Political Science department works to set up success for students

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Students in the political science department at Delta College say that the program equips them with the knowledge and the experience they need to be successful in their careers and educational goals leaving Delta.

Political science major Dustin Brakebill said that he feels the political science department has led him to great accomplishments.

“In the past year I got to volunteer for a state senate race in the primary then I got hired during the general election and was the office manager and an organizer and I got to learn so much working for Susan Talamantes Eggman,” Brakebill said before naming a number of other accomplishments he’s made since joining the program.

Professor Cirian Villavicencio and Dr. Joel Blank are Delta’s two full-time tenured faculty members in the department.

Delta has 10 more adjunct political science faculty members who teach mostly American government.

Both Blank and Villavicencio are highly experienced in political areas.

Blank has been a professor at Delta for 12 years.

He went to Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, practiced law, worked in Washington D.C., was a director of legal studies field, and did pre-law advising to name just a few things on his extensive resume.

Villavicencio has taught at Delta for 9 years and has held the discipline chair position for the political science department since 2016.

Villavicencio served an internship with Congressman Tom Lantos, was involved with former president Barack Obama’s campaign, was elected twice to the Democratic National Convention in support of Obama and was appointed by governor Jerry Brown to serve on the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American affairs, among many other accomplishments.

Despite having their own political opinions, Blank and Villavicencio teach their classes objectively and focus on educating students on the political process.

“I make it very clear that I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or if you’re a Republican or if you’re a Libertarian. I don’t care [about] your political orientation, in my class you’re here to learn, to understand, to discuss and debate the issues,” Blank said, adding that it’s vital for students to feel free to express themselves.

Brakebill said the professors don’t take a side and that they give facts with no opinion.

“They let us give our opinion and that’s great because we have liberals and conservatives in the classes and we can debate about the topics and then they tell us why the stuff we are learning is the way it is,” Brakebill said.

Blank and Villavicencio work to provide their students with unique opportunities for them to gain experience in politics.

Blank said that his and Villavicencio’s legal and political connections give students opportunities at Delta that the students can put on their resumes to get into colleges they may not otherwise.

“The overall view of what we have in the department is [not only] to create a special relationship with our students but a special program for those who don’t immediately go into a 4-year institution. They have a rewarding experience for them so it’s not like ‘oh I should’ve been at UC, I should’ve been at Cal State- I’m at San Joaquin Delta College,’” Blank said. 

Blank and Villavicencio have organized a travel abroad program which will allow current and alumni students to visit a country and learn their politics.

“They spend two weeks in a country around the world learning about politics. Not just seeing the events, not just seeing the sights, but going and visiting lawmakers, going to visit an actual trial and seeing the politicians,” Blank said.

Villavicencio added that it was intended to be like a capstone program to give students who may not otherwise have the opportunity to travel abroad.

“Given the cost, given the feasibility of doing it over the summer for a two/two-and-a-half week period is really something special for them to leave Delta college when they pursue their careers or when they transfer. It’s just a great culmination of our program that they learn about politics and now they get to actually experience politics internationally,” Villavicencio said.

He said it’s important for students to have the experience of visiting another country because we live in a globalized world.

“Our economy is global, we are interdependent, we face global challenges from climate change to poverty to global trade. You look at our students, we live in Stockton, the most diverse city in the United States and so here is an opportunity for them to experience not just the politics but the culture of another country,” Villavicencio said.

Blank added that to create a global village and a peaceful world it is essential that students understand other countries.

“The only way you can really understand other countries is by visiting that country, by interacting with the people,” Blank said.

Funding is provided to help cover some of the trip’s cost.

Villavicencio said their intention is to offer the program every two years.

The trip has been cancelled twice due to pandemic restrictions, but they hope to go to Florence next year.

Blank and Villavencio have also created a special scholarship opportunity for students in collaboration with former mayor Michael Tubbs.

Two scholarships of $1,000 will be awarded to chosen political science students every year.

“Stockton Scholars has promised that this scholarship will continue for the next 5 years,” said Villavicencio, adding that Tubbs has promised to mentor the students that they select.

Delta is one of the small number of community colleges that has the Pathway to Law program.

Blank said that he was involved at the very beginning of Delta bringing the Pathway to Law program to California. 

“It’s competitive. Out of 114 community colleges, only about 25-26 have the program,” Blank said.

He added that Delta has over 350 Pathway to Law students who attend monthly seminars, have internships at the DA’s office, the public defender’s office and non-government organizations and who also get a bit of an advantage when they apply to transfer to 8 schools.

More information about the program can be found here: https://www.deltacollege.edu/program/pathway-law

The program has a Politics and Law Club that meets on Zoom every Tuesday from 12:30 to 1:20 p.m.

Blank said before COVID the club would have lunch, bring speakers and every two years they would do campaign forms for the local politicians as well as state and national. 

“We’re also involved in doing community-wide issues in terms of raising money for various homeless shelters and the food pantry,” Blank said.

For more information about the political science department, visit their website at https://www.deltacollege.edu/program/political-science