Berkeley Today

Personal Attention From Faculty and Support Staff Helps First-Generation Student Thrive at Berkeley College and in the Workplace

As Kailee Valenzuela strolled across the stage to receive her college diploma she heard someone in the front row seats shouting, “Way to go Kailee.” Glancing towards the audience, Ms. Valenzuela immediately recognized her cheerleader – Miriam Keller-Perkins, Berkeley College Faculty, Accounting and Finance, Larry L. Luing School of Business.

“I will always remember that moment,” said Ms. Valenzuela, who graduated from Berkeley College with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting in 2009. “I am the first in my family to earn a Bachelor’s degree and I was blessed to have Miriam-Keller Perkins as my mentor. She guided me through the college experience and encouraged me to aim high in my career.”

Student Finds Supportive Environment at Berkeley College

It was the need for this type of personal attention that attracted Ms. Valenzuela to Berkeley College. She wanted to attend a school where faculty and support staff knew the students by name and were willing to offer additional support when needed.

“I have high expectations for my students and they know that they can always come to me for extra help,” said Ms. Keller-Perkins, who has been teaching at Berkeley College for 20 years and served 15 years as the advisor to the Business Club. “I recognized from the beginning that Kailee had potential. When I see students with drive and ability, I do everything in my power to help them academically and as they move forward in their careers.”

Following Advice from Faculty Mentor and Career Counselors Pays Big Dividends

With support from faculty and the Office of Career Services, Ms. Valenzuela thrived at Berkeley College. In her first year, she received an eXceed scholarship from Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), one of the “Big Four” accounting firms in the United States. The scholarship is awarded annually to high-performing minority college students and includes an internship at the company. Ms. Valenzuela served her internship as part of a real estate tax team, assisting in the preparation of tax returns. She was offered a full-time position as a Tax Accountant at PwC just a few months after graduating from Berkeley College.

Following Ms. Keller-Perkin’s advice, Ms. Valenzuela continued to advance her professional credentials and became a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) a year after graduating from college.

“As a Berkeley College student, I was prepared to pass the CPA exams,” Ms. Valenzuela said. “I think the CPA license is very important today because of the tough job market and the high unemployment rate. When you have a CPA license, in addition to a college degree, it puts you on a whole other level.”

Ms. Valenzuela spent two years at PwC before relocating to Florida. She is now employed as a Tax Supervisor at Brown & Brown, one of the largest insurance intermediary firms, with 125 locations across the United States and England.

“My experience at Berkeley College played a huge role in my career success,” Ms. Valenzuela said. “I was the type of person who liked to work alone, but at college I learned the importance of teamwork. In my current position, I have to work with other people and now I really enjoy that interaction.”