Journey of Empowerment and Service: The Inspiring Leadership of Zarina Blankenbaker

In bustling Fort Worth, the community of Tarrant County College finds inspiration in the dynamic leadership of Zarina Blankenbaker, current President of TCC Northwest campus. Her journey is one that exemplifies the power of resilience, dedication, and a profound commitment to education and service.

Zarina grew up as a child of parents from two different countries. Her mother, raised in poverty on a farm, never had the opportunity for formal education. However, both her parents instilled in her the value of education, and provided unwavering support and encouragement. Tragically, Zarina’s father passed away when she was just 11, leaving her mother to ensure Zarina’s continued focus on education—a gift she never had herself.

As a teenage immigrant to the US, Zarina’s determination and merit secured her a full-ride scholarship to study at Indiana University. After earning her BSc and MA degrees, she served with the Department of the Army. But it was during her time as an adjunct at a community college that Zarina discovered her passion for working with students. The philosophy of community colleges resonates with her own values.

Zarina’s career in higher education flourished through various roles as she transitioned from faculty to chair, dean, associate vice resident, and vice president, and eventually landed the esteemed position of President. Her journey is a testament that all things are possible under the right conditions, and her life’s philosophy aligns with the symbol of Sankofa, which emphasizes learning from the past to achieve future goals.

Throughout her life, Zarina has drawn constant inspiration from other women, like Dr. Elva LeBlanc, Chancellor of Tarrant County College. Their life stories and achievements reinforce Zarina’s entrepreneurial spirit, pushing her to innovate, anticipate challenges, and stay ahead of the curve as a leader and an immigrant.

For aspiring young women seeking leadership roles, Zarina imparts valuable Sankofa lessons from her roots — walk like a mountain, demonstrating strength and persistence by living in your values, while flowing like a river, being agile in navigating challenges. Leadership, for Zarina, is a state of being, where actions align with values, and caring for those in her charge takes precedence over demonstrating authority.

Despite the demands of her position, Zarina finds joy in her work and personal life, thanks to her Ikigai—finding a sense of purpose in serving others. She views work and personal life as integrated, rather than separate compartments. She embraces a positive disposition and seeks perspectives from her community of peers, colleagues, and friends to navigate a volatile and complex world.

Zarina’s commitment to service is evident in her personal philosophy, guided by a beloved poem by Rabindranath Tagore. She cherishes the joy that comes from being useful and indispensable, defining her leadership by the impact she makes rather than titles or positions.

Empowerment and service shine as a beacon of inspiration from Zarina’s life. Her unwavering dedication to education, resilience in the face of challenges, and pursuit of making a positive impact on others’ lives continue to uplift and transform the community of Tarrant County College.

Similar Posts