissioning of gas valves.

Barber said she would like to work for PG&E or design water treatment plans for a water research department after graduation. 

“This has been a long time in the making,” Barber said. “I feel incredible, and my kids love that we don't have to start movie night late anymore.”