As the Los Medanos College community moves deeper into the reality of the Fall 2013 semester, it does so with a familiar member of the staff taking on a new role. David Belman, former Director of Student Life and Transfer Programs was named the Interim Dean of Student Success in June moving into the role vacated by Doctor Blas Guerrero who took on a position with University of California Davis.
Belman said he views the new position with a lot of excitement and is seen by LMC President Bob Kratochvil as someone who is extremely focused on student success.
One key to achieving this for Belman is fostering what he calls a transfer culture on campus as modeled by the billboardesque pictures of students graduating, which festoon the third level of the college complex.
“I think more and more people, students, faculty, staff and administrators are buying into this vision of achieving degrees and transferring,” said Belman. “I think students are a big part of that. When you have student’s walking around saying I am here to do this — as opposed to I am just taking classes or I don’t know why I am here.”
Belman hopes those students who are looking for direction will be able to find it by visiting places like the Welcome Center located in Room 262 or joining programs like Umoja Scholars, the Transfer Academy and MESA, short for Math Engineering and Science Achievement Program.
Student’s who visit the center might be able to clue into one of Belman’s goals to continue fostering a spirit of intentional service to students.
One example he gave of a shift from what he termed as transactional services to providing transformational developmental experiences for students is the expansion of new student orientation, and the creation of a summer bridge program.
Belman said five-years ago students would take the assessment, learn how to use web advisor, go to a three-hour workshop, and then come to the college three months later.
Now new students who take part come to a nine-hour event, which incorporates a guided tour of the campus and a panel of current student leaders who field questions. Belman said the questions range from where do I buy books to how early do I have to come to find a parking place and beyond.
He said that following this event students come back a week or so later and meet with counselors to select their courses.
Belman shared that with this new process being in place for a couple of years allows him to indulge in one of his favorite things as a self confessed big data nerd. He and others are able to see how effective it is and are able to make informed decisions.
“If something is working we need to keep doing it,” said Belman. “If something is not working we need to change it or stop doing it.”
In addition to the expansion of the orientation, student’s can take the assessments at the high schools, and can take part in summer bridge program where they are able to bolster their Math and English skills.
Another source of Belman’s excitement are the cohort programs such as ACE, the Academy for College Excellence or more veteran programs like the Honors Transfer Program and Puente.
To Belman, these programs can help students feel like part of something bigger.
“The programs are so much more structured so students can feel like they are part of a family instead of going through college on your own as sort of an individual.”
His own experiences of moving from the post of being the full-time faculty director of student life to this new position may help Belman to be uniquely clued into how to support student’s efforts. He received one such vote of confidence from Student Life Coordinator Demetria Lawrence.
“All of the work Dave has done over the years here at LMC makes him a natural fit for the position,” said Lawrence. “He is very committed to the success and development of our students.”
Deborah Van Eckhardt, former student trustee for the Contra Costa Community College district, said Belman is an advocate for students, and has promoted there being student representative on committees, which is important to her because they make decisions which have a direct impact on the student body.
Belman too looked at his history with the college and the parts he played.
“I want to help keep us going down this path we have been heading this past couple of years,” said Belman.
One result of this path Belman has been part of was the largest commencement ceremony LMC ever had this past Spring.
Belman said he does see students as something more than lifters of graduation caps, just as he is more than the new interim director of student success, but also a drummer in AMAYA, a bilingual folk rock band with Latin Influences.
“I think that often we think about people simply based on the context of the environments where we interact with them and forget to view them in the fullness of who they are. For example, educators often get viewed as only faculty/staff by students and not ‘real people’ with lives outside of the college, because students don’t see them off-campus,” said Belman. “And the same thing works the other way, where we don’t always acknowledge the full and complete lives that students are living beyond school. I think it’s crucial for all of us to remember the fullness of our identities and lives as we interact with each other in a college community.”