Veteran professor loves working in ACE centers
Story and photo by Ryan Kryska
GCU News Bureau
Professors are usually the ones doing the teaching. But for Grand Canyon University adjunct Martin “Dion” Benes, learning from his students is what makes him exceptional at teaching them.
“I started tutoring and realized that I was getting more out of it than the students were,” he said. “By understanding what the students were asking, I could tailor my classes to what they wanted to know. It’s not for Grand Canyon, it’s for my students. I’m a fanatic for teaching.”
Benes, a math professor and statistics wizard, spends his time outside the classroom working with students in the Academic and Career Excellence (ACE) centers. He spends mornings, evenings and even weekends making sure students understand their coursework.
Dr. Joe Veres, Vice President of Student Development and Outreach, said that for a while Benes was tutoring without even being paid for it.
“When you look at Dion, he really just emphasizes teamwork,” Veres said. “He is always willing to go above and beyond. He has become a staple for us. Whatever we need we can count on him, and he devotes a lot of time and energy and we are real fortunate to have him.”
Benes has been teaching or administrating for the past 40 years. Before coming to GCU, he spent 26 years at DeVry University, where he was the academic dean for the electronic engineering technology program.
“It was too much administration,” Benes said. “I wanted to get back in the classroom. That’s where I like to be.”
One of his former students suggested applying to GCU.
“He said, ‘Whatever you do, go to Grand Canyon University. I’ve never seen a school as good as that one,’” Benes said. “When I got over here, it verified everything he said.”
All GCU had to offer Benes at first was a course in Tucson, to which he commuted from the Valley once a week. But he eventually made it to main campus and has been a Lope for the past 13 years.
“I plan on staying until they kick me out of here,” Benes said. “I think the people around here are outstanding. I don’t care if you’re a student, faculty, staff member, even the people who do our landscaping, they are fantastic. I just like the environment around here.”
Benes, a Marine in the Vietnam War, actually first heard about GCU in the 1980s thanks to his love of baseball. When he was in the military, he used to vacation in Phoenix to visit his wife’s family. While here, he occasionally would attend Arizona State baseball games.
One year, he just so happened to be in town for a Sun Devils game against the Lopes.
“So I’d go over there and get my tickets, not knowing who they were playing,” Benes said, “and I said to the crowd, ‘Who we playing today?’ They said, ‘We’re playing Grand Canyon. It’s right across the city here, and they play pretty good baseball.’
“I said, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’”
Lo and behold, the Lopes coached by the late, great Dave Brazell, swept the Sun Devils that weekend.
“I like the athletics and it’s been a great experience here,” Benes said. “I don’t plan on leaving as long as I’m capable.”
The campus includes 15 ACE centers, where students can receive help in any subject field although certain locations specialize in each college’s coursework.
The location in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Building specializes in CHSS, the College of Education and the First-Year Experience program. The Roadrunner Apartments center is for the College of Nursing and Health Care Practices, the College of Science, Engineering and Technology, and the College of Doctoral Studies. Encanto is for the College of Theology and the College of Fine Arts and Production. Agave is for the Colangelo College of Business.
The centers are open 8 a.m. to midnight Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 5-10 p.m. Sunday.