Jenny Blank: 2022 Standing Ovation Award Recipient

MSA is delighted to announce that this year’s Standing Ovation award goes to MSA Coordinator of Residential Life, Jenny Blank!  

When asked why they thought this year’s recipient deserved the award, one nominator replied with “is this rhetorical?”  

Among faculty and staff alike, Jenny Blank is an obvious a choice for this wider recognition. 

Long before her current position as Coordinator of Residential Life, Jenny was a scholar herself in 2006. She then returned as an RA for the 2009 and 2010 Academies, where many people first got to know her as a leader. Brian Stuhlman wrote, “When I think about Jenny Blank and her time at MSA, I would note her sincere energy and ebullience. She is, to borrow a phrase, ‘interested and interesting.’ As an RA, she interacted with scholars with a sincere heart and a desire to engage.  She seems equally comfortable and accomplished talking about robotics and STEM in the classroom as she is talking about social and emotional strategies for gifted teens.”  

Jenny joined faculty in 2019 and taught the minor Breakout!, which took the popularity of escape rooms and turned it on its head. With Jenny’s guidance, scholars were tasked with working together to solve clues that lead to opening a breakout box. In 2021, Breakout! was virtual, like the rest of the academy’s classes, but it remained interactive and impactful. The virtual minor included simulations and exercises that focused heavily on teamwork.  

Jenny’s long-term dedication is recognized by colleagues and scholars alike. “I first met Jenny Blank when I was a scholar in 2010 and she was the RA who co-facilitated my minor’s PSD sessions,” one nominator wrote. “Jenny has consistently found places to be of use and [she has] gone above and beyond the role she was originally hired for to perform when the situation called for it.” 

Above and beyond: that was a common trend seen in the nominations for Jenny. She took on many roles during the 2022 Academy, including unexpectedly stepping up to fulfill the Coordinator for Residential Life position. Many colleagues and RAs saw how much responsibility she took on with grace and determination. RA Grace Sullentrup wrote, “Jenny would go above and beyond for the Resident Assistants, finding new and silly ways to connect with the RAs and fostering a community among the RA staff. From creating scientific candy preference studies to crafting cheers to encourage a job well done, Jenny did everything she could to make being an RA safe, fun, and productive.”  

Jenny was able to use what she applied in her short time as a minor teacher and Cor: PSD facilitator and implement it in an entirely new position. 

Another nominator said, “She didn’t hesitate to step up and take charge when things went wrong; she always had a positive, can-do attitude, and made everyone feel appreciated and valued. Jenny’s kindness, authenticity, and dedication to others embody the spirit of MSA. She put scholars and the Academy first at all times, even when that meant sacrificing her minor and sleep schedule.” 

The 2022 Academy would not have been what it was without Jenny. She is truly an asset to MSA.Congratulations!