CHADRON – Spring Commencement for Chadron State College will be Saturday. The graduate ceremony will be at 8 a.m. in Memorial Hall’s Auditorium with Education Professor Dr. Patti Blundell as the speaker. The undergraduate ceremony will be at 10 a.m. in the Chicoine Center with Dr. Lois Podobnik, former Vice President of Academic Affairs as the speaker. Both ceremonies can be viewed online at csc.edu/live.
One hundred twenty-two candidates are expected at the graduate commencement and 247 at undergraduate commencement.
Visitors to the undergraduate exercises are asked to use parking lots south of Old Admin and east of the softball field if they are able to walk to the Chicoine Center since approximately 35 parking spots are temporarily unavailable due to construction of the Sports Complex.
Graduate Commencement Speaker
Dr. Patti Blundell began her Chadron State College career in 1986. Prior to joining CSC, she taught elementary schools in Dawes and Sheridan counties and been a nutrition educator with the Nebraska State Department of Health.
In 1997, Blundell earned her Ed.D. along with CSC faculty, Yvonne Moody and Dr. Kim Madsen, who were part of a western Nebraska cohort in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s doctoral program in Administration, Curriculum and Instruction.
“I had two young children and a middle schooler so it was quite a challenge making trips to Lincoln,” she said.
Blundell remembers that situation on an almost daily basis when her graduate students communicate with her about the challenges of balancing work, family, and school.
“I tell them ‘I know it’s hard, but it’s going to get better,’ and they can do this,” she said. “I support them the best I can whatever they’re going through.”
Blundell has had a wide variety of experiences across campus. She worked with the Alternative Learning Program, which awarded college credit to adults with proven expertise in areas taught by the college. She also coordinated the entrepreneur intern program, and helped coordinate administration of the Carl Perkins grant program. Later, as an Education professor, she helped teach the final cohort of students enrolled in CSC’s specialist degree program when it was discontinued in 2010.
Highlights of her CSC career include three overseas trips with education majors, with a fourth starting in a few days, and getting to know her mentor, Merlyn Gramberg, retired vice president of Academic Affairs.
“He was a great developer of faculty. If he thought you would work hard, he would figure out a path to help you earn your doctorate. He also taught us to be flexible,” she said.
She has supervised student teachers and taught undergraduate courses in Family and Consumer Sciences and Education, as well as graduate courses in cross cultural studies, Comparative Education, Educational Philosophy, Curriculum Development and School Law.
Blundell has also served on Academic Review, Faculty Senate, Graduate Council, Institutional Review Board, Promotion and Tenure, and multiple search committees and graduate committees.
One of the biggest challenges she faced as an educator was developing graduate courses and programs for online delivery.
“I was nervous and apprehensive. So were the students. It was like being a first-year teacher again. They didn’t know how to relate to me online and vice versa. Over time, I built a relationship with them,” she said.
Nearly 20 years later, Blundell thoroughly enjoys developing new online courses. She said she learned to write in a conversational tone with a warm, approachable voice. She has given presentations about online teaching and conducted research into the ways distance learning can benefit place bound adults.
Assessment and accreditation are also special interests of Blundell’s. She served as the faculty coordinator preparing assessment data for accreditation visits by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, and currently serves as a state and national reviewer for the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
Blundell was elected the vice president of the Nebraska Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and a year later became the President. As part of her duties she is Nebraska’s representative to the Advisory Council of State Representatives for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. She has also represented CSC on the Nebraska Council for Teacher Education for many years.
She has also worked as a private consultant for school districts, work that she said has given her the opportunity to influence Nebraska Department of Education evaluation practices for improving after school programs.
Blundell is married to Pete Romanjenko who is retired from the Wyoming National Guard. She has three children: Angie Kuiper and her husband, Mike, and their children Will and Emma who live in Harrisburg, South Dakota. Mike Blundell and Elena Kratskova who live in Bejing, China. Mike has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from CSC. Joy Weaver and her husband, Clay, who live in Rapid City with their children Arianna and Jaelyn. Blundell’s parents, Don and Shirley Kay, are retired ranchers who live in Chadron.
Lois Veath Podobnik
Undergraduate Commencement Speaker
The 2018 Spring Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony Speaker, Dr. Lois Veath Podobnik, is no stranger to Chadron State College. Podobnik retired in 2012 after working more than 30 years in various roles at CSC. She was a member of the Science faculty, Chair of the Department of Science, Dean of Arts and Science, and Vice President of Academic Affairs.
At the time of her retirement, Podobnik said she was two years beyond the national average shelf life of five years for an Academic Vice President, a position she cheerfully described as the “cheerleader with money.” Although it was a challenge to leave CSC with so many new and exciting developments underway, she said she was ready to spend more time with her husband, Don, in Montana, watching sunsets and bouncing grandchildren on her knees. After leaving campus, Podobnik spent a semester in the Nebraska State College System’s office in Lincoln working on special partnership projects.
Podobnik spearheaded several initiatives as Vice President. She was instrumental in the design and implementation of the Essential Studies Program to replace the General Studies Program, and she helped establish an information commons in the King Library. She also developed faculty learning communities to plan and establish a Teaching and Learning Center to assist faculty with innovative teaching methods.
In her leadership development work, Podobnik used a quote attributed to Antoine Saint-Exupery: “If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the [people] to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
Podobnik guided the college’s successful Higher Learning Commission (HLC) accreditation in 2007 and oversaw the college’s work in the pioneer cohort of the HLC Academy for the Assessment of Student Learning. She said she was gratified by the amazing initiatives led by faculty, staff and students to keep CSC a step ahead, as it was described by the HLC during the accreditation process.
Podobnik moved to Chadron with her late husband, David, in 1979. She began her career at CSC as an adjunct chemistry professor in 1981, earned a doctorate from the University of Wyoming in 1988, and earned tenure in 1989. At one time, she was the only female full professor at CSC. Podobnik received the UW College of Education's Distinguished Alumni Award in 2010.
In 1993, she received the NSCS’s Teaching Excellence Award, the same year she was president of the Nebraska Academy of the Sciences. She developed the first science courses using distance learning and online technology and attracted science teachers from California to Tennessee to attend her “The Trek of the Mammoth” workshops.
Podobnik’s most recent honor was when the Nebraska State College System named CSC’s Planetarium in her honor in 2017. She was the director of the planetarium for 19 years and wrote 34 grants for nearly $1.5 million of equipment including telescopes.
Additionally, she was a leader in writing $15 million in National Science Foundation grants to provide statewide training for math and science teachers. For seven years, she also sponsored Expanding Your Horizons workshops on CSC’s campus for middle and high school aged girls to explore careers in science and math.
Between Podobnik and her husband, they have six children. They live near Butte, Montana. Her three children include Jisella, who is married to Tim Dolan. They live in Omaha with their daughter, Amelia. Logan and his wife, Klare, live in Elk Horn, Iowa, with their children, Warren and Calvin. Blake and his wife Angela live in Leesburg, Virginia, with their children, Cora and David Veath and Ethan Henderson.
—CSC College Relations