Meet Fusion Board Member Dave Blanchard, Director of SCSU Online and Distance Learning at St. Cloud State University
1. Tell us more about your work as Assistant Professor of Teacher Development at St. Cloud State University. What’s something you’re most proud of in your career?
As a St. Cloud State University faculty member, Dave teaches mostly pedagogy, multimedia and design, and technology integration courses within the teacher education programs and Educational Leadership and Technology MS program (e.g., how multimedia influences education, how to design effective multimedia, educational leadership from a teacher perspective, etc). Over the next year, Dave won’t be actively teaching as faculty, but will be re-assigned to his leadership role as Director of SCSU Online and Distance Learning.
“Within St. Cloud State University, I’ve actually just had a transition, now most recently stepping into an interim role as the Director of SCSU Online and Distance Learning. Within St. Cloud State’s work, we are all about moving education forward across all sectors. For me… this is a really an exciting thing.”
Dave says that being able to work with faculty and with a team of instructional designers and technologists has helped move their work forward. At St. Cloud State, they are re-imagining what grad school looks like and what a post-pandemic career and work-life balance is.
“One thing that I’m really proud of in my career is a continued focus on relationships, both in the teams that we work with and within our courses. Being able to have community, being able to think about honor and diversity and culture, and also being able to establish the sense of belonging and relationship within our courses regardless of modality is something, both as faculty and now in this director position, are important to me, and I’m proud that we get to continue this work together.”
2. How did you become interested in your career path?
In high school, Dave knew he wanted to work with elementary students, specifically kindergarten students. “When I went to my undergrad, program, I actually found a spark for middle school science and kindergarten… I taught for a number of years and worked my way through public education and the preK-12 world, and then fell in love with some leadership opportunities within district leadership… then, when opportunity met reality and a position within higher education became available, returning home to St. Cloud state was a perfect transition.”
3. As someone with a background in k-12 and post-secondary education, what made you want to help lead Fusion Learning Partners?
“Professional learning and professional development is something I am highly, highly passionate about. In K-12, sometimes we dread ‘PD’ days, and when I pursued my Master’s degree, it was actually to change what professional development looked like. That was what I focused on throughout my whole Master’s, and even today in a Doctorate program, that’s a main, contributing focus to what I do. What Fusion does is create opportunity for learning partnerships: create opportunities to come together and convene around different topics, and really have, not only a subject matter point of learning, but a social community point of learning, and being able to convene around these things for a greater good is really important to me. Seeing the work that Fusion does and has done historically has been really powerful… being able to work with a team to influence what that looks like across all sectors, including education, is really an exciting movement to be a part of.”
4. From your current role and past experiences, what do you hope to bring to the ‘Fusion’ table? What experiences have inspired you to give back?
“Things that I hope to bring to the Fusion table are perspective on what the future workforce looks like, which is kind of a generating factor of both prek-12 and post-secondary education. We are preparing the future workforce, which is where Fusion kind of picks up and continues that work. Being able to have a lens on what do current, fresh employees do – how are they learning differently, what is a social or emotional impact within their learning, and as we are emerging out of a pandemic time and seeing that close, how do we restructure learning, training, and development to engage people who have been working or potentially learning completely remotely… how do we restructure learning around that within conference events or within learning opportunities.”
5. Part of the mission statement of Fusion is to inspire innovation for the greater good… what does this mean to you, or why do you believe in this?
“As we look at inspiring innovation for the greater good, we can look at the greater good as society, society being this greater, bigger impact, and all of the organizations that we work with at Fusion end up having significant public influence, significant public stakeholders, and buy-in, so being able to inspire what innovation looks like or actually spark what innovation might be, is a huge piece of why I believe in our mission. Being able to see that, while we all have a pre-conceived notion of what innovation could be, that when we convene people in a space, either virtually or physically, innovation redefines itself for those individuals, for the problems that we bring together to solve in creative ways.”
6. There are many critical issues our communities are facing right now, but if you had to pick one, which issue needs the most innovative thinking and why?
“Choosing one, not necessarily the most important one… but choosing one that I think really relates well to what not only what Fusion does, and also my work, is looking at that digital divide: looking at equity within internet access and looking at the broadband projects that are happening within Minnesota, both public and privately. We have a great need for innovative thinking around this, because as we are continuing to transition into a more and more digital world, internet access, broadband access, and fast, reliable, and consistent access to information, continues to be more and more a need and not a want. It is just as valuable as clean, running water or electricity in our world today, and as we project into the future, we think, in the next 10 years, what does internet access look like, and what does internet access look like for providing equitable access in both a metro and rural area.”
Dave says this is important for being able to conduct business, personally grow, learn through public education, and to connect with friends and family. This issue is influenced by socioeconomic equity, which is why innovation is necessary.
7. I hear you are a big foodie and especially love to grill in the summer! What are some of your grilling favorites?
“Three of my most favorite things to grill would be an herbed marinated chicken – super good and flavorful. The other one is a nice medium-rare or rare steak with a good sear. The third one would be really, juicy, flavorful hamburgers on a black stone griddle.”
8. Are the rumors true that you recently grilled 8 pounds of bacon and there may have been some unintended consequences?
“Yes. For Mother’s Day, we were selected for bacon. When we make bacon, we’ll make bacon and then freeze some so it’s easy during the week. My kids could each eat 5 slices of bacon every single morning of the week, so we go through a lot.”
“So we did it on the griddle, 8 pounds, and there’s a drip tray in the back, and the run-off of 8 pounds of bacon is more than the drip tray [could contain], and I did not necessarily realize that until close to the end when it was already on my driveway. But that’s okay, because I’ll just re-seal the driveway this year anyway. We needed to do it, and that’s a great excuse… and the bacon was delicious.”
9. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
“One of my favorite things that I enjoy in my free time, and this either classifies me as the young crowd, or the ‘old guy’ in the young crowd, but I actually love playing video games, and it’s my disconnect. Being a full-time employee, full-time dad, and a full-time Doctorate student, at 10 o’clock, I draw a line, most days, and say ‘I have to stop doing whatever I did… and I’ll either go to bed or I’ll go play video games for a little bit. Being able to play any type of video games is really a great disconnect from reality for me, and a new way for me to engage in another community.”
Dave has an Xbox Series X and a Nintendo Switch. He loves to play Halo Infinite on Xbox, and on Nintendo Switch, he enjoys The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which he says got him back into playing video games as an adult.
10. If you could travel anywhere, where would it be and why?
“If I were to go anywhere, I think I would end up taking my wife on a trip and traveling with her to Italy. Her family is from Italy and being able to travel the area and go back and see different places and have different experiences would be really amazing.” Dave also explained how his wife’s mom was adopted from South Korea, so being able to adventure to South Korea and gain new perspectives would be amazing. Dave loves traveling and the last couple years have been hard for it. “My travel bug is itching and I am ready to return to new opportunities and new adventures.”