Singing the praises of Lynn

Parent donor applauds the Institute for Achievement and Learning

Karen Barbash is a mom on a mission. She feels it’s her duty to tell other parents about Lynn University, especially about the work of its Institute for Achievement and Learning.

“If I can help someone be aware of how Lynn changes lives, then I will get on my soapbox and tell people exactly why I am so enthusiastic about this university,” she said. 

Evan and Ben Hirschman, Barbash’s bright, popular sons, had some learning challenges that made academics a struggle in their Maryland high school. Evan, five years older than Ben, resisted the idea of labeling himself a challenged student. He enrolled at the University of Arizona, seeking none of the academic support he’d been given in public school. After a disappointing start, the family heard about Lynn, and Evan transferred. 

“It was life-transforming for him,” Barbash said. “He was excited by the classes, loved his professors. I get goosebumps just thinking about the change in him. For the first time, he loved school and his self-confidence soared.” 

The institute’s staff and faculty helped Evan discover his strengths, and they used technology and academic strategies to help him overcome his weaknesses. 

“He graduated in 2015 with a business degree,” Barbash said. “He has done very well using his excellent people skills as a pharmaceutical sales rep. He’s absolutely thriving.”

Ben is now a junior at Lynn, studying digital media and journalism. He hopes for a career in sports journalism and is an intern at Sports Immortals, a sports memorabilia museum and gallery.

“It was his academic coach at the institute who noticed how articulate he was,” Barbash said. “She suggested he look into a communications major, and he absolutely loves it.”

The institute coached Ben so well, in fact, that he is no longer in the program, a true testament to its success.

Karen Barbash performing for a toddler

Soapbox or not, Barbash is a born storyteller. She worked as a senior environmental consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton, but after Ben was born, she wanted a change. When she took the boys to a music program for children—and realized she could do it better—she started Sing-a-long with Karen, a musical mommy-and-me program in the metro Washington, D.C. area.

“Honestly, I expected it to be very part-time,” said Barbash, a classically trained guitarist. “But it took off, and I was suddenly earning more in weekly classes and special events with babies and toddlers than I was at Booz Allen.”

With one son graduated and another enjoying a successful junior year, Barbash and her husband, Barry Barbash, partner with the law firm of Willkie, Farr & Gallagher LLP and co-head of the firm’s asset management department, enthusiastically support Lynn’s annual fund and have hosted admission recruitment events in the Washington, D.C., area for the last three years.

“I wish I could host 30 a year,” she said. “I want to tell every parent and every student who is on the fence between two schools that Lynn will change their lives.”

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