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New faces, new duties

BELINDA ACUNA, Acting Dean, Academic Affairs,
Workforce Development and Specially Funded Programs

When Belinda Acuña began her duties in June as assistant dean, she had a big assignment: to run Mission College’s new $2.5 million Title V grant designed to combat poor math results among students. Now, she has two big assignments.

Recently, Acuña – who came to Mission College from Cal Poly, Pomona where she was director of the Maximizing Engineering Potential program – was asked to serve as acting dean of academic affairs, overseeing all workforce and specially funded programs. In that role, Acuña assumes the duties (for the fall semester only) of Edgardo Zayas, who in turn is assuming the academic affairs duties of Dean Martha Soto during her medical leave.

While adjusting to the new responsibilities, Acuña already has moved the Title V effort forward significantly. Work will begin soon on creating a state-of-the-art math lab in the lower level of Campus Center. Acuña expects the lab to be ready by spring semester.

The lab will serve about 300 students who are identified as having problems with math. It will include a 40-seat computer center, lecture room, individual study room, cubicles for independent study, and testing area. It will accommodate both group study and individual tutoring.

“Math has become a bottleneck for many of our students trying to move forward in the curriculum,” said Acuña. “About half of our students either fail or drop out of developmental math.”

And because that course is a prerequisite for forward movement in many majors, failure to pass it keeps many students from graduating or transferring.

Acuña said in many cases students have not been taught the basic skills in math before arriving at Mission College; and others suffer from “math phobia” – a fear that they “just don’t get math.” In addition to the intensive learning support, the Title V program will offer workshops in understanding math phobia, study techniques, and test-taking skills, said Acuña.

“The short-term goal will be to increase the passing rates in developmental math,” she said. “The long term goal is to increase graduation and transfer rates.”

– BY EDUARDO PARDO / Photo: Lydia Chung