Blankenship begins job in Fulbright
If students wandering around in Old Main have seen a guy who looks like a student working in a private office, don’t worry. Fresh-faced Jason Blankenship is the newest member of the Fulbright Honors program staff. Although he is one of the youngest in his field, Blankenship does not see his age as an obstacle, he said. In fact, having youth on his side gives Blankenship an edge.
“Being 31 really works to my advantage with counseling students, because I still look like one,” Blankenship said. As Assistant Director of Honor Studies, Blankenship’s main job is to advise four-year honors students on course selections that will help them progress with their degree. He also works closely with graduation distinction within the honors program. However, Blankenship isn’t alone in his work.
“I have a great support staff in Martin and Mary-Ellen; and working with Dr. Sidney Burris has been a great professional experience,” Blankenship said.
Blankenship says he finds satisfaction in his work because he was in the shoes of the students he advises not too long ago.
Hailing from the small town of Melbourne, Ark., Blankenship came to the UA with his major undeclared. In addition to earning a master’s degree in English, Blankenship also spent his college years working for the UA admissions office and later for the graduate assistantship at the Fulbright advising center. These jobs allowed him get to know the UA better and to intern himself. Through his work as an undergraduate, Blankenship learned about the advising position and knew it was for him.
“I enjoy my interaction with the honor students because they are motivated to do well academically. So many of them are self-motivated when it comes to school. My job gives me the opportunity to mediate between students, teachers and departments concerning the honors program,” Blankenship said.
When not molding young minds, Blankenship takes time to take care of his dog, Sheila. Blankenship also makes time for his other hobbies, which include tennis and reading works by his favorite authors Joan Didion and Henry James. His love of reading was first sparked by his interest in the Olympics.
“One of my first memories of the Olympics is the 1984 games because they were the first time I actually sat down and watched the entire thing,” Blankenship said. “After that I read everything I could about the Olympics. The whole concept of the games is amazing.”
Although he loves the games, Blankenship wishes the American coverage was broadened to show athletes outside of the U.S. team. Blankenship believes that one of the best things about the Olympics is that it lets viewers fall in love with new sports, which aren’t usually featured on American television. Like college, the Olympics give people the opportunity to be exposed to something new.
“The same idea occurred for me in college, in my degree programs,” he said. “I majored in Anthropology, but had no idea what this field was about when I graduated high school. I took a class from a professor, Ted Swedenburg, and thought, ‘I want to know what this man knows,’ so I took another class. I wanted to learn about ideas that I didn’t know I loved,” he said.
“The same thing happened in my M.A. program in English when I read, ‘The portrait of a Lady’ and ‘The Faerie Queen.’ I loved something I didn’t know I could love. Just like rowing, diving, or the high jump at the Olympics,” Blankenship said.
Perhaps someday when he’s done advising UA students, Jason Blankenship will have a chance to pursue his other dream job – to be a tennis commentator for ESPN.