Deon Bennett came to Michigan State University intent on becoming more independent and open to new opportunities. He achieved that and more through academic and leadership activities that have inspired him to learn more about his culture and leave a legacy for others facing similar challenges as young Black men.
Bennett started his scholarly exploration of the Black experience by taking a course he wasn’t 100 percent sure was right for him. But as the semester progressed, he knew he made the right decision to take “Black Feminisms: Past, Present, and Futures,” a new course offered by the newest department in MSU’s College of Arts & Letters: the Department of African American and African Studies (AAAS).
“I was nervous and wondered if the class was for me since there were few Black male representations in the class,” Bennett said. “But it was a class that made you feel comfortable and taught real-world things. I learned sensitivity. I learned about the different emotions and trials Black women face. Collectively, we learned how to liberate ourselves in the world today as Black people and to be unapologetically ourselves.”
Professor and Inaugural AAAS Department Chair Ruth Nicole Brown taught the class and soon became one of Bennett’s mentors, as she introduced him to ideas and influencers she regularly featured in her classroom.
MSU has really helped me be independent and get out of my shell. It’s a place that’s shown me how to be more vocal about what I want and what I don’t, and to expand my leadership skills and confidence.Deon Bennett
“You could see how much love and passion she put into her class and her students,” Bennett said. “She taught us how to keep those connections going, too, by introducing us to alumni and other students.”
Bennett registered for a second AAAS course as soon as he wrapped up the first. This semester, he is taking “Black Spirituality and Religion” (AAAS 308) taught by Tamura Lomax, Foundational Associate Professor. Bennett said he hopes the class will further ground his understanding of Black culture and its influence as he looks to graduate and build a career in communication, arts, and entertainment media.
“Deon is a multi-talented student with interdisciplinary interests whose presence in the classroom continuously uplifts,” Brown said. “In our Black Feminisms course, his ever-thoughtful analysis and sincere curiosity encouraged deeper discussion and extended the impact of our learning. I know he will make good on his desire to positively impact the communities to which he belongs and am honored that AAAS is a part of his educational journey.”
Path to Discovery
Bennett grew up in Detroit where he attended Cass Technical High School. He played guitar and sang and was a member of the school choir. During his senior year, he was the president of the concert choir as well as the bass section leader, fostering an additional passion for leadership.
Bennett was the first male in his family to embark on higher education when he completed high school in 2018. He applied to MSU and received a full scholarship through the Spartan Advantage Program. He set out to study business his first year, but his love of music drew him back to the creative arts, prompting him to switch his major to Communication with a concentration in Social Influence.
“MSU has really helped me be independent and get out of my shell,” Bennett said. “It’s a place that’s shown me how to be more vocal about what I want and what I don’t, and to expand my leadership skills and confidence.”
Deon is a multi-talented student with interdisciplinary interests whose presence in the classroom continuously uplifts…I know he will make good on his desire to positively impact the communities to which he belongs and am honored that AAAS is a part of his educational journey.Ruth Nicole Brown, Professor and Inaugural AAAS Department Chair
Bennett started his leadership journey at MSU as a member of Rising Black Men (RBM), an organization focused on the mentorship of MSU’s incoming Black freshmen and K-12 students in Lansing Public Schools. After a year working with a mentor, Bennett matriculated to serve as the RBM Outreach Director. He also currently serves on the Board of Directors for the MSU Black Student Alliance (BSA). In his two-plus years with BSA, Bennett has coordinated a multitude of events, facilitated outreach to other campus groups, served on panel discussions, and promoted mentorship opportunities for other students.
Beginning the summer of his sophomore year, he began interning for Quicken Loans as a Purchase Title Coordinator. This year-long experience, he said, further strengthened his ties in the Detroit community and provided him with the confidence to seek a second internship —potentially in music or radio broadcasting.
Threaded throughout Bennett’s Spartan experience is the desire to contribute to the community, understand society and culture, and help others navigate challenges. He can do that, he said, because of the support he received through his various MSU mentors, volunteer and leadership activities, and innovative curriculum that introduced him to new ideas and people.
“My whole purpose of being a student leader is to help influence others in a positive manner,” Bennett said. “I want to be a mentor to young students coming in, similar to the mentors I had, so I can carry on that legacy and help them make their Spartan footprint, too.”