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March 24th, 2023
L&T Opinions Page

brad bennett scccSAINTS PERSPECTIVE, SCCC President Brad Bennett


Wednesday, March 8, was International Women's Day, and it means a lot to me. Before you get uncomfortable about that statement, consider the fact that I am the father of two daughters. 

When I think about the concept of International Women's Day — a time to recognize the achievements of women worldwide, and to acknowledge the importance of ensuring they receive equal respect and care as we give to men — I think about the people my daughters will grow up to be. This is consistent with how we approach supporting our students at Seward County Community College.

But it is far more personal than policies. Like every person, my life began with my mother. When I reflect on the impact my mother had, not only on my life but also the lives of so many students, I am in awe. 

In the days and months after my mother passed, I received many phone calls and letters from former students talking about the impact my mother had on their lives. Throughout her career in public education, she worked extremely hard for the students and school she loved. 

She instilled the value of work ethic and education in not only her own kids but the thousands of students she educated. It’s not about the numbers, but the numbers do tell a powerful story. If every student she interacted with internalized just one fundamental truth, think about how those little lessons add up over the course of 12 years of elementary, middle, and high school education. Then think about all the people each of those student will affect as they go through life, whether it’s at work, in family relationships, and society as a whole.

I think about that often in how I interact with my daughters. Whether it is practicing spelling worlds or our current project — a book report on polar bears — the standard for excellence that lives in my heart and mind is always my mom. When is it best to push a little further to bring out a student’s best? When is it time to offer encouragement and the reassurance that you are valuable no matter how you feel you are performing? When is it important to say, “great job” and call it a day? 

These principles carry over to Higher Ed, even though our students are no longer laboring over weekly spelling lists. When Saints students arrive on campus, we know they bring more than a decade of teacher-student interactions with them. Many of those teachers were most likely women educators like my own mom, who poured years of effort and expertise into the children and teens who sat in their classrooms. 

During my lifetime, it’s been great to see the progress we have made in celebrating excellence from all students, and encouraging girls to break barriers. STEM classes (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) were once viewed as easier for male students, and young women were discouraged from enrolling. They were advised to major in English or teaching or something “more appropriate” for girls. That’s not the case today, and it’s clear on our own campus. 

In our Math and Science, Industrial Technology, Humanities and Allied Health divisions, we employ several women instructors and deans who hold doctorate-level credentials. Heather Hannah, Magda Silva, Suzanne Campbell and Amber Jones all merit the honorific “Dr.” And make up a key part of our college leadership, but more importantly, they have a positive impact on all their students. 

It’s not all about credentials, either, but about institutional commitment. Our Board of Trustees welcomed two influential and gifted women to the table over the past two years; Kay Burtzloff and Keeley Moree have brought new perspectives and power to the governance of SCCC. And the newest member of our executive team, Vice President of Financial Affairs Madalen Day, has already transformed key areas of our college operations. 

SCCC has also focused on ensuring that we will continue to empower and inspire all our students by revamping our Civil Rights / Title IX system. Under the leadership of Vice President of Student Services Celeste Donovan, we restructured our campus response to reported incidents of discrimination or sexual harassment/assault. Thankfully, the occasions when we have to address such issues are rare — but if and when they occur, we are ready to respond. 

So today we celebrate great women of history, industry, and education — not just in the past but also the present and the future. From my mom’s days in the classroom to the achievements I can’t wait to see my daughters attain, and all the years between, the world is better because of these women. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR — Brad Bennett is the president of Seward County Community College. Thanks to his two daughters, he knows all the words to “Let it Go,” from the popular Disney movie  “Frozen"and has read more Princess storybooks than he can count. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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