Born for this

Christyl Barnes explored several institutions, majors and career paths before finding her home at Mizzou. Now, as a master’s degree recipient and instructor at the Sinclair School of Nursing, she’s right where she belongs.

Christyl Barnes portrait

May 8, 2023
Contact: Marcus Wilkins,

Even when she’s rocking a pink power suit, Christyl Barnes exudes black and gold.

As one of the most popular instructors in the Sinclair School of Nursing, she commands the room and dispenses knowledge while maintaining a warmth and enthusiasm her students gravitate toward.

It’s one of the reasons why she received the 2023 Betty Crim Faculty Enhancement Award, which recognizes faculty excellence in undergraduate nursing education. With her master’s degree in nursing leadership soon in hand, Barnes will have completed the next step in her journey. It’s merely her latest accomplishment as she follows golden advice she received as an undergraduate at the MU Career Center: write down where you want to be and build a plan backward to get there.

Read on for a Q&A with Barnes about her Mizzou experience.

When did you decide to pursue nursing?

My mom was diagnosed with systemic lupus nephritis when I was born, which is an autoimmune disease that attacks the body. Because I helped take care of her as a teenager, her illness was, at first, the reason I thought I didn’t want to be a nurse. She always told me I was going to be a nurse, and part of my personality is that I’m a natural rebel. I tell my students, it’s good to be a rebel. It’s good to ask why. It’s good to stand up.

When I came to Mizzou from Chicago, I started off as a chemistry major. Then I switched to political science because I convinced myself I was going to be a politician. If it wasn’t for my sorority sisters suggesting we go check out nursing my sophomore year, I would have never come into it.

What makes a great nurse?

The best nurse is one who listens first, then advocates. We must trust ourselves.

There is a saying I use in the Sinclair School of Nursing: if you're confident, you’re competent. What does that mean? You must know who you are. You must believe in your abilities and your knowledge when you walk into that room so that you display competence.

That also means being respectful and advocating for patients in a way that’s going to get things done. People listen to nurses. People trust nurses. But they’re not going to trust a nurse who is timid. I try to instill this in my students.

Why do you love teaching at Mizzou?

I love coming to my job. Every day is exciting because I get to be surrounded by amazing students. We have shared experiences, and I get to see them be in organizations that I got to be in and see how they’re affecting change. They’re so excited, and we truly have students who are going to change the world. And if I can instill just a little bit of confidence in them, if I can empower them to be the best version of themselves, that’s all I need.

I’m lucky to be at Mizzou. Being an undergraduate student first — and now being a graduate student and an instructor — has allowed me a very cool lens through which to view the students. I know their experiences. I can see and I can connect with them in ways that people who aren’t in school can’t.

What are your plans after graduation?

I’m continuing my position at Mizzou, and I want to keep growing. I’d like to grow into a director role and eventually into academic leadership. So that's why I’d like to continue to pursue a doctorate. Then, hopefully, dean, provost and president of a university someday.

Meet more spring 2023 graduates

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