Professor Paula Williams, Ph.D., and Dawn Marie (Petgrave) Lindo (’96) in 2017.

PARAMUS, N.J. – Studying in the United States represents an aspiration for many young men and women living abroad. Challenges – including political conflict, visas and finances among them – often derail these goals before students even have the chance to relocate to the U.S. For students who overcome these challenges, though, an even larger challenge remains ahead: the rigors of college and earning a degree.

Professors such as Bergen Community College’s Paula Williams, Ph.D., recognize the specific needs of international students and seek to provide guidance while championing the importance of education. For some, including alumna Dawn Marie (Petgrave) Lindo (‘96), that assistance can help shape the rest of their life – and even create a lifelong friendship.

“Dawn made an indelible impression during her time here at Bergen and embodies what many of our students strive to be in their chosen path to success,” Williams said. “Dawn’s vision, motivation, and commitment are a credit to Bergen where she began her journey as an early childhood education major who is now making a difference in the world.”

Lindo first came to Bergen in the mid-1990s as an international student from Jamaica. She would soon meet Professor Williams, a fellow Jamaican, who served as the adviser to the institution’s Caribbean club. Lindo eventually became the club’s president and developed new events such as a fashion show as part of Caribbean heritage week, while leaning on Williams for guidance and support. Lindo expressed her desire to provide this type of shared learning experience with others as an educator in Jamaica.

“I always wanted to impact education in my country,” she said. “I know not every Jamaican student would have gotten the opportunity to study abroad, so I wanted to bring those opportunities to them in Jamaica.”

After graduating with her associate’s degree in education from Bergen in 1996 – and with Williams’ guidance providing inspiration – Lindo began a career in fashion, working for a who’s who of global icons including Estee Lauder, Clinique and Nordstrom, while also serving as an instructor of makeup artistry. Combining her passion for education and fashion, Lindo opened the D’Marie School of Makeup Artistry – now the D’Marie Institute – a leading beauty and makeup school in Kingston, Jamaica in 2009. The institute develops high-level beauty experts in makeup artistry, hairdressing, barbering and nail technology, while also offering advanced diplomas to students seeking to teach. Since its founding, the school has earned numerous industry awards and accreditations, graduating more than 1,000 students.

As fellow educators, Williams and Lindo remain close. In fact, Williams recently served as the keynote speaker at Lindo’s eighth graduation and runway show and sits on the school’s advisory board.

“When Dawn called a few years ago to inform me that she founded a school, I was not surprised, as there were several indicators of her future success during her years here at Bergen,” Williams said. “Dawn is very charismatic, motivational, and possesses excellent communication skills.”

Bergen currently hosts more than 1,000 international students from 138 countries.

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (, a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls more than 13,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

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