Student Spotlight: Salisha Allard-Blaisdell
Northwest University has seen many students come from all around the world to pursue great educational goals and dreams, and each has an inspiring story that shows how they have gotten to where they are today. Among these outstanding students is Salisha Allard-Blaisdell. Salisha is an international student from Grenada who recently graduated from the PhD in Organizational Leadership program at NU. As she prepares for life after NU, Salisha graciously agreed to answer some questions for us about her experiences at NU and what she learned through them.
Tell us about yourself, your home, and your family. Where did you grow up and where have you lived?
I was born and raised in the eastern Caribbean island of Grenada. Grenada is known as the “Isle of Spice.” For example, we are among the world's largest producers and exporters of nutmeg. Grenada is also known as Jab Jab Nation. We are exceedingly proud and patriotic and express this pride unapologetically during our Carnival celebrations. I came to the United States in 2008 and have lived in Hawaii, California, Utah, New Jersey, and here in Washington. I have a big family. My biological family comprises three sisters and four brothers who reside in Grenada. My birth parents passed away when I was much younger. In addition, my adoptive family consists of my parents, three sisters, and one brother. I was adopted on April 21, 2011, by Ken and Sharalee Blaisdell. I was 21 years old at the time. Finally, my immediate family is comprised of my precious daughter, Kaelyn, and me.
Why did you choose Northwest and the PhD in Organizational Leadership program?
I learned about NU from my professional mentor, Dr. Rowlanda Cawthon. Dr. Cawthon is a professor at NU and the current dean of NU's College of Business. I was formally introduced to Dr. Cawthon in 2017 when I executed a contract for her to serve as the keynote speaker at our annual mentorship celebration. At that time, I was attending and working at a community college in Utah during the transition period between my graduate and doctoral studies. I worked as the coordinator for multicultural programming and special projects to support multicultural students on campus at the community college. Dr. Cawthon and I met in person in 2018 at the mentorship celebration event. While she was speaking, I learned that she has a degree in organizational leadership. I was in awe because after completing my Master of Public Administration degree, I knew I wanted a PhD in Organizational Leadership but did not know where to begin. At the end of the event, I asked Dr. Cawthon to serve as my professional mentor, and she immediately agreed.
I chose the PhD in Organizational Leadership program because of my keen interest in research and my commitment to individual, team, and organizational development. The PhD program has intense methodological rigor that positions new and continuing researchers to explore social challenges. The program is also uniquely designed to position its students with transferable skills necessary for meaningful impact. Thus, we are equipped to explore social challenges ethically and from a faith-based, Christian foundation. We are also given the tools and resources needed to create antidotes for the social issues we are passionate about.
What was one of the most impactful lessons you learned in your studies at Northwest?
One formative experience I had occurred in my Organizational Change class. In this course, we were tasked with looking inward and then writing our purpose statements and values. We were also asked to recount two experiences: one we were really proud of and another when we were not our best. Conducting these and other activities for the course helped me examine and internalize my values and understand my worth, which fueled my capability to do great things. As change agents, each student had to evaluate an organization of their choice, identify a problem within the organization, and then devise a solution for the problem. For my project, I worked with a Utah-based nonprofit organization and helped them to rebrand. As a result, the organization expanded its impact, and I became more competent and transformative as an organizational leader. With this, I have learned and come to value the idea that leadership stems from within. First, we had to understand our strengths and areas of improvement. Then we had to recognize our role before we could step out into the world and serve as leaders.
What are your plans after graduation?
First of all, it feels really great to be preparing for graduation! My plan is to work as a professor (visiting or assistant) and spend a lot of time with my daughter. I love teaching and mentoring students, so that line of work would make me incredibly happy. If teaching roles do not become available, I anticipate doing some leadership development work in an organization whose mission aligns with my values and interests.
What advise would you give to other potential doctoral students considering this program?
My experience at NU has been incredible. If you want to make your dream become your reality, choose NU! You will not regret it. The content of the courses, the competence of the faculty, and the caliber of cohort members will impact your life in extraordinary ways.
What was your favorite part of the program?
My favorite part of my program was getting the support I needed to conduct an original study in Grenada. I did not think I could complete international research for my PhD field research. Still, my chair, Dr. Thomas L. Alsbury, believed in me and encouraged me to do what I've always wanted to do. He scheduled meetings with me on weekends, holidays, and late evenings. He always made me feel capable. In addition, my dissertation committee spent countless hours guiding me. My committee members are Dr. Thomas L. Alsbury, Dr. Rowlanda Cawthon, and Dr. Donald Conant. Conducting my dissertation research in Grenada was really important because my long-term future goal is to support youth development initiatives in Grenada. In addition, because I did my study in my home country, I established excellent relationships with several leaders in Grenada.
I can honestly say that overall, all my professors, support staff, and colleagues at NU made my journey incredibly successful. I could not have made it without all of their individual and collective contributions.
Did you receive the support you needed as an international student?
Yes, I received a lot of help from the international student office. I loved that I could call, email, or walk into the office whenever I had a question or needed support. In addition, I always received timely responses. The international student office was always willing and ready to help me succeed.
There are many students, just like Salisha, who are pursuing their dreams at Northwest University. Learn more about becoming a student at NU at northwestu.edu.