What drew you to be a part of the OKGIT?
In the early 2000s, Oklahoma higher education had significant outreach to other nations and requisite educational ministries to develop Oklahoma higher education as a strong export for the state. The Oklahoma Department of Commerce invited institutions, as well as the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, to collaborate on developing long-term partnerships with other nations, focusing work on the international commerce offices hosted by the state in multiple nations. For the next 20 years, I have served as the liaison between the Governor’s International Team (GIT) and the state higher education agency for any international activities and/or visitors. I continue to value that role for our state agency for higher education.
Tell us about your international experiences and how that is reflected in your life/work in Oklahoma?
As a student at Oklahoma State University, I worked on a minor in French and planned on a study abroad experience in Belgium, that unfortunately did not come to pass. I then moved to the University of Central Oklahoma and worked very closely with international students in the residence halls, appreciating the great diversity brought to the campus by these incredible students. Since my work at the Oklahoma State Regents, I have accompanied the Department of Commerce on multiple trade missions to Vietnam and Taiwan, and served as the point person at the State Regents to prepare and host visitors from countries interested in Oklahoma higher education, such as China, Japan, Ukraine, Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Taiwan, and others.
Why is it important for you that Oklahoma has strong international ties?
Oklahoma’s higher education system is dedicated to preparing globally competent graduates to move our state into the future, and to connect Oklahoma to the global economy. It is imperative for Oklahoma’s economic and cultural future to invest it resources and talents in developing culturally competent and engaged citizens.
About Dr. Blanke
Dr. Blanke serves as the chief academic officer and chief student affairs officer for the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education. She works directly with chief academic and student affairs officers on each campus, with responsibilities related to all academic degree offerings, academic policy, and statewide academic and student affairs initiatives. Dr. Blanke works directly on K-12 and career technical education collaborations that lead to postsecondary success and completion, as well as workforce development. She also leads the Reach Higher, Oklahoma’s statewide adult degree completion initiative, and serves as the State Lead for the Adult Promise effort through Lumina Foundation and the State Higher Education Executive Officers. In addition, Dr. Blanke is the lead staff on the State Regents’ Online Consortium of Oklahoma to expand high quality online teaching and learning statewide.
Prior to joining the State Regents, Debbie held various positions at Oklahoma institutions, including one research university, two regional universities and one community college. Dr. Blanke earned her doctorate in Higher Education from Oklahoma State University, her Master’s from Cameron University, and her baccalaureate from Oklahoma State University. She has over 30 years of administration and college teaching experience in Oklahoma. In 2013, the Journal Record’s Woman of the Year program selected Dr. Blanke as a “50 Making A Difference” honoree for her role as a community leader, specifically for her work with adult students returning to college, and in 2014, the Oklahoma Women in Higher Education Board created a graduate scholarship in her name for her work to advance women in higher education leadership roles. Debbie is happily married, celebrating their 30th anniversary in 2018, and has one son who completed his college degree in 2018 and works in Austin.