“Bloom where you’re planted” is advice Jennifer Benton’s boss gives often.
Her boss? Clemson University Head Football Coach, Dabo Swinney.
For this EC alum, Jennifer says blooming where planted perfectly captures her journey from Emmanuel College to her current position as Clemson’s Director of Football Office Operations.
Growing up as a Clemson fan in Surfside Beach, SC, Jennifer was sure of two things. In a family of bankers, she knew she wanted to work with numbers. And, she knew she wanted to attend Emmanuel College.
“My whole family went to Emmanuel,” Jennifer says. “EC was the only place I applied.”
For Jennifer, Emmanuel felt like home.
“It’s like family,” she explains. “At Emmanuel, you’re becoming who you’re supposed to be while getting an education and growing with Jesus. You get the best of both worlds: an education and a family that you can keep for the rest of your life.”
“At Emmanuel, you’re becoming who you’re supposed to be while getting an education and growing with Jesus. You get the best of both worlds.”
At Emmanuel, Jennifer followed her passion for numbers and studied Business Administration with a minor in Finance and Accounting. She also gained practical experience by participating on the Students In Free Enterprise team, where she and others taught money and finance to elementary students.
“We did projects on growing a business and making a profit,” Jennifer recalls. “We traveled to Charlotte where we presented and won, then got to travel to Kansas City. It was a great experience because it brought us out of our comfort zone.”
Jennifer took another leap from comfort after hearing Clemson Football great Jeff Davis speak at Emmanuel.
“I had a public speaking class with Paula Dixon and we had to present on something we wanted to do career-wise. I remembered him,” Jennifer says. “At that point, I didn’t know what I wanted to do after college but knew he seemed like a great guy and he was at Clemson, so I emailed Jeff Davis and ended up doing my project on him.”
Following graduation in 2005, Jennifer’s love of Clemson led her to reach back out to Davis.
Through a few recommendations, a door opened at Clemson for Jennifer and she served as an intern for IPTAY for six months. In May 2006, with her internship ending, Jennifer was planning to move home when she received a call to interview for the Clemson Football office. Jennifer received a job offer the day after her interview.
As Clemson’s Director of Football Office Operations, Jennifer oversees all of the department’s budgets. She also serves as the Camp Assistant for all football camps and oversees coaches’ travel. She began with the department as an Administrative Assistant for Defense, and over the last 12 years her role has grown tremendously.
“It’s turned into something huge for me because of my passion for numbers,” she says. “I love this place, but the budgets and numbers have made it the job I love.”
The Clemson Associate Athletic Director for Football Administration, Woody McCorvey, has noticed Jennifer’s growth within the organization and views her as a true asset to the program.
“There’s not much in this building, day in and day out, that she’s not involved in, especially when it comes to the business side of the operation,” McCorvey said. “When you start talking about money, you have to keep a good hand on it day in and day out and she has done a great job helping me keep all of that organized.”
How did her time at Emmanuel prepare her for success?
“I learned that you have to be in the moment where you are,” she explains. “At Emmanuel, learn how to build relationships – not just connections, but relationships. That’s what this business is about.”
She continues, “Academically, I felt prepared to graduate and find a job, but more importantly, I felt prepared socially and spiritually to be in a place where I could let God lead me to a job that I probably couldn’t afford at that point, but he knew was the right step.”
Over the past decade, the Clemson Football brand has flourished. Jennifer believes the brand recognition has stemmed from Coach Swinney and who he is as an individual, which has led to the success on the field.
“He is a genuine, caring man, a god-fearing man,” she says. “You can’t fake that. That kind of personality is going to spread through this building to the recruits we bring in and our current student-athletes. It starts with him, but the people who he’s brought here help that family culture grow.”
What advice does Jennifer have now for current students, considering her experience in leaving her comfort zone after Emmanuel?
“Don’t panic,” she encourages. “Don’t stress yourself out so much that you miss where you are in the moment. Enjoy the experience at Emmanuel and build relationships with people there. You never know where they’ll lead you.”
Bloom where you’re planted. Coach Swinney’s wisdom still resonates with Jennifer. She trusted God’s plan, built upon the relationships she made while at Emmanuel, and her first job turned into her passion.
Jennifer trusted God’s plan, built upon the relationships she made while at Emmanuel, and her first job turned into her passion.