UMGC is excited to extend a warm welcome to alumna and U.S. Army Reserve Captain Deshauna Barber ‘15, who will be serving as the keynote speaker at Alumni Homecoming 2018. Barber will share with fellow alumni words of wisdom she has gained during her career in the military, her long road to becoming Miss USA 2016 and her motivational speaking business.
Barber joined the U.S. Army Reserve when she was 17 years old, following in the same footsteps both her parents and her siblings took. She commissioned as a Quartermaster Officer in 2011 and has been serving her country ever since. Her roles have included logistics commander for the 988th Quartermaster Detachment Unit in Fort Meade, Md., as well as IT analyst for the United States Department of Commerce. Today she serves as a company commander.
“I consider it to be a family tradition,” she said. “It’s something that runs through our veins — patriotism and service for this country.”
Poise and pageantry
Her life took an unexpected twist the summer between her freshman and sophomore years of college. Barber was working at her summer retail job when she was greeted by a woman who was impressed by her poise and appearance. This stranger approached a skeptical Barber and invited her to compete in the state beauty pageant. Barber balked at the idea at first—she was in the Army, and she couldn’t reconcile that important and serious part of herself with pageants—but the woman’s persistence paid off.
Barber decided to compete, but she lost. In fact, she lost for six years straight before finally winning the Miss District of Columbia pageant on her seventh try. Six months later, she won the national competition and became the first woman serving in the military to be crowned Miss USA.
Losing the competition for six years in a row did little to deter Barber. In fact, failure only strengthened her resolve to keep trying. “Don’t be afraid of no’s,” she insists. “Be afraid of the possibility of a yes that you have prematurely destroyed because you decided to quit before the clock strikes 12.”
Her beauty pageant victory provided her a way to give back to two of her passions: the military and her country. Thanks to her role as Miss USA, Barber was able to use her platform to partner with organizations that support military personnel and veterans. She has been a tireless advocate for soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Her UMGC connection
Along the way, Barber decided to enroll at UMGC to pursue her master’s degree in management information systems and services. She earned her degree in 2015 and eventually became a full-time motivational speaker. Now, Barber travels the world discussing mental illness in the military, overcoming child abuse, diversity and inclusion and the importance of being a fearless dream chaser.
In 2017, she had the opportunity to address members of the UMGC community at the morning commencement ceremony.
She told graduates about her years-long quest to become Miss USA and the importance of persevering when things don’t go your way. She offered her hard-won wisdom to the crowd: “I ask only one thing of you all after you leave this graduation. Do not fear failure. But, please, [do] be terrified of regret. Giving up is the birth of regret.”