While earning his bachelor's degree in group social studies and political science, Thomas Bell was active at Grand Valley. He contributed to as many organizations as he had time for, and in his senior year, was elected Student Senate president. Now, five years after earning his bachelor's degree, Bell uses his higher education experiences to work as a higher education consultant for the state of Michigan's Department of Education.
In addition to his involvement in student senate at Grand Valley, Bell worked as a multicultural assistant and was the first manager of the 20/20 Information Desk. He also worked in the S.M.A.R.T. center as a work study and worked as a freshman orientation leader for two summers.
“I really wanted to get involved in college,” said Bell. “I applied for Student Senate my freshmen year because I knew I wanted to advocate and bring a voice to Grand Valley on issues that I was passionate about. Everything I was involved in at Grand Valley propelled me to work in student affairs.”
After graduating with his bachelor's degree in 2004, Bell earned his master's degree in student affairs and higher education from Colorado State University. He was then led to the University of Vermont where he worked as a residence director and taught courses covering topics of social justice and leadership. Though Bell enjoys the university atmosphere, he recently started a new position as a higher education consultant for the Michigan Department of Education.
Though according to Bell, everyday at his job is different, he primarily works with the 32 teacher preparation institutions in the state and assists in approving their programs. Additionally he provides technical assistance to faculty at universities by helping them interpret government policies. Bell has spent the last year working in collaboration with faculty from higher education institutions and teachers from around the state in effort to draft new teacher preparation endorsement standards for Social Studies. Bell said he “is excited to be a part of a process that will impact future social studies teachers.”
“It is my office's job to assist teacher preparation institutions, teachers, administrators, and others involved in education with understanding education policy,” said Bell. “I provide technical support to anyone asking questions about legal policies, which means I have to know and understand a lot of policy.”
Bell said his time as Student Senate president allowed him to gain knowledge and skills that he applies to his current position.
“We have legislative work that impacts what we do,” said Bell.“You really have to find a way to maneuver through the different opinions as well as policy, and make an impact for the teacher candidates and institutions. Being on student senate helped me navigate various political issues and facilitate various opinions.”
Bell plans to continue growing in his position as a higher education consultant. He would eventually like to earn his doctoral degree in education theory or education policy and continue to focus on social justice education.
by Leah Burns