SAINTS PERSPECTIVE, Brad Bennett, SCCC President
When I was a teacher, I used to preach to my students to be passionate about their work. We spend so much time at work and doing something you’re passionate about makes it feel like a choice that feels good and not “nose to the grindstone” work.
Last spring, I left Seward County Community College for financially motivated reasons. That decision took me outside of education, which has been my first, feel-good career choice for the majority of my work life. If my former students could have seen me, they might have said, “Mr. Bennett, you should practice what you preach!”
Maybe they were, because I had a feeling while I pulled out of Liberal that I was making a mistake.
As time passed, I quickly realized that the words I had told thousands of students over the years were in fact true. I missed education. I missed the feeling of purpose I gain from this profession. But, more than that, I missed being a Saint. I missed the community of Liberal, and I missed the wonderful faculty and staff Seward County Community College is blessed with. I knew I needed to live with my decision, but the passion for work was not there.
My wife and I began to discuss our options. How could we address the fact that I was unhappy with my career, and it was impacting my family? I could get back into the field of education, but I made the decision not to apply to other schools because I knew that my heart was at SCCC. I told Lindsay, “Let’s wait for four or five years and see what is open at that point. I miss SCCC too much to go to a different school.”
Being a community college President requires incredible dedication, passion, and energy. I knew that I would not be the best version of myself at another institution. One of the lessons I learned in 2021 was that I should pay attention to that voice inside, the one that advised students to pay attention to their passion.
Five days later I received a call that led me to return to my position with the Saints family. It felt unreal, exactly what I had been hoping for. Rarely in life do we receive a second chance.
Before I accepted the job, Lindsay and I sat down with our daughters MaryBelle (8) and Madeline (6). We wanted to make sure they were okay with another life-changing event. The girls have completely opposite personalities: MaryBelle is shy, does not like change, and rarely is in trouble, while Madeline is ready to explore, even if that means breaking a rule or two. That said, they are both wonderful in their unique strengths, and they are both incredibly loving and kind. The girls reassured me that this was the best move not only for me, but my family.
A few minutes later, MaryBelle walked out of her room sporting a Saints shirt, holding a contract for me to sign. The document my second-grader had written up stated that this was the correct move, BUT we were not allowed to move again. It is by far the most serious contract I have signed.
Family connections are the strongest, and in many ways, the return to Seward continues a passion I picked up from my own mother, who was a lifelong educator. My childhood memories include watching her pour everything she had into being a better teacher and later an administrator. It’s probably similar for MaryBelle and Madeline, who can tell when their dad is happy as he heads off to work.
Here in Liberal, they see me bring that passion to campus every day. My view is that if I help guide our employees and make the workplace happier — and sometimes even fun — the students in turn will have a better experience. Everything we do and every decision we make impacts our students. Each of our employees plays a critical role in educating the future. It’s my goal to lead the Saints family with positive energy that benefits each one, our students, and the community.
I am so excited to be back on campus. Please stop in and say hi, or reach out if I can help you in any way. Also, mark your calendar for Thursday, March 24, when we will host a Town Hall meeting in the Showcase Theater at 7 p.m. We're hosting a conversation about enrollment, optimism, and SCCC's impact, and are excited to hear from you, the stakeholders of the community that is the center of who we are.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Brad Bennett is both the 11th and the 13th president of Seward County Community College, and a proud participant in the 2022 Men's Pacer Race at International Pancake Day.