Meet Otterbein’s New Director for the Office of Social Justice and Activism

Posted Oct 13, 2023

In the short time Selethia Benn has been on campus, she has made a big impression. With her background in K-12 education, she brings a fresh perspective and energy that has been appreciated on campus. Students have made the Office of Social Justice and Activism a popular hangout and safe space, and faculty and staff have found her to be a valuable resource.

Let’s Learn more about Otterbein’s new director of the Office of Social Justice and Activism, Selethia Benn.

How would you describe your experience?

I am a passionate educator for diversity, equity, and inclusion, driven by a lifelong commitment to making a difference in education. With a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a minor in social work from Tarleton State University, a master of education degree in counseling from Texas A&M University, and an education specialist degree in educational administration from Capella University, my educational foundation is robust. I am currently pursuing a doctorate degree in higher education administration at Liberty University.

My journey has seen me in various roles, including middle school language arts teacher, school counselor, assistant principal, principal, and superintendent. Now, as the director of the Office of Social Justice and Activism at Otterbein University, I am dedicated to leading change and fostering diversity on our campus, guiding us toward continued growth and inclusivity.  Together, we are shaping a campus that truly reflects the beauty of diversity and the power of inclusion!

Why were you interested in coming to Otterbein?

I was interested in coming to Otterbein University because of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and the opportunity it presents to contribute to meaningful progress in these areas. Higher education institutions have a unique opportunity to drive positive social change. We can address historical disparities by advancing diversity initiatives and working towards a more equitable society.

What opportunities do you see for our campus community?

Diverse and inclusive environments enhance educational excellence. When people from different backgrounds come together, it enriches learning experiences and prepares students for a globally interconnected world. Otterbein is uniquely positioned to attract, recruit, and retain a diverse student body as we focus on creating diverse experiences on campus. This opportunity at Otterbein is a chance to contribute to a legacy of progress in diversity and inclusion. The work done today can have a lasting impact on future generations of students and professionals.

You have created a lot of professional development programming and K-12 curricula centered around diversity, equity, and social justice. How will you apply what you’ve learned from those experiences at Otterbein?

I will design and facilitate professional development programs for faculty and staff, sharing best practices and strategies for creating inclusive learning environments. These programs emphasize the importance of culturally responsive teaching and ongoing learning.  Building on my experience in community engagement, I will foster partnerships between Otterbein and local organizations and communities to address real-world issues related to equity and social justice. These collaborations provide students with opportunities for applied learning and community impact.

What is your key to success as a mentor?

My key to success as a mentor is rooted in several core principles and approaches: Active listening, resource sharing, empathy and respect, encouragement and support, constructive feedback, and a goal-centered approach.  In essence, my key to success as a mentor is a holistic and learner-centered approach. By valuing each mentee’s unique journey, providing support and resources, and fostering an environment of mutual respect and growth, I aim to empower individuals to thrive academically and personally.

Social justice and advocacy work can be difficult at times. What do you do to relax and unwind?

Engaging in social justice and advocacy work can be emotionally and mentally challenging. To relax and unwind, I prioritize self-care strategies that help me recharge and maintain a healthy work-life balance. Some of the activities I typically engage in include family time, reading, meditation and mindfulness, cooking, traveling, and journaling. By regularly engaging in these relaxation activities, I ensure that I am well-equipped to continue the critical work of advocating for justice and equity.

What is one thing you want the campus to know about you?

One important thing I want the campus community to know about me is that I am a dedicated advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion. I am deeply committed to making our campus a more welcoming and inclusive place for everyone.

My ultimate goal is to support and empower students to succeed academically and personally. I encourage students to reach out during times of need and share their perspectives and insights. Your voices are invaluable in shaping our efforts to create a more inclusive and equitable campus environment.

I further extend this commitment to faculty and staff. I am here to collaborate with you, provide resources, and work together to implement initiatives that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. Creating positive change requires a collective effort, and I am eager to partner with all community members to make a meaningful impact.