Originally published November 13, 2017 at 12:00a.m., updated November 14, 2017 at 02:36p.m.
“I play many roles, from being a mother to a community activist to a professor to a lead singer in a rock band,” says Carrie Hutchinson. “Society tells us that we must be one thing or ‘type’ of person, so it feels like an achievement to ignore that ubiquitous pressure.”
Carrie is the cofounder of the Santa Barbara chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice, or SURJ, which is a national network focused on moving white people to work toward equality for all races. “Folks in Santa Barbara have the perception they’re living in a utopian paradise,” says Carrie, who runs the monthly meetings and weekly correspondence. “Problems are not obvious to privileged people.” A big part of the SURJ philosophy is that major change happens when you talk to people in your own circle of influence.
A tenured professor at SBCC, Carrie is also the chair of the Department of Communication. She leads students on study abroad programs to such destinations as Australia, India, Rwanda, South Africa, and Cuba and writes for both academic and popular culture publications. Pointing to the Nelson Mandela quotation that hangs in her office — “Education is the greatest weapon we can use to change the world” — Carrie tells me, “I really like teaching. I feel I’m arming students.”
Born in Tarzana (“a valley girl through and through!”), Carrie took a train to Santa Barbara in 1993 for Halloween weekend. She was so smitten with UCSB that she didn’t apply anywhere else. Studying in Costa Rica her junior year made her passionate about learning internationally. She earned her master’s from Fullerton, but returned to UCSB for her PhD. “Something kept bringing me back here,” she laughs.
Though offered a position at Westmont College, Carrie opted for a year-long position teaching an international program through the University of Colorado. She taught 80 foreign students from 30 different countries and traveled through three continents. It was the adventure of a lifetime.
She’s also the lead singer of an ’80s cover band called Joystix, the latest in a string of bands over the past decade. She got into singing after a bad breakup, when heartbreak forced her to find something empowering. The answer was to become the lead singer of a rock band. She went on Craigslist and got the gig.
She met her husband, James Hutchinson, at the old Blue Agave. He’s CFO of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and she calls him a calm, deep soul compared to Carrie’s slightly manic, overextended whirling dervish. They have two kids, and they’re her greatest joys in life.
Dr. Carrie Hutchinson answers the Proust Questionnaire.
Who do you most admire?
People who have extreme challenges and still manage to laugh often and enjoy every day. I’ve traveled all over the world and these folks are everywhere, no matter how dire the circumstances. My anecdotal evidence supports the research that tells us only 10 percent of our happiness can be attributed to circumstance.
What do you like most about your job?
I love being a teacher because it allows me to inspire others to go out and be agents of change. I love being a community organizer for the same reason.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Happiness is chilling in my backyard with my husband and our dog, watching our kids play. What elevates the experience from “happiness” to “perfect happiness” is a cheese plate and red wine.
What is your greatest fear?
Regret, which is why I usually say yes to everything.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Cheese. When I was single, I ate cheese and crackers for dinner almost every night. I could happily live off cheese.
What is your current state of mind?
Hopeful and skeptical. These two states of mind are constantly battling for control over my psyche.
What is the quality you most like in people?
Passion. People who are passionate about something are intoxicating.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
Pickiness. I don’t want to split a chocolate-chip cookie with someone who picks out the nuts and talks about how much they hate nuts the entire time. It makes me want to take my cookie and run.
What do you most value in friends?
I value loyalty and accountability. Show up; be reliable; be consistent. That’s the kind of friend I try to be, and I hope my friends would describe me that way. I’m a Capricorn. Obviously.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Most folks notice that I’m full of energy and fired up about things I love.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“Yeah.” I use it instead of “yes” because it sounds less formal and serious, but it also makes me sound like a teenager.
Which talent would you most like to have?
I would love to be naturally gifted at playing a musical instrument. I’m a singer, which I consider second-class to instrument playing (no disrespect to the many phenomenal singers out there).
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would like to be more patient. Most mistakes I make stem from my impatience.
Where would you most like to live?
I’ve always wanted to live on a swimmable lake. I have a Google document where I list my fantasy lake destinations as I hear about them.
What is your most treasured possession?
My greatest material treasure is a scrapbook photo album that I made about our family story. My children are adopted, and I made the album during our first month as a family, so it captures all of the emotions and experiences of that time, which are precious to me and now seem very distant.
Who makes you laugh the most?
My youngest daughter cracks me up. Her positivity is contagious, and she constantly retorts with one-liners that are surprisingly insightful and funny.
What is your motto?
“Slay. All day.” —Beyoncé
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I identify with Hillary Clinton, not because I particularly like HRC, but I felt myself aching with empathy every time she was typecast or pigeonholed. The media, in particular, would not allow her to be a complex person and made sure she suffered for trying.
On what occasion do you lie?
I lie when strangers knock on my door trying to sell me an idea or product. I hide and pretend like I’m not home, or if they see me I say I’m on the phone. I should get a “No Soliciting” sign, but every time I see one of those I assume a mean person lives there, so I’d rather just continue to lie and hide!
CORRECTION: Stand Up for Racial Justice was emended to Showing Up for Racial Justice. Also, Hutchinson was offered a position not tenure at Westmont College.