I am welcomed into Dr Benita Cox’s office with a warm smile, and before we even begin our chat, Benita’s welcoming presence shows me why she is a much valued member of the Imperial community. Benita was recently recognised in the President’s Awards for Excellence in Education and Research, receiving the President’s Medal for Excellence in Pastoral Care. Reflecting on this award she said: “I was thrilled when I won. I’d even already explained to my nominator why I wouldn’t get it. I was only doing my job!”
One of my first questions is what she enjoys about working with the students, which she notes is difficult to say as there are so many facets to her role. She explains that she feels it is important to understand that students are under huge amounts of stress and hardship, and so thinks it’s really important that they feel like they matter. I try to help every student achieve what they want to achieve, not just in academic excellence. I listen and help as best I can.”
As our conversation continues, Benita emphasises how an important part of teaching is to “spend time and listen,” not only with students but with colleagues, too. This is something she shares in sessions she gives to colleagues across college, “in these sessions it is about confidence building and giving helpful hints. Small changes can transform teaching ability.”
Imperial takes pastoral care very seriously. There are some amazing support structures in place, including counselling and healthcare. There have been some huge transformations which is reflective of the great leadership in place at the College.
Benita started her career in the city, working in corporate Human Resources. Seeking more ‘mental stimulation’ she undertook an MSc in Management Science and following this, she completed her PhD in Artificial Intelligence. After finishing her PhD she was asked if she wanted to stay on, and has been with Imperial for over 25 years.
Speaking of her time at Imperial, she reveals how pastoral care has changed “beyond recognition.” She expands: “Imperial takes pastoral care very seriously. There are some amazing support structures in place, including counselling and healthcare. There have been some huge transformations which is reflective of the great leadership in place at the College.”
Applying her experience to outside the Business School, Benita explains how a basic level of empathy is important in the workplace: “All businesses need a component of caring – it is not just about alliances and networks. We can see this through the growing emphasis on corporate social responsibility.”
I end our chat by asking how students can make the most of their time at the Business School; she answers by saying: “students should immerse themselves in the school community by taking all the opportunities offered to them whilst they are studying here.”
Read more about Dr Benita Cox’s work here.