EducationIlene Benz

It’s ironic how we grow up (elementary through high school) counting the days until graduation and then, after it comes and goes, we try to figure out how to get back into the swing of school again to get that college degree. What’s even more ironic is that though I was focused on graduating from high school, then college, then graduate school – I’ve come back to live my life as a teacher! (By the way, after all I’ve done – see experience – this is the best choice I ever made!)

The truth is, life itself produces a “degree of the ages” where we continuously learn, apply, make mistakes, succeed and recycle the process. In today’s world of work, not only is an Associate’s Degree a must – but for many positions it’s the Master’s Degree that will enable people to squeak out an advantage over other applicants for the same job.

While it took quite a while – I sure am glad I completed my Masters Degree. Master of Public Administration, SUNY College at Brockport. (www.brockport.edu)

I chose Brockport because of the degree, the professors and the friendly, helpful people I found there as an undergraduate. My Bachelor of Science degree is in Communication/Broadcasting and I also took several business marketing classes, you know, to have a “fall back” career, though at the time they did not have such a minor.

Throughout my life, I have loved learning new things. Perhaps you have heard the old adage, “the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know.” Learning sure does awaken the imagination and explode the possibilities we have. Whether it’s a professional development class, conference lecture/workshop or my own class, I look forward to learning with you!

Experience

I love a challenge and rarely pass up an opportunity to apply my skills (or learn new ones). Because of this, I have done many things throughout my life. Though in college I knew I wanted to work in broadcasting, graduation was approaching and I didn’t know what I was going to do. Then, my advisor, Virginia Bachelor at SUNY College at Brockport (www.brockport.edu) asked me why I had not yet applied for an internship. She told me she expected my resume and letter of intent by the next day. Clueless, I agreed to apply and spent the next 24 hours completing the paperwork.

Thank you Ms. Bachelor! I became an intern at WXXI TV (www.wxxi.org) and my career began! I worked in television, radio and finally full time for their Reachout Radio, a service for the blind and visually impaired. While there, I had part time roles at other radio stations and ad agencies (copy writing) as well.

After spending several years learning about broadcasting, I became curious about the world of public relations. I landed a Communications Specialist role with the County of Monroe (www.monroecounty.gov), promoting the county’s recycling program. This experience enabled me to learn about communicating with the public-at-large as well as segments of the community. It was exciting, challenging and educational. It was during this time that I rediscovered my love of teaching (didn’t you play “school” as a child?). I became a trainer and coach for the County’s total quality management (TQM) program. From there, I knew I wanted to use my communication and teaching skills full time.

More than half a decade later, with some PR and Ad Agency roles along the way, I found the opportunity that was perfect for me at The Student Loan Corporation, a subsidiary of Citibank (now part of Citigroup). As the Internal Communication Manager and member of the Quality Development Team, I was able to use my communication (broadcasting, marketing and public relations) skills as well as my teaching skills. My role was to ensure ongoing communication between managers and employees, support the business’ quality efforts to satisfy customers and teach people how to communicate personally and across departments. It was the best of both worlds…and I certainly learned a lot. During those years, I initiated the company intranet and a closed-circuit television program, supported a leadership effort encouraging employee participation and customer focus and even helped the business and employees during its downsizing move to South Dakota. What an opportune experience it was!

Throughout those years, I began teaching as an adjunct (part time) Instructor at SUNY College at Brockport (www.brockport.edu) and Monroe Community College (www.monroecc.edu) as well as began my own speaking and training business. I learned a lot through my successes and failures and knew that I was headed in the right direction for me. Shortly after my role at Citibank, I was hired to work as part of the faculty of the Visual and Performing Arts Department of Monroe Community College. I can honestly say that I love my work! After all, what could be better than sharing and learning with others while helping them achieve their goals?!

Professionally, my experience working in a variety of roles in the media, the public sector, “corporate America” and in college teaching, both in Manhattan and Rochester, NY has allowed me to pursue my passion of helping others achieve their goals. Whether it is in a college classroom or through my own speaking, training and media business, working with others has been the greatest gift. I have worked with the University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, SUNY College at Brockport and, of course, Monroe Community College (MCC). Currently, I teach media and speech courses, including Public Speaking, Public Relations and Interpersonal Communication as well as organize/facilitate and coach students in an annual speech contest at the college known as the Otis Young Motivational Speak-off. 

In addition, I am a member of Toastmasters International – a communication and leadership organization.  For more information about Toastmasters, check us out on campus. The MCC Toastmasters Club meets the 2nd and 4th Tuesday in the Empire Room of the Brighton Campus. Learn more at 4840.toastmastersclubs.org/. For more info, visit Toastmasters International at www.toastmasters.org.

Family

OK, so Rochester, NY isn’t exactly “farm country,” but driving to Brockport, NY from Yonkers, NY (www.cityofyonkers.com) may offer that impression. Growing up in Yonkers (just north of the Bronx), you usually don’t have the opportunity to pass a farm, a city and another farm within one fifteen minute drive. When my parents drove me to SUNY Brockport (www.brockport.edu) for college, that’s just what we did! When I announced my intentions of remaining here over my summer break between junior and senior year, my parents thought for sure I had become a cowgirl! Never fear mom & dad, you can’t take the city out of the girl, but you can add a few open pastures!

SteveI obviously remained in Rochester, as did many of my college friends – one who became my husband, Steve. Although Steve and I don’t live on a farm or in the city of Rochester, we are close to both living near the airport, in Chili (NOT pronounced like the food). What I love about living here is the variety of landscape and things to do, the friendly people and the lack of traffic (really)!

Steve and I are continuously entertained and educated by our children. Truman and Zoe are quite active in school and travel sports, including baseball, softball and volleyball. They continually prove that sleep is entirely overrated.

Steve, Truman and Zoe
Steve, Truman and Zoe at Arrowhead Stadium, home of the Kansas City Chiefs

We have really enjoyed living here – well, besides the cold winters. Our favorite thing to do besides playing sports is to watch sports and visit different baseball stadiums across the country. In addition, we try to get to Kansas City to watch our Chiefs play. (I grew up a Giants fan and then went to a KC game – Steve’s favorite team. Wow!) We spend what free time we do have playing coed softball, golf and driving each other crazy. Also, we love driving our 1991 Nissan 300ZX TT and 2005 350Z when the weather is warm and sunny.

1991 300 ZX TT

Black 1995 350X Convertible   Ilene & Truman at Red Wings Game

We believe in giving back to our community and do so by volunteering with our children whenever we can. We also support a number of organizations in a variety of ways including WXXI (www.wxxi.org) and Leadership Rochester (www.leadershiprochester.org). When we’re not playing sports, driving or volunteering, Steve and Zoe entertain us with their piano playing and we might sleep in on a rare occasion.

A – Z

Do we share any of the same preferences?

Attitude is everything – bring your best!

Believing – anything can be done if you set your mind and actions to it!

Can – Do!

Dancing – to almost anything

Eating – almost any food as long as it’s not spicy

Football – Kansas City Chiefs

Golf – especially on a beautiful day

Humor – ha, ha!

Inspirations – Quotes, Stories, Speeches as long as I don’t get a bunch of e-mail messages

Jump in with both feet!

Karma – all things happen for a reason

Learning – anything!

Music – especially my husband’s band, Even Steven

Nature – it’s amazing, just watch

October – it’s my birthday!

Public Speaking – and Toastmasters International

Quenching my thirst to understand

Remember the importance of Relationships

Softball, Steve and Summer – not necessarily in that order

Truman – my boy!

Under Promise and Over Deliver

Vacation – anywhere sunny…especially if there’s a ballpark

Working – I love what I do: thinking, writing, wondering, helping, etc.

X’ing – that’s right, I love crossing things off my “to do” list

Yankees baseball

Zoe – my girl!