Q/A W/ Jerusalem Benavides
To welcome SFUAD’s new Campus Life Coordinator to campus, Jackalope sat down with Jerusalem Benavides on his first day for a quick Q & A about what he hopes to bring to Student Life. Benavides previously worked as resident director at Adam’s State University in Colorado and before that was a graduate assistant at the University of Texas in El Paso where he worked as an intern in resident life. In addition to his passion for student life, Benavides is also a huge Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings fan, a quality that makes him fit in quite well among SFUAD’s staff and student body.
JM: You’ve never worked at an art school before. Are you finding it different from a regular college?
JB: I think that academically [art schools are] very different than a four year [university] or even a two year community college…because there’s not really an emphasis so much on general education courses, where you’re just sort of passing these different levels of English and History and Foreign Language and all this stuff, where at an arts school there is some of that, but the students are actually working on what they’re majoring in from the start rather than having to take all these other things that don’t really have anything to do with what they’re studying. I think they’re a little bit more focussed…That new experience for me is exciting. And it’s exciting for the students because they’re curriculum is more specialized.
JM: What do you hope to bring to SFUAD?
JB: I have a lot of ideas. Something that I’ve done at both of the schools that I worked at before was start a residence hall association program, which is kind of like a student government organization for the residence life aspect of the campus. At other schools they have a separate student government for everybody and then just an [organization] for people who live on campus and then there’s a campus activities board and there’s always different entities, but I think on this campus those things can actually all work under one thing.
Residence hall organizations are a big part of residence life across the globe. We have a national organization [the National Association of College and University Residence Halls] that hopefully [SFUAD will] affiliate with. There are people from universities in Europe and Canada and Mexico and South Africa that come to their conferences. Being able to bring that global perspective to the campus in terms of residence life and how students themselves develop the leadership and professional skills in order to create these activities and events that engage the other students and bring them in [is what the organization is about,] either so that they’re engaged and they’re participating with what’s happening or so that they can come on board and be part of that organization as well.
JM: You’ve worked with NACURH before?
JB: Yes. Adam’s State didn’t have one when I got there so that was one of the things I wanted to bring there. As soon as I got them set up with it, the students took off with it. The energy and the exchange that happens from all these other schools in the region and nationally is very powerful. I just have to get our guys here to go to the conference and it’ll just catch fire. It really will. There’s so much other schools are doing for their students that we might not know about and, unless we’re doing tons of research, we might never find out about. At these conferences, you get it all right there and [other schools] also get to learn what we’re doing at this school. We get to submit programs that we’re doing here as a well. That brings notoriety to this school and also gets us participating in that other exchange.
JM: What else do you want to bring to SFUAD?
I want to create opportunities for students to create new organizations and lead. I want to facilitate their development professionally…There’s so much that happens [for example] just by making a speech. There’s so much you learn from that or from putting together a PowerPoint presentation. And you don’t always learn that in a classroom. That’s the goal of student organizations: to create that co-curricular aspect. I’m a very big proponent for that. In fact, I was talking earlier with the guys from Student Voice and we’re already saying, ‘We need to put a calendar together for what we want to do next semester.’
JM: What’s most important to you when it comes to Student Life?
JB: I guess that word is ‘co-curricular.’ I think that that’s a good word to use because it does include engagement, and inclusion and social justice and discourse; it includes developing all of those skill sets and even social skill. It includes…getting students out of their rooms and into the hallways and lobbies and the common areas of campus. It’s important that a student life program is providing those opportunities for development, for personal growth, for professional growth and really honing those leadership skills in our students and giving opportunities for freshmen to come out and develop their social skills and find out what’s out there and what organizations to plug into. I am a firm believer in that—and I’m not saying anything bad about this school—but…across the nation the amount of students who are contemplating suicide in their first few weeks of school [is staggering.] It’s their first time away from home. They’re overwhelmed; they’re not meeting people; they’re hiding out in their rooms; they’re freaked out by this situation. [Having a strong student life program] is how you combat that. That’s how you keep them from doing anything is involving them in stuff. Having more [activities and events] on campus is really important. I want to meet with organizations to help them make what they want to happen, happen. My role is very support oriented.
JM: What’s it like working with the Student Life team?
JB: Well, I’ve only worked with them for a day but I can tell you that when I came in for my interview I was like, ‘Oh my god, I love these people! I really hope they pick me!’ It was funny too because a few days went by before I heard anything. I was just pacing back and forth [thinking,] ‘Are they going to call? What’s going on?’ but they’re great. Everyone has been very welcoming and I think I’m going to work with the best team on campus. I’m excited to be a part of that.
Benavides says that his goal next semester is to meet with every student life organization at least once. If you want to meet with him, Benavides can be found in Mouton Hall. Students are welcome to visit his office there or contact him by email at Jerusalem.Benavides@santafeuniversity.edu or by calling 505-473-6003.