President of Bellevue College, Dr. David Rule, is a man of many degrees and infinite enthusiasm for education, holding an A.S. in Performing, a B.S. in Music Education, an M.S. in Educational Psychology and a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology & Statistics. Now he acts as president of an ever expanding college of more than 37,000 students, handling everything from budgets to personnel issues to orientations.
On the few days he can escape the mountains of paperwork covering his office desk, he rides and works on his motorcycle. But Rule hasn’t always been the administration savy man students may have all come to know him as here on campus. In fact quite the contrary; Rule couldn’t be any more like many of the students attending BC. Like them, Rule began his academic career at a community college.
Rule grew up outside the small rural town of Au Sable Forks, home to a population less than 650, some six hours north of New York City. His father was eigth grade educated, a truck driver in the Marine Corp., and his mother a high school graduate who went on to become a nurse. First generation college bound, Rule attended Schenectday County Community College to pursue his love of music. It was here for the first time he was “really provided […] both socially and academically, a way to really start to understand what it meant to go to college.”
“I did well in high school but I wasn’t in the top 10%,” said Rule, “I was an okay student but I certainly wasn’t a merit scholarship in the way I understand it now. So community college made sense; it made sense economically because my parents were certainly not wealthy, [and] it made sense academically …[for] I had no real contact with universities or experience as to what that was.”
“The community college for me really was the fresh start. What they gave me was the confidence to move on,” said Rule, “I was able to get to know the faculty, they held my hand through developmental English and taught me how to apply for scholarships. They really taught me how to go to college. So there was the academic side, and then the whole psycho-social orientation to what college was about.”
By beginning his academic career at a community college, and then coming back to the same culture years later as an administrative figure, Rule has acquired a unique perspective and archive of experience to share with students who are now in a position similar to how he once was. Two of the most invaluable lessons he urges all students to learn are “time management” and “networking.” It is through the application of these skills students can give themselves an edge both during their academic career and beyond.
“Find a work-life balance that allows you to truly do the best you can in your classes,” said Rule.
“One of the things I say during orientation is to treat school like a job,” said Rule. “I didn’t know it then but I know it now, the typical expectation of a Carnegie class unit, or credit is the expectation that you’re going to spend two hours outside of class. Well if you’re taking 15 credits, that’s 15 hours in class and 30 hours outside, add the two together and that’s a 45 hour week; that’s a fulltime job.”
“There’s a tendency to try and take on too much,” said Rule, “I found that time management becomes critical, so you can do the best you can.”
“The other side of the coin in order to really get the most out of community college, is to network with the faculty and the career counselors, and really get to know them,” said Rule. “They’re the ones who can put you not only within the college itself, but they’re the ones with the connections outside…I spent more time with my instructors than I did with my advisor.”
“Find any sort of internship, paid or unpaid, doesn’t matter,” said Rule, “getting a job outside of school often depends on your internship more than anything else. And it’s because of people. People will hire people whom they know, whom they trust, whom they have some experience with.
You will always have an edge applying for a position if they know you. You’ll get good references on campus, but to have that connection, that internship, will really give you an edge. Maybe when you’re done, they’ll hire you on, and if you’re lucky, maybe they’ll pay for your graduate work.
“Bug the faculty in your major area, ‘who do you know, what can I do, can I get an internship, can I get a job?’ Bug the career centers,” said Rule “you’ve got the academic side, ‘do well,’ but leverage all the other resources that the college has to offer.”