(10) Interview with Dr. Jo Blondin

“You have to look people in the eye, project confidence and do your best..."

Dr. Jo Blondin, President of Clark State Community College serves in many capacities in the Dayton community. Yet, her top priority is the development of students- making sure they are either work-force ready or prepared to transition to a four-year institution. In a Lean In Dayton interview, she explains how two-year colleges such as Clark State are often necessary to the preliminary development of college students and serves as a critical pathway to successful futures.

Lean In Dayton: You are currently making some changes at Clark State. How crucial is it to remap that way we look at junior colleges or associate degrees?

Dr. Jo Blondin: It is the workforce issue of our time. Associate degrees and certificates are proven to be more valuable in some cases than four-year degrees and in order to close the skills gap here in the United States, and allow for our population to make not just a living wage, but enter the middle class and achieve the American dream. In a certain way, community colleges are the gateway to the middle class. So it's never been more important. 

Lean In Dayton: You hold a Ph.D. in English from Arizona State University; Master of Arts in English from Arizona State University; and Bachelor of Arts from Purdue University majoring in English with a minor in Spanish. It would seem that you carefully mapped out your career path. Did you plan or envision presiding over an educational institution?

Dr. Jo Blondin: You know, I did. It was one of my goals. A very unhappy freshman year in college spurred my career goals. I felt very disconnected. When I was a freshman at Purdue, I was more interested in let's say the social aspects of being in college. Though I was a strong student in high school, I did not focus the way I needed to in my freshman year, particularly my first semester. In some ways, I was not emotionally, psychologically or even academically prepared for a four-year institution and so I had the opportunity to refocus myself and really commit to being a good student after my first semester, freshman year. I realized something was missing. I got straight A's that second semester, but then I realized there was an aspect of my education that was missing which was a connection with people and fellow students on campus. I got involved with Purdue student government, particularly in my sophomore, junior and senior years. Consequently, I saw that we were making some changes and impacting the campus itself. Once I realized that students banding together could make a difference, I took a look at the larger institution and realized that I could change things.  I felt that, if I were in charge, I would change things. It was during my junior year in college, that I said that I wanted to be a college president.

Lean In Dayton: Was there something going on at the time at your university that made you reflect on the college environment which led to you wanting to make changes?

Dr. Jo Blondin: Not exactly. I felt that I wanted to have a say. It was really about having the opportunity to be collaborative and be heard by the administration and make some changes. Particularly, I was very involved in women’s issues and issues of diversity and equality. That galvanized my involvement in student government and the campus.

Interviewed by Julene Allen

Julene Allen Julene Allen Author


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