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Next Up Columbus 2021: Blake Renner

Blake Renner
Blake Renner

Photo by Matt Reese / CityPulse Columbus

Interview by Derek Grosso

Name: Dr. Blake J. Renner
Pronouns: he/him/his
Age: 39
Profession: Dean of Students at Franklin University
Neighborhood: Westerville
Education: West Virginia University (Educational Doctorate in Educational Leadership Studies, Master of Arts in Secondary Education, Master of Arts in Counseling), Malone College (Bachelor of Arts in Psychology)
Community Involvement: Columbus Inspires (Outgoing Chair), Columbus City Schools Mentor, Columbus YP Week Steering Committee
Quote: “If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet: how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” – Fred Rogers
Connect: LinkedIn

As a higher education leader, Dr. Blake Renner has focused his efforts on eliminating barriers and creating equitable learning environments to enable students to realize their academic potential. For nearly 10 years, he has worked at Franklin University with a focus on expanding and providing direct student support both within and outside the classroom. In addition to serving as the Dean of Students, Blake teaches undergraduate and doctoral courses, as well serving as a doctoral faculty advisor and dissertation committee member. Prior to his time at Franklin University, he worked at multiple institutions as a professor.

What gets you up each morning? And what gets you through the workweek?
The opportunity to make a difference. Education is important because it provides the roadmap to change perspectives, advance careers, and improve society. As an educator, I am excited to be part of something that creates this life-changing experience.

What advice or mentors have helped guide you along the way?
Never give up! My parents made sacrifices along the way so that my brother and I could have the opportunity to reach our goals. They set an example of having a strong work ethic and pushed us by setting high expectations to try our best in everything we did. Giving up was not an option. This is the same advice I give to each student I encounter. No matter how tough things are at the present moment, demonstrating perseverance and grit is imperative because you do not know who is watching. When your spouse, child, nephew, etc. observes your perseverance to achieve a goal, it will create a ripple effect. That ripple will have a profound impact, as it will be something they want to replicate and experience for themselves.

What do you do or where do you go to unwind?
Most of my spare time is spent with my family, my wife (Kelly), and our son (Declan). Our primary way to unwind is to travel. Traveling provides new experiences and opportunities. If I am not traveling (or planning a trip), I am exercising or on the golf course.

What are a few of your favorite local spots in Columbus/central Ohio?
• Gogi Korean BBQ
• Cafe Illyria
• Hunan J
• Jogging Paths: Scioto Mile and Alum Creek Dam
• Bedlam Bricks Toy Store (my son is a huge fan)

When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
Professional athlete or I would take over responsibilities as the lead singer of Queen.

What books or podcasts are you reading/listening to right now?
The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2021 (Please do not tell my son we are planning to go, or every day until we leave I will hear, “Daddy, is today the day we are leaving for Disney World?”). The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember by Fred Rogers.

What does it mean to you to be chosen for the Next Up Columbus award?
Humbling. The award is an unexpected, tremendous honor. Any time I am recognized for my efforts within the community, it is special. To be nominated by a peer and selected by the committee for this award is a great privilege and I am truly appreciative.

If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them?
Changing. Columbus is expanding and evolving. Every day, there is something new to see, something new to eat, or something new to try. I recommended being open to these new experiences.


The Next Up Columbus Awards highlight emerging leaders who are connectors and ambassadors in central Ohio and who are making a positive impact on the future of Columbus. The Columbus Young Professionals Club would like to offer special thanks to our 2021 co-presenters, Discover Financial, Future Possibilities and Zipline Logistics for their support of this awards program. Meet the entire “Class of 2021” »

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