Building a Rich Career in Higher Education Leadership
As an undergraduate at UMass Amherst, Peggy Jablonski threw herself into campus life, joining Chi Omega sorority, working with Everywoman’s Center (now Center for Women & Community), serving on the Student Senate, and interning at Student Legal Services. Without realizing it, she was laying an excellent foundation for her career in higher education leadership. From this solid beginning, Jablonski went on to serve in senior leadership positions at MIT, Brown, and UNC Chapel Hill, among others, and became a consultant and coach to leaders and organizations inside and outside academia.
UMass Amherst wasn’t actually Jablonski’s first choice. She had hoped to attend Boston College, but as a first generation college student from a working class community, it wasn’t financially feasible. Fortunately, financial aid made it possible for her to attend UMass (and she now gives to the university to ensure other students have the same opportunities). In hindsight, Jablonski is thankful that she landed at UMass. “It was a hotbed of ideas and challenges and a place where you could explore and figure out who you are and who you want to become.”
After graduating in 1981 with a bachelor’s in history, Jablonski took a job in Greek Affairs at UMass and her career in higher education snowballed from there. She completed a master’s in higher education administration at the UMass College of Education in 1985 and went on to earn a doctorate in educational leadership and administration from Boston University in 1993.
Jablonski spent the next two decades serving in student affairs leadership positions and as a faculty member at universities across the East Coast. This included the UMass College of Education, where she was a faculty member from 1997 to 2001. In addition to teaching graduate courses in higher education, Jablonski served on the committee that developed the curriculum for the UMass doctoral program in educational leadership.
In 2013, Jablonski shifted her focus. “I realized that I had a lot of experience, knowledge, and expertise to offer. I didn’t want to just dedicate myself to one institution, but instead help prepare leaders to be effective in a variety of settings.” To that end, she created the Jablonski Consulting Group, offering program reviews, leadership development, retreats, and coaching for educational institutions, businesses, and nonprofits, and occasionally serving in interim executive positions.
“I realized that I had a lot of experience, knowledge, and expertise to offer. I didn’t want to just dedicate myself to one institution, but instead help prepare leaders to be effective in a variety of settings.”
Most recently, Jablonski has also developed a sideline as a historian of Cape Cod. Unable to travel widely during the pandemic she dove deeply into the history around her. Jablonski’s exploration inspired her to write, Cape Cod Camino Way: Walking with a Purpose, and to create a series of walking tours focusing on the Cape’s history and its connections to current issues in the environment, economy, and racial and social justice.
40 years in, Jablonski can’t imagine a more exciting career than the one she started at UMass. “There are always interesting and sometimes difficult challenges to work through, but the reward is that you’re impacting students’ lives at a critical juncture,” she says, and then quips, “When parents ask if I have children, my standard response is "Oh yes, thousands of them!’"