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Phi Theta Kappa inductees hear Faculty of the Year

Instructor Jim Benak spoke April 26 at Mathews Conference West on Southwestern Michigan College’s Dowagiac campus at the induction of 17 students into Sigma Psi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for community colleges. His four pieces of wisdom for students developing themselves for the workforce are to be open-minded, flexible, resilient and mindful that “there’s only one of you.”

“Success isn’t about everything you do right,” Benak said, “but things you learn when you stumble,” like earlier in his career when he created a program to computerize payroll for 55 hotel employees but missed the mark by $7,000.

“It’s not the mistakes you make, but how you recover. Bounce back from bad days at work and keep moving. Times when things are tough will make you a better person if you’re resilient.

“Continue what you’re doing now by getting involved. Work with different people, build on those experiences and you’ll learn different viewpoints. Take opportunities at every chance,” Benak said.

“You’re all driven and motivated, but do not let that be your downfall,” he said. “I teach business and this is fundamental: No matter where you go, we reward people who do very good jobs by giving them more to do. Be careful of that because that’s never going to change.

“Go above and beyond when you can, but remember to take care of yourself because there’s only one of you for your friends and family.”

Benak grew up in the Chicago area and earned a bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management and a master’s degree in education, both from Purdue University. He’s working toward his master’s degree in business administration (MBA) from Indiana University South Bend. He spent 15 years in hotel management as director of sales, general manager and regional director of operations before joining SMC’s business faculty in 2010.

President Kathy Smiley-Strouse graduated in nursing. “She has also been monumental in strengthening our Roadrunner Kitchen food pantry,” said Director of Library Services Colleen Welsch, PTK co-advisor with Kristen Lownds, Testing Center manager.

Vice President Kaitlyn Williams graduated from SMC with a degree in early childhood education and continued through Ferris State University for a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

Secretary Anushka Ganu, graphic design major, expects to graduate in Spring 2020.

Treasurer Katlynne Stephan, nursing major, expects to graduate in Spring 2021. Officers received medallions from the 1918 organization embodying scholarship, leadership, service and fellowship.

Tanner Bohan graduated with a pre-engineering associate degree and transferring to Ferris State for digital media software engineering; Jacob Clark, mechanical electrical engineering major, is transferring to Western Michigan University (WMU); Abigail Craft majored in applied mathematics with a physics minor to transfer to WMU; Ariel DeLaTorre, nursing major, expects to graduate in 2020; nursing graduate Aimee Diaz accepted a job at Memorial Hospital on the heart/vascular floor; Maria Freed graduated with an associate degree in graphic design; Eric Fritz graduated with an associate degree in pre-engineering and will transfer to WMU for his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering; Dominique Hatcher, first-semester nursing student, expects to graduate in December 2020; Jessica Lipp, social work major, expects to graduate this fall; Hannah McIntyre is studying psychology to graduate in 2020; Jahcub Mullendore, physical therapy graduate, intends to transfer to Ferris State or WMU; Beatriz Rosales, health services major, applied for the nursing program; Kayla Rose, music education graduate, will transfer to WMU; Constance Taylor majored in criminal justice and is also graduating with her tribal leadership certificate; Jonathan Tharp is in the agricultural operations program to transfer to Michigan State University after his 2020 SMC graduation; Mikaela Valdez, medical assisting major, expects to graduate next May; and Cindy Vandyke, majoring in business, expects to graduate in 2021.