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The Student News Site of Principia College

The Pilot

The Student News Site of Principia College

The Pilot

Meet Barbara Blackwell: Principia’s Chief Executive

Barbara Blackwell. Photo by Bishoppe Kamusinga.

Q: What should college students know about you professionally?

A: I come to this post with more than 35 years of experience in higher education and in secondary education, not on the academic side, but on the administrative side. [This] is really what the Chief Executive post is all about. I’ve been a vice president at Washington and Jefferson College in Pennsylvania. I worked at Amherst, I worked at Allegheny. I have a lot of experience at other institutions that I can bring to Principia so that we benefit and are blessed by knowing what other institutions are doing and the best practices that we can bring. I think those are important things to know… And I’m an attorney.

Q: What should college students know about you personally?

A: I’m originally from Pittsburgh and actually lived in Pittsburgh for almost 40 years. It’s a city I love, so I am a huge Steelers fan. My husband and I have a daughter who went to the Upper School and is now at the University of Denver. We love collie dogs and we have a collie dog named Duffy, who you will see around campus.

I am just somebody who really values being myself. I want everyone to call me Barbara. I want to bring my whole self to what I’m doing here, and not just my professional self. I am a lifelong Christian Scientist and a serious spiritual seeker. I was a religious studies minor. That’s something that’s a part of my thinking.  I like to think about and read about all things theological. It’s a personal interest of mine. 

Q: What do you see on the horizon for Principia?

A: As we are in this transitionary period of rejiggering our student body, I think that we will make tweaks along the way to determine what is the right mix of faiths, of global cultures… all of those demographic things. I don’t mean to say that there is a final answer. I think that mix shifts almost year to year and we need to be having that conversation every year, about what we’re looking for in the next class that would bring the right overall mix to the four years that are here. I think as we get more comfortable with all of that, it’s going to be clearer and clearer to us each year what that recruitment really needs to look like. I think we just need to get comfortable with who we are now, how Christian Science looks in that new mix, and how we appropriately build on our Christian Science foundation. 

Q: What are some of the key issues on your mind regarding the college?

A: Making sure that Principia is appropriately and adequately supporting our international students is a huge issue for me. As our international population grows, it carries with it really unique demands. Many, many international students don’t go home over the holidays and over the breaks so we become a year-round operation. Can we support that? How do we support that appropriately? There are jobs issues with international students and there are sometimes cultural acclimation issues. That is very important to me and something that I want to spend this year making sure we’re addressing in substantive ways for all international students.  

Q: What does the position of Chief Executive entail?

A: The Chief Executive post is quite unique because there is a school and a college. The Principia Corporation is over both, and the chief executive is the leader of the Principia Corporation. I am the sole report to the Board of Trustees, and then the college president (John Williams) and the head of school (Dr. Merry Sorrells) report to me. I really do not get involved in the academics or even the daily operations of either campus. I am more involved in how Principia is as an institution and thinking about how it can thrive on a larger administrative level.

I feel a lot of privilege, honor, and humility to have this position and I will do everything that I can do to do my best to serve these students.

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About the Contributor
Aubrey Hawke
Aubrey Hawke, Former Editor-In-Chief
Aubrey is the former Editor-In-Chief of The Pilot. She graduated from Principia College in 2023. She majored in history, with minors in sociology & anthropology, and gender, sexuality, & women’s studies. In her spare time, Aubrey plays viola and piano, dances classical and modern ballet, and dabbles in any other hobby she can get her hands on.
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