Berkeley College Honors Scholars Tackle Critical Social Justice Issues

Friday, April 22, 2022
Contact: Kelly Depsee
Senior Director, Communications and External Relations
Honors Program Boosts Student Engagement, Self-Confidence and Communication Skills

  Berkeley Honors

Photo Caption: Berkeley College Honors Scholars tackled social justice topics during the annual Berkeley College Honors Scholars Research Symposium, held virtually on Thursday, April 14, 2022. L to R are Honors Scholars Hannah McMahon of Iselin, NJ; Gabriel Delorenzo of Jersey City, NJ; and Sherrod Charles of Brooklyn, NY. 

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“Today, you are the experts. You are all leaders and have so much to give back to the world. I know you will continue to make us proud.”
– Diane Recinos, EdD, President of Berkeley College 

Are America’s youth being bullied by the media? Can veganism save the planet? These are among the questions presented by Berkeley College Honors Scholars, who tackled challenging social justice topics such as the media, mental health, climate change and immigration during the annual Berkeley College Honors Scholars Research Symposium, held virtually on Thursday, April 14, 2022. The research projects are the culmination of two semesters of work by students, and are developed with assistance from Honors faculty, librarians, writing coaches in the Academic Support Center, and peer-reviewers. 

“Today, you are the experts,” Diane Recinos, EdD, President of Berkeley College, told the students in her Welcome Address. “You are all leaders and have so much to give back to the world. I know you will continue to make us proud.” 

Goals of the Honors Program include helping students feel engaged with the Berkeley College community, improving self-confidence and communication skills, and enhancing their knowledge of current social justice issues, among other objectives. 

“High-engaging learning activities, like the Honors Symposium, help our students further enhance their critical thinking, public speaking and writing skills,” said Byron Hargrove, PhD, Director, Berkeley College Honors Program. “We know that our Honors scholar graduates are highly satisfied with the Honors Program and often find success in the workplace and in graduate school.” 

Following the Honors Symposium, students were recognized for the caliber of their presentations, their thesis topics, academic achievement and community service. 

A Community of Scholars 

Jason Gulya, PhD, a Berkeley College Honors professor, said he was inspired by the way the 22 presenting scholars came together to support each other in their studies and research, even during the time of COVID-19 when it was difficult to connect. 

“One of the things that always astounds me is how our Honors cohort functions like a community,” Gulya said. “I love to see students connect with each other and relate with each other over several semesters. That is the heart of the Honors experience.” 

All of the presenting scholars will receive an honors cord to wear at the Berkeley College Commencement ceremony on May 13, 2022 at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. 

Honors Scholars Give Back to Their Communities 

As part of the Honors Program curriculum, students are required to complete a minimum of 30 hours of community service over three terms each year. During the 2021-2022 academic year, this cohort of students contributed 750 community service hours. 

“It’s not just about me – it’s about the things that we do to help make a better world,” said Sherrod Charles of Brooklyn, NY, who was recognized as the cohort’s Community Service MVP. “One of the things I learned from my community service is that different cultures open your eyes to better perspectives of the world.” 

Charles contributed more than 30 hours of service to the Park Slope Jewish Center, including packaging supplies for those impacted by the war in Ukraine. 

Prevalent Social Justice Topics 

“The students recognize the impact of their topics,” said Casey Ellis, a Berkeley College Honors professor. “These are ongoing conversations in our society and they reflected that wonderfully in their work and their research.” 

Hannah McMahon of Iselin, NJ, spoke about “The Personal Bully: The Media’s Effect on America’s Youth.” “I call mass media a personal bully because everyone faces their own forms of insecurity,” McMahon said. “It begins with us – we as individuals need to work on ourselves first, before society can change.” 

Gabriel Delorenzo of Jersey City, NJ, presented his thesis on “The Harmful Effects of Animal Agriculture: How Veganism Can Save the Planet.” According to research presented by Delorenzo from Humane Society International, land use for livestock affects 2.4 hectares every year, and the raising of livestock has a negative effect on attempts to mitigate global warming. 

“It is so important for people to be aware of how the everyday choices they make affect the planet as a whole,” Delorenzo said. 

Honors Research Symposium Awards 

Academic All-Stars

  • Hannah McMahon of Iselin, NJ (First Place)
  • De’Anna Alexander of White Plains, NY(First Place)
  • Gabriel Delorenzo of Jersey City, NJ (Second Place)
  • Alex Curran of South Amboy, NJ (Second Place)
  • Jerlinne Gonzalez of Staten Island, NY (Third Place)
  • Alex Pineda of Lakewood, NJ (Third Place) 

Best Presentations

  • Alex Curran of South Amboy, NJ, “The Largest Threat in the 21st Century: Human Activities Exacerbating the Level of Climate Change”
  • Shiann Palmer of Edison, NJ, “Not Enough Homes for Everyone: How Homelessness and the Housing Crisis Go Hand in Hand”
  • Hannah McMahon of Iselin, NJ, “The Personal Bully: The Media’s Effect on America’s Youth” 

Best Honors Thesis

  • Jerlinne Gonzalez of Staten Island, NY, “Legalizing Abortion: A Road to Protect Women”
  • Britney Laughlin of North Middletown, NJ “The Negative Impression Fashion Has Specifically on Younger Generations” 

Community Service MVP

  • Sherrod Charles of Brooklyn, NY 

Academics MVP

  • Hannah McMahon of Iselin, NJ 

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, NY, and in Newark, Paramus, Woodbridge and Woodland Park, NJ, with more than 4,000 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 nine consecutive years. U.S. News & World Report named Berkeley College (NJ) one of the Best Regional Colleges in the North in its 2022 edition of the Best Colleges Survey.  In 2021 Berkeley College (NJ) was also recognized for the first time as a Top Performer on Social Mobility among colleges in the region. The website address is