Syracuse University Magazine


Geraldine de Berly

Global Outlook

Much has changed since 1998 when Geraldine de Berly became director of the intensive English program at the English Language Institute (ELI) in University College (UC). At the time, she was charged with developing what she remembers as “a sleepy little program.” These days, the program is just one aspect of a professional life so full and multifaceted that sleep is often hard to come by for de Berly, a recognized leader in the field of international education. As ELI director, she expanded the institute’s scope through teacher development programs, global outreach, and collaboration, earning her the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) International Leadership Award in 2014. “My job was to grow the program and integrate it into the ways we work at the University,” de Berly says. “And I think we’ve managed to do that pretty well.”   

That’s something of an understatement about a program that serves up to 150 international students each semester, strengthening their English proficiency level and ensuring their success at SU. Beyond its rigorous academic work, the ELI also serves as a supportive and nurturing base for students who are far from home. “We’re many mothers here, so it’s really kind of a nest—an incubator,” de Berly says. “The academic program is tough, deliberately so. But there’s much support, a lot of phoning and schlepping to and from the airport or grocery shopping. Every week we do a birthday cake for anybody who’s got a birthday then and put their names on it. Little things like that make a world of difference.”

The will to make a difference for students also fuels de Berly’s work as senior associate dean at UC. In that role, she oversees credit and non­credit program development, working with SU’s schools and colleges to identify courses that can be offered in models that are accessible to UC’s part-time students. “A big part of my job is relationship building across campus, wanting to know how to make things work for students,” says de Berly, a frequent presenter at national and international conferences who has administered nearly $8 million in training grants and contracts. “I’m kind of bear-like when it comes to students. I’m very protective of them and advocate for them.”

Considering de Berly’s upbringing, it’s not surprising she’s traveled her way to the top of the world of international education. A Cuban refugee as a child, she was educated in Miami public schools and spent summers leading travel groups in Europe as a teen. After earning a bachelor’s degree in political science at Stanford, she lived abroad for 10 years, including stays in Australia, Belgium, Costa Rica, England, Scotland, and Switzerland. “I was raised by polyglots, so I was brought up around multiple languages,” says de Berly, who is fluent in four languages and holds advanced degrees in applied linguistics from the University of Essex and educational administration from New Mexico State University.

Throughout her career, de Berly has been deeply engaged in the field’s professional organizations, including serving in leadership roles with the UPCEA and the American International Recruitment Council. Additionally, she is an advisory board member of La Casita, a University-sponsored cultural and educational center in Syracuse, and participates in the James Joyce Society and the Arts & Crafts Society of Central New York. Add to this a full-to-the-brim travel schedule and a wild devotion to her 5-year-old grandson. “I wear many different hats and it’s never the same,” she says. “For me, that’s what makes life interesting.” —Amy Speach