Me and my friend the amazing Shawna Blue
This evening, my friend and colleague Shawna Blue, BAS Coordinator at Skagit Valley College, received a scholarship from SWAN, an organization dedicated to supporting women leaders in the area. With Shawna’s permission, I am sharing the letter I sent in support of her scholarship application. As you read this, I believe you will come away as impressed with Shawna, her capabilities and her potential, as I am every single day.
“I met Shawna a little over a year ago [May 2018]. Her name came up as a possible candidate for a Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) Coordinator role, which was designed to support the two BAS degrees at Skagit Valley College. Shawna had already been fulfilling this role for the BAS in Environmental Conservation. In the spirit of absolute candor, I was not convinced that she had the appropriate background to work with an Applied Management program. I was also concerned that as Shawna has a rich background in Environmental Conservation, the two programs would not get equal attention. I was wrong.
Shawna and I actually met at a college picnic at the same time as the staffing discussions were taking place. We started talking and within five minutes, I discovered that Shawna’s motivation lies in a deep-rooted desire to serve the College’s students and community, without regard to area of study. I learned this by listening to her relay anecdotes about her experiences with various college departments and observing the genuine anguish that appeared on her face when things did not go as they should. I also heard her connect her own student and life experiences with those of the students on our campus. I watched her face light up when she talked about a way in which her experiences allowed her to help a student in a completely unrelated field of study. I heard her voice her uncertainty about how to drive publicity for the Environmental Conservation program. A five-minute conversation turned into an hour. I left our interaction feeling ashamed that I had let my own pre-conceptions lead me to an incorrect conclusion.
As a workplace leader, I have long believed that it is unjust to assess person’s potential solely on the basis of what they have done in the past. And, as a faculty member, I maintain it is unjust to assess a person’s performance in an area where they may have limited or no formal exposure. Yet with Shawna, I had done both. Within a day, I had lined up a meeting with the Dean on the staffing issue. I shared my discoveries about Shawna, took ownership of my unjust reaction and pledged to do everything in my power to support Shawna and her success in the Coordinator role and beyond. Within a week of that conversation, Shawna was hired into the full-time role supporting both BAS programs starting July 2018 signaling the support she enjoys from SVC leadership (college administration, not faculty, make hiring decisions).
The year since then has been remarkable. I have watched Shawna seize opportunities to develop her knowledge of marketing and strategy through her work on the BASAM Marketing plan. Through this plan, we have introduced a systematic, low cost way of working with social media to promote awareness of the BASAM program on campus and in the larger community. We are getting ready to expand this plan to the Environmental Conservation program as well.
I have seen how Shawna leverages her considerable project management skills to see multiple recruitment and admissions -related initiatives to successful outcomes. I have seen her come to grips with SVC’s customer relationship management system (Target X). I have observed Shawna initiate formal and informal outreach to struggling students, sensing what they need from their non-verbal cues. And, I have witnessed Shawna serve as a powerful advocate for the SVC students, helping them navigate processes and obstacles to their success and having tough but necessary conversations to keep them on the path for success.
In my nearly thirty years of work experience (25 years in corporate leadership roles, nearly five as faculty), I have met only a handful of people who demonstrate the same thirst for knowledge, self-awareness, and commitment to make a difference as Shawna. I am confident that completing a bachelor degree in marketing will position Shawna for great leadership success and will extend her capacity to make a difference for the people of Skagit Valley.”
You go Shawna Blue – the world is your oyster.