Building a Successful Future
As a child in New York City, Bersibeth Pfel would go with her father, a handyman, on job sites to help him with small building projects. When he started teaching her about architectural plans, that’s when she knew that she wanted to pursue a career in architecture.
At the age of 11, her family moved to Orlando, Fla. As a high school student there, she joined the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC). “The camaraderie and military influences helped shape me as a youth,” she says. She would ultimately join the United States Marine Corps. “My family always supports me in all my endeavors,” she says. “My mother, a school bus driver, and my father instilled in me to always chase my dreams.”
In addition to her studies, Pfel is the assistant web developer for Ready for Takeoff, a community partnership between New York Tech, JetBlue, and The Viscardi Center, a network of non-profit organizations that provides a lifespan of services that educate, employ, and empower people with disabilities. “My tasks include sharing ongoing updates, events, and an insider’s look at this project, which aims to bring awareness to people with disabilities and their personal experience with flying on a commercial plane.”
She sat down with The Box to talk about her transition from the military to college life and her advice to incoming students.
Why did you choose New York Institute of Technology?
I decided to attend New York Tech because of the exceptional architectural program offered here.
What excites you most about architecture?
The ability to bring a thought into existence. It amazes me how I am inspired through everyday life experiences and how I am able to share those inspirations with others.
You were a sergeant in the United States Marine Corps—thank you for your service! Can you tell us about your transition going back to school?
My transition was not unlike many other veterans, and I faced some hardships during the process. I relocated from Twentynine Palms, Calif., to New York. Relocating is always difficult, but when you add in the uncertainty of starting something new with a young child, that difficulty increases exponentially. I am the proud mom to a four-year-old son. I was very fortunate to have the support of my family.
What were the challenges you faced?
Some of the challenges I faced are common for veterans, such as learning how to utilize and navigate the education benefit afforded to me. However, once I understood the process, other challenges arose, such as the feeling of being out of place and establishing meaningful relationships with my peers. It is difficult to relate to people when your life experience is so different from theirs.
In what ways did your service equip you?
The Marine Corps instilled in me discipline, which has taught me how to adapt and overcome obstacles. I believe these attributes have and will continue to assist me in all my future endeavors.
You are very active on campus. Can you talk about some of the things you are involved in?
I am the administrative assistant to the director of Military and Veteran Affairs at New York Tech as well as a mentor in the Veteran Transition Mentor program, where I help guide all current and incoming student veterans. I also assist with recruitment by visiting local schools and sharing my experiences with potential students. Also, with a recommendation from one of my professors, I obtained an internship at an architectural firm. I assist with architectural drawings, interior design, and consultations. I also serve as the vice president for the Student Veteran Organization at New York Tech.
What do you like to do when you’re not in the classroom?
Maybe it is the Marine in me, but I am hyper-competitive, especially when it comes to physical activities. I recently competed in a Terrain Race in Wurtsboro, N.Y., and I plan on participating in next year’s Spartan Race.
What advice would you have for first-year students at New York Tech?
Do not procrastinate with your work and network with everyone. You never know what opportunity may arise.