Five Questions With Benita Ceresney

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By Rumnique Nannar

Posted on February 14, 2024 | Updated February 14, 2024, 9:52am

For this month's, "Five Questions With..." feature, we're chatting with Benita Ceresney, HR Advisor, Benefits.

As a key part of any ECU community member’s onboarding process, Benita Ceresney knows the value of sparking a connection and getting comfortable with your surroundings in a new role. We raced to talk with the improv aficionado about her work, the power of spontaneity and more.

What do you love most about your role?

What I love the most is meeting people. I love hearing people’s stories. So, in my role, I get to meet a large proportion of the new employees. I like connection. It doesn’t have to be super deep and intimate because that’s not everyone’s style, and that’s not always appropriate. But I like knowing that you can walk into your workplace, and there are people you recognize who have a smile for you or say, “How are you doing? Or “How did that exhibition go?”

What would a day in the life of Benita look like?

It includes a one-on-one orientation with a new employee about the benefits plan. It involves responding to several emails from employees about what coverage they have and their benefits or an issue they’re asking for support on. Often, it’s interacting with payroll to ensure the deductions are right and the accounts are clean. The faculty knows this, but a couple of hours are spent working on faculty professional development and other funds that they can access to enhance their teaching.

What’s something surprising that not many people know about you?

I spent a few years doing improv comedy. I was introduced to it at Expo ‘86 and loved watching the shows. Then, in 1992, I went to drop-in workshops with Vancouver Theatresports partly to deal with shyness and social anxiety. A year later, I was welcomed into their Rookie League, was a Rookie for three years, and was on the winning team in two annual Rookie League Championships. In early 2001, I also took a clowning course, allowing me to explore further. There were a lot of highs and some lows, like my most embarrassing character, The Evil Miss Pickle, but overall, between the improv and the clowning, I learned a lot about how to feel okay about who I am and how I move through the world. I haven’t performed improv in years, but I feel that it’s a skill that has added value to my life and work, and I connect with the folks that I meet in a more authentic and less anxious way.

What would you present a TED Talk on if we set you loose in the Reliance Theatre?

I would do a TED talk on spontaneity and authenticity in your communications, particularly in personal interactions through improvisation. Part of the problem is that people sometimes give the response they think is expected instead of what is true to them. So, if you’re listening and responding in the moment, things can get done, and you can actually address issues. Improv is a way to do that.

What two items would you bring to a desert island?

So, the first thing would be my e-reader because I have thousands of books on there, and it would be loaded with sci-fi and fantasy novels. I would take a family photo that we had done years ago when our family, my immediate family, was still intact.