Will Barto Learns Life Lessons from Serving as Culverhouse Ambassador


During the Culverhouse Ambassador interview process, Will Barto (2013) was asked to say the alphabet backwards. Put on the spot, Barto thought fast. He laughed and said, “Anybody who can do that has been practicing because they party way too much.”

While Barto enjoyed himself in school, he didn’t have a lot of time for such activities. He was admittedly “overcommitted,” active in student government and fraternity leadership as well as regular coursework. Still, his off-the-cuff response must have worked, because Barto was accepted into one of the coveted Culverhouse Ambassador slots.

Barto explained that this ability to think on the fly and under pressure is a valuable skill that he was able to hone as an Ambassador. “Being involved with things like Ambassadors makes you practice professional and interpersonal skills that can be tough to refine in college,” he said. “Having to give tours to strangers, talk to parents, understand people, communicate our value proposition, even tie a tie in a rush. Those are all things I learned through that process that I’m glad I know and have served me well professionally.”

As an Ambassador, one assignment was to welcome a prospective BOV member, Tim Kelly, who, like Barto, was from Texas and visiting campus. While showing Kelly around, Barto shared that he had done an internship with a large oil and gas services company in Houston that turned out to be a client of Kelly’s. Barto took Kelly’s business card but thought little more of it.

He intended to pursue work with his internship company, but had to take a semester off college due to a blown ACL, which ended up throwing off the timing of his graduation. He reached out to Kelly at Lockton and was surprised with an opportunity to interview virtually the next day. It was 2013, and they could not get Skype to work, so it ended up being a FaceTime interview. Barto did not even know what job he was applying for. The finance major was calling around to his stepfather’s friends to find out what insurance brokers actually did.

“It was definitely a memorable interview and one I still joke about today. I didn’t have any technical or classroom experience in insurance, but they heard me out,” Barto said. “They looked at what they thought I’d be good at and ultimately found an interesting niche within our organization that matched my skillset; running financial models to structure complex insurance programs. I expected to be there six months and 11 years later, I’m still here.”

Barto was in the financial analyst role for the first couple of years at Lockton, but then, a more exciting opportunity arose, working directly with Kelly. “He had a leadership function as well as a sales role,” Barto said. “I got to see him in both capacities, which was extremely educational.”

Now the vice president, operations at Lockton, Barto supports the chief operating officer in strategic decision-making. “My job is helping solve problems that don’t fit cleanly in the day-to-day functions of an insurance broker,” he explained. “The majority of our headcount are technical experts. They’re either selling insurance or placing insurance. So [I help] when it comes to things like should we enter a new geography, should we look at a new vertical, where is the new office going to be?”

As an Associate Board of Visitors member, Barto again gets to interact with Culverhouse Ambassadors. He is amazed by them. “I’m blown away by how polished they are. The public speaking skills, the ability to tell a story and hold an audience all while covering complex topics. I wish I could present as well as they do. It’s a running joke that the College brings in theater kids because of how well the students show,” he said.

“But they aren’t theater kids,” Barto concluded. “They are a handful of examples of the exceptional students coming out of Culverhouse.”

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