Once in a rare blue moon we are privileged to meet a woman who is the genuine article; the real deal. That is, one who masterfully --steps out of the way— so that the best possible professional...or personal... outcome for all parties is achieved in each interchange she orchestrates. Teri Duda, Senior Vice President of External Affairs for Berkeley College is such a woman. Teri's often disarming humility sets the tone for honest, forthright transaction of business; whether she is advocating for higher education among legislators or, providing services for the homeless. Her authentic, transparent openness is as immediately apparent as her business savvy.
Rarer still is a mentor with the capacity to transmit a mission-driven commitment to social transformation. When filtered through the prism of Teri Duda's humility and deep faith in young people, the mission translates into a very purposeful, "lightness of being" exemplified by mentee, Nancy Drepaul. Transfer of knowledge, of professional skills-sets, even of value systems, is wonderful, but much more commonplace. Conveyance of the ability to tap into one's core-self and transmit that power in such a way that it spontaneously energizes and uplifts everyone one meets is another matter altogether. This way of navigating business ....of navigating the world, is the gift that mentor Teri Duda has given to Nancy Drepaul; currently an intern at Pfizer's Global Talent Acquisition Group handling staffing for North America. Teri has awakened Nancy's innate capacity to lift a portion of people's burden by simply walking into a room.
Teri and Nancy met at Berkeley College where they worked together on a series of outreach programs that continue to foster community engagement with higher education in support of a multicultural student population of largely first generation college students. Theirs was never a formal, institutionally arranged "accomplished-to-underserved," mentoring relationship. Nancy who is Guyanese, and Teri whose great-great-great grandfather of Dutch/English descent fought for the North in the US Civil War, developed an organic bond as they worked shoulder to shoulder in Berkeley campus communities. They came to understand each other's worldview and philosophy. As Nancy states, "Teri read my heart and saw the dream in me."
Berkeley College's unwavering commitment to offering access to higher education for ALL, supported them in the outreach mission they epitomized, shared and executed together. Nancy remembers looking at the Office of External Affairs and marveling at how such a small workplace could have such a massive impact on the college and community.
Hundreds of first-generation Berkeley graduates are firsthand witnesses to the empowering resonance of this team of socially engaged women who demonstrated the capacity and willingness to transcend cultural boundaries. Teri Duda and Nancy Drepaul have touched and transformed lives and families.
New Jersey women living in one of the most diverse states in the country can choose to cultivate, embody, and collectively reap the benefit of such openness. When we encounter each other in the usual places and spaces where women bump into women, we can translate openness first into appreciation New Jersey's cultural richness. We can then choose to look beyond cultural veneers to reach out; initially perhaps in small ways, to women who at first glance are unlike ourselves. As Teri Duda and Nancy Drepaul demonstrate, the ripple effect on the state can be colossal if we also determine to teach our daughters to connect in New Jersey classrooms and on playgrounds with peers from around the globe whose goals and aspirations in the final analysis, mirror our own.
The TRANSFORMATIVE VISIONS column highlights innovative business and social approaches taken throughout New Jersey to maximize positive outcomes inherent in the state's evolving multicultural demographic landscape. Readers are invited to suggest visionary companies, organizations, and individuals who are taking creative, impactful action.