In this Q&A, both Student Government President Julie Gagliardi and Southern
Connecticut State University President Joe Bertolino were asked 10 questions about themselves and their experiences on campus.
1. Why did you decide to come to Southern?
Student Government President Julie Gagliardi: I was really attracted to the Honors College, that’s what first got me interested in Southern. Then, I really fell in love with all of the involvement opportunities on campus. It felt new, different and exciting.
SCSU President Joe Bertolino: Perhaps we chose each other. When this opportunity presented itself, I was approached by the search firm and thought ‘well let’s see what happens.’ I quickly fell in love with the place. In particular, I love the diversity of the institution.
2. What would you say to students considering attending Southern?
JG: I would definitely say to keep an open mind. I think that all of the people are really welcoming. There is something here for everyone and it can be a very accessible opportunity.
JB: We’re a gem that the people don’t realize exists. Because of where we’re located,
and the perception of living in the shadow of Yale, when in reality we’re a terrific institution on a terrific campus that is located in a terrific area.
3. Other than your office, what is your favorite spot on Campus?
JG: I love the new part of [Hilton C Buley] Library. Particularly, that first floor where you can still be kind of social, but you can still get homework done. I think it’s so pretty.
JB: My favorite place is probably the front of Buley. That’s where the students hang out, that’s where the action is and that’s where I usually stop and talk to students. That’s where I engage the most.
4. What is something you are passionate about outside of the university?
JG: I love to cook and bake. I almost considered going to culinary school, but I wasn’t sure if I could handle all of the work of being a chef.
JB: My partner, Bil [Leipold], of 24 years, our son, Joel, and our two beautiful grandsons, Roman, who is 3, and Maddox, who is 4 months. I could spend all day with them.
5. What initiatives do you still want to implement?
JG: I am working to get Student Government on a friendlier basis with students. I think a lot of students don’t know who we are or what we do and that we are a resource for them. By the time I graduate, I’d like to see Student Government in front of students more.
JB: The list is long, but I think right now, what I’m particularly excited about are our relationships with Gateway Community College and Housatonic. It will give us an opportunity to help students complete their associate’s degrees and roll right into a bachelor’s degree.
6. What is something that you wish the administration/students would understand about your position as a student/administrator?
JG: I think our administration does a really good job. I would love to see them continue to think about students when they make decisions, particularly, about things that they’re going to fund because budget can be really tight.
JB: I don’t hide in an office. It’s not as glamorous as people think it is. I love it, but I want people to know that we’re in the business of students. We talk about them all the time in a positive way and we genuinely care about them and their success.
7. What is one of the best things you love about Southern?
JG: The people here are so helpful. You have to take the initiative to go out and find that help, but everyone on this campus is here for you and wants to see you succeed.
JB: It’s the people, the students, the community. That may sound cliché, but I like to think I’m in the business of changing lives, of providing opportunities. When students come here, when they’re successful – we were a part of that, I was a part of that, my team was a part of that, that’s exciting to me.
8. In what area can Southern improve on?
JG: We continue to try and be accessible to students, to make sure that we are still the most affordable and accessible way for students who want to go to college, to be able to go to college.
JB: My goal is to increase retention in each class by at least 1 percent every year. When you retain students that means you will graduate more students. Ultimately, we need to do a better job.
9. If you could ask the president/students of the university any question, what would it be?
JG: I want to know what his favorite TV show is? I feel like every time I’m in front of him it’s not an opportunity to have a one-on-one with him, like: “Hey tell me about your life.” He’s really open about it, and I love that. But like, what does he like to watch on Netflix?
JB: There are so many. If I had to choose one, my question would be how can we make your life better? (TV: “The Big Bang Theory,” Netflix: Independent films and bad horror)
10. What will be your legacy, or what do you want to be remembered for at Southern?
JG: I want my legacy to be that I left this organization, and this institution, a better place than I found it. My hope is that by the time I graduate, Student Government will have done a lot of the things we said we were going to do, and that we’ve made a positive change on this campus.
JB: I would hope that 50 years from now, when a student comes back, I will be long gone; they would see my picture in the gallery of presidents. They would say: “See this guy, he cared about students, he cared about me and he was a good, kind man.” The legacy for me, is my students.