Delicious Cakes at Midtown Cakes!

COLUMBUS, Georgia — University System of Georgia regent and chamber of commerce executive Bárbara Rivera Holmes drew from personal and professional experiences as she spoke to Columbus State University graduates on Friday, Dec. 8.

As the featured speaker at all three of the university’s commencement ceremonies, Holmes — president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce — commended graduates for the decisions that led them to Columbus State and their graduation.

“Every choice you make — and every choice you don’t make — leads somewhere,” she observed. “Some choices are small steps. … Some choices are leaps. No matter — every choice sets a path to a destination. In fact, through a series of your choices … we are together, today, in celebration.”

As both a regent and business leader, Holmes advocates for workforce and economic development. She emphasized to the graduates that, through their educational and future achievements, they too will build communities where they will live, work and lead.

“Businesses across our state and country are hungry — starving, even — for you: your talent, your work ethic, your character,” she said. “And when you get that job, if you don’t already have it, your education will allow you to earn more, which will allow you to support yourself and your community. It will allow you to reinvest in your community and in our economy, and help both to grow.”

Holmes pointed out to the fall semester Class of 2023 that the same tenacity and grit they relied on to navigate their college studies would be required in their post-graduate lives, whether that includes beginning or continuing a career, pursuing additional education or serving in the military.

“Grit keeps you moving toward your vision and goals, even if reaching them is uncertain. Grit allows you to fail, stand back up and take action,” she said. “Throughout your careers and your lives, you will make mistakes or not get it quite right. I do. We all do. Some mistakes will be small. Some will be big. Own them. Remember them. Celebrate them.”

During its Dec. 7-8 commencement events, the university bestowed undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates on more than 730 graduates. They join the 40,000-plus students who have graduated from the university since its founding as Columbus College in 1958. Holmes' full remarks can be viewed online from the university's graduation website.


Originally appointed to the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia by Gov. Nathan Deal in 2018 to represent the state’s 2nd Congressional District, Holmes currently chairs the board’s Committee on Economic Development. She and her 18 fellow regents volunteer their service as they oversee Georgia’s 26 public colleges and universities, the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Public Library System. Collectively, the system includes a $10.3 billion annual operating budget and more than 48,000 faculty and staff fulfilling its teaching, research and public service mission to approximately 334,000 students.

She was named president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce in 2016 after serving in that same capacity on an interim basis for more than a year. She leads the 113-year-old organization devoted to building and supporting a prosperous economy and helping businesses connect, build, influence and lead. She also is CEO of the Albany Area Chamber Foundation, the nonprofit affiliate of the Albany Area Chamber, which leads talent, economic, entrepreneurial and innovation initiatives that provide impact beyond the business community’s normal reach.

Holmes, who is bilingual, is a first-generation American and a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has twice named her one of Georgia’s “50 Most Influential Latinos,” and she has been thrice recognized by Georgia Trend as a “Notable Georgian.” In 2023, Holmes received a Senate Commendation from U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff for her service to the community and state. She is a 2014 graduate of Leadership Georgia and served on its Board of Trustees; a 2022 participant of the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Business Leads Fellowship Program; and a 2023 graduate of the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Institute for Organization Management. She serves on the boards of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy.

She graduated from Florida Southern College in Lakeland with degrees in journalism and Spanish. She continued her studies at Estudio Sampere Internacional in Madrid and Alicante, Spain. Holmes is a former journalist whose work has earned her four awards for excellence in journalism from the Georgia Associated Press. Before her role at the Albany Area Chamber, she was vice president of the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission, where she developed the organization’s business retention and expansion program to facilitate existing industry job creation and capital investment in Albany-Dougherty County, and its marketing programs.

She lives in Albany with her husband, David, and their daughter, Alejandra.

USG regent, Albany Chamber CEO celebrates Columbus State fall graduates