Friday, December 15, 2017

Know Your Profs: Camosun’s Joe Benge on post-secondary challenges, cuss words

September 7, 2016 by Adam Marsh, student editor

Know Your Profs is an ongoing series of profiles on the instructors at Camosun College. Every issue we ask a different instructor at Camosun the same 10 questions in an attempt to get to know them a little better.

Do you have an instructor that you want to see interviewed in the paper? Maybe you want to know more about one of your teachers, but you’re too busy, or shy, to ask? Email and we’ll add your instructor to our list of teachers to talk to.

This issue, we talked to Camosun Technical and Professional Communication prof Joe Benge on the importance of earning the right to an opinion through education, the vast array of students at Camosun, and his tendency to swear in class.

1. What do you teach and how long have you been teaching at Camosun?

I teach Technical and Professional Communication. I teach engineers how to communicate in their workplace. This involves writing—correspondence, reports, proposals, manuals—document designing, and presenting. I’ve been with Camosun for 22 years.

2. What do you personally get out of teaching?

I find my teaching at Camosun deeply satisfying. I love teaching at a community college. Unlike a university setting, the community college provides the perfect opportunity to focus on students. I enjoy the diversity and variety of students at Camosun—those just out of high school, international students, parents returning to school, 30-somethings disillusioned with their dead-end jobs. There is such a range of learners in my classroom—many different ages, life experiences, and varying degrees of academic preparation. I look forward to going to work every day. Every day is different; every class is different. The students are also giving back to me. I learn so much from them as I enjoy the flow and exchange of information. I like to balance our hard work with some levity and humour. I love that programs, courses, and instruction are so relevant and job-transferrable. To paraphrase a popular saying: “If you want an education, go to university; if you want a job, go to a community college.”

Camosun Technical and Professional Communication prof Joe Benge (photo by Jill Westby/Nexus).

Camosun Technical and Professional Communication prof Joe Benge (photo by Jill Westby/Nexus).

3. What’s one thing that you wish your students knew about you?

I want them to know that I faced some of their challenges while I was getting my post-secondary education. I was a single parent of two young boys and had more part-time jobs than money or time. It was a struggle, so I certainly can relate to the many trials that my students face.

4. What’s one thing you wish they didn’t know about you?

I tend to swear when I get really passionate and excited about a lesson topic. This won’t change.

5. What’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you as a teacher here?

I love Capstone Symposium day, when graduating engineering students showcase their projects to potential employers and to the public. It is so gratifying to see the culmination of nearly three years of work as these students showcase their amazing and innovative work. I also love it when former students email me and tell me how valuable my courses were in preparing them for their engineering workplaces. Some students don’t realize the value of the courses at the time. It is, after all, an English course, which is a hard sell; that is, until I tell them that there are no essays. You don’t write essays in an engineering office.

6. What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you as a teacher here?

Picket lines—they were a true test of allegiance, to my students and to my colleagues, for whom I have the utmost reverence.

7. What do you see in the future of post-secondary education?

Education is one of the most fundamental things we can do as a society. With the constant demand for academic credentials, paired with a lack of governmental support and massive student debt, something has to change. If I were to put on my optimist’s hat, I would see a future first step as the elimination of all interest on student loans, for the full term of those loans. From there, hopefully, we could progress to further subsidy of post-secondary education. For example, the government could partly or fully subsidize education for careers in which there are job availabilities or shortages. Eventually, I would like to see a government initiative to make the first two years of college or university free to the residents of the province in which they are offered. Post-secondary education is entirely free in many countries. I think we are a way from there yet, as we would have to create a new economic and tax model to pay for it. If I were to wear my pessimist’s hat, I would see no indication in the near future that resources for post-secondary education would increase.

8. What do you do to relax on the weekends?

I love the outdoors, so I play golf and hike a lot with my family. I love reading—a balance of fiction and non-fiction. And I’m quite a newsy.

9. What is your favourite meal?

Anything my wife cooks. She’s awesome!

10. What’s your biggest pet peeve?

People who vehemently argue a case for an issue on which they have no knowledge. You must earn the right to an opinion with some basic awareness and study. A close second would be the driver in front of me who slows down for a green traffic light, then makes it through, leaving me at the red.

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