Carly Barnes Dodd

Carly Barnes-Dodd
Assistant Director for the University of Florida Diabetes Institute

What are your responsibilities as a strategic director with expertise in communication and administration?

In addition to owning and operating Global Mixed Martial Arts Academy with my husband, Jason, I also work as the assistant director for the University of Florida Diabetes Institute. My role at the Diabetes Institute is similar to that of an executive director, and I consider myself to be overwhelmingly blessed to get to spend my days working to help remove barriers and empower people to do amazing things. The University of Florida is home to some of the most accomplished diabetes researchers in the world, as well as young investigators who are carving out their realm of influence in the diabetes arena. It’s an honor to support their work through my administrative role, as well as champion the stories of how their work is changing and improving lives.

At Global, I help my husband with operations and overseeing marketing and business development. Our business is growing significantly including launching two new summer camps and an after-school program this year. I love nontraditional youth education, and we get to teach kids martial arts, leadership skills and language and cultural competencies related to the origin of the martial arts that they train at our academy.

How did you know that you wanted to work in agriculture? At what point did you shift into the communication side of it?

I don’t think I ever considered not working in an agriculture-related field. I grew up in a small farming community in northwest Florida on the remainder of my grandparents’ farm. I’ve spent most of my career working in various functions in the agriculture industry from marketing beef genetics in Latin America to working in public issues education in biotechnology in foods to enrolling farmers in public conservation programs.  I started school at the University of Florida to pursue a career in plant breeding, but after working in a lab for a summer, I realized that even though we can technically create plant solutions for many environmental and human problems, people still have to be willing to accept the technology. The common thread between my roles has always been working with people on scientific or technical issues. And I don’t regret it. I have a bachelor’s and master’s in agricultural education and communication from UF, so communications was always in the plan.

Your job requires communication between a wide diverse group of people, how do you persuade someone to understand your cause?

The wonderful part about working for causes that I believe in is that I don’t have to persuade people much. I think my talents as a communicator are in truly listening to people to understand what their concerns are. My causes revolve around food, environment and health, so there is as much of a philosophical discussion as an evidence-based one. I enjoy working in communications in an era when brands and organizations are expected to communicate and engage directly with consumers.

How did you get into mixed martial arts?

This question makes me smile because I never thought I would pursue martial arts. I visited my cousin in Tampa during a work trip, and we went to visit her Muay Thai gym there. I sought out Global MMA because my husband taught Muay Thai and was highly recommended to me by mutual friends. I tried Brazilian jiu jitsu during my free week trial there and fell in love with the art and the community. Martial arts are so much more approachable in a positive learning environment, and they truly are for everyone. No matter your physical ability or athleticism, there is a martial art for you. I enjoy Brazilian jiu jitsu more than striking arts like Muay Thai or karate because it involves much more grappling and can be advantageous for the smaller of the two-people sparring or rolling. Brazilian jiu jitsu is fabulous for women, both for fitness and self-defense. People definitely underestimate themselves – every single person in this area could benefit from martial arts.

I’m extra lucky because I didn’t just fall in love with mixed martial arts. I fell in love with and married my husband just three months after meeting him at the academy. The unofficial gym rule is to not date where you train, but I say that it’s all good as long as you marry where you train! It is a blessing to get to support my husband in teaching people in our community martial arts, which in turn develops them on an individual level and offers plenty of opportunities for personal growth. I’ve met so many nice people in my life, but never as many in one place as at the academy.

What do you think your strengths are and how did you identify them?

If there are only two qualities that I master in this life, I would like for them to be resilience and compassion. I choose these two qualities because they have proven to be the most beneficial and necessary in my day-to-day life. We all suffer in some capacity, whether for a season or a lifetime, and I am certainly not immune to that aspect of human existence. My grandmother had a plaque in her kitchen that said, “Life is grindstone. Whether it grinds you down or polishes you up depends on the stuff you’re made of.” My family would joke that I should be super shiny by now. (Bless their hearts!) I have resolved to always move forward in life, whether sprinting, crawling or resting. Because of some of my experiences, I have also come to immensely value compassion. You never know what someone is going through in their personal lives, and a little compassion goes a long way. I am so thankful that my husband also shares my deep love for people. That compassion for people is what keeps me motivated in all aspects of my life. We all have a unique realm of impact, and I can only hope to try to leave every person I meet along the way better than I found them, and vice versa. At the end of the day, I always want to be able to answer the question: “What did I do today to help someone else?”

How do you want to make an impact through your career?

I don’t typically separate out my career from the rest of my life in terms of impact, especially considering how much time my career requires from my life. How do you quantify the impact of a life? I have done many different things in my career and I plan to continue that trajectory. But above all, I hope to spend my career working in the background to support efforts to better people’s lives. I’ll know that I’ve made an impact when at the end of my life, I can look back and know that every bit of time and talent that I have was used up for the benefit of someone else. My impact will be my investment in people in this community, a goal that I am committed to because I know how much my life has been impacted by the sweet souls who have given themselves to invest in me.

How do you define what it means to be a fierce woman?

I think being fierce means being unapologetically authentic. Whoever you are, own it and be that best version of yourself. You never know who you will empower to do the same.