May 03 2011
Calverton, New York (May 3, 2011) – If NYIT Associate Dean Ernst VanBergeijk’s day at the office on Monday felt like a plunge from the sky, it’s because that’s exactly what it was.
VanBergeijk, executive director of NYIT’s Vocational Independence Program, plummeted 8,500 feet from cloudy skies over eastern Long Island to prove a point to his students: “If you stay in your comfort zone,” he said, “you don’t try new things.”
Some of those new things may lead to a job offer, a date, a taste for new foods, or other positive encounters, said VanBergeijk. Without a sense of adventure or a willingness to take a novel approach, students might miss out on life-changing experiences. “Life is meant to be lived and sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone,” he said. “That’s how you learn.”
VanBergeijk’s jump was prompted by an offer he made to VIP students, who learn academics, independent living, and social skills development in a three-year post-secondary program based in Central Islip. A fitness component of the program encourages them to walk 10,000 steps, or a little less than 5 miles, daily. Three weeks ago, about 40 students and faculty had used pedometers to tally a two-semester total of 37 million steps, but VanBergeijk wanted more. If they walked 40 million steps, he announced, he would accept a challenge from them. They eagerly took the offer, walked a total of 46 million steps, and promptly determined that VanBergeijk should jump from a plane.
As he drove to eastern Long Island for his first sky dive experience, VanBergeijk seemed calm and matter-of-fact about its relative safety compared to driving or skiing. He was more animated about encouraging his students to take perceived risks and develop life-long healthy habits.
“We’re trying to get our students to figure out a healthy lifestyle and to incorporate exercise daily,” he said. Noting the distance the students walked this year – estimated to be like walking from Central Islip due east to Hawaii – VanBergeijk was proud, but threw back the challenge. “Next year, they have to do it around the world.”
A video of VanBergeijk’s jump will be shown at the VIP Commencement on May 13. During the jump, performed in tandem with an instructor, he reached speeds of 120 miles per hour and even did some spins and zero gravity tricks with Connecticut, Fire Island, and Manhattan in sight.
“It was quite a rush,” he said, moments after he landed on his feet in the grass.
As for his own future adventures, VanBergeijk is hopeful for a return to sky diving.
“I have to talk my wife into it and then we’d both go,” he says. “I think she’d get a kick out of it.”
New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) offers undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees in more than 90 fields of study, including architecture and design; arts and sciences; education; engineering and computing sciences; health professions; management; and osteopathic medicine. A non-profit independent, private institution of higher education, NYIT has more than 15,000 students attending campuses on Long Island and Manhattan, online, and at its global campuses. NYIT sponsors 11 NCAA Division II programs and one Division I team.
Led by President Edward Guiliano
, NYIT is guided by its mission to provide career-oriented professional education, offer access to opportunity to all qualified students, and support applications-oriented research that benefits the larger world. To date, 85,000 graduates have received degrees from NYIT. For more information, visit nyit.edu