David Smith recently started working at the University of La Verne as the new dean of regional and online campuses, succeeding Stephen Lesniak, who previously held the position for nine years.
Smith has previous experiences in administration positions in higher education, such as his recent role as the vice president of instruction and student affairs at Colorado Northwestern Community College.
Smith was born in Fresno and worked at colleges in the area before moving out of state.
He was previously the campus director for Columbia College, which has a campus in San Luis Obispo.
Coincidentally, the University also has a regional campus nearby, and thus, Smith found out about it.
Since he wanted to relocate back to California, he decided to look into the dean position.
“I worked at a lot of different college and university environments,” Smith said.
“I’ve been a teacher and so forth, and I really enjoy working with students.”
Smith’s main focus will be on the students, mainly adult learners.
“My job is being an advocate for the adult students,” Smith said. “I hope to advance their interests and get (them) the quality they deserve.”
Adult learners make up a third of the University’s student population, and the administration members of the ROC emphasize more on this specific population of students.
“Ultimately, I’m hoping what the new dean will do is help us at the regional and online campuses serve our students better, bringing all the specialties of the University of La Verne to the regional campuses,” said Kevin Laack, a regional campus director of the ROC Ventura County Campus.
“I think the expectations of our students is changing, the expectations for the market is changing and I think we need to consider all of these things as we continue to innovate.”
Smith also had his first directors meeting with other members of the ROC last week.
“All the directors were encouraged by his experience, outlook and friendly personality,” said Nelly Kazman, senior executive director of ROC San Fernando Valley Campus. “We hope that he will bring a pragmatic approach to manage the present but also a strategic mindset to lead us to the future.
The needs of adult students are different than traditional age students, both within the classroom and outside the classroom.”
Kazman believes the best quality of ROC is its mission to make quality education accessible and affordable to adult learners.
“Our students come to us from all walks of life – many of them are first generation attending college,” Kazman said. “Over the years, we have transformed the lives of thousands of adults.
If La Verne was not present in their community or organizations, many of them would not have been able to earn their degrees and move closer to their dreams.
In addition to receiving promotions, they have become role models to their children to also seek an education.” Pamela Bergovoy, assistant dean of regional and online campuses, said the competition from local universities and other online programs is intense.
“We also hope that (Smith) would differentiate us from the crowd and position us for the future,” Bergovoy said.
Although Smith has only been at the University for a week, he already enjoys his new position.
“I really appreciate the culture of the campus and the humanity,” Smith said.
“It’s just a welcoming atmosphere from the faculty and the students. This is only my first week, but it’s a beautiful area, and I’m happy to be there.”
“There are so many wonderful things,” Smith said. “I love the history of the University. I love the campus, and the way it’s blended with the community here. It’s really, especially for a major university, a family environment.”
Cody Luk can be reached at email@example.com.