On Friday, April 8, Southern Utah University hosted one of three featured keynotes for the Utah Women in Higher Education Network—one of the most prominent education groups in Utah. The conference consisted of a leadership panel, an annual awards ceremony and keynote speakers.
Interim-President Mindy Benson was the speaker in one of the featured keynote events for the annual leadership conference. Benson’s keynote was the only event held on-campus as the remaining events were held remotely through Zoom.
Throughout her presentation, Benson talked about the struggles throughout her career and how she had faced them. From Benson’s first day as interim-president on July 26, 2021 to Cedar City’s torrential rain and flooding to her day-to-day life, she explained what her point of view was like as a newer college authority.
Benson mentioned how she enjoys doing her responsibilities as interim-president quietly but it was a privilege to be featured at the event.
“I love to just go about and go quietly and do my work.” Benson said. “To stop and lead women in this organization with a keynote and try to inspire—it’s a privilege. It’s also a heavy burden because I want to do it right and I want to do something that is helpful to them.”
Benson also encouraged participation from the audience, both online and in-person, regarding the topics brought up during the keynote. These topics included “the Fog of COVID,” the roles everyone plays during their day-to-day life and the “new places” that we find ourselves in after a situation.
Benson explained the “Fog of COVID” as being the sometimes-invisible presence of the changes that the virus has brought upon society. Benson also explained that coming out of the fog is a great opportunity for change and a potential beginning to return to life as it was before the virus.
“I think COVID was the perfect storm for us to stay home, to not be together, to not be social beings and to not function as a society,” Benson explained. “Now, as we come out of those clouds, we have to choose between whether we are going to participate in life or are we going to sit back and be backseat drivers and binge-watch life.”
During the presentation, Benson also used many quotes from Brene Brown, an award-winning researcher. One such quote was, “When we have the courage to walk into our story and own it, we get to write the ending.”
As for Benson, she hopes the endings she writes at SUU involve improving the lives of her students.
“It’s been my priority to build culture, to build the student experience and to work on mental health and the student health clinic,” Benson said. “And some of those are coming to fruition, which makes me very happy. But you can tell that all of them are taking care of each other and that is a story that I hope we continue to write for decades to come.”
UWHEN has yet to announce their next event but the group encourages those interested in learning more about the network to visit uwhen.org for more information regarding the group and their future events.
Article and Photos by: Luke McKenzie