Bonnie Barrer has come a long way since she graduated from Mankato Area Vocational Technical Institute, now known as South Central College, in 1981. She has spent more than twenty-seven years working in the beverage industry, beginning in frontline sales and working her way through account management, sales management, General Manager and Director of Sales and Marketing roles to her current position as Vice President and General Manager at Gillette Pepsi.
Barrer is a strong proponent of the value of education. “I knew that I’d need to further my education after high school to have a career,” she said. “I was very fortunate that it started me on a path in business.” Barrer said she used what she learned in college to advance in the positions that she held. In addition to academics, she said she gained valuable organizational and interpersonal skills while attending college.
Barrer said she was drawn to SCC because of its size and affordability. “It was affordable for me at the time. I was paying for my own college. I also liked that I could work in my field of study while attending classes. This allowed me to apply what I was learning and earn money to cover expenses,” she said. Barrer said she graduated from a small high school, and found it easy to transition to SCC because she found similarities. “One size doesn’t fit all,” she said, adding that being on a 20,000-student campus isn’t right for everyone. She said for some people, SCC is just not as overwhelming as a large university, and it has so much to offer.
When asked how SCC has changed since she attended, Barrer said the two-year transferable Associate in Arts degree was a very important addition, giving SCC students the availability to start working toward a four-year degree. In fact, SCC’s enrollment grew steadily after the Associate in Arts degree was added as an option for students.
Barrer said she has fond memories of the time she spent in college. The Sales and Marketing department was located at Union School on Broad Street when she was enrolled, with Nursing students on one floor of the building and Sales and Marketing students on another. “We were all very close as a department,” she said. She commented that Ray Bruce, who oversaw the Sales and Marketing program, knew everyone’s name and seemed concerned about students’ future plans, and she remembered that instructor Jim Mulvihill was always entertaining.
Barrer said she would definitely recommend SCC to others. “I think it’s an important and valuable institution for the community and the surrounding area. It definitely fills a need,” she said, noting SCC’s positive impact on both education and workforce development in the region. Barrer said Gillette Pepsi hires SCC graduates, and she describes them as well-trained and knowledgeable in their fields of study.
Barrer is part of an elite group as one of a handful of SCC Outstanding Alumni Award recipients. She has also served as President of the SCC North Mankato Campus Foundation Board of Directors, and volunteers on various committees. She helped to plan the 2016 SCC Golf Classic, now in its 22nd year.
In her personal life, Barrer has been married to Gary Barrer for 26 years and they have two college-age daughters who are both pursuing degrees in healthcare related fields. “We enjoy spending time at the lake—anything outdoors,” she said. In addition to water sports, favorite family activities include hunting, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.
To this day, Barrer often runs into classmates in the community… and when this happens they take some time to reminisce.
Submitted by Martha Broadbent Johnson, SCC North Mankato Campus Foundation
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