Bennett hopes to tackle student issues following annual breakfast

Bradie Gray

Luke Williams, a senior biology major, asks Linda Bennett about her take on advertisement on campus at the annual breakfast March 27, in Carter Hall.
Luke Williams, a senior biology major, asks Linda Bennett about her take on advertisement on campus at the annual breakfast March 27, in Carter Hall.

It was an early start for some Eagles Thursday morning as they slowly, but surely, made their way to Carter Hall before 8 a.m.

These early birds were there to get advice and a few slices of French toast from President Linda Bennett at the 26th annual Breakfast with the President.

Representatives from multiple student organization attended, along with a few curious guests, to ask Bennett and her administrative team an array of questions.

The questions ranged from advertising, recruitment and retention to relocating Academic Skills and creating a safer way for on-campus students without cars to get to places that are beyond walking distance.

Chelsea Guthrie, a student worker for the USI Foundation, asked Bennett about alumni gifts and if she could help the entire campus understand the importance of them.

“A lot of people don’t get it. I mean, they get a lot of scholarships, but they don’t understand really what that does for them,” said Guthrie, a freshman pre-dental hygiene major. “If they gave back as much as they were getting it would help so many people out.”

Bennett suggested classes get together when or after they have graduated and donate to the class before them. She said it would be a great way to pay it forward.

“Hopefully, in years to come, people kind of learn more about the USI Foundation and, hopefully, understand the gifts that they’re getting in their scholarships and all their financial aid, and want to give that back to future students,” Guthrie said.

Bennett said it was very touching to her that someone asked about scholarships and giving back.

“I’m one of those students that, thank heavens, someone gave a scholarship to and it changed my life, and we all have to think about our role in that,” Bennett said. “That a student would ask that and is thinking about their impact on the next step is pretty impressive to me.”

Bennett said every time she has an exchange with the students, she learns something and takes a “sober reflection” on what needs work.

“I think we have an incredibly intelligent, articulate student body and I don’t say that just to say it. They’re interested and they care about their place,” Bennett said. “I really do feel that there’s a good spirit in if students feel like they’re being heard, they’ll work with you, and I think that’s the spirit that pervades this campus.”

Senior Arielle Krenshaw said she attended Breakfast with the President to see what kind of issues other student organizations are experiencing.

As a psychology major and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc., the Diversity Project and the Black Student Union, she said she wanted to see if other organizations were experiencing the same problems that her organizations are and see what the president offered as feedback.

“One of the big problems that a lot of my organizations are having is advertisement, which was covered, and also expanding of membership as well,” Krenshaw said after the breakfast. “(Bennett) spoke on how to get your organizations to grow and what you really need to look for in the incoming freshmen and getting them to join.”

Krenshaw said the main thing she learned from the Q&A portion of the breakfast was to ask.

“(Bennett) is very open and I do see her a lot on campus, so I’m just going to make sure I stop and ask her if I have an issue or need help with anything,” she said.

Bennett said she left with “a list in her head” of issues to start working on.

“I’m thinking about things like the posting of student events and transportation. That’s important for our students so they don’t feel isolated on campus. I’m leaving here with some things on my list of how to make progress,” she said.

Bennett said she also needs to pay attention to organizations.

“I’m really interested in making certain that we increase our messages of inclusivity for multiple groups across campus,” she said “The breakfast is very important for me. I leave learning something and the students leave feeling as if they can pose those questions.”