Forming a more empowered studentry with new DSA Dr. Christine Ballada

The pandemic continues to change the dynamics within the University as different sectors of the Lasallian community have had to reevaluate their operations amid changing circumstances.

Last October 1, Dr. Christine Ballada, who had been the Vice Chair of the Counseling and Educational Psychology Department (CEPD), began her tenure as the new Dean of Student Affairs. As a new academic year (AY) rolls in, Ballada bares to The LaSallian her plans for the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) and how it plays a huge role in offering support for students during these trying times.

As the new Dean of Student Affairs, what are your plans for the student body, especially with the ongoing pandemic?

Our main priority in [OSA], at this time, is accompaniment—to make sure that this concern and attentiveness is translated into our programs and services that are really responsive to student needs. It is already in the plans to create a Virtual Student Hub that will connect students with the right offices and departments that can really address their needs.

Your work specializes in, among others, academic motivation and learner-centered teaching and assessment. Can you give us a background on these topics?

As a teacher and researcher, I’ve always been interested in what motivates students to succeed academically. There are a lot of reasons why students fail and succeed, and one of those [things] that I’m interested in is the concept or the construct of self-efficacy—a self-belief about your own capacity to perform certain things. I think that’s also what I want to bring to OSA—to empower [students] and allow them to really have a choice [on] how they are going to do their own activities, but at the same time, being there to support them and guide them.

How does your background in education complement your work in student affairs?

As a learner-centered teacher, my priority is always the student. When I teach, I focus on what skills a student should be able to get out of the course that I am teaching. I always try to put myself in [their] shoes because I’ve been a student and I also know the feeling of not [being] heard in the classroom. So I want to make sure that my students are given a voice.

This focus [on] understanding the learner as the most important factor in the teaching-learning process is a focus that I bring with me. Translating that to [student affairs] simply means that the services and programs we offer should always be for the students [and] about the students.

We also want the programs to [not only] capacitate them but [to] also teach them the Lasallian values, so when they go out, they’ll be able to contribute to our country [and] to society in general.

You had served as the Program Director of Operation Big Brother (OBB), an adopt-a-school program under the Br. Andrew Gonzalez FSC College of Education. How has that experience molded you as an individual and as a Lasallian educator?

I’ve really learned a lot [in] my three years as OBB Director. It really opened my eyes to the true situation of our public school system. I was very inspired with the students and teachers of OBB.

In fact, we’ve seen a lot of OBB graduates who are now in very good careers. We’ve seen how these students started off as very shy and very unsure of themselves. And now, they’ve grown. They’re making a very significant contribution to the lives of people around them and to society in general.

I was also very inspired by my team. Despite having low salaries, and having to work within a very bureaucratic system, they continued to deliver the program in a very effective way. For me, that’s the Lasallian mission in action because they really have concern for the students.

Another thing that really inspired me is how the OBB donors have continued to give. They’re private individuals who just want to help the country through education, and they’ve been supporting the program for the last 19 years. So with this you see the passion, the commitment, and that continued hope for young people. And when you see that outpouring of generosity, you can’t help but be generous yourself because there’s no other way to return the favor, except to pay it forward.

Aside from being a program director, you also serve as the Vice Chair of CEPD. How do you plan to balance these multiple commitments?

I am no longer Vice Chair of CEPD because being Dean of Student Affairs is a full-time job. Prior to becoming the Dean of Student Affairs, I was Vice Chair and coordinator of Lasallian Studies and OBB Director. I had to give up all three so that I could focus on [OSA].

Your predecessor, Nelca Villarin, served as the Dean of Student Affairs for three years, during which she implemented multiple programs and projects. Which among these initiatives do you plan on continuing or further expanding?

One such program that I think we should continue is the Lasallian Student Welfare Program, which only started this year because of the pandemic. We’d like to really examine as well the formation programs under the Lasallian Formation and Action Team, specifically our leadership formation programs, our mass-based programs, and also our student volunteers formation programs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought challenges for many student organizations. How do you plan on helping them adapt to the current situation, especially as a new AY starts?

While we continue to provide our programs and services, we will also help organizations to reconsider the activities that they’re doing. This might mean having to prioritize activities that are really needed by the student body. We can’t keep on doing the activities that we were so used to when we were on campus because we have a lack of resources and physical distancing rules prevent us from being together.

We’ll at least help the student organizations to identify the priorities for the academic year, programs and activities that the student body will need and maybe to park some activities [or] set [them] aside for now. But we will also make sure that the process of asking for support, approval, [and] signatures of people under [OSA is] easier for student organizations.

Formation and development programs are considered integral to a student’s journey in DLSU. How will you ensure that students are still given these opportunities?

I think we should use AnimoSpace because there’s a lot that AnimoSpace can do for us, even [for] non-academic [activities]. For instance, our LPEP has an AnimoSpace component.

There’s a synchronous component, but we also have asynchronous modules in AnimoSpace.

Training students on how to use AnimoSpace as student organizations can also [help] reach out to other students. Our ID 120 students have been given access to a new social media platform which is Raftr. Unfortunately, our subscription right now is only for ID 120 because we are just trying it out. Hopefully, once we evaluate [it], maybe we can extend it to the other batches.

As a researcher, what accomplishments would you say are you most proud of?

Of course getting [research] published, that would be a big accomplishment. When other people refer to your study, cite your study, or tell someone that [it] was enlightening, that’s also a big accomplishment. We aim that our research won’t just gather dust in a corner.

What are your personal insights on how OSA has operated before you were given the role?

I’ve always thought of the OSA as [a] well-oiled machine. As a dean, I’m very fortunate that the offices and the directors of those offices are very experienced, they know what they’re doing, and they can run their programs very well.

I get to be the voice of the student body and [the] offices under [OSA]. It’s a matter of continuing what has been started by Ms. Nelca [Villarin] and [her] predecessors because [OSA] has been very efficient and effective in its programs and services in DLSU, and it’s something I hope to continue as Dean of Student Affairs.

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