Outstanding Grad: Jason Bennett, MCIS

An Army officer, natural leader and father of three, Jason Bennett has dedicated his adult life to serving, leading and learning.

Jason Bennett
Before entering the MCIS program, Jason Bennett had served in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.

A former high-school athlete, he enlisted on Sept. 11, 2001 into the delayed entry program, beginning training in 2002. In the course of his Army career, Bennett was deployed into three major wartime regions – Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan – while working to complete his education at the same time.

“(Enlisting) seemed like the right thing to do, given the situation in the early 2000s,” Bennett said. “I had a noncommissioned officer, Daniel Nieto, in the Army who pushed me to go to college, so I signed up for a physician’s assistant program after my first tour.”

Bennett earned his bachelor of science in sports and exercise and began a graduate program at University of Northern Colorado where he worked with the Rocky Mountain Rehabilitation Center supporting cancer patients. The loss he felt in that line of work quickly burnt him out, and he knew he needed to redirect.

“I was in the Army Reserves the entire time I was in college, so after that first year (of grad school) at UNC, I decided to go to officer candidate school,” he explained.

A meaningful connection he made with now General Thomas Seamands in his early years in the Army helped him move into his next step.

“He was the first officer I interacted with,” Bennett shared. “I was his driver at Fort Bragg and during my deployment in Iraq. Years later, when I decided to go to Army officer candidate school, General Seamands wrote the deciding letter to get me accepted into my current career.”

After OCS, Bennett became a platoon leader where he developed a relationship with his career mentor, Lieutenant Colonel Jason Genard, and led a team from Fort Carson in Kuwait developing and deploying tactical IT in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. For that service, he received the Army Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Medal – just two of the five service awards he received over the years.

“The people around me earn those awards, not me,” Bennett said. “The soldiers did all the work. I just planned and they executed. I was just their leader.”

After Kuwait, Bennett was given a fresh start by Colonel Cornelius Kugler who empowered him to study at American Military University and finish the master’s he started at UNC. The man who said he was once “not that great of a student,” graduated with honors in 2015 before deploying in Afghanistan to serve as a battalion communications officer.

Joining the Biz Ram Family

Thanks to Bennett’s successes, the Army afforded him the opportunity to further his training. He chose the College of Business, pursuing his Master of Computer Information Systems (MCIS). After graduation, he returns to active duty to utilize his expanded skill set.

“I applied to four universities: CU, CSU, Syracuse and Georgetown. It came down to the type of degree that I thought would be best in the long term,” Bennett explained. “The CIS program gives you an IT background and a business background, so it really balances my skills.”

His professors and his classmates in the College of Business have nothing but high praise for him.

“He is brilliant, motivated, ethical, entertaining and a terrific human being,” CIS professor Charles Butler said in a recommendation letter. “I truly believe that Jason will be highly successful in his ongoing military career.”

Bennett was the recipient of the MCIS program’s LEAD award, which recognizes students for leadership, excellence and academic distinction. Faculty nominate and choose awardees for their consistent engagement, demonstrated leadership and outstanding participation and achievement in their classes.

Once again, he refuses to take credit for the award. “My peers work as a team. We all work together and push together,” he said. “They helped me earn that LEAD award. I may have pushed them a little harder than they normally would have pushed themselves, but you know the military, we just don’t quit.”

Bennett also completed two industry certificates in his time in the MCIS program: Project Management Professional and IT Infrastructure Library Foundations. He says he has Butler to thank for those achievements.

After graduation, Bennett and his family will move to Fort Eustis, Va., where he will work with Army Futures Command. His exact job duties are not yet known, but he is excited to be stationed with his mentor Genard for the first time in ten years.

“(I am going to miss) being able to mentor my peers, helping them go into their professional careers. I’ve worked with several students over the last two years who didn’t know which direction they wanted to go, so I helped with their resumes, finding jobs. It’s very meaningful to support others like that,” he said.

Bennett has deep admiration and gratitude for the CIS Department’s Leo Vijayasarathy, Butler and Sandy Dahlberg who showed genuine care for him and other students in the program by supporting them and pushing for their future success.

Looking forward, Bennett has no plans to stop studying. “I am excited to keep learning, and just get back into the professional world to take what I’ve learned and apply it,” he said. “Taking everything from theory into reality.”

Through it all, Bennett never lost sight of his reason for pushing forward: his three boys.

“I just want them to know they can do anything,” he said. “Proving to them that even though I struggled at school, you can go further than you believe and achieve academic excellence if you just try.”