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  • Blackburn College

    Vice President and Dean of Student Life

    Blackburn College

    Blackburn College is the third oldest college in the state of Illinois, now in its 180th year. It began like many other colleges, a frontier school dedicated to preparing community leaders through a liberal arts curriculum. In 1913, however, Blackburn separated itself from other colleges by adopting the Self-Help Plan, now known as the Work Program, which solidified the College’s commitment to affordability and access. Today, Blackburn’s commitment to the liberal arts links outstanding classroom instruction with hands-on learning experiences. As one of eight federally-recognized Work Colleges, all residential students are required to work at least ten hours per week on campus.


    The Work Program, the only student-managed program in the country, makes Blackburn distinct in several ways. It not only makes the college the most affordable independent college in Illinois, but more importantly the Work Program creates an unparalleled campus culture where everyone contributes to the community. It also uniquely positions Blackburn graduates for success in employment and graduate school. Each student develops a work transcript documenting their professional skills and growth. In this way, Blackburn is unmatched when considering the ability to offer students a liberal arts education partnered with career development.


    Blackburn is distinct in its long-standing commitment to access and affordability. Admissions standards insist on college-readiness, resulting in an average ACT of 21 and high school GPA of 3.5. In addition to merit-based financial aid, Blackburn is focusing on need-based aid. Through the Blackburn Promise program the College meets the full financial need of all students.  Whatever a student’s Estimated Family Contribution on the FAFSA is all they will have to pay out-of-pocket.


    General Summary

    The Vice President and Dean of Student Life (Vice President) is a key leader at Blackburn College.  Students, faculty, staff, community members, and even alumni look for a connected, collaborative, and communicative person in this role.  Blackburn prides itself on providing challenging student learning experiences in a supportive, caring, and diverse community.  All of these elements rely directly on strong leadership from the Vice President.


    The Vice President will directly supervise staff in Residence Life, Student Activities, New Student Orientation, Diversity and Inclusion, Campus Safety, Counseling Services, and Student Life Office Management.  In all these areas, Blackburn has strong and committed professionals who are eager for collaborative leadership and mentorship.  Beyond this direct supervision, the Vice President will work with every constituency on campus and beyond.


    The College seeks a professional experienced in Student Affairs and aware of best practices and research on student success.  The Vice President should be an energetic and resilient person, ready to handle day-to-day operational issues and needs while also providing strategic thinking and innovative leadership for the future.  The successful candidate will demonstrate a sincere interest in and understanding of the success of first-generation college students, have a minimum of a Master’s degree, and evidence of continued professional development.


    Blackburn is a close-knit community, where faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends all feel a deep connection to and ownership of the College. This sense of pride is enhanced by the College’s long-standing commitment to shared governance, transparency, and trust. Any successful Vice President at Blackburn must be open to feedback and ready to lead in a collaborative environment.


    Primary Responsibilities

    The Vice President is responsible for an intentional co-curricular program that leads to both measureable student learning outcomes and student success rates beyond the average that the incoming class provides.  Specific duties include:

    • Provides overall leadership and management of Student Life
    • Oversees the disciplinary system and hearing board training
    • Annual review, distribution and update of student handbook
    • Works with various campus committees and coordinating cross-departmental efforts at increasing student retention and graduation
    • Manages the completion of all required reporting for these departments including, but not limited to, Campus Safety and Security/Student Right-to-Know Act, Drug Free Schools and Communities Act, Public Health Department Immunization Regulations.
    • Other duties as assigned



    Build a Nationally Renowned Program for the Success of Low-Income and First-Generation Students

    As a Work College, it is part of Blackburn’s mission to serve students who might not otherwise be able to afford college.  Rather than a motive to increase our rankings by becoming more expensive and exclusive, our motivation is to serve more deserving students.  With over 2/3 of the student body receiving a Pell grant, we are successfully attracting students that meet our mission.  The second element to demonstrating national leadership in access and affordability is seeing that as many as possible of these students graduate.


    Blackburn first-year to second-year graduation rate ranges around the national average for our level of selectivity.  We have also recently engaged the Gardner Institute to lead a collaborative process of reviewing our curricular and co-curricular programs to enhance retention.  The Vice President’s vision and leadership will be essential to building consensus and effecting progress in this critical area.


    Capitalize on Blackburn’s Enhanced Diversity

    As a result of increased recruiting and financial aid, the number of students of color on Blackburn’s campus has doubled in recent years.  The College has also long attracted a strong community of GLBT students.  These students live and work with students from all over the country, but primarily from rural communities in Central Illinois.  The Work Program has a positive side effect that produces a more egalitarian community than many campuses offer.

    There are multiple opportunities to help students learn from one another, ensure that all students feel welcome and included, add diversity intentionally to curricular and co-curricular learning, and build bridges with the local community.

    Create Curricular and Work Program Connections

    Blackburn offers a strong liberal arts curriculum taught by dedicated full-time faculty.  It also offers the unique learning of the Work Program and a variety of educational co-curricular clubs and activities.  These programs could and should be more intentionally connected to form a more holistic student experience.


    The faculty and staff are predominantly ready and willing to engage these connections and are eager for leadership in this regard.  Intentionally creating these linkages should also enhance student experience, learning, and success.


    Focus on Student Activities and Safety

    Blackburn is located in a town well suited for families and professionals, but not offering many of the amenities students may seek in a “college town.”  It is therefore incumbent upon Blackburn to provide a dynamic, engaging and fun experience for its students on campus and beyond.


    Another key reason to maintain a strong student engagement program is to provide alternatives to substance abuse and other dangerous alternatives.  The College expects a proactive approach to student safety concerns from sexual assault to illegal drugs.



    The successful Vice President at Blackburn will possess many talents and experiences. Candidates will have the following qualities:

    • Master’s degree in College Student Personnel, Counseling, or closely related field.
    • Excellent communication and organizational skills and resourcefulness.
    • Demonstrated ability to lead, organize and prioritize projects.
    • Demonstrated skills in working successfully with a team of employees to establish goals, motivate, evaluate, solve problems and meet deadlines.
    • High degree of professional discretion, integrity and good judgment.
    • High standard of professional conduct, ability to maintain confidentiality, and ability to establish credibility throughout the organization and with the Board of Trustees.


    Carlinville, Illinois

    Blackburn is located in Carlinville, a city of 6,000 with award-winning public schools, a picturesque downtown square, numerous seasonal festivals, and a quaint, small-town feel. The city is located 50 miles from St. Louis and 45 miles from Springfield, Illinois. Thus, larger-city cultural, shopping and other opportunities are within easy reach for residents of Carlinville while they enjoy a low cost of living, tight-knit community and a family-friendly, small town environment.


    Because Blackburn is such an integral part of Carlinville, the Vice President is expected to help cultivate local relationships and participate in campus and community programs and events. While it is not required, willingness to reside in Carlinville is strongly preferred.


    Application Process & Timeline

    Nominations and applications may be sent to:


    Vice President and Dean of Student Life Search

    Human Resources

    Blackburn College

    700 College Ave.

    Carlinville, IL  62626



    Applications should include a curriculum vitae, cover letter describing the candidate’s experience as relevant to the position, and the contact information for three or more references.


    For full consideration, please submit application materials by January 30, 2018. Applications will be accepted until the position is filled


    The names of candidates will not be shared publicly and references will not be contacted until three or four finalists are named. Confidential inquiries are encouraged.