Bonnie Bergin of Bergin University of Canine Studies wins Nonprofit Leadership Award
Describe your organization:
We are the world's only university accredited to provide Associate, Bachelor and Masters degrees in canine studies while placing high-quality assistance dogs trained through only positive methods. As we enter our 25th year, we continue to adapt and grow our educational and community programming. Since 1991, over 460 students have earned their degrees or participated in our summer seminar, and staff has placed over 220 assistance dogs with people with mobility challenges and veterans with combat-related injuries. We provide assistance dogs to people with physical disabilities at a low cost and to disabled veterans free of charge.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a local country girl with a lifelong passion for teaching and exploring the seemingly limitless potential of the human-canine partnership. I am inspired every day by our students and never tire of witnessing their passion in action as they train future assistance dogs on campus. Knowing that they will move on to continue our mission to fill the need for more trained service dogs is why I wake up every morning eager to come to work.
What is your role in the organization?
Founder and president
What achievement are you most proud of?
Originating the concept of the service dog and watching all of our students (human and canine) learn. My staff would also remind me to mention my involvement in writing the service dog language for the Americans with Disabilities Act and receiving the Use Your Life Award from Oprah Winfrey.
What is your biggest challenge today?
Finding the time to research and document all the amazing things we are learning about dogs every day.
What is the next major project either under way or on the horizon?
With our student population growing every year, it is my dream to move to a larger facility that can accommodate us into the future so we can help more people.
What product or service would/or is helping you do your job more effectively?
I would love it if there were more hours in the day. Barring that, our staff, faculty and volunteers are fabulous and help keep things running.
How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?
We know so much about the human-canine partnership through experience and look forward to scientific research catching up and proving it.
Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Steve Jobs; locally, Jim Keegan
Current reading: “We Have the Technology,” Kara Platoni; legal mysteries
Most want to meet: President and Michelle Obama
Stress relievers: Spending time with my dogs and horses.
Favorite hobbies: Dogs, reading, spending time with my husband of almost 50 years
Social media you most use: Who has the time?
Buzz word from your industry you hate the most: Operant conditioning
Typical day at the office: Every day is different, but almost every moment is spent working with our students, dogs and community partners.
Best place to work outside of the office: My home office
Words that best describe you: Relentlessly curious lifelong student.
Anything you want to add? Thank you to all the wonderful dog-loving people who have helped make all my dreams come true.