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Hopeful Berner keeps organized

Former tutor takes on new dean position

Published: Friday, February 14, 2014

Updated: Friday, February 14, 2014 15:02


Qing Huang / The Advocate

The newly appointed Liberal Arts Division Dean Jason Berner, who was previously a tutoring coordinator, plans to meet with department chairpersons and faculty to learn their plans.

The Liberal Arts Division has found its new dean.

After the retirement of Helen Kalkstein last semester, the division dean position has been given to former tutoring coordinator, Jason Berner.

Kalkstein said that Berner is the right person, at the right time to lead the LA Division.

Berner has been the LA Division dean for three weeks.

“It hasn’t been easy. It’s been quite a bit of a learning curve already,” Berner said. “But it’s been smooth in a sense that I worked in this division so I know everybody and everybody knows me. So that’s made it somewhat manageable.”

He said the biggest part of his job is dealing with what arises.

“And I kind of like that, when something is thrown at you,” Berner said.

He currently does not have personal plans for the division, but said that in a general sense he wants to ensure that the division functions.

Once everything is settled, Berner said he wants to take some time to speak with department chairs and faculty who can let him know of any plans or wishes they may have to determine which direction they would like to head.

“I want to help make administrative burdens as manageable as possible so that faculty can focus on teaching and improving the student experience,” Berner said.

English professor Jeffrey Michels, who has worked with Berner for 10 years and calls Berner “His Deanship,” said, “He is thoughtful, smart and pragmatic.”

He said that Berner is very organized and is the type of individual who can get everyone together and work. Dr. Michels said he sees a lot of opportunity in the division. This includes outreach with Middle College High School and developing learning communities. He said Berner’s communication and organization skills can make this possible.

Kalkstein said when she was dean, she remembers always having a question for Berner in the morning — so much that it became a tradition for Berner to come by her office to ask her what the question was for the day.

“It is reflective of the fact that Jason has the answers to so many questions because he has worn so many hats at the college,” Kalkstein said.

Berner has been a department chair and has served on many college committees.

He has served as a chairperson for the Basic Skills Committee, College Instruction Committee and Student Success Committee to name a few.

“Jason is going to be a real asset to the college,” Michels said.

Berner applied for the position after hearing about Kalkstein’s retirement. “Part of me felt more comfortable with me than some unknown quantity,” he said.

“I’ve had other responsibilities here at the college. So I kind of have a pretty good understanding of the way the college works, the way the division works, so I thought I’d be good at it. So now we’ll just see.”

He said one of the reasons he applied for the job was to maintain the collegial atmosphere.

Changes within the division, he said, are currently unknown and depend on its needs.

As a former professor, Berner wants students to know that he can be easily approached, and he is willing to help with questions concerning the LA Division.

Berner holds a master’s degree in English from Hunter College in New York and a master’s degree in public administration from New York State University.

He said it was fate that led him to Contra Costa College after finding a job announcement while working at La Guardia Community College in Queens, NY.

“There were five or six people that letter could have ended up with and it ended up in my box. The job description corresponded really well with my resumé and I applied on a whim,” he said.

“Over the years, I’ve developed a real affection for this place,” Berner said. “I really have grown to love this college, the people, the atmosphere. I welcome the chance to be able to maintain that atmosphere and that commitment to students.” 

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