The evolution of Student Programs

Student Programs at Bellevue College has changed over the years from a small organization that focused on social events to a growing and thriving hub for community building, leadership development and social change.

Faisal Jaswal, assistant dean of Student Programs, first interacted with Student Programs when he attended the school in 1982. During his time here as a student, he revitalized an inactive Black Student Union and founded the International Club. The latter has grown into the International Students Association which has become an important community builder and resource for BC’s many international students.

In 2001 Student Programs underwent a huge shift according to Jaswal. Many staff members changed, and Jaswal became the interim director. It was at this point that the program became focused on “developing global leadership learning models” that prepare students for leadership in the real world.

This shift led to the development of many of the programs available on campus including Peer-to-Peer, the Student Leadership Institute, Study Abroad programs, the Office of Student Legislative Affairs and the Office of Sustainability.

While the explosion of social justice and leadership programs occurred when Jaswal started at Bellevue College, he insists he was “only a catalyst” and that much of the programs we see today were created and self-sustained by students passionate about their cause.

Students at BC are involved in the local community as well as throughout the country and the world. When hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, “BC nursing students were some of the first on the ground to help,” Jaswal shared. When the tsunami hit Japan, BC students raised $10,000 to assist. Students are already talking about how fundraising can begin to give back to people in Ecuador most affected by recent earthquakes.

Jaswal described Student Programs as an intersection where students interact like bumper cars. It’s a place to learn how to beat assumptions, to practice skills for the real world by interacting with a diverse and multifaceted community of staff, faculty and students.

The budget for Student Programs is run very differently than at the other 33 community colleges in the state. At Bellevue College, all the money for clubs and various programs comes from actuals, the money taken in the previous year. This protects clubs from being cut or layoffs occurring in student jobs.

There are many opportunities to get involved with Student Programs and to make real change in one’s school community on campus. The core values of social justice and ecological justice will no doubt continue to shape the structure and activities of the widely varied programs as they interact with and support the communities that each program represents.