Countdown to Commencement 2022: Berkeley College Speakers and Honorees

Tuesday, April 26, 2022
Contact: Kelly Depsee
Senior Director, Communications and External Relations

Honorees and Interview Opportunities
Friday, May 13, 2022

While Friday the 13th is traditionally considered a harbinger of bad luck, on Friday, May 13, 2022, more than 1,400 Berkeley College graduates will celebrate their good fortune when they walk across the Commencement stage at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.

This year’s honorees include three first-generation college graduates who reflect perseverance and resilience as they step toward into brighter, more equitable futures. The Student of the Year is Gabrielle “Gabby” Peralta, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who made her way from Missouri to New Jersey and hopes to become a small business owner. Nallely Inoa, the daughter of parents who immigrated from poverty in the Dominican Republic seeking a better life for their daughters, will serve as Student Speaker. Jonathan Santiago (Class of 2005), a leader in the New York City Department of Education who helps students find a pathway to higher education, will be honored as Alumnus of the Year. 

DETAILS: 9 a.m. on Friday, May 13, 2022, at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ 


Berkeley Peralta

Student of the Year: Gabrielle Peralta – The Student of the Year recognition is presented annually to a graduate who has met high standards of academic excellence while overcoming personal, professional or financial obstacles. Peralta, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, will graduate with a Master of Business Administration in Management degree. She was honored by the New Jersey Business and Industry Association in 2020 with the Rising Star Award, recognizing future business leaders. Peralta plans to be a small business owner, operating her own line of bakery trucks. Originally from St. Louis, MO, she is a resident of Newark, NJ.

Berkeley Inoa

Student Speaker: Nallely Inoa – A resident of Paterson, NJ, Inoa will graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. Inoa, the daughter of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, is an Honors scholar who was recognized for her thesis topic, “The Country’s Convoluted Classroom: Investigating Educational Disparity in the U.S.” She recently shared her views on higher education in a post-COVID world with Brian Bridges, PhD, New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education. Inoa is a Peer Tutor for the College’s Academic Support Center and served an internship with the Office of Communications and External Relations. She is graduating with a perfect 4.0 GPA. Click here to read more about Nallely Inoa.

Berkeley Santiago

Alumnus of the Year: Jonathan Santiago – Berkeley College alumnus Jonathan Santiago (Class of 2005) joined the New York City Department of Education in 2011 and rose through the ranks to the position of Executive Director of Transition and College Access Centers (TCAC), where he manages community resources that can broaden college and postsecondary opportunities for students across the five boroughs. In February 2022, the New York Daily News named him a “Hometown Hero” for leading an effort during the COVID-19 pandemic to hand-deliver checks to thousands of students with disabilities who hold jobs through the TCAC. He is a resident of Gillette, NJ. Click here to read more about Jonathan Santiago.

Berkeley Hoefinger

Faculty Speaker: Heidi Hoefinger, PhD – Dr. Hoefinger, Professor, Social Sciences, has guided her students to success through leading by example. As Faculty Advisor to the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, she has embraced people with every identity and organized dynamic speakers and events that focus on social justice topics. Dr. Hoefinger has spent more than a decade researching migration, sex work and trafficking, and is the author of Sex, Love and Money in Cambodia. At Berkeley College, she has taught courses including Global Conflict, Human Sexuality, and the Science of Addiction and Obsession. She is a resident of Elizaville, NY, and Ridgewood, Queens, NY. Click here to read more about Dr. Hoefinger.


Berkeley Recinos

Diane Recinos, EdD, will preside over her first Commencement ceremony as President of Berkeley College. Recinos has served the College for 30 years in various leadership roles, and is students’ biggest advocate. Her priorities are to focus on sustainable strategic initiatives and to ensure that students have access to quality support services and career possibilities. Click here to read more about Dr. Recinos.


Daniel Fiorica of North Brunswick, NJ, will graduate with a Master of Business Administration in Management. While pursuing his degree, he co-founded Peppr, a virtual cooking business that connects aspiring chefs with culinary experts across the country, with a business model focused on sustainability. Fiorica, an amateur astronomer, said his mantra comes from NASA – specifically the Perseverance rover, which landed on Mars in February 2021: “Dare Mighty Things.” Click here to read more about Daniel Fiorica.

Sanzari Berkeley

Philip Sanzari of Garfield, NJ, owned and operated a commercial and residential cleaning company in Passaic County, NJ, for 23 years, until his business was derailed by the pandemic. At age 66, Sanzari will graduate with an Associate’s in Applied Science in Health Services Administration – Medical Insurance, Billing, and Coding from Berkeley College. Click here to read more about Philip Sanzari.


Amari Hilton of the Bronx, NY, said he made the most of his time at Berkeley College through his studies and leadership contributions as President of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance, a club that provides a safe space for students, free of bias, stigma or social exclusion. Hilton will receive both an Associate’s degree (spring 2021) and a Bachelor’s degree (spring 2022) in Legal Studies from Berkeley College, and recently accepted a position as a paralegal with a firm in White Plains, NY. Click here to read more about Amari Hilton.

Berkeley Bernard

Roberta Bernard of Ocean, NJ, will graduate from the Licensed Practical Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (LPN to BSN) program. She was inspired to pursue nursing when she saw the quality of care nurses provided to her mother following a heart attack in 2008. With her degree, Bernard plans to work as an ER nurse. Click here to read more about Berkeley College Nursing graduates.

Berkeley Pusoski

Aleks Pusoski of Totowa, NJ, will graduate in May 2022 with a Master of Business Administration in Management from Berkeley College. Pusoski completed his graduate degree while working full-time for Marriott Hotels and fulfilling responsibilities as a Mortuary Affairs Specialist with the U.S. Army Reserve. Pusoski, who is a Room Operations Manager at the St. Regis Hotel – a Forbes five-star luxury hotel overlooking Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan – said a virtual environment provides convenience and quality to a working professional. Click here to read more about Aleks Pusoski.

Berkeley Andrews Brannock

Rebekah Andrews-Brannock of Brooklyn, NY, admits she is “not your average college student.” The 34-year-old mother of two returned to school after 12 years, working full-time as a Senior Corporate Paralegal while pursuing her Bachelor’s degree. Now, she is on the road to law school. Andrews-Brannock, who has worked since 2016 for Marsh McLennan in New York City, will receive a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies. Click here to read more about Rebekah Andrews-Brannock.

Berkeley ASID

Kerri Neumann of Maywood, NJ, and Aya Beais of Jersey City, NJ, will receive Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in Interior Design. The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) recently recognized the students as semifinalists in its Student Portfolio Competition. The national competition evaluates submissions on conceptual thought, content and record of achievement. Neumann currently works as a Design Assistant for DRP Interiors in Franklin Lakes, NJ, and Beais is employed as a Junior Interior Designer with The Designers Group in Brooklyn, NY. Click here to read more about their design inspiration.


Kelly J. Depsee

Director, Communications and External Relations