When Roanna Bennie announced she was stepping down last year as the Las Positas College president, the decision was met with a wave of sadness and anticipation across the campus.
Bennie had stepped up as interim president when Barry Russel retired in April of 2018 and ended up signing three extensions. Bennie had even helped LPC achieve a Golden Bell Award, which honored the school’s efforts to support students in the Tri–Valley Regional Occupational Program as well as those enrolled in Middle College High School.
Understandably, the campus was eager to see who would step into the big shoes Bennie left as she walked out of her office for the last time.
And that’s when Dyrell Foster stepped in as the seventh president of LPC on Feb. 10, 2020. He has shown to have had a fruitful career in helping students find success.
Foster elaborated on why he was attracted to LPC in the first place, stating, “I think it was really time to challenge myself professionally, and I started looking into this opportunity with LPC.” Foster also noted that the college’s reputation, beauty and transfer programs really sold him on pursuing the position.
Foster is grateful for the support from his predecessor, Bennie. “She’s been very helpful, very supportive. She’s provided a lot of great context and some history relating to the college. I truly appreciate and value the time I had to connect with her.”
As for Foster’s initial approach starting out at LPC, he says, “My approach is to really listen and learn.”
LPC student Orrey Lucid shared what he hopes Foster will improve and add around the campus. Lucid stated, “I would like to see more counselors and services for special ed students at LPC. I feel like there is not a lot of focus on them.”
Foster added that he wants to, “understand the history and the things that are working really well, and learning about the college and all the great things we’re doing here. Just the process of listening and learning.”
Born in North Korea to a military family, Foster moved to Vacaville, Calif. only 45 days after his birth.
Before starting out on his career as an administrator of community colleges, Foster earned multiple degrees that would prepare him to work in education.
Foster earned a Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration from the USC, and earned a
Master of Science of Counseling: Student Development in Higher Education from CSU, Long Beach. Foster also graduated from UC Davis with a Bachelor of Science in Applied Behavior Science. He is the first person in his family to attend college.
At UC Davis, Foster had also been appointed Co-captain of the Aggies football team.
At one point, he also lectured at CSU Long Beach and Fullerton, where he also taught educational courses in organizational theory and professional development.
When Foster served as the Vice President of Student Services at Moreno Valley College, the school saw a large increase of overall student headcount (4.8%) as well as an increase of full-time students (4%) from 2016 to 19.
This increase was spurred by a collaborative effort with staff and faculty, that was co-led by Foster. This group not only helped strengthen student retention rates, but also developed a plan to ease the enrollment process for new students by implementing an enrollment management plan at MVC.
Foster also served as the president of The African American Male Education Network and Development organization, also known as A2MEND. A2MEND is run by volunteering community college administrators and faculty and aims to support underserved African-American males.
During his time as president for 2AMEND, Foster shared his goals in an article for Diverse, and emphasized “Addressing racial and equity gaps on our nations’ campuses is critical and requires taking risks to do the right thing on behalf of our students… We can no longer solve the problems that exist on our campuses with the same thinking and behaviors that have caused the problems in the first place.”
Foster reflected on his time at A2MEND, explaining, “I’m really passionate about equity, and I’m passionate about underserved student populations, and first generation college students.”
“And I’m very interested in ensuring that our institutions have the policies, practices and the climate to support those populations on our campuses,” he said. “So that is what I will bring to LPC.”
In February of this year, Foster was also accepted as a 2020 Wheelhouse Fellow. The Wheelhouse Institute aims to support current and upcoming administrators. They provide leaders with tools to improve the community college system, such as access to data discussions with researchers and promoting peer networking.
In a statement for Pleasanton Weekly, Foster said, “… I am excited to learn as much as I can to support student success by facilitating lasting institutional change and improved effectiveness in alignment with our college mission, vision and goals. I am looking forward to working with, and learning from a prestigious cohort of peers who are proven leaders within the California Community College system.”
Rifka Several, the Senior Administrative Assistant at LPC commented on Foster becoming the new president, saying, “He is really focused on serving students, which fits in with our culture here.”
President Foster has a wife Tami and two children, Maylea (8) and Daylen (6). Currently, his family will reside in Anaheim until his wife is able to relocate her work to the area. At Foster’s Meet and Greet on March 4, he said , “We will be reunited real soon. We Facetime every morning and every night, and then on the weekend I head home so I can spend time with them.”
Foster said, “To the students, I have been impressed with the talent and determination and the energy that students bring to our educational experience here.”
He emphasized, “I do have an open door policy. If there’s any feedback or any suggestions a student may have, please feel free to reach out to me. I’d love to have that conversation.”
Rebecca Robison is the news and campus life editor of The Express. Follow her @RebeccaRobiso19.