Message Received: College Communicators Shine

PARAMUS, N.J. – Bergen Community College, and the members of its Office of Public Relations, recently secured national recognition for excellence in strategic communication, storytelling and community engagement.

On the strength of a cross-platform campaign that spotlighted the stories of currently enrolled students, the College earned a National Council on Marketing and Public Relations (NCMPR) Medallion Award in the “communication success story” category. The honor marks the ninth time Bergen has received recognition from the American Association of Community Colleges affiliate in the last seven years.

“This campaign worked because of its humanity,” Executive Director of Public Relations, Community and Cultural Affairs Larry Hlavenka, Ed.D., said. “Coming out of the pandemic, we knew our campaigns needed to inspire our community to take action and return to campus. There’s no better way to convey positivity and belongingness than featuring portraits of real students, with real emotions, telling their individual stories. I’m very proud of the work we did in achieving those objectives.”

The award-winning campaign featured the stories and images of seven Bergen students written and photographed for use on social media, digital advertisements and outdoor billboard displays. The content became the backbone of the College’s external outreach for more than seven months, deploying different media tactics at timed intervals during that period. Public Information Assistant Jessica Fargnoli, Ed.D., directed the campaign, organizing photoshoots, writing copy and securing placements. Manager of New Media Services Tom DePrenda designed the creative.

In total, the campaign generated nearly 20,000 impressions on social media and thousands of “likes,” shares and comments. The campaign played a major supporting role in the College’s summer and fall 2022 enrollment increases - including a 20 percent year-over-year increase in new students.

A panel of independent judges from both academia and industry evaluated nearly 300 submissions from eligible colleges in the northeastern U.S., Canada and United Kingdom before announcing the winners at the NCMPR District 1 conference that took place in Syracuse, New York in October.

Bergen has previously won NCMPR Medallion awards for excellence in newsletter production, video programming and fundraising campaigns. The College will recognize the public relations department’s latest Medallion award during the Nov. 22 regular meeting of the Board of Trustees. The trustees, and President Eric M. Friedman, have prioritized enhanced communication and engagement efforts, citing storytelling and external affairs activities as institutional and presidential goals. Bergen recently hired former Monroe County Community College (Michigan) Vice President of Administration and Treasurer Suzanne Wetzel as vice president of external affairs to assist in community engagement and fundraising efforts as well.

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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