On December 7, 2012, students from the Advanced Honors Seminar "20th Century Socialist Thought and Practice" attended a meeting in New York with Oscar Léon, the Cuban Ambassador to the United Nations, and Ovidio Roque, the First Secretary of the Permanent Mission of Cuba to the UN. The following honors students shared their reactions:
“We went into the Cuban Mission with so many questions for the ambassador, Oscar Léon. We were greeted by a group of humble people who just wanted to get their story out. All of us who attended sat around a table with open minds and ears; we were so captivated by Cuba's story. We understand that the goal here is not to point fingers and try to put the blame on someone, but to try to get some understanding and help give Cuba a chance.”
“The trip to the United Nations was very interesting. It amazed me to see the hatred and irony in the United States. The location of the Mission is on ‘Hermanos Al Rescate’ or ‘Brothers to the Rescue’ street. This street is named after the same group of people who performed terroristic acts against Cuba. Alejandro, one of the representatives, told us that not too long ago, there were protests in front of the building and a bomb blew up nearby.”
“Even though he was financially wealthy, Castro removed private property and redistributed land; under his mandate he ensured everyone had a place to live. In addition, Cubans were guaranteed universal health benefits and free education to the doctorate level. Everyone was given the tools necessary for survival, and even a guaranteed job.”
“This class was extremely unique. It not only brought about completely new topics for learning, but also allowed us to dive into new concepts and see how they work out or come to light. It also allowed us to see how certain concepts factor into our everyday life. All have heard of Marx and the concepts of socialism and communism, but this course followed history, showing how it evolved and how it does have a place in our tomorrow.”
Berkeley College President Dario A. Cortes, Ph.D. has been a supporter of the Honors Program since the beginning. A former honors student himself, and a member of several honor societies, he understands the discipline needed to succeed. And typically, honors students do quite well. “There’s a long record of honors students who have become presidents, CEOs of companies, and Fulbright scholars,” Dr. Cortes stated.
President Cortes shared his thoughts on what it means to be an honors student and what honors students should keep in mind going forward. According to President Cortes, honors students should ask themselves, “Have you thought how this is going to change your life? Have you thought about how the Honors Program will give you distinction? How do you plan to incorporate that added advantage into your life to move you forward?"
He adds, "Think about it. What if you decide to go to graduate school? I was an associate dean of a graduate school, and when we looked at an applicant for the master's or doctorate program, we would say, ‘Ah, look, this person was in an Honors Program.’ Even in graduate school we did that. We wanted to select the best, and companies want to select the best employees. So use it in your resume, in your LinkedIn, wherever you showcase yourself.”
Dr. Cortes believes that honors graduates must be very diversified when searching for a job. “The economy has changed and you have to be between the lines when you look at opportunities," he said. "But, more important, be well prepared. Be well prepared for the challenges and the economy.”
Employers are looking for various skills today, according to Dr. Cortes, including “team approach, leadership, an ability to carry and communicate the message well, to be able to stay on the subject matter. A lot of the things that people take for granted, I think are very important. Our students are prepared for that.”