Between 1972 and 1976 Barbara K. Townsend completed all requirements for a doctorate in medieval English, except for the dissertation, at the University of Maryland. She then taught Basic English and Freshman Composition at Towson State University in Maryland from 1974 to 1976. Between 1976 and 1984 she taught Developmental English and Study Skills at Thomas Nelson Community College in Virginia. While working full-time at the community college she pursued a doctorate in higher education administration at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, a degree she completed in 1984. She moved to Buffalo, New York where she became a visiting assistant professor in Higher Education Leadership at the State University of New York at Buffalo from 1984 to 1986. She then worked at Loyola University in Chicago for several years where she became associate dean and was promoted to associate professor. From fall 1993 through fall 1998 she moved to the University of Memphis where she was promoted to full professor, became department chair for 3 years, and served as associate dean for 3 years. In January 1999, she moved to the University of Missouri to join the department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis as a full professor where she served as the Director for the Center for Community College Research.
Between 1976 and 2009, Dr. Townsend authored or edited 10 books and special journals, published over 40 empirical articles, and made over 100 presentations including some in Hong Kong and Shanghai. The primary focus of her research was the community college, especially its transfer mission and more recently its movement to offer an applied baccalaureate degree.
Dr. Townsend was the recipient of numerous professional awards including the 2009 American Educational Research Association’s Division J Eminent Scholar Award and the Council for the Study of Community College’s Distinguished Service Award. In 2009 she was presented with the University Of Missouri Status Of Women Committee’s Distinguished Service Award.
Dr. Townsend was one of the first scholars in Higher Education to write about the field of Higher Education, Community College, and Feminist Research. She mentored and advised numerous students across the country who currently are professors and administrators. Former students stated that Dr. Townsend supported them and challenged them to become better scholars and professionals. She cared meticulously about the precision of her writing and the quality of her research, qualities that she taught her students. She inspired and brought out the best in them. Her colleagues in the College of Education appreciated her tireless dedication to their success and the success of her department.