Getting Personal: Tiffany Barnett White

Getting Personal: Tiffany Barnett White

Each week, we offer an email Q&A with a local personality. Here, Paul Wood chats with Tiffany Barnett White of Champaign, a marketing professor in the College of Business at the University of Illinois.

What time do you typically get up? What do you do the first hour of the morning?

I wake up at 7 a.m. and spend the first hour getting my kids ready for school and getting coffee before heading to the YMCA to work out.

What did you have for lunch today? Where? With whom?

I had amazing Thai chicken wings at Houlihan's. It was the first time I tried them, and I was pleasantly surprised by how good they were. I had lunch with my friends Chris and LaDonna. LaDonna and I are like "fairy godmothers" to Chris' daughter Jasmine, and Chris needed moral support to cope with the fact that today was Jasmine's last official day of high school.

Best high school memory?

Graduation day. High school was great, but I was not sad to end that chapter of my life.

Tell me about your favorite pair of shoes.

A super-high-heeled pair of red wedge sandals — ironically made by Uggs (known for making incredibly comfortable, but pretty unattractive boots). My sandals are sassy but sensible. Because of the platform and the wedge, I appear to be a lot more of a daredevil than I really am.

What does a perfect Sunday afternoon include?

Church and brunch with our good friends at the Cracker Barrel followed by as much relaxation as humanly possible before gearing up for Monday.

Was there one book you read as a child that you still cherish? Own? Read?

"The Cat in the Hat" by Dr. Seuss.

Where on Earth are you dying to go? Why?

I travel internationally quite a bit, but I haven't been to any country in Africa. I'd like to go to the usual suspects (e.g., Morocco and South Africa), but also to nearby islands like Madagascar and Mauritius.

Tell me about your favorite pet.

My favorite pet is an ornery, feisty Shih Tzu named Sonic. Sonic belongs to family friends, but I've adopted him because he's obnoxiously cute and I love his complex personality. Sonic weighs 15 pounds (maximum) but thinks he's a German shepherd. He is the family protector, but is constantly in trouble for stealing snacks. Sonic has a brother, Riley, who almost never gets in trouble, which makes him a true "underdog." This combination of characteristics makes him irresistible.

Have you discovered that you are becoming like one of your parents? Which one and how?

I've become my mother! She tells it like it is and has no tolerance for drama. I used to think of this as a sign of impatience, but I now consider it the result of crystal clear clarity about who I am and who I'm not. Of course, my mother is also a supreme worrier and, unfortunately, I have also adopted this characteristic.

What would you order for your last meal?

Pasta and red wine — with a side of french fries.

What can you not live without?

French fries.

Who do you have on your iPod?

Country music. I'm a huge fan of Sugarland, Keith Urban and Little Big Town. But I also love jazz and classical music. So, you'll also find music by Joe Sample, FourPlay, Beethoven and Bach.

What's the happiest memory of your life?

Finding out I was pregnant with both my kids. My husband and I had tried for a while, so both were truly happy surprises.

If you could host a dinner party with any three living people in the world, whom would you invite?

Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama and British actress Maggie Smith.

What's the best advice you've ever been given?

Be yourself. Everyone else's "self" is already taken.

What's your best piece of advice?

See above.

What was your first job and how much did you make an hour?

I worked as a ticket agent at Ticketmaster in Chicago. I got paid minimum wage, which was $3.35 an hour.

What was a pivotal decision in your career and how did you arrive at that decision?

I turned down Harvard to take a job at Illinois. I received bachelor's and master's degrees from Illinois, so I didn't think I would ever come back. In the end, in addition to being closer to family in Chicago, I chose Illinois because it felt like the right thing to do. I remember being so terrified to turn down the Harvard opportunity that I couldn't sleep for days. The day I called Illinois and accepted the offer, I slept like a baby. This taught me a lot about who I am, what I value and the importance of being true to yourself. It's been 14 years, and I have never regretted my decision.

Do you have a bad habit? What is it?

Late-night TV, usually something on HGTV. I have promised myself more sleep, but, so far, I can't resist a good midnight episode of "House Hunters."

How do you handle a stressful situation?

I try never to do or say the first thing that comes to mind. I try to break things that appear to be big problems into smaller, more manageable parts. Most importantly, I pray a lot.

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