Large format display profiles of successful students notched Bergen a national award.

PARAMUS, N.J – For the first time in Bergen Community College history, the National Council in Marketing and Public Relations has recognized the institution’s work with a Paragon Award – the highest honor in strategic communication at community colleges. NCMPR, an affiliate of the American Association of Community Colleges, recognizes high-achieving professional staffs from throughout the country as part of the annual Paragon program. This year, communication professionals submitted more than 1,500 entries, with fewer than 10 percent ultimately qualifying for a Paragon. Including Bergen, only two community colleges in New Jersey placed in the competition. Bergen Executive Director of Public Relations Larry Hlavenka, Ed.D., and Director of Marketing Kristy Italiano accepted the College’s Paragon at NCMPR’s national conference in Seattle earlier this month.

“I am incredibly proud that the College’s work has earned recognition as some of the best in the nation,” Hlavenka said. “Bergen has built an incredible team in the Office of Public Relations and Marketing that truly remains deserving of such acclaim. The Paragon Award solidifies the department’s standing as a national model for excellence in strategic communication.”

Bergen’s Paragon came in the interior signage/display category for a series of student success story profiles that appeared on retractable banners at on-campus open houses and off-campus recruitment events. Developed as a strategic initiative in the College’s goals of enhancing its storytelling and fostering a culture of belongingness, the banners feature members of Bergen’s diverse student population who provided quotes on why they chose the College, their career goals or how the institution supported their learning experience. Through telling the stories of successful students who found a welcoming environment at the College, the PR/marketing team sought to convey to prospective students that Bergen can help them reach their goals too – just like their peers featured in the profiles.

Last year, Bergen’s PR/marketing team earned an institution-record four NCMPR Medallion Awards as part of the organization’s regional recognition program. Bergen earned Medallions in four categories, with first-place gold honors in two areas (communication success story campaign and microsite/landing page) and second-place silver in the other pair (newsletter and interior signage/displays). During the last eight years, the team has garnered 13 Medallions for excellence in categories such as newsletter, video programming and advertising.

A unit of the College’s Division of External Affairs led by Vice President of External Affairs Suzanne Wetzel, Executive Director of Public Relations Hlavenka and Marketing Director Italiano oversee the efforts of the award-winning team of Assistant Director of Public Relations Jessica Fargnoli, Ed.D.; Manager of New Media Services Tom DePrenda; Graphic/Web Designer Cristina Grisales; Web Developer Frank Hablawi; and Customer Service Associate Nancy McAllister. Public Information Assistant Presley DePugh joined the team this month.

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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