Many students may recognize Erin Benevento as one of the first smiling faces to greet them on the Hill. Whether she gave you directions during August move-in or helped you edit your resume, she is easily one of the most recognizable and welcoming personas on campus.
Benevento started working at McDaniel in 2015 as the program assistant for the first stop office, offering support for first year students. After a year, she was promoted to coordinator of first year programs, where she took on a larger role in the First Stop realm.
Eventually, she felt called toward a role in the Center for Experience and Opportunity (CEO), where she became the associate director of community engagement.
“I loved being involved downtown and the potential for community partnership, so I was really grateful to have the opportunity to serve in that position,” she said.
In that role, she helped develop the relationship between McDaniel students and downtown Westminster. She masterfully was able to combine her first year experience with her new emphasis on community engagement by getting students downtown during orientation.
“That’s a regret I have. When I was a student here, I didn’t go downtown as much as I liked so, I really feel passionate about encouraging the students to experience,” she said.
Eventually, she made her way back to the first year world where she served as the director of the first year experience for two years. She was a key figure in developing McDaniel Local, while still emphasizing community outreach.
Following the windy road between supporting the first year program and fostering connections to downtown Westminster, Benevento was promoted to Associate Dean for Student Development last summer, where the first year program and the CEO program have been combined to also combine both of Benevento’s areas of expertise, and all four components of the McDaniel Commitment, to one consistent place.
“I just love it here. I am grateful to continue helping the students and helping the community,” said Benevento.
Since Benevento’s promotion, the CEO has been altered to encapsulate four key parts: the first year office, the study abroad office, career prep help, and community engagement.
Despite this wide and extensive array of departments, Benevento feels supported by the other members of the CEO team.
“I have an excellent staff who oversees certain areas. I support them, help advocate for them to the administration if there’s something we want to try. Really they do a lot of the good, on-the-ground-work, for a lot of these initiatives,” she said.
As Benevento embarks on another exciting chapter of her McDaniel story, she reflects on her own time spent as a McDaniel student.
“When I was a student here, I had a fantastic four years, but I really felt like I was on my own in terms of planning my outside-of-classroom success. The McDaniel Commitment didn’t exist for me, where students had the expectation for this variety of opportunities. I love that we are now making this into the student experience,” she said.
Based around these experiences and needs as a student, she helped craft the McDaniel Commitment with her student successors in mind. The McDaniel Commitment is a four-part series of expected opportunities for students outside of the classroom: My Place, My Design, My Experience, and My Career.
My Place encourages a sense of belonging as soon as students step foot on campus. It is mastered through participation in McDaniel Local, orientation, and the “First Look” series within a student’s first year seminar class. My Design is a Jan. term course taken after the first semester and is created with the intention of getting students thinking about where they are and what their next steps are.
“I like to say that My Design meets students where they are, and helps them in whatever their next step is,” she said.
My Experience can occur at any point over the college experience, and students are expected to have two experiential learning opportunities before they graduate. This can be achieved through study abroad opportunities, internships, or even certain classes. Lastly, My Career is a course taken junior or senior year, and serves as “real world prep 101”, where students learn about resume and LinkedIn making, DEI in the workplace, and much more. Although it is currently an online course, it has the potential to become hybrid very soon.
As Benevento describes the many ideas and projects that she has helped come to fruition, it is impossible not to notice the excitement and passion she holds for them and the community she loves.
“Honestly, I think that’s one of the reasons why I was trusted with this responsibility of bringing all those pieces together, because I’ve been on the team for implementing so many of these pieces since the beginning,” said Benevento.
“I really appreciate all the support I’ve received over the years in these different positions. Each new position has brought excitement but also a sense of, ‘can I do it?’, but every time, I’ve been met with tremendous encouragement and support from the community here,” she said.
“There’s some really good folks here on the Hill.”
The CEO office is located across from the Hilltop Pub and down the hallway, and the office is open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.