Travis Magazine – Who The Hell is… Crystal Bennett, SSUI President
She went from typical timid first-year self to the top spot at the Student Union. In other words, the big kahuna. Here’s the story of the relentless climb of Crystal Bennett. And what it took.
Crystal Bennett invites me into her office and right away there’s an elephant in the room. An elephant named “high-heeled shoes.” There are a lot of them, upwards of fifteen. I cut right to the chase.
What’s with the shoes?
“That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Bennett smirks. She has about 80 pairs of heels in total, and over 100 pairs of shoes altogether. Yeah, that’s what I said. The collection, lined up along the walls of her office, have accumulated over time as she invariably switches into more comfortable shoes over the course of the day. Sheridan, I would imagine, is not a heel-friendly campus to traverse. But I don’t have concrete evidence, personally.
This is my first impression of Student Union President, Crystal Bennett, aside from our correspondence via BlackBerry Messenger. My mission was to find out what the Sheridan Student Union was all about. I had some idea that it was heavily involved in my experience at the college, but I’m not sure I could really articulate how.
Last year’s student election left me feeling particularly detached from school politics. The platforms were unapologetically vague and I did my best to take action and learn about who and what I was voting for. I wanted to hear more. I wanted the student body to put up a fight for how it was represented.
Bennett ran unopposed, but in all honesty, she was a shoe-in (pun intended) for the position. Few people are as motivated, passionate or involved as she is when it comes to Sheridan College’s Student Union. Not to mention, qualified.
So, who is Crystal Bennett?
Bennett laughs that she used to bug Travis’ then-Creative Director, Steve Sills, to write an article about her in the magazine, and that after four years and finally reaching the top, she’s getting that article. And Sills has moved along from the post.
Since arriving at Sheridan, Bennett has been all over the Student Union.
“I came in organically, growing into a position,” she explains. “It’s hard to be at the top and not know how things will affect the people below you.”
With that said, before taking office as President, Bennett worked as the President of Clubs and Associations, the Marketing Coordinator, the Executive Vice President, and the Co-president of the Student Union last year.
That’s the resume of someone who came to Sheridan College solely with the intention to get her diploma and get out of Dodge. Four years ago, when Bennett first entered the school for marketing administration (“or something like that,” Bennett jokes), she considered herself an introvert.
Surprisingly, in high school, Bennett did not have the passion for student affairs. Her only extracurricular activities were competitive dance and basic work at Loblaws to fund her dancing.
After graduating high school, Bennett worked full-time at Loblaws, unsure of her future goals. When she was offered a managerial position at 21 she decided to decline. Not wanting to spend her entire career in retail, Bennett decided that her best option was to go to post-secondary school. A big step, as she is the first in her family to attend.
Since that choice, Bennett has been all over the Student Union. She has won awards all over the place—the Ontario Colleges Marketing Competition, and most recently, she was awarded the gold medal of Student Leadership Excellence. Her qualifications are a laundry-list of awards, positions on boards, and council seats. Impressive for someone that didn’t care for this stuff in high school.
“It’s like an octopus. We’re here to touch people… oh, don’t say that,” Bennett laughs. What she means is that the Student Union exists to reach out and involve students at the college to help them get the most out of their post-secondary education.
“This is a place for us, the students,” she remarks. The SSU organizes student life; from clubs, to running Connexion, to Travis Magazine, to grade appeals, and volunteering opportunities. The Student Union exists solely to help students get the most, however, the students have to be willing to take advantage of what is offered.
And what’s next for the Student Union? Big things. We can expect a more involved Student Union. This year, the SSU hopes to improve how different segments of students are served, such as meeting the individual needs of mature students, arts students, and business students alike. There’s also the comfortable seating initiative. It sounded silly to me at first, but it makes sense. There are a lot of places on campus that one may spend a long time—many of which are lacking in rear support. I was going to make a butt joke, but I’m choosing to refrain.
The SSU is trying new things to see if they work. Piloting stages. If things haven’t been working, they’re willing to tweak and tamper with them until they do. To top it off, the SSU will be unveiling a new website for students that looks like it’s going to kick some ass. Something that students will want to engage in. Something that will be unique to Sheridan. But it’s under wraps for now, although Travis has a scoop.
As the President, Bennett explains that her main role is to be the figurative captain of the ship. The big kahuna in other words. She handles the higher-level student complaints, concerns and questions. But all-around, she represents the SSU itself. And she’s a strong figurehead as she’s been a member of the Student Union for almost four years, only moving up in positions and gaining accolades.
There was so much I took from my interview with Bennett that I wanted to get in here. There’s a lot to fit. But you get the idea: She went from your typical timid first-year shadow puppet to the Student Union’s kingpin. Sheridan’s definitely brought out the best in our Student Union president, folks.
“I’m unstoppable,” Bennett says, “I wanna be a champion.”