Berkeley College Graduates Write Their Own Stories

MONDAY, MAY 14, 2018
Contact: Ilene Greenfield
Director of Media Relations
973-278-5400, Ext. 1-5122


From many walks of life, more than 2,300 celebrate their achievements

Berkeley College

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“Take all your setbacks, sorrows, joys and achievements, and use them to be the strong, capable person you are.”
– Student speaker Bonnie Schiwal

Join the Conversation: @BerkeleyCollege #BerkeleyGrad2018 #NewsBerkeley

Berkeley College celebrated the more than 2,300 students who have been awarded Certificates, Associate’s, Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees during the 2018 Commencement ceremony at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, on May 11, 2018. The Commencement ceremony also included the second graduating class of those receiving Master of Business Administration in Management degrees and those graduating from New Jersey’s first and only on-site Licensed Practical Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. The graduating class included more than 140 military and veteran students, and 180 international students, who represent 40 countries. Two hundred and ninety-eight graduates received Certificates; 757 graduates received Associate degrees; 1,248 graduates received Bachelor’s degrees; and 58 graduates received Master’s level degrees.

“Know that the future isn’t written for us. The future is written by us,” said Michael J. Smith, President of Berkeley College. “In your heart, you truly need to understand that the only person you are destined to become … is the person that you decide to be.

The Berkeley College Class of 2018 reflects a diverse population from all walks of life. Many are the first in their families to earn college degrees. Others are not native English-speaking.  The average age of a Berkeley College graduate in 2018 is 29.6 years. Just over 31 percent of the graduates entered Berkeley as first time, full-time students; and, more than 82 percent identify as minorities.

Randy Luing, Vice Chair, Berkeley College Board of Trustees, spoke about a shift to job automation, and the need for graduates to adapt to change.

“You are going out into a world where technological advances are creating extraordinary opportunities, but not without challenges,” Mr. Luing said  “Continue to pursue knowledge, whether through formal education or simply by following your curiosity to explore something new.

Berkeley College graduates join a network of more than 60,000 alumni and receive lifetime career assistance. 

Robert Maher Award Recipient Exemplifies Story of Perseverance


Among these graduates was Lachanee Scott (above), this year’s recipient of the Robert Maher Award, an honor given to a graduate who has met high standards of academic excellence while overcoming personal, professional or financial obstacles. A resident of Newark, NJ, Ms. Scott had ambitions to earn a college degree and eventually become a judge.

After immigrating to the United States at the age of 13 along with her older brother, the situation did not work out, and she returned to her native country of Jamaica where she graduated from high school. The second time she and her brother came to the United States, Ms. Scott enrolled at Berkeley College and continued to pursue her dream.

Yet, her residential situation and family circumstances befell her again. There were times when Ms. Scott considered leaving college and going to work full-time because of the struggles she faced, but she persevered.

At this year’s Berkeley College Commencement ceremony, Ms. Scott received a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies, summa cum laude. She is a member of three national honor societies, and founder and president of the Berkeley College Newark Caribbean Club. Ms. Scott has secured a position as a Records Associate at the McCarter & English, LLP, law firm and expects to attend law school in the near future.

Many Graduates Earn Degrees while Parenting

Berkeley College

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Bonnie Schiwal of Hillside, NJ, who received an Associate in Applied Science in Surgical Technology, represented the graduating class as the Student Speaker, and told her own story.

Ms. Schiwal had a three-year-old daughter when she returned to school for a higher degree, and her partner was encouraging. Still, there were moments when her family faced hardships, including homelessness, and Ms. Schiwal considered giving up her studies. However, through the tears and trials, she was urged forward by Berkeley faculty and others surrounding her. “Be proud of not only your accomplishments; be humbled by your failures,” Ms. Schiwal told the graduates. “We need failures to build our character. Take all your setbacks, sorrows, joys and achievements, and use them to be the strong, capable person you are.”

Faculty Speaker Tells Graduates: “Dare to dream of all that can be tomorrow”

Berkeley College

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LaToya Trowers-Bell, EdD, Chair, Health Services Management, Larry L. Luing School of Business® and Faculty Speaker, acknowledged how much she has learned through her constant interactions with Berkeley College students. She, too, encouraged the graduates to tell their own stories. “In life we do things, some we wish we had never done and some we wish we could replay a million times in our heads,” Dr. Trowers-Bell said. “They shape every detail about you. If you were to reverse any of them, you would not be the person you are today. So enjoy every moment of this wonderful journey we call life, have wonderful memories, and never, ever second-guess yourself.

Photo Captions A - C: Top: The 2018 Berkeley College Commencement ceremony was held at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, on May 11, 2018. More than 2,300 students have been awarded Certificates, Associate’s, Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Middle: Berkeley College Student Speaker Bonnie Schiwal of Hillside, NJ, addresses her fellow graduates during the 2018 Berkeley College Commencement Ceremony. Above: Above: LaToya Trowers Bell, EdD, Chair, Health Services Management, Larry L. Luing School of Business® and Faculty Speaker addresses the graduates and guests.

Alumna Jessica Mahoney, Esq., of Middletown, NY, received the 2018 Alumni of the Year award. The award is presented annually to a Berkeley College graduate who has enjoyed professional success and fulfillment through community service.

Ms. Mahoney was on the fast track when she graduated from Berkeley College with a Bachelor of Science in Justice Studies – Criminal Justice in 2011. She took courses at two Berkeley College campuses and online, pursuing her childhood dream to become a lawyer.

“I knew Berkeley College was the right choice for me,” Ms. Mahoney said. “I was able to live at home, work part-time, and obtain an internship at a local law office while earning my degree.” Ms. Mahoney graduated from Albany Law School in 2014, the same year she sat for the New York State Bar Exam. By 2015, she was sworn in as an Attorney and Counsellor at Law by the Second Department of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. In September 2017, Ms. Mahoney opened her own firm.

Berkeley College

Photo Caption E: Berkeley College alumna Jessica Mahoney, Esq., (center) receives the 2018 Alumni of the Year award from Michael J. Smith, President of Berkeley College (right), during the 2018 Berkeley College Commencement ceremony on May 11, 2018, at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. With them is Michael Iris, Berkeley College Assistant Vice President, Alumni Relations and Career Services.

Click here to read more about Ms. Mahoney.

To watch the 2018 Berkeley College Commencement ceremony in its entirety, click here, and visit the Berkeley College News Room to read more success stories about Berkeley College graduates.

A leader in providing career-focused education since 1931, Berkeley College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and enrolls more than 8,000 students – including more than 550 international students – in its Master’s, Bachelor’s, and Associate’s degree and Certificate programs. Students can study in more than 20 career fields. Berkeley College is comprised of the Larry L. Luing School of Business®, the School of Professional Studies, the School of Health Studies and the School of Liberal Arts. The School of Graduate Studies offers an MBA in Management online and in Woodland Park, NJ.

Berkeley College has four New Jersey campuses – Newark, Paramus, Woodbridge and Woodland Park. In New York there are three campuses – Midtown Manhattan, Brooklyn and White Plains. Berkeley College Online® serves a global population. For five consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has named Berkeley College among the Best Colleges for Online Bachelor’s Programs and among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans. The website address is


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