By Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau
Paula Barnes' career path took a radical detour, arriving at an unforeseen destination, but she still ended up in the right place.
Barnes, a Phoenix native, graduated from Grand Canyon University (then Grand Canyon College) in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance and from Baylor University in 1987 with a master’s in the same discipline.
She set out for Nashville with a music career in her sights. Some advice from Steve Green, who preceded her at Grand Canyon and became a successful recording artist, stuck with her.
“The first thing he said was to get grounded in a church,” recalls Barnes, who did just that at First Baptist Church in Nashville while trying to gain a foothold in the music industry.
While pursuing her dream, she hired on at law firms to make a living — and it blossomed into a career. Now with more than 13 years of experience as a legal administrator, Barnes is the new president of the Association of Legal Administrators, an international organization with 9,000 members who are involved in the management of law firms, corporate legal departments and government legal agencies.
She’s still in Nashville, working for the law firm of Burr & Forman. She’s still singing, though not as a professional. And her church — now Cross Point Church, a dynamic Christian community with five locations in the Nashville area — is still family to her.
It all worked out, just in unexpected ways.
“I think one of the primary things is that I have the confidence (from singing) to present myself in front of people,” says Barnes, who will find herself in that up-front role often as head of the ALA.
“From my instructors at Grand Canyon, I also learned how to lead, and that has carried through everything I’ve done.”
Barnes comes from a long line of Grand Canyon graduates that includes her father, mother, sister and brother. Her maternal grandfather, S.F. Hawkins, helped to build the original school in Prescott. Her sister, Sherbonne Barnes-Anderson, has sung opera in San Francisco.
"I never considered anywhere else (for college)," says Paula, who was in choirs, operas and even "The Sound of Music" at Grand Canyon. "It was always where I wanted to go."
Her brother, Stephen Barnes, graduated from Grand Canyon in 1981 and is a chartered financial analyst and certified financial planner in Phoenix who specializes in portfolio management. He was named to the University’s Hall of Fame last spring.
He says there isn’t much that his little sister can’t do.
“Her nature fits well with her career,” he says. “She’s intelligent and responsible, one of those people you turn something over to and you’re done with it.”
Paula, who grew up only half a mile from the Grand Canyon campus, says she feels rooted in Nashville.
“It’s such a welcoming city,” she says. “The people I’ve met here have loved on me and taken care of me.”
Contact Doug Carroll at 602.639.8011 or [email protected].