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For Community Service, Berberi Earns UMN President’s Award

Tammy Berberi
Jenna Ray
Publication date: 
May 23, 2019

Tammy Berberi, associate professor of French and interim director of Equity, Diversity and Intercultural Programs, earned the University of Minnesota President's Award for Outstanding Service. Berberi stands out for bringing world languages and connections to the Morris community (and doing it with a smile).

"An Unusual Commitment"

Recipients of the President's award demonstrate "an unusual commitment to the University community." Berberi is making more language-learning opportunities available through Morris Community Education. In her work with the Morris Intercultural Education Initiative and service-learning program Entre Nous Teaches You, Berberi builds bridges and broadens perspectives.

"Tammy finds ways to build connections and understanding and focus on practical solutions and small victories while staying true to the important frame of solidarity with the Latinx community," says Argie Manolis, Office of Community Engagement coordinator. "She is an optimist, a problem-solver, and a relationship-builder."

For the Joy of It

Berberi is driven by a single goal: joy. She says community engagement is done by people who show up for the love of it, for "pure commitment." It's how she approaches language teaching, and shifting worldviews, too.

"Recent research in language acquisition shows that your worldview shifts after three weeks of conventional language instruction," she says. "You've incorporated new words that represent, even in really subtle ways that you're not yet aware of, ideas and values that are different from the ones you find around you. That's exciting to me."

"What Else Is There?"

As part of a mindfulness exercise, Berberi recently asked what would happen if she and her students showed up to class simply to share that same sense of joy and commitment. Not for a grade, or to check a box, but because they decided to do it. The answer, says Berberi, was simple.

"If my students get only that—the joy—and it becomes an association with language learning, and with difference, then what else is there? To me this is not work. It's imaginative, relationship-centered and pure fun."

For Berberi, this work is personal. "As a mom involved in the schools, I value my relationships with school personnel and the opportunity to leverage those relationships to make more opportunities," she says. "I come to conversation with an open mind and heart about the work we can do together."

About the Award

The University of Minnesota President's Award for Outstanding Service was established in 1997 to recognize faculty and staff (current or retired) who have provided exceptional service to the University, its schools, colleges, departments and service units. Such service must have gone well beyond the regular duties of a faculty or staff member, and demonstrate unusual commitment to the University community.