Student Spotlight

Taking stock, adjusting leads to 40 Under Forty honors for Brandman grad

July 21, 2015 by Margo Myers
Amber Blankenship, at work and with her children, Aspen and Evan

Amber Blankenship, at work and with her children, Aspen and Evan

Four years ago, Amber Blankenship took stock of her life. She liked her career, but wanted more. She wanted out of a troubled marriage. And she needed to “be healthy” and get physically fit.

So she set three goals that would lead to huge personal and professional changes. The first move was to end her marriage, which left Blankenship as a single mom to two young children. Next, Blankenship set a goal to lose weight and get healthy. She started working out and changed her diet. The third goal? To get her college degree.

“I wanted to be a role model for my children,” said Blankenship.

None of it was easy. Blankenship didn’t think college was an option due to her financial situation after the divorce.

“I met Michael Brouillette and Dr. Margo Deegan at Brandman’s Lacey campus,” she said. “I didn’t even have an associate degree even though I attended community college after high school.” The advisors helped Blankenship figure out costs so she could start classes at the community college level and raise her grade point average. Then she transferred to Brandman to pursue a bachelor’s in organizational leadership.

Now those changes and her hard work are paying off. She’s been named as a 2015 South Sound 40 Under Forty honoree by Business Examiner Media, for her leadership and accomplishments in Washington state.

“The fact that someone took time out to nominate me is huge,” said Blankenship. “I made a lot of changes to improve my life, but I don’t consider myself extraordinary. The fact that my peers feel I deserve this award is huge.”

Determination to reach her goals sets Blankenship apart. When she started her quest, Blankenship was the catering manager at Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound. A year later, the hotel promoted her to banquet manager. That meant working a lot of unusual hours while pursuing her college degree. At the same time, Blankenship served as secretary, and then president for the Tacoma chapter of the National Association for Catering and Events.

Amber Blankenship’s advice for aspiring leaders:
• Choose the life you want.
• Come up with goals to make that a reality.
• Find a support system to help you get there.

“I had a crazy schedule, but the Brandman class structure of both online and in class once a week worked for me,” said Blankenship.

With her bachelor’s degree in hand in May 2014, Blankenship had finally conquered her three goals. “I took my kids on a vacation and just spent time with them last summer,” she said. “I had started on my master’s degree but stopped when my son said ‘Mom, please don’t go back to school.’ So I may get my master’s, but not right now. My kids come first.”

In the meantime, there’s more change ahead, both professionally and personally. She landed another promotion – this time to director of Retail and Spa Services at Great Wolf Lodge.

“That promotion happened because of my leadership skills,” she explained. “And I want to continue to grow with the company, and eventually become a general manager.” Blankenship also just became engaged. Rick Bevacqua popped the question during a recent trip to Seattle. “We haven’t set a date yet, but my kids, Evan and Aspen, are thrilled!”

Blankenship and the other 40 Under Forty honorees will show up as “All Stars” at the Aug. 4 celebration in Cheney Stadium, home of the Tacoma Rainiers.

“I really believe people can accomplish anything they put their mind to,” said Blankenship. “Believe in yourself, and you can do it.”

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