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True Carolina Blue: Tom Bennett|On Campus Class of 2020
A native of Concord, North Carolina, Tom Bennett’s loyalties to UNC and North Carolina run deep. Both of Bennett’s parents are UNC-Chapel Hill graduates. While studying here, he enjoyed experiencing many of the same things his parents did, like going to UNC basketball games and frequenting one of their favorite Franklin Street establishments, Linda’s.
Bennett says public service and helping others in North Carolina is also something that runs in the family. He is an Eagle Scout, and he served as a resident mentor during his college dormitory experience. Bennett says that his father always inspired him by getting involved in every community they lived in. Bennett's grandfather also was an active community member who spent most of his career helping encourage growth in the Greenville and East Carolina University area. Bennett said, “We have limited time in this world, so why shouldn’t we spend it trying to leave it a little better than we found it and helping our neighbors live their best lives?”
Bennett graduated from J.H. Rose High School in Greenville and attended the University of South Carolina at Columbia. He intended to study international business, but after taking his first political science class, he saw a different path for himself. “The blend of history and contemporary issues fascinated me, especially those dealing with foreign affairs,” said Bennett.
In the summer of 2014, Bennett interned for the North Carolina General Assembly, working for Pitt County’s then Representative Brian Brown. Bennett researched aspects of the state budget and the North Carolina Community College System.
Bennett came to UNC-Chapel Hill not only because of ties to the State and University, but because of the Carolina MPA’s emphasis on local government. Rather than working at the federal or state level, Bennett wanted to pursue a career in local government. He believed coming to UNC-Chapel Hill would help connect him to and prepare him for a career path that would let him help people the most.
Bennett’s favorite part of the program is finding so many close friends within his cohort. “They are some of the best and smartest people I’ve ever met. To be a part of that group is something special.”
His favorite courses included faculty member Willow Jacobson’s Organizational Theory and Chuck Szypszak’s Law for Public Administration. “The practical part of analyzing an organization outside of the program was real experience and showed what we were learning in real-time.”
This summer Bennett completed his Professional Work Experience with the Town of Matthews, North Carolina. He expressed his excitement to work with Matthews Town Manager and fellow alumnus Hazen Blodgett ‘88. He spent the summer helping to implement the Town’s strategic plan. Much of his work has focused on, “engaging the organization as a whole to make sure we get as much input we can to increase buy-in to the plan.”
Bennett says this experience will be invaluable in helping him pursue a career in local government management. While he does not know exactly what he wants to do after graduation, he looks forward to serving the people of North Carolina. “I know the MPA program has equipped me with the tools to be a team player for whatever municipality I serve and to succeed while doing it.”