Blattner Embraces Dominican Traditions at Caldwell
Blattner, along with other presidents of Dominican colleges and universities from throughout the United States, will take part in the pilgrimage to literally walk "In the Footsteps of Saint Dominic." It will be a spiritual journey to experience, first hand, the part of the world where Saint Dominic and his ministry were formed 800 years ago. Founded in August 1939 by The Sisters of Saint Dominic, Caldwell College is firmly rooted in the Dominican spirit of education and faith-based values.
Joining Blattner on the pilgrimage will be her husband, Tim, and Sister Patrice Werner, O.P., Ph.D., who retired last June after serving 15 years as the president of Caldwell College.
Earlier this year Caldwell College's board of trustees tapped Blattner as the institution's first lay president (see The Catholic Advocate, April 8). Sr. Patrice, in fact, predicted such a development last January, when she penned a guest commentary article in The Catholic Advocate. "Chances are that when I retire the new president will not be a Sister of Saint Dominic of Caldwell," she wrote. "Catholic colleges are feeling the effects of the decline in 'living endowments'-the priests, Brothers and Sisters who long made up the majority of staff and faculty at our institutions."
The selection of lay women and men to lead Catholic universities and colleges represents a national trend, according to Blattner. Fully aware of both the challenges and opportunities her new position represents, she said the October pilgrimage would help reinforce her "lay formation" in the Dominican tradition. Embracing and enhancing the Dominican heritage of Caldwell College is at the top of the list of Blattner's responsibilities as president.
Four months ago, when the college's board of trustees announced its selection of Blattner, Sr. Patrice praised her as "a passionate, inspiring leader, who will continue Caldwell's tradition of outstanding academics, excellence in teaching and commitment to social justice, while keeping alive the Catholic Dominican mission that is the heart and soul of Caldwell College."
Blattner most recently served as vice president and dean for academic affairs at Fontbonne University, St. Louis, and acknowledged that Caldwell was "one of several" new positions she considered this year. "What attracted me to Caldwell College was that I saw it as a place of higher education that would live out its Catholic identity," she explained. "That signaled to me this position would be a good fit for me and for the college."
The "good fit" she felt was further confirmed last month when she hosted 15 incoming freshmen students for a backyard barbecue at her new Caldwell residence. "I was so impressed with these students," she said, noting how they were eager to become immersed in the college's various campus ministry projects and community outreach efforts to help those in need throughout the archdiocese and metropolitan area.
"I was anxious to meet the students," she continued. "Many of them already had participated in volunteer work through their parishes during their high school years. They saw the campus ministry programs and traditions at Caldwell as a natural extension for them, a way of life. They were happy to know they would be able to continue those types of activities."
The campus has seen significant growth in recent years with the addition of new buildings such as the Dominican Hall residence. Though there are no plans for additional new construction in the near term, Blattner said Caldwell College will concentrate on internal growth-namely the development of its Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program, which the NJ Commission on Higher Education recently approved as doctoral program. It's expected the ABA doctoral program-the firstever doctoral program to be offered by Caldwell College-initially will accommodate up to eight students. Currently there are 72 students enrolled in the ABA master's degree program.
ABA is a scientific discipline best known for its ability to help children with autism spectrum disorder. It also can be used in other areas, such as improving productivity and morale in the workplace and treatment of individuals suffering from drug addiction.
There is a severe shortage of qualified professionals to serve the growing number of individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Caldwell's graduate programs will address this crisis, Blattner explained, adding that the college also plans to launch an autism clinic in the fall 2010 as an extension to the Ph.D. program. The proposed clinic will offer evaluation services as well as host community workshops and regional conferences, she said. It also will feature a video-conferencing classroom from which the college's boardcertified ABA faculty would "broadcast" information to teachers and parents.
As for other areas of internal growth, Blattner said Caldwell College is prepared to support the needs of adult students looking to enrich their job skills, spurred by the need to shift career paths due to the fallout of the ongoing recession. Blattner applauded this trend, saying that, given the present economic environment, "it's a good time for adults to diversify and get certification in an education or business field."
Blattner has more than 20 years of experience in Catholic and public higher education. She led Fontbonne University's academic affairs division where her responsibilities included the leadership of departments, faculty, curriculum and institutional research and assessment. She also served as interim associate provost for graduate studies and support programs at Longwood University, Farmville, VA.