From their office on the ground floor of the Milan Puskar Center, the Barwises oversee West Virginia's strength and conditioning programs. That busy task keeps the newlyweds (they married this summer) in close contact throughout the day. By quitting time, when most people are heading home for the first glimpse of their spouses in nine or ten hours, they Barwises have already seen more of each other than most families do in an entire 24-hour period. So, in order to keep things fresh, the couple tries to keep work and family life separate.
"Going home is such a different environment," explained Autumn, who took Mike's name when they were married on July 1. "We live way out in the country, so it shifts from work to a more relaxed atmosphere. We do our best to keep work at work. We try not to take work home, and spend time with each other."
However, for two people as committed and motivated as Autumn and Mike, it's inevitable that some work will creep into home life.
"We love our work so much, and it is such a part of our life, it's more than just a job," Autumn said with conviction. "We are still bouncing ideas off each other no matter where we are, because that doesn't seem so much like work. We don't do a lot of paperwork at home, but other things we'll talk about."
As if the pair doesn't spend enough time together, they also try to share a ride to and from work.
"That's mainly because of gas prices," Autumn laughed. "But during the school year, it's more difficult, because I have other teams, like soccer and gymnastics, that I am working with. That makes it tough. But during the summer, we are able to ride to work together too."
All that time together might spark more than the average number of spats between the average married couple, but as followers of Mountaineer athletic programs know, Mike and Barwis are anything but. Both are very friendly, outgoing and easy to talk too – character traits that help them smooth over the few rough patches they encounter.
"We don't really fight a whole lot, but obviously we do have disagreements," Autumn said. "If it's something work-related, I have to remember that I'm the associate director and he's the director. At home, we're in it side by side, but at work I'm the associate director. I just have to take a step back when disagreements happen and say, ‘He's the boss.' But really, we work so well together and do so much together, it's more of a partnership there too.
"Mike is really good at seeing all the sides of a story, and getting everyone's opinion," she continued. "Usually, those kinds of things are agreed upon decisions. Mike is very good at listening to the entire staff and taking everything they say into account."
Mike also took the lead when their friendship blossomed into something more. Despite the nature of Autumn's job, which requires a strong personality and a take-charge attitude, she admits that things are different on the personal side.
"You wouldn't really think, that with my job and my position, I would be a real traditional type of person, but I am very much conservative in those kinds of things," Autumn laughed. "I am definitely traditional in that – I thought the guy should pursue me. Mike was the one that made the first approach, so that worked out well. But as I said before, that made it an easy transition."