For Jack Bedell, a 40-Year Veteran of CSUF, Education Extends Beyond the Classroom
Forty years ago, Jack Bedell caravanned cross-country from Cleveland, Ohio, in a ’65 Mustang and a new Ford wagon with his wife, two brothers, five-week-old daughter, mother-in-law and six Siamese cats. They spent five days on the road, stopping to sleep at Holiday Inns along the way. En route to California, the Mustang’s air conditioning gave out and the Ford caught fire in Salt Lake City.
Bedell was not one to let obstacles keep him from achieving his goals. He had just been offered a job as an assistant professor of sociology at Cal State Fullerton, and he was going to arrive to his new life and job with guns blazing.
Fast forward to today, where you could say that the guns are still ablaze. Bedell’s resume – besides teaching – includes chairing four different academic departments and serving as the elected CSU systemwide Academic Senate chair three times. This year, he was elected for the sixth time as Cal State Fullerton Academic Senate chair, a campus record. He also holds many teaching awards, including Orange County Educator of the Year.
Bedell received his bachelor’s in sociology from Franklin and Marshall College in 1964. He went on to pursue graduate studies at Case Western Reserve University and earned his Ph.D. in sociology in 1971.
When Bedell was asked earlier this year to run for Academic Senate chair for the sixth time, he was honored. “It’s nice to help forge the future,” he said.
One of the major issues he sees facing CSUF this year is the ever-looming possibility of further budget cuts. Such cuts not only affect student enrollment, but also influence the hiring program to replace retired faculty, he said: “A drop in enrollment means a drop in access.”
And access is one priority of the Academic Senate. “We are concerned with academic quality, access and accountability,” Bedell said. He calls it “QAA.”
Quality ensures cutting-edge programs for graduates and that their degrees are worthwhile. “It’s about learning how to learn,” he said.
When it comes to access, Bedell noted, “If there’s no access, what good is a degree?” He believes that CSUF must increase the number of workers available for employment throughout the Southland.
Accountability, he said, is assessed through student learning programs. “How do we know students are grasping the material? How viable are our programs?”
Bedell said those three things – QAA – are embedded in the university’s mission and are made possible through student services.
“We need to lower the student-to-faculty ratio,” he said, concerning future improvements. “We have too many classes serving 40 to 50 students rather than 30,” and adds that part of his goal is to make sure appropriate resources go to class-size reduction.
Among the things that set CSUF apart from other CSU campuses, Bedell said, is its long tradition of collegiality and civility. “It’s reasonable people disagreeing reasonably,” he said. “We have a long history of valuing teachers and professors in the classroom and a growing tradition of emphasizing the relationship between teaching and research.”
He also noted that CSUF gives back to the community and is the nation’s fifth-largest awarder of degrees to Hispanics. “We want to be sure everyone has an equal chance at succeeding,” Bedell said. “Our accessibility commitment sets us apart.”
Bedell is looking forward to returning to teaching online classes in fall 2012, but until then will not be teaching owing to his duties as Academic Senate chair.
After many years in the classroom, his definition of a successful teacher is someone who can make any subject interesting. “A good teacher is an engaged teacher,” he said. “You have to be willing to take risks and be willing to present the material in a different way.”
His proudest teaching moment happens every year during commencement.
“I love commencement,” he said. “I love meeting families. When you are told that [a student] is majoring in your discipline because of you, or that you helped them choose a major, that’s a proud moment.”