Congratulations to College of Western Idaho (CWI) Communications Instructor and Assistant Director of Forensics, Julia Bennett, Ph.D., who was named Faculty of Distinction for October 2023.
Bennett has been part of the CWI community since 2018, where she has taught various Communications courses, such as Fundamentals of Oral Communication (COMM 101), Interpersonal Communication (COMM 221), Communication and Culture (COMM 160), Intercollegiate Speech and Debate (COMM 114), as well as Connecting with Ideas (CWI 101). As Assistant Director of Forensics, she helps coach the College’s award-winning Speech and Debate team. She also serves as a Co-Advisor for CWI’s newly formed Theatre Club and welcomes any students and interested community to join in on the fun.
Bennett brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her role at CWI. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from University of Kentucky, and her academic journey continued with a Master of Fine Arts in Acting and a PhD in Performance Studies/Communication from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Bennett has also worked professionally in theatre as a director, actor, producer, and designer.
Having an impact on others and helping transform lives is what ultimately inspired Bennett to begin teaching. She refers to the profession as a long game — you may not always see results right away, but you know good things can and will happen. Through teaching, Bennett aims to inspire students to identify and value their unique strengths, passions, and vision so, in turn, they can give those things back to the world in a meaningful way.
That interest in giving back is what ultimately drew Bennett to CWI.
“CWI is a land of hope and possibility for a diverse population,” Bennett said. “The staff and faculty work hard to provide an environment that ensures students are seen, supported, and strengthened – and the faculty rock! They are well-credentialed and competitive. They could work anywhere but choose CWI because they love teaching."
Bennett has countless memories she shares with her students at CWI. She fondly recalls a student who gave her a tree to plant as a symbol of sowing the seeds of knowledge. They shared with her, “I want you to look out in your yard every year and know that you plant seeds — what you do bears fruit."
She also lives for the days in class when her students face their fears by giving a speech or drop by her office with small tokens of appreciation. Bennett also highlights the joys of traveling with the Speech and Debate team, where she has witnessed dozens of students experience the magic of pride, shock, and joy when their hard work is recognized.
“There's nowhere else I'd rather be.”
Many of Bennett’s colleagues at CWI notice her dedication to her students and her skills as an educator. Whether that may be through her assistance in leading the College’s Speech and Debate team to unprecedented levels of success or her contributions as lead faculty member for CWI’s Interpersonal Communication course, where her efforts to adopt an Open Educational Resource (OER) text have supported the Z-degree initiative.
“Simply put, Julia Bennett makes CWI a better place,” said Department Chair of Communications and Marketing, Jim Gatfield. “Her commitment to student success in the classroom and on the competitive circuit is remarkable. She is a faculty of distinction in every sense of the word.”
Outside of the College, Bennett works with local theatre companies — including the Treasure Valley Children’s Theatre where she is an Artist-Educator and directs, acts, and teaches young artists aged 6-18. When she is not working, Bennett enjoys crocheting, hanging with friends or her husband, gardening, or helping with the drama program at her church.