The Bennie Johnnie Experience on the Big Screen

The Bennie Johnnie Experience on the Big Screen

February 5, 2024

The College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University are making history as the first two colleges in Minnesota to be featured on the Amazon Prime TV series The College Tour.

And members of the CSB and SJU campus communities will be first in line to view the finished episode.

A premiere watch party is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 8 in the Benedicta Arts Center’s Escher Auditorium on the CSB campus. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with a red carpet entrance. The watch party itself is scheduled for 7 p.m. and an all-community afterparty follows at 8 p.m.

The first 50 students through the door will receive VIP seating and swag bags. Everyone in attendance will have the chance to win a free iPad. No ticket is needed to attend the event.

“We believe this episode perfectly demonstrates the Bennie-Johnnie experience students have on our beautiful campuses – surrounded by a supportive community,” said Cory Piper, the dean of admission at CSB and SJU.

“It comes at exactly the right moment. With Strong Integration as our focus and priority, and having just celebrated the inauguration of our first joint president (Brian J. Bruess, Ph.D.), it’s such a joyful time and such a meaningful period in the history of both our schools.”

More than 30 students auditioned to be part of the cast of four Johnnies and four Bennies (as well as one recent alum of each school) who share their stories in the episode. Auditions were held last September. The film and production crew of the program – which is now in its 11th season – arrived in early October, spending five days on the two campuses shooting interviews and footage for the 30-minute episode.

“Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s are just remarkable places and taping this episode was a tremendous experience,” the show’s host Alex Boylan said. “From the moment I set foot here, all the crew talked about was how the hospitality is real – we definitely felt it. And when folks watch the episode, they’re going to see it, too, and hear the passion for both institutions and the beauty in which they’re integrated.”

The episode will become available for viewing on the CSB and SJU website, YouTube and The College Tour website early this month, and is scheduled to begin streaming on Amazon Prime on May 28.

“Being in front of a camera, and getting the chance to share my story with a wide audience, provided me with a lot more confidence and belief in myself,” said cast member Ashley Tarrolly, a CSB senior and economics and finance major who is a member of the Bennie tennis team, founded the On-Campus Entrepreneurship Club and will graduate with honors this May.

“When I gave my capstone presentation at the end of the last semester, I thought back on my experience with The College Tour and it helped.”

Fellow cast member Kobe Forbes, a sophomore who came to SJU from The Bahamas, hopes sharing his experience will benefit other potential students from similar backgrounds.

“I thought it would be helpful for other international or POC students to hear from someone like me about what my experience has been like,” said Forbes, a physics major who is an engagement specialist at the Center for Student Leadership and Engagement and serves as a student senator.

“So I decided to shoot my shot. I wanted to let people know Saint John’s is not your ordinary, average college. The community we have, and the many different activities and clubs we offer, makes this place special. We support each other as Johnnies. There are so many friends you make here who have your back.”

Piper hopes the episode spreads the word about everything CSB and SJU has to offer to an even wider audience.

“We understand the expense of travelling to tour colleges can be a lot,” she said. “Our episode on these platforms allows us to share our story with a wide range of families and students nationally and internationally who will be able to watch from their homes. Our hope is that they’ll love what they see and come visit us!

“CSB and SJU’s strong integration is an incredibly unique model. Other schools that have been featured are one institution with one central campus. We’re two campuses and communities bonded together. We want to share that story and I believe our episode does that beautifully.”