By Katelyn Needham/ editor-in-chief
A Richland College vice president was named NW Campus president April 25.
Zarina Blankenbaker will replace previous president Elva LeBlanc, who is stepping into the executive vice chancellor and provost position.
Blankenbaker said she is looking forward to the opportunity.
“I applied for the position of president because the NW Campus is a special place,” she said. “I admire the collegiality and the innovative spirit of the faculty, staff and students of this campus.”
Blankenbaker came to the U.S. as a Malaysian immigrant when she was a teenager. She only had $100 to her name. Her experience as an immigrant serves as a driving force in her career, she said.
“I am personally passionate about and committed to providing equity through education,” she said. “I have made it my life’s work to pay forward in every way I can what I have been fortunate enough to receive as a child growing up and as an immigrant with limited resources.”
Blankenbaker said she first got a taste of two-year schools when working as a financial counselor after college.
“While in this role, I was invited to teach as an adjunct professor at a nearby community college,” she said. “I immediately fell in love with my students and the philosophy of community colleges.”
She holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Indiana University, a master’s degree in applied linguistics and a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of North Texas.
While at Richland, Blankenbaker led initiatives in student success and was named Administrator of the Year by the college in 2008.
LeBlanc said she is very pleased that Blankenbaker will succeed her.
“In addition to valuable on-the-job training, she has prepared well academically for the job,” LeBlanc said. “More importantly, she is very kind, caring and understands the students and faculty well.”
LeBlanc believes Blankenbaker’s values match closely with that of the campus faculty and staff, making her a good fit for the role.
“Dr. Blankenbaker has a reputation for being a very responsible, well-organized leader,” LeBlanc said. “She is also known to be a collaborator, which means she will work well with the other campus presidents. Overall, she will be a real asset to the presidents team, and I see the future of TCCD as a very positive one.”
Blankenbaker foresees her largest immediate challenge will be addressing the “aging infrastructure” and the expanding size of the NW community.
“Knowing the flexibility of the NW Campus faculty, staff and students, I am optimistic that we will be able to navigate this challenge collectively so that any obstacles we experience will appear seamless to students,” she said.
But her biggest goal is focusing on the students and their development through innovative and creative thinking.
“All students deserve to succeed,” she said. “The college must create a desirable holistic student experience inside and outside the classroom. I am optimistic that by focusing on students, the NW Campus will distinguish itself as a campus of choice for students.”