Changing Lives

Photo of Jessica Argyle
Author: Jessica Argyle
Published: April 4, 2019

Years at CWI:  10
Department:  Communication and Marketing
Education:  PhD, Educational Leadership and Education Specialist, University of Idaho; MA, BA, Communication, Boise State University

“CWI empowers students to live their best lives,” said Michelle Bennett, Department Chair of Communication and Marketing.

Celebrating her 10-year anniversary this past January, Bennett has been empowering students at College of Western Idaho (CWI) since the beginning. Hired in 2009, she was the first adjunct instructor in the Communication department.

“My very first semester at CWI, the entire faculty all fit into one room!”

One of many notable contributions Bennett has made to CWI is starting the College’s Speech and Debate team. As a competitor on Boise State’s speech and debate team as an undergraduate from 1983 to 1987 and a volunteer assistant coach from 2005 to 2007, her experience made her the best candidate to build a program from the ground up. But her passion fueled it into becoming world class!

“We started with this haphazard team and started growing it. Our first semester was a little bit frightening! By the spring of 2010, we started winning and breaking into final rounds in events. In 2011, we won our first national championship in Portland, Oregon. Most recently, the team brought home its seventh national title!”

Prior to teaching, Bennett spent 20 years in the corporate world including media relations in Denver, Colorado; promotion and public relations for the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, California; higher education admissions in Portland, Oregon; and working for one of the top lenders in Idaho.

“I am more confident in the classroom because of the experience I have under my belt. I can lend my professional knowledge to my students and give them practical advice on how to be successful once they graduate.”

Teaching, for her, is a way to give back and much more fulfilling than a corporate career.

“I love teaching. I love it! It is probably selfish. I feel like I get as much from my students as I probably give them. You have to have a labor for love and passion for giving people a chance. Teaching is physically being there and taking every piece of your essence and knowledge to lead and guide. It’s the only job in the world where you can do that.”

From seeing her students build self-esteem and confidence to witnessing their growth and change, Bennett says the epitome of amazing is watching lives change. One of her most memorable moments was watching a student go from just trying to figure out life to landing the career of her dreams.

“I just cried and cried. I was just so happy! My crowning moment as an educator.”

Empowering hundreds of students over the years, her students cannot say enough about the lasting impact she has made in their lives.

“Whether it was pushing me to work harder (i.e. speeches, papers, etc.), finding opportunities for me to shine, or even listening to me when I needed an ear, Michelle has always been there for me,” said Alishia Jonas, a 2013 Communication graduate. “It would take a very long time to describe in words how much her support and guidance has meant to me.”

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