Castleton State College professor Terry Bergen received quite the early-morning honor on Thursday, Feb. 28. The professor was surprised with a huge chocolate cake, and more importantly the Engaged Scholar Award from the Vermont Campus Compact, which defines itself as “a statewide coalition of college and university presidents, established to promote the integration of public service into the academic, student life and civic goals of member institutions,” according to its website at www.vtcampuscompact.com.
The award is given out to only one professor, and over the course of the past year Bergen has demonstrated that he more than deserved the honor. One class in particular showcased his commitment to the communities surrounding CSC.
Applied Behavior Analysis, better known to its students as just ABA, is the course that won Bergen the award. The course, which revolves around its students being engaged in local schools, is the ultimate way for a psychology professor to give back to the community.
Students separate into groups and go to specific schools weekly to meet with students and help them in their studies and provide a great extracurricular activity. One such group led by senior Sarah Burke, and junior Deirdre Schroeder focuses on the girls in Poultney High School and elementary, to help teach the young girls leadership skills for the future.
“My job is to make leaders into the girls,” Burke said. “We do a lot of trips to encourage teamwork.”
Leadership isn’t the only thing taught in that group, they also give to the community.
“We have two grades of girls 8th and 10th, and just recently we baked cookies for troops in Iraq, and for the elderly,” Burke said.
Matt Hetrick, also engaged in the class praises Bergen’s ability to convince the schools to allow these types of programs to happen.
He fights for his students, “a lot of times students will go and the adult teachers there will disrespect them, by pushing their items aside. (Bergen) will say ‘enough with that school’ and find us a better place to work,” he said.
Hetrick stressed the importance of how hard Bergen works to get his students into the schools.
“He battles with the politics and the controversies that come up when a school allows outsiders to help its students. He’s prevailed and persevered through all of that,” Hetrick said.
That’s not to say that Bergen has a poor relationship with the local school systems, it’s actually quite the opposite. The only reason his students are involved in the local schools is because of the respect those schools have for him.
“(The award) is really a testament to him because it shows his dedication to the community and to his students. The community benefits from his work, and that’s the key,” said Crispin White, who was initially informed by the Vermont Campus Compact that Bergen would be receiving the award.
The ABA class doesn’t only aide the community; it helps its students tremendously, and that’s because of its professor.
“Bergen’s taught me to be a diligent worker. Before I came here I didn’t know half of what I do now – that’s mostly because of Bergen. I can take what he’s taught me and use it for the rest of my life,” said Burke.
“He treats us like professionals. He gets us to implement a leadership program and at the same time also make you learn your own leadership skills. It’s a great thing,” said Hetrick.