President to serve answers for annual breakfast

This scene is typical for Breakfast with the President, an annual event scheduled to take place March 30. Students eat free when they pick up their tickets at Alumni and Volunteer Services in University Center West.

Bennett offers this opportunity for students and organizations to come and ask her questions regarding anything and everything they might want to know.

“It really is (Bennett) giving up her time to answer some of these questions one on one,” said Caylin Blockley, assistant director of Alumni and Volunteer Services.

The core of the event is the Q&A portion. Blockley said it is something Bennett wanted to keep. She wants to answer as many questions as possible.

The main goal of the Student Alumni Association is to get as many students to the event as possible. Because it is such a big event, they have looked at the time placement and length of the event to accommodate more students.

Blockley said last year went well and the laid-back atmosphere was the key.

“She’s very good at making everyone feel comfortable,” Blockley said.

He also believes this event is a key part in moving the university forward and making it better.

Student Alumni Association President Alex Martens said there has been a slight increase in student alumni event participation each year, but attendance is still not where they would like it to be. One example of attracting more participants is adding more sponsors to the “Light up the Quad” event they hold each year.

Martens has talked to Bennett about making Breakfast with the President not just students asking questions that don’t relate or questions that aren’t the best for her to answer. To ensure that as many questions are answered as possible, multiple administrators will also attend the breakfast.

“Sometimes we’ve actually had a panel where we’ve had officers from different organizations on campus represent the body, and then sometimes where we’ve had students among the crowd ask questions,” Martens said. “This year, I don’t think we’ll have a panel, but we’ll still have where ordinary students can ask those questions they’ve always been wondering.”

Martens hopes to change it in the future from just a Q&A to having Bennett have her own presentation where she can state the goals and standards of the university and where the university may be in 50 years, as well as a Q&A.

Bennett said the administrative team takes notes on the questions that are asked and sees what they have done or what they can do to make things better. From students that commute, to those who live on campus, to international students, the administrative team is always listening to students and making improvements, Bennett said.

Even during her personal time out in the community, Bennett said she takes comments into consideration. While out to lunch with a donor at Bonefish Grill, she asked a waitress if she was a student on campus.

The waitress replied with a “no,” but said she should be. Bennett told her if she thought about going to USI, she should stop by her office and she would set her up with the people she needed to talk to.

The team is constantly making sure they are doing a better job responding to the interests of international students.

Bennett said sometimes providing familiar food is a wonderful way to connect their food with their home. If certain international groups have dietary requests, they make sure they are responsive to them to make sure they feel a sense of connection to the university.

“Experiencing food is an amazing cultural experience and so, in many ways, sharing that food is a way of sharing their home,” Bennett said. “That’s an important part of helping individuals feel as if, ‘Yeah, this can be, for awhile, my home away from home.’”

One of the issues addressed was the advertisement of the events on campus, and one of the ways they alleviated the issue was with the implementation of the USI App for smartphones.

“You’ve got to think of this as continuous improvement by the institution,” Bennett said. “We can’t do everything, but I think listening is the first step to figuring out the things you can do and the things that will make life better for everyone.”

Fast Facts

What: Breakfast with the President

When: 8-9 a.m. March 30

Where: Carter Hall

Cost: Students – Free

Faculty – $7