Dr. Jeff Belkora Photo

College students are constantly challenged to make good decisions—either individually or within campus organizations.

Whether it’s a first-year struggling with time management, a sophomore deciding whether to study abroad, a student-athlete struggling with performance—many students are making critical personal decisions for the very first time on their own.

At the same time, students typically join organizations—a fraternity or sorority, a club or an internship—and now they’re experiencing complex organizational dynamics for the first time. This predictably leads to two failure modes.

The first is UNDERTHINKING—the most common among students making personal decisions. They just go with the momentum that they’re caught up in, not fully appreciating the potential long-term consequences of their decisions—financial, academic, social, health, time-management and extracurricular. As a result of underthinking, students can go seriously off course. There’s just not a lot of margin for error these days. Students want to graduate on time, in good health, with manageable debt and on track for a fulfilling career and personal life—but do they have the tools to get there?

The second failure mode is OVERTHINKING—the most common in organizational decisions. Some issue comes up, and instead of following policy, or applying common sense and escalating the issue to appropriate authorities, students start scheming, improvising and negotiating. They tie themselves in knots around people-pleasing, avoiding conflict, covering up, defending turf and generally trying to look good instead of doing the right thing. These dynamics can have disastrous political, legal and health and safety consequences for college organizations, and for the students who run them.

Fortunately, there is a whole emerging science of decision making that teaches us how to make better personal and organizational decisions. One of its foremost leaders, Dr. Jeff Belkora, is personally committed to bringing the science of smart decisions to college campuses for the benefit of students, faculty and staff.

Jeff might be the most fascinating speaker to hit the college market in a decade. He is an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) where he studies and teaches leadership, teamwork and decision making. He also runs a decision support program at the UCSF Medical Center which helps patients make life and death decisions. His tools and techniques have been reality-tested under extreme conditions in the medical field, and are now being adopted by individuals and organizations around the world.

Of special interest, for campus organizations dealing with risk management issues, Jeff offers a refreshing take on this topic. Whereas most risk managers use fear tactics to scare you straight, Jeff highlights student successes and the exceptional safety records set every year on campuses. He uses examples from mission-critical activities in medicine, aviation and other industries to illustrate how education, too, can engage in continuous improvement to avoid preventable suffering, distress, conflict and financial loss.

Any of Jeff’s programs can be delivered as either a high-powered multimedia keynote presentations or an intimate leadership workshop. In either setting, he challenges students to practice using new tools immediately, during his program, as part of his dynamic interaction with the audience. Students should come prepared to think, talk and write about the personal and organizational decisions they are involved with. They will leave with practical tools that position them to command respect as individuals and assume organizational leadership positions beyond college. A common audience reaction is, “I’m leaving with tools I can use for the rest of my life.”

In my work as a college counselor, I can use this direct approach to encourage & teach students a methodical technique to aid their decision making… I love to attend a workshop & leave with a very practical tool. I’ve encouraged several students to utilize your approach since hearing you here at UNA. I have directed them to the website and given out copies of the “SCOPED” template, also.

F. Lynne Martin, University of North Alabama

I plan to draw on this often, both in the fraternity and later in my professional life. I wish my entire cabinet were here for this.

Daniel Wardle, Michigan State University

Jeff Belkora is an excellent speaker. Very easy to pay attention to. He speaks colorfully and is very clear, giving interesting examples to help clarify his facts. Very organized.

Tyler Barclay, University of San Diego

Dr. Belkora allows students a rare opportunity to learn about their own decisions. I learned new ways of thinking, evaluating and making decisions. I find myself applying his methods in my daily life. College is a series of decisions, and it was refreshing to have a speaker articulate ways to navigate this new and potentially challenging environment.

Kate Maxwell, Bates College

Since Jeff Belkora spoke at our Center for Principled Problem Solving, students have referred repeatedly to various parts of the stories and tools he shared. Not only was the presentation inspiring and accessible, it was also illuminating for students to consider how to dream their own dreams and work to establish them in real work geared toward addressing issues around them in the world.

Kim Yarbray, Project and Communication Manager for The Center for Principled Problem Solving , Guilford College

SCOPED!  The Science of Smart Decisions

You’re making critical decisions in college. In the good old days, you could get away with a lot of sloppy decision making in college, and still recover to live a happy and prosperous life. Times have changed. These days, there’s much less margin for error. The choices you make now will determine your future career, financial condition, professional network, physical health and general life path. Wouldn’t it be great if you had a reliable way of guaranteeing smart decisions? Well, now there’s an app for that. It’s called SCOPED. SCOPED is a checklist that stands for Situation, Choices, Objectives, People, Evaluation and Decisions. You can memorize it and run through it in your head. You can talk through it with friends and family. You can write it down on a sheet of paper. Or you can access the SCOPED app online and do all the above. In surveys, people trained in SCOPED say they enjoy a competitive advantage in their personal and professional lives as they navigate key decisions in college and beyond. In this program, Jeff presents a practical, powerful tool for decision making. As always, he draws on student experiences to make his examples and demonstrations come alive.

Additionally, after attending this session, you can also (optionally) choose to apply for brief certification in SCOPED. Simply submit your own SCOPED example online or by email to Jeff for approval. Once certified, you can then list your certificate on your CV or resume as evidence of training in a key management and leadership skill.

Rules for Living: Prescriptions from the Decision Doctor

Students are on a journey of self-discovery. College is a time for trial-and-error experimentation. However, students are also hungry for authoritative wisdom about how to live a happy and prosperous life. They don’t want to have to figure out everything from scratch. They want to react to real-life examples provided by heroes, mentors, coaches, elders and peers. In this program, Jeff draws on a decade of experience training recent college graduates to serve patients facing life and death decisions. It turns out you don’t have to have a near-death experience in order to wake up to the enduring truths about leading a happy and fulfilled life. Jeff—known to his students as the Decision Doctor—presents powerful and practical tools and techniques for personal growth and development. Students learn to use his Scorecard for Growth app to track their progress. As with all of Jeff’s programs, this one features dramatic stories, entertaining media clips and hands-on practice with useful tools. Students leave inspired, but also moved to immediate action with new practical tools to sustain their growth.

99.9996% (A Refreshing Take on Risk Reduction)

A recent study of risk on college campuses found 36 critical incidents (preventable deaths) per 10 million college students each year. This represents a 99.9996% safety record. Another study estimated a high end of 1,400 critical incidents. That’s 99.986%. Either way, this is similar to the safety record of the commercial aviation industry in the United States. These are very strong safety records. Yet any preventable injury, death, conflict or financial loss is a tragedy in either the aviation or the education industry. The aviation industry invests enormous resources and know-how in adding a few more 9s in the decimal places of their safety record. Students in campus organizations can learn from their experience. In this program, Jeff reviews dramatic critical incidents that illustrate vivid successes in achieving safety and keeping organizations on mission. You’ll review simulations, video clips, real-world cockpit recordings, transcripts and interviews, and apply the lessons to your own personal and organizational decisions. Audiences say they leave inspired, not frightened. They are motivated to join the movement for continuous improvement. You’ve never attended a risk management presentation as positive, uplifting, and effective as this one.

Dr. Jeff's Bio

Jeff’s work as the director of the Decision Services Unit at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center has captured national attention. The unit recently won an award from the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Innovation for its “ideas that had the potential to transform for the better the way health care is experienced and delivered.” In his ground breaking work, Jeff has studied patients making the most critical decisions about aggressive medical therapies. He’s discovered that the steps that help a patient make thoughtful, informed decisions about dealing with cancer can be widely applied to others making difficult decisions.

Jeff is an assistant professor at UCSF where he studies and teaches leadership, teamwork, and decision making. He has spoken about his innovative training and decision-making programs to audiences across the globe. He is the author of peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters and case studies.


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