She looks too young to have a 20-year career in education and when she mentions teaching English to Chinese professors in Beijing or spending her honeymoon in Paris, you know A’Kena LongBenton is living a life of her own design.
She joined Macomb’s Center for Advanced Automotive Technology as a curriculum developer in 2013 and the courses for engineers and designers that she helped Macomb faculty create are already drawing national attention, including that of Carnegie Mellon and Stanford universities.
“Faculty know content,” says LongBenton. “I know how to turn it into a learning module with evaluation, assessment and an online component.”
And she also knew from the start that, happily, it was not going to be a desk job.
“I had to fly to Baltimore my first day to meet with the reps from the nine other community colleges (part of the National STEM Consortium,)” offers LongBenton, who owns an educational consulting firm, has taught at several colleges and universities, and established a private scholarship to help college students buy textbooks, with preference given to those from her native Pontiac. “It was a great way to get the big picture.”
LongBenton’s history, in fact, is one of firsts and fast tracks. As a student at Pontiac Central High School, she spent her summers at Cranbrook as part of its Horizons-Upward Bound program and, after receiving the Berry and Bertha Gordy Endowed Scholarship to attend Wayne State, became one of that university’s youngest instructors. She is the first in her family to earn a college degree and is currently a doctoral candidate in instructional technology with a double minor in speech communication and reading, language and literature. But, at the end of the day, it’s all about the students.
“Students are our work,” says LongBenton. “They are our whole reason for being here.”