Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Berkeley College – Changing Lives for 80 Years – 1931-2011

The year 2011 will be a significant one for Berkeley College, not only because of all we plan to accomplish through our strategic planning initiatives, but also because the year 2011 marks the 80th anniversary of our ever-expanding teaching and learning community.

The world has evolved dramatically since our founding in 1931.

Changes in society and advancements in technology have altered every aspect of our lives.

Nevertheless, I am proud to say that our mission has remained constant.

Berkeley has built a legacy of educational leadership, preparing our students well for the ever-evolving demands of the workplace.

Throughout the coming year, we will be introducing the Berkeley Community to that legacy of leadership through a series of special events, interactive exhibits and videos that highlight how our institution became the thriving, 21st Century educational community that it is.

It was 1931, in the midst of the Great Depression, when Alyea M. Brick established Berkeley as a private institute dedicated to training women for executive secretarial careers.

Just four years later, Berkeley established a two-year course, “Academic –Secretarial for College Credit.”

Word of the value of a Berkeley education spread quickly, and in 1936, our institution opened a second location in New York City, right next to Grand Central Station.

During the 1940s, as men went off to war, when women were needed in the workplace in unprecedented numbers, Berkeley was there to help them succeed.

The post-war years were ones of rapid transformation for our nation and the world. As computers and other technological advances entered the workplace, the pace of doing business increased dramatically.

Society was responding just as rapidly, opening doors and increasing opportunities for women and minorities.

As it has done throughout its history, Berkeley took action, too. In 1966, the Berkeley Schools of Westchester, East Orange and New York City were among the first to be accredited as two-year business schools by the Accrediting Commission for Business Schools.

Throughout the tumultuous years of the 1960s and 1970s, Berkeley resolutely pursued its educational mission, expanding its campuses and enriching its curriculum to reflect the needs of each new era.

In 1968, the Berkeley School of East Orange became the first in the state of New Jersey to become a Junior College of Business.

Berkeley took another historic step in 1977 by opening enrollment to men.

In 1980, the Berkeley School at Garret Mountain became the first proprietary school in New Jersey to be licensed as a college and authorized to award the Associate in Applied Science Degree.

On December 12, 1983, Middles States granted full accreditation to the Garret Mountain Campus.

The 1990s brought further advancements in technology that forever altered the academic landscape. With the rapid proliferation of the Internet, the world was literally at our fingertips.

How we learn and what we teach had modified forever – and the skills and subjects needed to master this new environment had changed as well.

Once again, Berkeley was there, poised to reinvent the academic environment in ways that steered our students toward success.

Today, Berkeley College offers two and four year degrees and certificate programs in areas of study that, in many cases, did not exist in 1931.

Berkeley College is widely known for innovations in education that include internship and mentoring programs, distance learning and community service partnerships.

In 2010, it is important to mention that we have made a significant strategic difference in our journey into the future with the establishment of the Office of Student Success, the formation of the financial literacy team, the expansion of the readmissions department, the opening of the Brooklyn campus, the development of our MBA program and the fully developed Student Orientation online that was released two weeks before the term started.

As we launch our 80th anniversary celebration, I invite you to explore the history of our institution and consider the progress that our nation and our college have made. Our theme for the year is Berkeley College – Changing Lives for 80 Years- 1931-2011 reflecting the past and the present.

This is your opportunity to share your story - “How Berkeley College Has Changed My Life” - as a student, alumnus, faculty member, associate, business or community member.

By posting your comments below, you will add your story to the history of Berkeley College. I look forward to hearing from you.

Dario A. Cortes, PhD

Friday, November 12, 2010

Student Success

As the President of Berkeley College, along with my peers in other colleges and universities, I recognize that one of the most perplexing problems that colleges encounter these days is that of student retention and student success: How can we keep our students in school until they complete their degrees?"

The great majority of college students don't enroll with the intention of abandoning their studies after a quarter or two. But the unfortunate reality is that many do. Some find that the pressure of pursuing a degree while having to work and care for a family is too overwhelming. Others have difficulty connecting with college life and feeling welcome in an unfamiliar environment. Still others encounter practical obstacles such as lack of transportation or childcare or an inability to manage their finances in a way that makes their goal of a college degree attainable.

The numbers indicate that on average, students pursuing an associate degree take three years to earn their diplomas, while those studying for a bachelor's degree take six years.

To a struggling student, the idea that persistence will one day pay off can seem hard to believe. The risk of losing focus and dropping out is greatest in the freshman year, when the challenges of acclimating to an unfamiliar environment can magnify any obstacle that arises. It is then, starting with the first day, that we need to make our students aware that they are not in this alone; that our administrators, faculty and associates are fully invested in their success.

At Berkeley College we need to be aware of the obstacles that stand in the way of our student's progress, and respond in innovative ways that have the potential to transform those problems into opportunities for success.

We have already made some great strides in the direction of student success and retention. Through our financial literacy program, we help students navigate the financial aid process and avoid the risk of defaulting on a student loan. And in Manhattan, we have established 'a home away from home' where military veterans enrolled at Berkeley College can connect with other enrolled veterans. Also in the summer of 2010, we piloted developmental education learning communities for students who placed into developmental reading/writing courses. These communities are also being offered this fall quarter and will be assessed during the winter 2011 quarter to determine their effectiveness and how they can be improved.

On all of our campuses, our athletic and extracurricular activities provide additional opportunities for our students to connect to the learning community here at Berkeley College and explore their interests beyond the classroom. These programs represent the kind of creative thinking that gives our students a support system that increases the likelihood of their staying in school.

Our faculty and associates play a critical role in creating a warm and welcoming learning environment that recognizes our students as the individuals they are. When a problem arises, our students need to know that we want to help them resolve it. Our task is to build relationships that extend beyond the classroom, so that our students can be confident that no problem they face on the path to their degree is insurmountable; that the college community is not only willing, but eager to help them resolve their issues and successfully complete their degrees.

Let us work together to find innovative solutions to the very real challenges our students face. We must make sure that our students feel fully welcome, and fully served. Please share your innovative approach to building more effective retention solutions and graduation efforts for Berkeley College students on our Comments page below.


Dario A. Cortes PhD
Berkeley College

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Career Success

In the present economic environment, you may be wondering what it will take to land the job of your dreams -- or at least a job on the road to that dream. We hear in the news every day that the unemployment rate is hovering around 10 percent. That number sounds pretty daunting, doesn't it? But if you turn it around, you'll see it from a very different perspective: ninety percent of Americans in their working years are employed. That makes the situation seem much less dire, doesn't it?

I have dedicated this blog to students and alumni that are making important career choices because I believe that it is critical to map out your own future. At Berkeley College, you have most likely invested time in learning the particular skills that are necessary for success in your chosen profession. Everything you do is in preparation for your career. That is why it is very important to take advantage of opportunities to expand your world, try something new, explore a new interest, and serve your community. It is why we believe that community service and real work experience are vital components of a Berkeley College education.

If you aspire to be among the 90 percent of Americans who are working today despite the difficult economy, it is important that you continually expand the skill set you can bring to the workplace and the experience you can offer a potential employer.

Summer jobs, volunteer service, extracurricular activities in high school and college -- all these experiences help to expand your knowledge base and increase your self-confidence. Rapid advances in technology have shown us that the ability to learn is far more valuable than the perfection of a single skill.

Appearing for your first professional interview can make the most qualified applicant among us a little nervous. The antidote to those interview jitters is twofold: remember that you have met many challenges in your life already, and you will undoubtedly meet this one, too.

And, remember to prepare well in advance. When an employer asks, "Tell me about yourself," what will you say? What skills will you draw on to persuade the interviewer that you are the person for the job? How will you relate the work you have already done, whether paid or volunteer, to the work you are applying to do? What experiences have you had that are similar?

The more you experience and the more you explore the world around you -- through part-time work, volunteering, hobbies or athletic activities, the clearer your career path will be. With each successful endeavor, you have traveled a little further on the journey to success.

Another important idea to keep in mind is that every person you meet can be a source of wisdom and advice. Ask your supervisors how they chose their careers and how they progressed to positions of responsibility. Most importantly, find a mentor: a teacher, a co-worker, an employer, a professional in the field to which you aspire, someone who is willing to guide you as you gain your footing in a new venture. Drawing on the wisdom of someone who has walked in your shoes may save you from making unnecessary mistakes and help you in your quest for success.

I know that our students, staff and administration in the Berkeley community have much to share on the subject of career success.

How did you get your first job?
What lessons did you learn?
How did you find your chosen career?
What advice do you have for those of us who are just beginning our career search?

Please respond to my blog with stories of your own. By sharing with others it can only help us to know ourselves and to clarify our own goals that much better.

I look forward to hearing from you! I would recommend that you drop by the Career Services Office on campus or look at Berkeley’s CareerZone on our website. Also, click on the link for the Bureau of Labor Statistics at and the U.S. Department of Labor, for information about the job market.

Dario A. Cortes, PhD

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


How did you spend your summer weekends and vacations? Did you travel to Cancun to relax in the surf and sand or visit Jones Beach, Rockaway Beach or the Jersey Shore for a day visit? Did you rough it and go camping in the local park or pitch a tent in your backyard? Did you journey to faraway places to experience new cultures and mystical landscapes or discover these places in the chapters of a book?

In these economic times, individuals are redefining vacations and uncovering ways to learn something new and relax. Your “stay vacation” may have included a picnic in Central Park, a barbecue in a state park, or just staying home and relaxing in your own backyard.

Vacations that include travel have the power to show us what we -- and the world -- are made of. And in these complicated times, we, too, must broaden our understanding of the world if we are to be effective in our personal and professional lives.

Although I have enjoyed traveling to faraway places, I stayed close to home this summer. I had a great time exploring and enjoying the beautiful Long Island beaches and the surrounding communities. I spent time with family and friends, worked in my garden, grilled on the barbecue, relaxed and caught up with my summer reading.

When we move beyond familiar surroundings, we awaken our senses and we challenge our intellects. Whether we’re stepping into the sophistication of a Paris cafĂ© or climbing a mountain path in Peru, enjoying the vistas of the Grand Canyon, enjoying a music festival in our neighborhood park or walking the boardwalk at our local beach - fresh sights, sounds, tastes and smells await us at every turn.

As we interact with people who may look, speak and behave far differently than we do, we begin to respect our common humanity.

These experiences also help us to see our own surroundings with new eyes. We can certainly take advantage of a multitude of opportunities to step out of the familiar and broaden our understanding of this diverse place called planet Earth.

I look forward to hearing about the adventures that you experienced this summer by adding your comments below. As we prepare for the beginning of the Fall Quarter, we will have fond memories of the Summer of 2010.

Dario A. Cortes, PhD

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer Reading

July 2010

Among the opportunities that summer often brings is the chance to open a book (or power up an e-book) and catch up on our reading. For me, reading has been a lifelong pleasure, one that has enriched every stage of my life, from my earliest years in elementary school to my present role as president of Berkeley College.

Reading has helped to explain mysteries, to expand my knowledge of critical subjects and to broaden my understanding of our ever-changing world. It has demonstrated to me that no matter how much we read in connection with our formal classroom instruction, there is always much more to learn about virtually any subject on the face of the earth.

In such a rapidly changing environment, reading helps us stay abreast of the latest innovations. It offers the opportunity to hear from the experts in particular fields; and to consider fresh perspectives, while in the process, fully examining our own.

In virtually every career field, advances in theory and practice are being developed every day. What we knew yesterday is often not what we will need to know tomorrow. Reading can help us bridge that divide.

Time spent in reading keeps our brains at their peak as well. So while I’m enjoying the many outdoor activities that summer offers, I will also set aside time to read.

As you can see below, my personal summer reading list reflects my interest in Latin American literature, history, sports, leadership, technology, globalization and the environment. Having these choices at hand means that I can take advantage of the free hours that summer brings in a way that will stay with me when the winter inevitably returns.

Whether it’s a day at the beach, a weekend getaway or that long-awaited annual vacation, a book makes a great companion for the journey.

Let me know what books you’re recommending this summer by posting a comment below– or join me in reading one of the choices on my own “to-read” list for Summer 2010:

Making the Move to E Learning: Putting Your Course Online; Kay Lehmann and Lisa Chamberlin

The Stories of Eva Luna, By Chilean writer Isabel Allende

Leaders in the Crossroads: Success and Failure in the College Presidency, by Stephen J. Nelson

For-Profit Colleges and Universities: Their Markets, Regulations, Performance, and Place in Higher Education; Guilbert C. Hentschke, Vicente M. Lechuga, William G. Tierney, and Marc Tucker

The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow

Blood and Faith: The Purging of Muslin Spain, by Matthew Carr

The World is Flat: A brief History of the 21st. Century by Thomas L. Freidman

Hot, Flat and Crowded: why we need a Green Revolution - and How it Can Renew America, by Thomas L. Freidman

How Soccer Explains the World: An unlikely theory of globalization, by Franklin Foer

I hope you’ll share some of your summer reading choices by posting a comment below.

Enjoy the summer!

Dario A. Cortes, PhD


Friday, June 18, 2010

Berkeley College Community Service Day

June 2010

Friday, June 11 was an exciting day for the faculty and staff at Berkeley College.

On that day, 530 members of our staff traveled to 46 sites throughout New York and New Jersey to volunteer with agencies that work to improve our quality of life or lend a helping hand to those in need.

The work our volunteers did during the first annual Berkeley College Community Service Day included delivering meals to the homebound, bowling with senior citizens, raking and planting and cleaning beaches at Sandy Hook.

At the Boys and Girls Club in Wayne, volunteers from Berkeley College created some new opportunities for kids to get fit and have fun by painting brightly-colored hopscotch, box ball courts, tic tac toe and twister spots on a back parking lot -- not to mention a baseball diamond.

While our contributions certainly had value to the agencies that invited us last Friday, our Berkeley College community also reaped significant rewards from the experience.

With several other members of our faculty and staff, I spent a few hours serving lunch at The Hoboken Shelter, a nonprofit social service organization that provides hot meals to more than 300 people each day as well as a wide array of social services that includes overnight shelter for 50 individuals each night.

Like the majority of institutions we visited on June 11, The Hoboken Shelter is dedicated to forging a community partnership that changes lives.

That is also our mission here at Berkeley College. In the 21st century, college education no longer takes place in an “ivory tower."

It is our responsibility to prepare our students to function successfully in an increasingly complex world, a world that requires not only class work, but teamwork; a world that values not only electronic connection, but connection to community.

Our commitment to this goal is demonstrated by our participation in the New York State Campus Compact and the newly formed New Jersey State Campus Compact, agreements that promote active citizenship as an aim of higher education.

Berkeley College is also participating in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Service Initiative. Based on the principle that "everybody's got something to offer”, the initiative seeks to engage all citizens in addressing the city's most pressing problems through a myriad of volunteer opportunities.

All of these efforts reflect our ongoing commitment to making a difference in the lives of others as well as in ourselves.

The Berkeley College Community Service Day will remain with us during the year ahead as we share with our students the impact of partnering with the greater community to help those in need.

It gives me great pride to know that through their teamwork and dedication to volunteerism, our faculty and staff serve as powerful role models for the students of Berkeley College, both in and out of the classroom.

Dario A. Cortes, PhD


Photo Above: Berkeley Associates on June 11, 2010, Community Service Day, serving lunch at The Hoboken Shelter.

Pictured from left to right: Katherine Wu, President Dario A.Cortes PhD, Gerald Iacullo, Greg Lincoln, Romel Espinel, Sheila Vaughan, Laura Jewell, Marquise Martin, George Martinez, and Lynn D'Amario.

Click here to view images taken on-site during Community Service Day on Flickr.

President Dario A. Cortes, PhD and the Executive Director of The
Hoboken Shelter discuss their Community Service Day experience.