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New Interim Dean Brings a Toolbox full of Knowledge to Role

September, 2019
  • Interim Dean of the School of Math and Science Dr. Benjamin Benton and QCC student and lab support assistant Thi Tran
    Interim Dean of the School of Math and Science Dr. Benjamin Benton and QCC student and lab support assistant Thi Tran

It’s a diversity of experiences that have brought many to Quinsigamond Community College. It’s also a diversity of experiences that brought Dr. Benjamin Benton to his current position as Interim Dean of the School of Math and Science. For many at QCC, Dr. Benton is a familiar figure, having been a biology professor and the biotechnology coordinator at the college since 2012.

However, what some may not know is the rather circuitous route Dr. Benton took to get to where he is today.  He earned his Bachelor of Science degree at Michigan State University before going on to earn his Ph.D. from Northwestern University, focusing on tumor cell research. In graduate school he met his future wife, who also happened to be a scientist. From there he would spend three years in Japan working as a scientist, where he learned there was more than one way to learn something.

He had a strong interest in the biotech world and that interest would lead him to a career in the industry for close to 14 years, working to develop new drugs for life-altering diseases such as diabetes and cancer. However, as time went on his job as a scientist began to evolve and become less research-oriented and more business-oriented. It was not the direction he wanted his career to head and he began reevaluating his career objectives.

In 2010, he decided the time was right for a career change and in 2011 decided to dip his toe into teaching, becoming an adjunct faculty at QCC. It was a job he grew to love and in 2012, he was hired full-time at the college. He quickly became a valued faculty member and trusted colleague to his department. He leveraged his extensive industry experience and continued relationships with biotechnology companies to further enhance a biotechnology program at the college that was tailored to the needs of the biotechnology industry. When the QuEST Center opened in 2016, he was instrumental in helping pick out industry-specific equipment that was bought with a $1 million Massachusetts Life Sciences Grant.

“We bought equipment that students would most likely use in their first job,” Dr. Benton said.

The premise for buying this type of equipment was that students would be comfortable using the state-of-the-art equipment, which would enable them to more quickly adopt new techniques when they entered the workforce. Dr. Benton said that his joy in teaching was seeing the students succeed and knowing that they were prepared when they entered the job market.

“I truly loved the day-to-day interactions. There’s nothing more rewarding than to hear from a student who took your course and said that while it was tough, it helped him in his next class or job. These types of input are what keep you going and what personally inspires me,” he said. “I look at education as a partnership between instructor and student.”

While being reticent to leave his teaching career behind, Dr. Benton feels his perspective as a former professor can be beneficial to faculty and students.

“My goal is to keep the momentum and initiatives going,” Dr. Benton said. “I will look at ideas with faculty and we will work together to forward those ideas that are going to promote student success.”

He said his central goal is first and foremost to prepare students for the workforce and deliver them key fundamental knowledge in math and science.

“Our job is to deliver this knowledge to our students in a unique and interesting way,” he said, noting this can sometimes be challenging given QCC’s diverse population that includes many non-traditional students.

While the classroom may not be where you’ll find him these days, Dr. Benton said this new role is an opportunity for him to promote a vision of student success and what it means for math and science.

“I have a different perspective being in the classroom and knowing the challenges of teaching students of many learning styles. I’m a big believer in perspective. There’s more than one way to learn and the best way is to synthesize different perspectives to solve a problem. I want to promote a managing style where we work together for the best solution,” he said.

Today Dr. Benton can be found behind a desk rather than in front of a classroom; however, he does his best to make himself available for students whenever possible.

“As a Dean most of the time you see students who have an issue. I’d also like to see happy, excited students,” he said, adding there is nothing better than hearing a success story after a student, “felt you were demanding in class but then used what they learned for a positive outcome.”

“I want to make them competitive in the workforce. It’s these types of experiences that for me is why teaching at QCC is so worth it. Now I can facilitate the exchange of similar experiences among our faculty to keep improving the School of Math and Science,” he added.

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