Julie Berkovatz

Julie Berkovatz

President's Scholar

Communications Studies
College of Social Sciences


Why did you choose your major?

I choose to be a communication studies major because of the versatility it offered in the program. I was very undecided when first coming to San Jose State University, and hearing about all the different directions you can take being a Communication Studies Major really appealed to me. I also contribute the Communication Studies Department to my success with all the support I received from the Faculty and Staff. While in the program I was able to choose emphasis that tailored to my own needs and interests that allowed me to develop in a direction I was passionate about.


What does receiving this particular award mean to you?

It is a great honor to be receiving this award. I am very grateful to my teacher Ted Coopman and Department Chair of Communication Studies, Stephanie Coopman for always believing in me, helping me through difficult times, and challenging me when I needed it most. Right before my last year of graduating, my Grandmother passed away from cancer. I promised her before she was gone that I was going to complete school. She has always been an important motivating factor to keep me going and strive to be the best I can be. She would be proud to know how far I have come!


Who has been instrumental in your life and/or who has contributed to your academic success?

As mentioned in the above answer, my teachers and counselors at San Jose State have been extremely instrumental in my success. Having someone believe in your true potential can go a long way, especially if you are willing to put in the hard work it takes to better yourself; even if that means not getting it right the first few times around. The first hardest step sometimes is to ask for help and in my personal experiences the majority of my teachers have always been supportive and helpful when I needed it the most. I also would like to say that my late Grandmother has been a large factor to my current success.


Did you overcome any hardships or adversities during your life, that has helped shape who you are today?  And if so, could you please briefly elaborate?

Recently graduating from San Jose State University, it is anyone’s guess how I have come this far. In life I have faced many challenges and obstacles. I grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains in a small cabin that had no electricity or running water. My father and mother were heavy drug abusers, and shortly after I was born, my mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. After several years of neglect, I was placed into a foster home at the age of 7 with my younger brother, and by age 8 started to live with my grandparents. I suffered from a severe speech impediment, which drastically delayed my basic education. It was not until the 4th grade that I learned how to read. Once I was given the opportunity to learn, I excelled greatly in school. I unfortunately have dealt with some hardship through the loss of my Grandpa at 14, the loss of my father at 18, and most recently the loss of my Grandma, who was battling cancer, just a few years ago.

Being a former foster youth and first generation student, I have had to tackle numerous barriers and make many big decisions on my own. Learning new things has not come easy or natural for me, but with determination and hard work I have been able to find the motivation to keep going.


What would you say to other students to encourage or inspire them to attain academic excellence?

A very important factor to my success was finding people around me that I could trust and who believed in me. Some of the best teachers may also be some of the most challenging teachers you have, but as the saying goes, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” may not be too far from the truth. Finding something that can motivate you to do well in school can be one of your most powerful tools for success. For me, it was knowing that I needed to break the cycle and not end up down the path my parents took. Motivational factors will be different for everyone and finding a reason for yourself to be successful can be the key to your academic excellence. I also recommend getting to know your teachers and letting your teachers get to know you. In the larger scheme of things it really boils down to networking and who you know. Having good relationships with your professors, counselors, and colleagues can really help you down the road. A Linked-in account couldn’t hurt either.


Where would you like to be in 5-10 years?

In 5 – 10 years from now I see myself completing or have completed in obtaining my Masters (which is still very much undecided at this point in my life as to what my focus will be). I see myself working in a Non-profit, County or State position providing some form of human services. I see a possibility of settling down and giving back to my community. I have discovered in the past few years a passion for working with disadvantaged youth and young adults, specifically foster/former foster youth. I would like to be in a position where I can help support, mentor, challenge, and inspire youth and young adults, as well as, people in general. I see myself being Happy!

Currently I reside in San Jose with my younger brother and work full time for a non-profit organization called TeenForce where I help foster/former foster youth gain transferable skills and find employment. I am also looking into obtaining my Masters, but have not decided what I would like to study yet.


A few words from her nominating professor:

“Julie Berkovatz is simply an amazing person. She earned the Communication Department's Emeritus Faculty Award and graduated with Cum Laude honors. She was invited to the department's iResearch Scholar slam to present her research on "The Evolution of Note Taking: A Study on Traditional Hard Copy Methods Vs The Emerging Soft Copy Method." She also presented at the 2012 NACADA Region 9 Conference, National Academic Advising Association, Las Vegas, NV, for a presentation on, Who Said I Can’t Graduate? Understanding the Complexities of Effectively Advising Low Income, First Generation, Minorities & Former Foster Youth.

What makes these accomplishments all the more impressive is Julie's background. Placed in foster care at age 7 and then raised by her grandparents, Julie had a severe speech impediment and didn't learn to read until 4th grade.

Currently, Julie lives in San Jose with her younger brother and works full time for a small non-profit company called TeenForce, where she help foster/former foster youth gain skills and find employment.”

- Professor Stephanie Coopman