Dr. Salisha Allard-Blaisdell was born and raised in Grenada, a small island located in the Caribbean Sea. Allard-Blaisdell faced many hardships throughout her childhood, including her mother's passing, financial instability, social injustices, bullying, and becoming an orphan by age 15. However, her challenging upbringing motivated her to work hard and be resilient to obstacles she faced then and would overcome in years ahead.
While attending a small branch in Grenada, a Young Women's leader, Keri Johnston, took an interest in Allard-Blaisdell's life. Johnston, an American citizen living in Grenada with her husband Aaron Johnston as he studied medicine at a nearby university, quickly became an advocate for Allard-Blaisdell and helped her dreams of furthering her education become a reality through sponsorships from the United States. Being an alumna of BYU–Hawaii herself, Johnston was also the one who introduced Allard-Blaisdell to the idea of applying to BYU–Hawaii, and the rest is history. From this relationship with Johnston, Allard-Blaisdell was given the opportunity she needed to transform her life through education.
Memories from BYU–Hawaii
Dr. Allard-Blaisdell remembers experiencing culture shock upon her arrival at BYU–Hawaii. First, the hair length commonly seen in Polynesian women was shocking to her. She remembers being astonished to see women with such long hair, especially worn down and natural as many do. Second, acclimating her eyes to various skin colors and ethnicities—something she was not used to being from a small island nation in the Caribbean was a welcomed adjustment as she was excited to be in such a diverse environment.
Other fond memories include her learning how to ride a bicycle at the age of 19—or riding her longboard past the CAC to enjoy the beautiful island climate. She still has that same longboard and occasionally takes it out for a ride. Allard-Blaisdell likewise refers to her time working for the BYUH Student Advisory Council, overseeing service efforts on campus, and coordinating blood drives as joyful memories that helped develop that passion for service and volunteer work she has today.
Inspiring Education in Others
Because her initial drive to gain an education stemmed from such a young age, Allard-Blaisdell didn't stop after graduating from BYU–Hawaii with her bachelor's in English. She's since obtained two master's degrees, one in public administration (MPA), from Rutgers University-Newark School of Public Affairs and Administration (SPAA) and a second Master of Arts in Applied Leadership Theory (MAALT), from Northwest University Center for Leadership Studies in 2021. As of most recently, she graduated with her Ph.D. in organizational leadership at Northwest University in May of this year. She explained, "getting an education provides you with opportunities to advocate for yourself. It prevents others from making decisions for you because you get to make them yourself. Education allows something to happen for you instead of happening to you."
Allard-Blaisdell is now eager to advocate for young adults and all youth to follow a similar path through education. She hopes to be a professor one day and teach leadership courses. Another primary motivation for her work is her daughter, who Salisha sees as a mini version of herself. She hopes she's setting an example to her and other children that you can accomplish anything when you give it your all.
Tips for Students
The best piece of advice she's received in her academic pursuits is one she'd like to pass on, and that's to "make everything count." Further explaining, "whatever you do throughout your time as a student, make sure it adds to your ultimate goals. If you're going to volunteer with an organization, be intentional with the organization you partner with." In doing this, you'll be surprised that the effort you put into it is that of your best. Then hopefully, those efforts will triple your success in the following stages of life.
Lastly, don't think of college as just a place for getting a degree. It's an opportunity to build your social network, meet new people, and align your long-term goals with the friends and mentors you gain here. Focus on building relationships with people, and think of your classmates as future colleagues. Partner with people you trust and who can help you navigate your future.