Lifelong learner keeps promise, returns to college

Kelly Berg in Venice

Kelly Berg in Venice, Italy. Photo courtesy Kelly Berg


Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2022 graduates.

Kelly Berg always intended to finish the business administration degree she started but “life happened.” She fell in love, got married, had children and focused on her family and career in the travel industry and later on at Boeing. Though she found herself short on time to dedicate to earning a degree, it was always at the back of her mind.

Throughout her career, Berg was a lifelong learner, taking courses to improve her skills and move up in the travel industry and office management. When she retired, she decided it was finally time to keep her promise to herself and go back to school. However, a degree in business administration no longer made sense after finishing her career. Berg had studied Spanish since junior high school, including spending five weeks as an exchange student in Guadalajara when she was 17. She even attended summer school at the University of Guadalajara, which helped her become fluent in Spanish. However, throughout the years, her proficiency waned. Since she wanted to earn a degree in something she was passionate about and would enjoy, she decided on a degree in Spanish.

Starting was the biggest challenge for Berg. She was afraid she would go into class, be the “old person” and freeze up, forgetting the Spanish she does know. But she realized that she wasn’t necessarily the oldest person in the class, and instead found herself in good company. Berg was also fascinated by the different perspectives each age group brought to discussion forums. After facing her own concerns, Berg firmly believes that “anyone can go back to school at any age, but do it for yourself to help you achieve your goals.”

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I started studying Spanish in 7th grade. Then, when I was a junior in high school, I spent five weeks with a wonderful family in Guadalajara, Mexico, as an exchange student. I am still in touch with that family, but I had let my Spanish lapse for a few years. When I finally decided it was time to finish my bachelor’s degree in business administration — something I had always dreamed of finishing after starting it many years ago — I thought it was redundant to my work experience. So, I decided to improve my Spanish and get my degree at the same time. I applied to a couple of universities with an online degree program in Spanish but only received a response from ASU — I think it was fate. I was able to learn about something I am really passionate about online, at my own pace, while traveling and enjoying the retired life.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?      

A: The biggest thing I learned was that I wasn’t alone in the process.  My professors were always amazing whenever I needed help, and having a group of “compañeros” that I could text or Zoom with regularly was the best! I think aside from my husband, they were probably who I leaned on and who encouraged me the most. Whenever I felt like giving up, they would commiserate with me until we all realized we couldn’t quit! I’m sad I won’t be graduating at the same time with them to tell them again how much their support meant — one of them graduated last spring and the other two will graduate next spring. I highly recommend study buddies!

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Oh, that’s a hard one. I think Sandra Correa made me realize that my Spanish didn’t need to be perfect and that practicing it was the best way to improve on it. Ann Walton-Ramirez also taught me that being an L2 that sounds like an L1 is possible — she’s living proof! 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Don’t ever give up on your dreams! I always felt like I disappointed my father because I dropped out of college. Because of that, I always felt like I should finish it one day. But my father was proud of me anyway for who I was and the choices I made, both in my personal and professionally. This is something I did for myself, not for anyone else, and I did it when it was the right time for me. Looking back, I know a degree would’ve helped me go farther in my work life, but I still loved almost every job I ever had, and that’s what is most important. Love what you do, do the best you can with it and live your life while you do it.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: My go-to spot for power studying was in my home office because it provided a quiet spot with everything I needed at my fingertips. But my favorite spot I’ve studied was on the top floor of a cruise ship in the crow’s nest lounge looking out the windows at the sun shining on the beautiful ocean!

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My plans after graduation are to travel with my husband. I also hope to be able to use my Spanish to volunteer in our local community helping native Spanish speakers or at the community college as a tutor. Maybe I’ll even move to a Spanish-speaking country one day!