In the lower left corner of a sprawling whiteboard in Lindsay Blount’s office at William & Mary, her 10-year-old daughter Caroline has carefully chronicled an educational odyssey that has finally come to fruition.

“Dr. Mommy,” Caroline recently wrote.

The 10-year journey began in the galley of a SkyWest Airlines plane, where she served as flight attendant. It included her marriage to an Air Force officer, the birth of two children and a nomadic list of towns and cities the Blounts called home — including Williamsburg, where Blount has just earned her doctorate in educational policy, planning and leadership from the William & Mary School of Education. She will join fellow graduates at William & Mary’s Commencement festivities this weekend.

Her academic credits include a 4.0 at community college, graduating summa cum laude from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, then Boston University for her master’s degree in English literature, followed by a graduate certificate in education and an English 5-12 teaching license.

“I was going to be a stay-at-home on a high school diploma,” she recalled. “That lasted about four months before I declared, ‘I’m going back to school now.’”

At UMass-Lowell, an honors professor quickly pointed her in a direction he thought she was uniquely qualified to pursue when she told him she wanted to write a thesis: “‘You’re a doctoral candidate at heart,’” he said.

Typical of many military spouses as they strive to create a life and career for themselves while offering unselfish support for their partner, Blount overcame many obstacles on her way to becoming project and business manager for military and veteran affairs at William & Mary. The post entails overseeing a multi-million-dollar budget supporting the Veteran-to-Executive Transition Program and the Office of the Special Assistant to President Katherine A. Rowe for Military and Veteran Affairs.

The university’s efforts have been recognized, as has Blount herself.

A Military Spouse Magazine cover showing Lindsay Blount and the word, College Champion

VIQTORY, a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business that publishes G.I. Jobs Magazine, recently designated W&M a gold-level “Military Friendly” school. It lauds W&M’s effort at creating “sustainable and meaningful education paths for the military community.”

Last fall, Blount received a Student Leadership Award from Military Spouse Magazine, and she appeared on the cover of its education issue.

“Lindsay is an exceptionally talented and motivated person and the prototype of a military spouse — strong, resilient and dedicated,” said Kathleen T. Jabs, special assistant for military and veteran affairs. “She has shown true grit and grace over her educational career, and I’m proud of the work she has done personally and professionally.

“I’m grateful for the work she has done in her role on our team as advocate and champion for military, veteran and military-affiliated students.”

Part of her responsibilities involve supporting a program titled Flourishing Through Life’s Transitions, which is aimed at veterans about to transition into the civilian world and is an early adapter of wellness and business integration at a public higher education institution. Some veterans or their spouses find the transition into the civilian world a bit daunting and don’t always think of the impact wellness can have on future careers. Some fear what life will look like without the regimentation of the military. Having spent significant time away from their family while serving, some are troubled by taking even more time studying or re-acclimating themselves to community.

“The military transition carries with an identity component, much like athletes when they are done with whatever sport they’ve been in,” Blount said. “There’s a lot that comes with transitioning, and we’re helping folks kind of figure out what they want to be when they grow up.”

Until she came to W&M, where she first worked as assistant to the Dean of University Libraries Carrie Cooper, Blount’s support system at other universities was uneven at best. She was 31 and a mother when she began college; few of her previous professors viewed that positively.

But at W&M, Cooper became the first of a long line of what Blount calls “amazing mentors” who reversed that experience. It started with a tea party Cooper threw in Blount’s honor and attended by people who held jobs like hers across the campus.

“I see administrative assistants come and go, and I wanted to be sure mine was happy and thriving,” Cooper said. “I wanted her to find friendships and colleagues across the university. It worked!”

Blount says that Cooper is “an amazing networker.”

“She put me in rooms that maybe I shouldn’t have been in at the time because I hadn’t worked that much,” she said. “Most leaders don’t put their assistants in all the rooms, but she put me in front of a lot of people.”

Foremost among them was Rowe. She doesn’t know it, Blount said, but Rowe was an academic role model of hers long before they met because of their deep mutual interest in Shakespeare. Rowe co-founded and served as the CEO of Luminary Digital Media, which developed educational apps for Shakespeare’s plays, and is past president of the Shakespeare Association of America. But Blount also describes her conversations with Rowe as “a master class on what leadership is.”

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Blount was struggling trying to adjust to online classwork. Ever the perfectionist and proud of her 4.0 grade point average, she placed a premium on in-person instruction and feared being unable to handle this new challenge.

She expressed her concerns to Robert Knoeppel, dean of the W&M School of Education and a noted expert in educational financial reform. Knoeppel offered to meet with her weekly for 45 minutes of personal instruction.

“My strongly held value as an educator is that we meet all students where they are,” Knoeppel said. “It’s a value that I share with my colleagues here in the School of Education. … Sometimes, time is the most important thing that we can give to our students — it allows them to reflect on the content and get to their ‘aha’ moment.

“As dean, interacting with our students is my top priority. Their experience at William & Mary is important to me, which is why we spend so much time talking about community.”

For Blount, the experience of the W&M community pulling together has been the norm.

“It’s nerdy, I know,” she said a bit sheepishly, “but I bleed green and gold. Everyone has been so interested in helping me succeed.”

And that’s the major feeling she wishes to impart on all veterans and their families who arrive at W&M: that the future doesn’t have to be frightening. Just the opposite.

“You’re leaving the military, yes, but you are starting a new life,” she said, “and that could be very exciting.”

, Communications Specialist