Blanchard to direct public service center

One of the University's own will return to campus to head the Carolina Center for Public Service.

Lynn White Blanchard, who grew up in Raleigh and earned two graduate degrees at Carolina, will begin work as the center's new director on Jan. 7. Blanchard comes to the University from her post as vice chair of community initiatives in the Department of Community Health and Health Studies at the Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network in Allentown, Pa.

As director of the Center for Public Service, her duties will include carrying out a mission of supporting Carolina's public service efforts. She will manage the center's staff as well as help raise funds to meet its budget needs.

Formally launched in the fall of 1999, the center builds upon the University's strong legacy of public service by connecting students, faculty, staff and other resources with the citizens of North Carolina and beyond. It offers "one-stop shopping" where anyone with a public-service question or need can contact the center, and officials try to find helpful University resources.

A search committee of Carolina administrators, faculty, staff and students as well as a community agency representative recommended Blanchard for the job. That panel was chaired by Cynthia Wolf Johnson, associate vice chancellor for student affairs.

"Dr. Lynn Blanchard is an ideal choice for the director for the Carolina Center for Public Service, as she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience with public service in the state of North Carolina, yet she has been away long enough to bring a fresh perspective," Wolf Johnson said. "Her collaborative approach and genuine dedication to strengthening community will serve the University and its communities well."

Blanchard will work in the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, and the search committee made its recommendation to Robert Shelton, who heads that office. Chancellor James Moeser offered Blanchard the post at Shelton's recommendation.

"In her one-on-one interview, Dr. Blanchard impressed me with her passion for effective public service and her high regard for Carolina," Shelton said.

Blanchard earned master's and doctoral degrees from Carolina's School of Public Health, studying in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education. She holds a bachelor's of science in education from East Carolina University as well as a two-year degree from St. Mary's College in Raleigh.

In her position with the Department of Community Health and Health Studies, Blanchard led an effort to improve health and the quality of life in the Lehigh Valley, a two-county area in eastern Pennsylvania with a population of some 575,000.

One way that effort, known as the "Measurable Enhancement of the Status of Health" (MESH), went about improving area residents' health was by fostering community change through community engagement. Blanchard's team first identified health initiatives already under way and then contributed to those efforts as appropriate and launched new ones when needed.

Programs MESH has been involved in include fluoridation of Allentown's water supply, a two-year campaign to improve children's health through physical fitness and universal screening for signs of family violence in Lehigh Valley Hospital's Emergency Department, with patients identified as victims of violence being referred to community resources.

"Dr. Blanchard's background is an ideal fit with the mission of the center," Shelton said. "She works well with groups of varying background, has experience in fund raising and her enthusiasm is a perfect match with the energies of our students."

The philosophy behind the MESH program stresses community input in reaching solutions to community problems. Toward that end, MESH has organized public forums on topics such as school violence and children's health.

And in one rural area of the state, MESH holds "Neighbor to Neighbor Community Discussion Suppers," which address issues raised by local residents. These discussions have led to initiatives ranging from a GED program to a walking trail in a community park.

"Dr. Blanchard has a strong record of community involvement. One of her prized strengths is her ability to bring multiple groups together to succeed on a project. This ability is ideal for the center," Shelton said.

In recognition of MESH's work, the Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network has been honored with two awards over the past two years -- the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania's 2000 Achievement Award for Community Stewardship and the VHA Inc. (formerly Voluntary Hospital Association) 2001 Leadership Award in Community Health Improvement.

The hiring of Blanchard follows a three-month search that included finalists appearing at public forums held on campus in October.

"The committee was pleased with the quality of applicants, most particularly the finalists," Wolf Johnson said. "Each finalist demonstrated unique strengths for what can be a demanding position. We believe that Dr. Blanchard has the skills and experience necessary to bridge all of the diverse requirements of this position."

Blanchard will replace Nicholas Didow as center director. A professor in the Kenan-Flagler Business School, Didow left the post last summer to return to teaching full time. Edward "Ned" Brooks, one of the center's original organizers, has served as interim director since July 1.

"It's been a pure joy helping implement the Carolina Center for Public Service," Brooks said. "No university in the nation is more committed to public service than UNC-Chapel Hill. That goes for students, faculty, staff and alumni. The amount and quality of effort that go into serving the public, particularly residents of North Carolina, by the people of this University is really amazing."

Brooks said he will miss working at the center, but he leaves it in good hands.

"We're very fortunate that Lynn Blanchard is returning to Carolina to lead the center," he said. "She knows the University and the state well. She's committed to public service, and she's a most effective leader."