Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Honors Scholars Graduate Reception

Photo Caption: Here I am with Berkeley College Honors Scholars at the Chart House in Weehawken, NJ.

On Tuesday, September 16, I was honored to speak at the Berkeley College Honors Scholars Graduate Reception, held at the Chart House in Weehawken, NJ. My comments were as follows:

Good evening. I would like to welcome you to the 2014 Berkeley College Honors Scholars Graduate Reception. Welcome students, student volunteers, faculty members, family and friends to this glorious occasion.

I would like to congratulate each of our 38 Honors Scholars here this evening and give special acknowledgement to Dr. Byron Hargrove, Director of the Honors program, and to all the faculty mentors, faculty members and staff who made this evening possible. Tonight you join the ranks of the 76 Scholars who have graduated from the Berkeley College Honors Program since its inception in 2011.

I am delighted to report that 76 percent of the scholars being honored this evening will graduate at the end of this Summer. Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural Honors Scholars Research Symposium hosted at our Midtown Manhattan location. The event was attended by 145 people including faculty, administrators, guests and incoming Honors Scholars.

The symposium marked the last step toward graduation for many of you. I am proud to say that our Honors Scholars presented and defended their thesis papers with poise and confidence. The presentations covered a wide variety of topics including: “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Social Media’s Impact on Thinking, Families and Society”; “Women in the Workplace, Looking Beyond Gender Bias”; and “Environmental Innovations: How Green Construction is Taking Over NYC.”

A year ago, our Berkeley College Scholars received invitations to join Honors Program Cohorts in New York, New Jersey and Online, and you rose to that challenge. Through the Honors Program, you participated in interdisciplinary classroom discussions, seminars and research studies centered on the theme, “Rediscovering New York.” As a New Yorker myself, what an exciting theme, it is like rediscovering the center of the universe, because New York City is the center of the universe!

Community service also is a requirement for graduation from the Berkeley College Honors Program and this year’s graduates completed a total of 419 hours of service. These Scholars served meals at the Food Bank for New York City; volunteered their time at the Boys and Girls Club of Paterson, NJ, and participated in numerous fundraising walks for nonprofit organizations throughout New York and New Jersey.

Your undergraduate experience as Honors Scholars allows you to be better prepared for careers and graduate education. I strongly encourage you to consider pursuing a graduate education.

Participation in the Berkeley College Honors Program motivates our top-ranking students to step outside their comfort zones and teaches them how to work creatively and effectively within a team. Upon graduation from this program they are well prepared to take up leadership roles in the workplace and to go out and make a difference in their local communities.

Having Honors Scholar status distinguishes students and gives them an advantage when applying for a job or admission to graduate school. Employers seek top graduates who have the collaborative, critical thinking, research, cross cultural and communications skills to succeed. In the business world these are soft skills, and from the U.S. to Asia to Europe and Latin America, employers are expressing their concern about the soft skills gap in the emerging workforce.

According to a Harris Poll of more than 2,100 hiring managers conducted for Career Builder earlier this year – 77 percent of employers believe that soft skills are just as important as hard skills. Sixteen percent of employers said soft skills are MORE important than hard skills when evaluating candidates for a job. The top five skills they cited include:

1) A strong work ethic – 73 percent

2) Dependability – 73 percent

3) A positive attitude – 72 percent

4) Self-motivation – 66 percent and

5) Being Team-oriented – 60 percent

Berkeley College Honors Scholars possess all of these skills along with the intellect and desire to succeed, which is reflected through your academic achievements.

Another competitive advantage is the diverse learning community you are a part of as Honors Scholars at Berkeley College. We have students from around the world who are part of the Honors Program. I would like to recognize the parents and family members from Switzerland and Peru who came here to support their children. Thank you for being here. We share your pride. Congratulations again!

At Berkeley, diversity is not just cultural, it is multigenerational and covers many social spectrums – a single mother, a military veteran, international students, recent high school graduates and working professionals returning to school. This diversity is another competitive advantage!

I always like to close my remarks with a famous quote. This evening I would like to share the words of one of our Honors students at Berkeley College. Her name is Marielena Moreno. Marielena wrote a lovely note to Dr. Hargrove about her experiences with the Berkeley College Honors Program and the bond she developed with her fellow students in the program. Here are Marielena’s words:

“It goes without saying that the Honors Program has challenged me in ways I never knew were possible, and it has created opportunities I never knew could be mine. I’ve learned that without initiative, incredible work ethic, perseverance, determination, passion and purpose, nothing this wonderful would have ever come true ... It has truly been a blessing in many ways, and although this is the end of our journey as a cohort, it is not THE END.”

Marielena is correct … tonight’s ceremony marks the continuation of your journey to success. Congratulations to each of you! Enjoy the evening.

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