Berkeley College Celebrates Graduates During Virtual Commencement Ceremony

Monday, May 10, 2021
Contact: Chanel Donaldson
Senior Associate, Media Relations
Commencement Speakers See Bright Futures for these Resilient Graduates


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Photo Caption: This year’s speakers at the Berkeley College Virtual Commencement ceremony, are (left to right) Michael J. Smith, Berkeley College President; New York U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer; Kevin Luing, Berkeley College Chairman; Marsha Pollard, PhD, Provost, Berkeley College; and Jason Gulya, PhD, Professor, English, Berkeley College Division of General Studies.

Berkeley College celebrated its graduating students at a virtual ceremony that took place on Friday, May 7, 2021. More than 1,800 graduates from the Spring and Fall 2020, and Winter 2021 terms were recognized.

An in-person outdoor ceremony will take place on Thursday, May 27, 2021, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, to recognize graduates from August 2019 through April 2021.

Berkeley College President Michael J. Smith congratulated graduates by saying, “Through all the challenges of the last year, you have persevered. I am very proud of each of you for your persistent determination during this time,” he said. “Be confident in your education and the degree or certificate you received from Berkeley college … Always believe in yourself and never be afraid to be an advocate for your own abilities.”

Kevin Luing, Berkeley College Chairman, told the students, “As your career progresses, we will always be here to support you in your future professional development."

The virtual ceremony included a special video message from New York U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, who encouraged graduates to embrace new opportunities even in times of uncertainty. “Many of you may not be sure what you are going to do next. Do not let the harshness of this past year prevent you from seizing new opportunities,” said Schumer. “You have incredible assets: a college degree from a great institution and loving families who have your back … You are our future leaders and we have faith in you.”

Students also heard from Marsha Pollard, PhD, Provost, and Faculty Speaker Jason Gulya, PhD, English, Division of General Education.

Dr. Pollard acknowledged the integral role faculty play in helping students make it to commencement. She congratulated both graduates and faculty on a job well-done. “The building blocks of any higher education institution are its faculty and its students. Accordingly, this is a celebration of our extraordinary Berkeley College students who are graduating and an acknowledgment of the instrumental role faculty play in student success,” Pollard said. “Commencement signals the beginning of a new journey, the road to professional success. I wish all of you my very best in your future endeavors.” 

Dr. Gulya also acknowledged the achievements of the students and expressed his admiration for the resilience displayed by the  graduates during the COVID pandemic. “This is a huge accomplishment … to have done in this particular context,” Gulya said. “I know that we all have this pressure to move on to the next thing – right onto the next assignment or to whatever else we need … I really recommend taking the time to slow down and soak it all in as much as you possibly can.” 


Photo Caption: Left to right: Panagiota (Penny) Babadelis of West New York, NJ, was named Outstanding Student of the Year. Naomi Dunston of Brooklyn, NY, was the Student Speaker at the 2021 Berkeley College Commencement Ceremony. Maurice Barrett of Oak Ridge, NJ, was named 2021 Berkeley College Alumnus of the Year.

Student Honorees and Alumnus of the Year
Panagiota Babadelis of West New York, NJ, was awarded Outstanding Student of the Year, a recognition presented annually to a graduate who has met high standards of academic excellence while overcoming personal, professional or financial obstacles. Babadelis earned both her Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees from Berkeley College and is currently enrolled in its Master of Business Administration in Management program. “Congratulations everyone – we did it! You are all outstanding. Don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened,” said Babadelis.

“You are an example of a ‘thriver,’ a light that shines through unprecedented times,” said student speaker Naomi L. Dunston of Brooklyn, NY, who earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in General Business. “Let me remind you to not give crisis power. It is not stronger than you. Your experiences, good and bad, are growth opportunities … Failure and opposition are the backbone to your achievements.”

Maurice K. Barrett was named 2021 Alumnus of the Year. Barrett is a 2012 graduate of Berkeley College and Senior Human Resources Director at the Newark Museum of Art in Newark, NJ. He offered graduates words of advice, “Run your race at your own pace and in your own time. You can get there quickly without rushing. Everything you do, do with humanity,” he said.

Berkeley College celebrates its 90th anniversary in 2021. Graduates of the Berkeley College Class of 2021 join a network of more than 60,000 Berkeley College alumni eligible to receive lifetime career assistance.

About Berkeley College
Berkeley College, founded in 1931, is a career-focused institution accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education that offers students Master’s, Bachelor’s, and Associate’s degree and Certificate programs in more than 20 career fields. The College also offers continuing education programs to enhance career credentials.

Berkeley College has campuses in Midtown Manhattan and White Plains, NY, as well as in Newark, Paramus, Woodbridge and Woodland Park, NJ, with more than 4,900 students enrolled. In addition, Berkeley College Online® serves a global population. 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, for eight consecutive years. The website address is

The mission of Berkeley College is to empower students to achieve lifelong success in dynamic careers.