Growing up in Toronto, Nicholas Blaikie-Puk didn’t know that one day he would criss-cross the U.S., becoming what the admission and enrollment profession refers to as a “road warrior.” By Sally Benford
Nicholas Blaikie-Puk will tell you there is no right or wrong way to spend weeks on the road, traveling from city to city. “Just jump in and do it,” he says, advising those who spend time at educational expos to “create their own system—one that works for them.” He explains that once you have a system in place, you don’t have to rethink how you’re going to travel each time. It’s a strategy that’s worked well for him—and he would know. In the past year, he’s attended expos in 25 cities across 16 states from coast to coast.
Blaikie-Puk remembers the first AISAP Educational Expo he attended when he was just starting out as an admission officer for Ridley College—an international, co-educational day and boarding school in Ontario, Canada.
“I met a family who ended up being one of the first students I ever enrolled. It was pretty gratifying to be able to share my passion for my alma mater, and to be of service in fostering future students,” he says.
It was a memorable experience for him that illustrated he was up to the task of carrying out Ridley’s strategic vision, which is “to inspire flourishing lives to transform our globe.”
In his job, he works with American families, as well as with families who have a child already attending the school. However, Blaikie-Puk explains that as an admission officer, he wears many different hats and is involved with many different team members.
“In terms of my time at Ridley, I’ve gotten experience in sales and marketing, communications, development and, of course, traveling,” he says.
He attends about a dozen educational expos in the spring and double that amount in the autumn, so he’s on the road more than he’s at home during April and May, as well as the September to December recruitment period.
He admits has some downtime, but he’s figured out how to fill much of it with personal and professional development.
He explains that with AISAP educational expos, there is consistency in terms of having the same or similar set-ups, resources and contacts, making it a smoother experience. Perhaps more importantly, AISAP offers a professional development aspect at each expo.
“I have taken advantage of the many professional development workshops and seminars sponsored by AISAP at their expos,” says Blaikie-Puk.
“AISAP includes the school fair aspect, but prior to the fair, they offer workshops for school personnel and information sessions for families that focus on the application process and financial aid. Those workshops give you exposure to a lot different speakers and perspectives that you might not otherwise hear. There are a lot of regional speakers, which help you better understand your potential applicants,” Blaikie-Puk says.
Many of the AISAP speakers are from local colleges and universities and it helps to hear their perspectives. The speakers could be authors, faculty or administrators from the colleges speaking about unique experiences and backgrounds, all relating back to independent schools.
While he’s happy to have a chance to participate in the professional development opportunities, he also enjoys exploring the cities he travels to.
“If you’re going to be a road warrior—make the most of the free time you do have to learn about the area. Have patience, though” he says. "When you’re not at the events, there are a lot of times when you have to ‘hurry up and wait,’ so find ways to be productive.”
Being prepared for anything that travel life throws at him, such as weather delays or flight cancellations, is another way that Blaikie-Puk practices patience. He has TSA pre-approved status and a Nexus card, essential items if you fly a lot. Overall, he’s enjoying paying it forward at Ridley and is looking forward to this spring’s expos. He has eight events on his radar, but is planning to attend close to a dozen.
“We’re fortunate in our location at Ridley. I often do day trips because of our location being close to the Northeast U.S., but I can also be gone for a week or two at a time. That’s part of what makes the job interesting.”
Spoken like a true road warrior.