Hill College names longtime welding instructor as new dean of instruction

  Jessyca Brown
  Thursday, January 28, 2021 7:55 AM

Hillsboro, TX

Brian Bennet

In January, Hill College named welding instructor and program coordinator Brian Bennett as the new dean of instruction for the business and industry pathway.

“Brian is invested in the college and the community,” said Hill College Vice President of Instruction Dr. Kerry Schindler. “He is smart and personable, and he has a drive to be successful. He is and will continue to be an asset to Hill College and all of our service area.”

As dean, Bennett will oversee administrative and managerial duties of all the business and industry pathway programs, which include agriculture, automotive technology, business administration, HVAC, industrial maintenance, office administration technology and welding. Welding instructor Joe Price has replaced Bennett as the welding program’s district coordinator.

Bennett will also work with high schools, universities, local leaders, and business owners to grow and promote programs that serve regional workforce needs, and his longtime connections to the community will aid in his efforts.

Bennett grew up outside of Hillsboro in Peoria. He took welding and agricultural classes at Hillsboro High School, but the dual credit English course he took at Hill College during his senior year is what set him on his post-secondary educational path.

“After high school graduation, I received an art scholarship to attend Hill College,” Bennett said. “At that time, I lacked direction and motivation, and Hill College helped me mature as a student. The scholarship gave me direction, and the faculty gave me motivation.”

Bennett graduated from Hill College with his associate’s of arts degree in 1991, which he said led him to receiving his bachelor’s of fine arts degree from Southwest Texas State (now Texas State University) in 1994.

After marrying his wife, Sarah, in 1995, Bennett decided to stop his year-long graduate studies in fine arts at the University of Texas at Austin to get a job. And it was his high school welding courses—as well as time spent in his dad’s welding shop as a kid—that helped him do just that.

“I was having a hard time finding a job using my fine arts degree, so I answered an ad in the paper looking for welders,” Bennett said. “Welding has always been a part of my life, and high school taught me enough about it to get my foot in the door. But I learned early on I was the worst welder on the job.”

So, Bennett started taking night classes in welding at Austin Community College while working full time, and it paid off. He began as a welder at Commemorative Brands, Inc., and transitioned from production welder, to maintenance mechanic, to a master model maker, and finally into the tool and die shop.

 “The community college classes really helped me hone my skills and move up in my career,” he said.

In January 2000, a full-time welding instructor position became available at the Hill College Johnson County Campus in Cleburne, and Bennett decided to apply.

“While working on my bachelor’s degree, I took courses in education because teaching was always something I thought about doing,” he said. “I still had family and friends in the area, and my dad was a welding instructor at the Hill College Hillsboro campus.”

Bennett was offered the position, and soon he and his father added a new dimension to their relationship—colleagues.

“It was a blessing I was able to spend my first seven years as an instructor working alongside my father,” Bennett said. “He was a coworker I could trust to be 100 percent honest with me and share ideas with. Working with my father has been one of my most enjoyable moments.”

Bennett received his Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) and Certified Welding Educator (CWE) certifications simultaneously from the American Welding Society (AWS) in 2003. One of Bennett’s many contributions to Hill College’s welding program is getting his students involved in AWS by taking them on field trips to the North Texas section’s monthly meetings.

“The AWS is a great source of networking for students because our board and section members are professionals in the local industry,” Bennett said. “Our students are also able to listen to guest speakers who are typically welders, inspectors, vendors or manufacturers, so they’re able to see and hear about current processes or new tools in the industry they may otherwise not be aware of.”

Bennett was also instrumental in the design and construction of the college’s welding labs in both Hillsboro and Cleburne, which in turn contributed to the growth of the welding program at both campuses.

“Mr. Price and I had a lot of input with the draftsmen and the engineers in designing and building the Hillsboro lab,” said Bennett. “And I had the opportunity to design every aspect of the welding lab in the Cleburne Technical Center from the number of booths to the types of machinery and everything in between. Both are state-of-the-art facilities that have significantly improved our ability to recruit students to our welding program.”

Bennett’s peers have applauded his contributions to the program and college by nominating him for various awards including the 2005 vocational instructor of the year for Hill College’s Johnson County Campus and three National Institute of Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) Excellence Awards. Additionally, Bennett received the 2018 Howard E. Adkins Memorial Instructor Section Award from the AWS North Texas section and was selected to represent District 17 at the organization’s Instructors Institute. Bennett has also served as the Texas Community College Teachers Association (TCCTA) section chair three times.

“I appreciate and am thankful for the encouragement and support of my coworkers in applying for this position and throughout my time here,” he said.

In his new role, Bennett plans to grow the dual credit programs across the pathway, as well as restore department enrollment to pre-COVID-19 levels.

“My goal is to make sure our existing programs are as strong as they can be,” said Bennett. “Providing students with safe, comprehensive and in-demand workforce training will ready them for our state’s post-pandemic rebound. I look forward to getting out into our service area to share the opportunities we have to offer.”

Schindler said he is positive Bennett will bring the same enthusiasm and commitment he has for the welding program to the multiple programs he will oversee in the business and industry pathway.

“Brian built a welding program that is respected throughout the region,” said Schindler. “He was completely invested in the welding industry, striving to make it better for students, employers, and the larger community. His great work ethic and creative mindset will serve him well as he strives to transform Career and Technical Education in our region by building new programs that serve the needs of our communities.”