TJ Bliss received his bachelor’s degree in microbiology from BYU in 2006. He continued on to receive a master’s in biology from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. His original plan was to complete his PhD in biology, but two years into his program, he realized that education was his real interest. He made the switch and returned to BYU where he completed his PhD in educational inquiry, measurement, and evaluation at the McKay School of Education in 2013.
Since shifting his career path, Bliss has channeled his enthusiasm for education and educational research and achieved much because of it. Through the various positions he’s held in the field of education, Bliss has found a way to do what he loves while also making a difference in the lives of learners around the globe.
Shortly after completing his PhD at the McKay School, Bliss became the director of assessment and accountability in the Idaho State Department of Education. He oversaw all statewide testing and evaluated and rated schools. Bliss admits, “It was a huge amount of power that came with an even larger amount of responsibility.”
Rather than focusing on the power of his position, Bliss concentrated on the impact he had on the individual level. The “responsibility” he has on his shoulders of bettering the education of those around him has always been his drive for success. “The most joy in a career in education will come from always remembering the fundamental purpose of education: to improve individual lives,” states Bliss.
Bliss has always been passionate about improving individual lives—so passionate in fact that having just one job in the field of education was simply not enough involvement for him! As if being a working father and husband wasn’t busy enough, he also joined nonprofit groups, helped form a coalition, and became involved in international organizations, such as the Hewlett Foundation—all opportunities that allowed him to make even more of a difference in the lives of young learners.
One organization that he became involved with at BYU was the research team called Open Education Group (OER). Bliss describes the open educational resources movement as “one of the biggest changes [he’s] seen in education over the past several years.” The OER opened the door for Bliss to help form a multi-state coalition called the K–12 OER Collaborative. “The purpose of this venture was to promote the development of more cost-effective and higher quality education resources (like textbooks) that teachers would help develop and which school districts would have complete control over through open copyright licensing,” he said.
Shortly after the start of the K–12 OER Collaborative, Bliss was approached by the Hewlett Foundation to run the OER grant program, which provides millions of dollars in funding to organizations around the world. The program works to find more cost-effective ways to provide higher quality education resources on an international level.
Bliss reflects on his experience with the Hewlett Foundation by saying, “I'm truly humbled to have been part of a worldwide education movement that is focused on making it possible for people everywhere to have access to high quality, up-to-date, and relevant educational materials—access to knowledge that is changing lives.”
Today, Bliss works as the director of development and strategy for Wiki Education, a position he took last July. Bliss’s job responsibilities include helping college students take part in editing Wikipedia in order to deepen their understanding of research topics, providing support to the executive director and board, and overseeing all fundraising efforts. Bliss admits that earlier in life, he swore to himself that he’d never work as a fundraiser because it seemed “too hard.”
“Yet when the opportunity actually knocked, I opened the door and now find myself in the very role I said I would never do. And, of course, I’m loving it!” Bliss stated.
In addition to his current position with Wiki Education, Bliss also currently serves on three boards: the board of directors of Stand Up Ideas, the advisory board of X5 Global OER Network, and the board of his local BYU Alumni Chapter.
He continues to involve himself with anything that will improve education and the individuals in the learning process. Influencing education is not just TJ Bliss’s job—it is his life.
Writer: Hannah Antillon
Contact: Shauna Valentine (801) 422-8562