Photo caption: When Jordan Blue graduates on Dec. 16, he will proudly be wearing a variety of honor cords to signify academic and personal distinction. They include recognition from the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, UWEC's LGBTQIA+ Students, Gold Academic Distinction for his overall GPA and First-Generation College Students. (Photo credit: Jacey Linda)
Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories profiling Blugolds graduating in December.
Many college students describe a moment in their journey when things just start to “click.” For some Blugolds, that click happens when they decide on a major. For others, it’s discovering a passion for research alongside a faculty mentor and a student research team.
For graduating organizational communication major Jordan Blue, his true passions and goals coalesced when he began to fully see himself in his coursework.
Blue, who began college as an education major at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, says that as a sophomore he started to feel overwhelmed by the overall rigor of his academics. At that same time, he says the topics of his special education and inclusive practices courses were opening his eyes in a life-changing way.
“What I was seeing was that the course materials about ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) suddenly lined up with specific elements of my own daily life as a student, since I was very young,” says the Baraboo native.
“Traits like frequent hyperfocus and distractibility in class, interrupting people speaking or my tendency to struggle in normal testing conditions when other students were fine — these were all facets of my own past learning experiences that I had just taken on and navigated on my own,” Blue says about realizing what those signs likely meant.
After a clinical diagnosis confirmed Blue’s suspicions about ADHD, the next several semesters were spent forging ahead in his degree plan, discussing accommodations with faculty, and seeking counseling and academic advising for the best ways to maximize his success.
“It felt unusual to learn this about myself as an adult, and it upended things for sure. But I was determined, and I felt supported to succeed.”
Supported by faculty and poised for a big change
As he spent the next couple of semesters adapting to all that an ADHD diagnosis meant for him, Blue says he found some of his strongest support from the very faculty member whose coursework was so personally enlightening.
Dr. Rose Battalio, professor emerita of special education and inclusive practices, was teaching her final semester of courses, and Blue says the guidance he received from her made all the difference in both understanding and accepting the facts of his situation.
“Dr. Battalio was a shining light for me during a really difficult time,” Blue says. “She understood my questioning of my major and career goals and helped me explore options and learn to navigate being a student with this learning disability.”
Battalio says that she saw Blue’s focus change, and she appreciated his candor in telling her that teaching may not be the right path for him.
“He needed to follow his heart, and if it wasn’t in teaching, so be it,” Battalio says.
In addition to her teaching expertise in this area, Blue soon learned that Battalio had her own personal experiences to share and serve as further inspiration for him.
“I’m also an adult living with ADHD and I was comfortable sharing my experiences with Jordan,” Battalio says. “Our discussions provided him with a safe place to discover and accept this newfound aspect of himself. I’m proud of his ability to advocate for himself and step up to choose the change he wanted.”
Blue says thinking back on all the ways ADHD had impacted his life, he saw how activities outside of school had been an anchor for him. He says his new goals became taking the inclusive practices around ADHD from Battalio’s classes and bringing those into nonprofit youth programming through an organizational communication lens.
“With the help of Dr. Nicole Schultz and Dr. Kris Knutson in the CJ department, I created a topical minor that draws on elements of special education and general education classes, along with diversity and inclusion aspects of classes from the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies program,” Blue says.
“My dream is to support young people in nontraditional learning spaces, environments like nonprofits where resources and tools are often not sufficient to support students with different learning needs.”
Hired before graduation: A new leader in Wisconsin 4-H
Blue says he is passionate about empowering young people to take on civic engagement opportunities, an idea central to his career goals.
“I was a youth member in 4-H growing up. I had national, state and county level engagement experiences and was able to develop leadership and communication skills,” says Blue, who continued with 4-H as a volunteer throughout college.
Over this final year of school, Blue also worked as an administrative specialist for the Hennepin County 4-H program, run by the University of Minnesota Extension.
“As a first-generation student from a single-parent household, I’m the product of seeing what’s possible through nontraditional education settings like 4-H, possibilities I want other youth to see in their futures.”
It seems that the programming success he has achieved in Minnesota 4-H has proven his value to the organization. Blue is now officially “hired before graduation,” set in weeks to assume a new full-time position as the 4-H youth development educator for Chippewa County.
“I am beyond excited to become a part of the Chippewa County Extension 4-H team,” Blue says.
“Having grown up in a rural 4-H program and later serving as a volunteer and statewide adult advisor in Eau Claire County and Hennepin County programs, this organization has been a significant part of my life. I am dedicated to ensuring that 4-H continues to offer quality and engaging youth programs in Chippewa County.”
Dr. Nicole Schultz, a professor of communication and journalism, says Blue’s Blugold journey is one of both resilience and strength of character, and she is proud to have supported his success story.
“I’ve been impressed by Jordan’s work ethic, self-initiation and follow-through on individual and group endeavors,” Schultz says. “With those qualities and his commitment to youth development, I am confident his service to Chippewa County will be a stellar representation of what Blugolds can do post graduation.”