Jefferson Blackburn-Smith

Jefferson Blackburn Smith



Executive Vice President for Strategic Initiatives
Enrollment Management Division

Jefferson has provided leadership for the division of enrollment management at Otterbein University since 2012. Prior to joining the Otterbein community, Jefferson served for 17 years at The Ohio State University in a variety of recruitment and strategic planning roles, overseeing an outreach and recruitment effort that saw significant increases in diversity, non-resident enrollment and a growth in the average ACT of the entering class from 21 to 28.

At Otterbein University, Jefferson has focused on expanding access and affordability for underserved students, developing innovative approaches to enrolling and supporting low income, first generation and racially/ethnically diverse students. Through the development of innovative recruitment, financial aid and student support efforts focused on central Ohio urban school districts and the subsequent state-wide Opportunity Scholarship, Otterbein realized a 140% increase in the enrollment of students of color, and reversed the retention achievement gap for students of color and low-income students. In fact, Otterbein enrolled the most diverse entering classes in school history for seven years in a row, from 2014-2021. Jefferson lead the development of one of the most innovative public-private partnerships in Ohio higher education with the creation of the Otterbein-Columbus State Community College Dual Admission Program (DAP.) DAP offers students the most affordable Bachelor’s degree in Ohio and eliminates as many barriers to transfer as possible, including the need to apply to transfer. The cornerstone of DAP is a shared academic counselor who works with students on both campuses. Once a student earns their Associate degree, the shared counselor just schedules them for their Otterbein courses. With Columbus State’s Westerville Learning Center co-located on Otterbein’s campus, DAP students have access to Otterbein’s library, recreation center and other benefits.

Jefferson is a proponent of what he calls Integrated Enrollment Management, which creates alignment between Academic Affairs, Student Affairs and Enrollment Management to manage the entire student life cycle, from recruitment to graduation. This approach of shared responsibility for student enrollment and success has lifted Otterbein’s first year retention rate by 5 percentage points, to 80%, and the four-year graduation rate by 7.2% to 58%.

Jefferson earned both his BA and MA in English from The Ohio State University. Prior to joining Ohio State, Jefferson taught freshman college composition, worked as a telemarketer, a sales manager, a materials expediter, a construction superintendent and a vice president of marketing. Jefferson is the author of four novels: Forgiveness, Retribution, a young adult fantasy, The Ogre Prince, and Love, a novel of grief and desire that will be published in December 2022, as well as numerous articles about the college search process. He is frequently interviewed by the regional and national press on issues related to access, affordability and enrollment management.


  • Contributor, The Looming Enrollment Crisis, 2019, The Chronicle of Higher Education
  • Nearly 30 Ohio colleges are still accepting applications for fall 2019 Akron Beacon Journal, June 23, 2019
  • Higher Education: Student Scarcity, Columbus CEO, Feb. 20, 2017
  • Calls for diversity after Otterbein student reports incident of racial hate, 10 TV, April 4, 2016
  • Is It Possible To Negotiate Your College Tuition? 10 TV, Feb. 11, 2016
  • Out-of-State Enrollment Rises at State Flagship Universities US News, June 13, 2016
  • Admissions: The Challenges of Connecting With Students The Huffington Post, Feb. 7,  2013
  • Managing Student Employees in a Recruitment Setting. College and University, Blackburn-Smith, Jefferson; Lembo, Laura, 1998