STORY BY SYDNEY PRICE
When Jan Wise retired from the Director of Student Leadership position after 33 years, she left big shoes to fill. Meghan Blancas, the newly appointed interim director, is up to the challenge.
Shelby Derrick, the student coordinator for the leadership office, was able to witness the transition from Wise to Blancas firsthand, and said it went smoothly.
“It’s been really interesting to see Meghan come in and keep these programs going but also including her spin on things,” Derrick said.
Blancas had not always planned on going into student affairs, much less living in Iowa.
She grew up in Chicago, attending the University of Illinois at Chicago to continue a family legacy. Her father encouraged her to be involved on campus and it was then she discovered a passion for working with students.
Blancas decided to pursue her masters in higher education student affairs at Iowa State University. After graduation, she wasn’t ready to go back to Chicago, and a position opened up at Drake. Blancas wanted to stay in Iowa and be near the resources of a city.
“What drew me to Drake, overall as an institution, was the community here. The faculty, staff and students are just so welcoming and so open and ready to answer any questions I have,” Blancas said.
She was also impressed by the quality of Drake’s students.
“It was an opportunity to work with students who are just so impressive in many different ways. I really appreciate the passion that they have, the drive and the desire to continue their personal development,” Blancas said.
Blancas oversees all aspects of the Donald V. Adams Leadership Institute, which includes the Adams Academy, the Emerging Leaders Model and the Sussman Spring and Fall Leadership Conferences.
She also works closely with the Leadership and Development (LEAD) program. However, unlike LEAD, the Adams Leadership Institute is a non-credit, co-curricular program for students to develop leadership skills.
Blancas hopes to build on the foundation left by her predecessors while adding new elements and updating the programs.
“I think she’s off to a beautiful start,” said Thomas Westbrook, chair of the undergraduate LEAD concentration. “I’m actually quite impressed that she’s gotten her sea legs so quickly.”
Blancas already revamped the ELM curriculum this year. Her other goals include giving students in Adams Academy more opportunities to understand different types of leadership and raising awareness of both Sussman conferences, which are open to all students.
“I believe leadership isn’t just preparing you all to go out and work, but we’re preparing you to be leaders in your communities, and so there’s lots of different areas that we should explore to get you there,” Blancas said.
Tony Tyler, director of Olmsted Center operations praised Blancas’s collaborative approach and positive interactions with students.
“I think she’s the sort of professional that Drake strives to have,” Tyler said.