My father was fastidious about the written word and expected me to always critique my own writing, whether in Spanish or English. Before computer programs brought us instant spelling corrections and synonym and antonym assistance, I was expected to look at all my written work with a critical eye, support each hypothesis, and develop ideas methodically. He encouraged my interest in writing and helped me understand the power of a single word. I thank him for keeping my short stories and poems, my first attempts as a writer when I was twelve years old.
Storytelling and imagination came from my mother’s side. Neither my grandmother nor mother could ever simply answer a question about what had happened. Each inquiry was followed by vivid descriptions, the historical background to the situation, and included the virtues and follies of all the people involved, even before I heard a word relating to my original question. Each accounting served as well as a teaching opportunity about morality, good and evil, and the path not taken. I realize now that throughout my bicultural, bilingual childhood, I lived in a Cuban style Aesop’s Tales world.
All served me well, professionally and personally, and set me on the path to becoming a writer in a broad sense. I’ve used writing to entertain, intrigue, convince and extol, always striving to marry skill, purpose and imagination into the magic that is writing.
I look back on my thirty plus year career as a college professor with gratitude and joy. It afforded me untold opportunities to use writing to create innovative programs, to expand understanding and appreciation of world cultures and languages, and to support and improve opportunities for those on the fringes of higher education. It was an honor to serve as the Founding President of the statewide IL Latino Council on Higher Education and to be president for ten years. Equally important was my service as Chair of the IL Consortium for International Studies & Programs for five years during which I helped establish student and faculty programs in many parts of the world. Despite many awards and recognition, one of my most treasured moments at retirement was to be honored as Professor Emeritus, in part because it celebrated how writing has been integral to my successes.
I look forward to completing the prequel and sequel to my novel, Mango Rain, to complete a trilogy of the Cuban and Cuban American experience straddling two centuries. Also I am excited at the interest in Cápsulas Informativas Constitucionales which explains in Spanish our U.S. Founding Documents (from Constitutional Sound Bites, David Shestokas) to those wishing to participate fully in the American Dream.
And in each present moment, I believe that our best life happens when we go beyond our own needs to service-oriented community involvement that helps those less fortunate than ourselves. I continue, therefore, to use my writing in my work as a mentor and activist on many fronts where I live on Amelia Island, Florida.
More About Berta Isabel Arias, Ed.D.
Professor Emeritus, World Languages and International Education
Condensed Curriculum Vitae
Ed.D. in Leadership in Educational Policy - Northern IL University
A.B.D. (All But Dissertation) in Spanish - Northwestern University
M.A. in Spanish - University of IL, Champaign-Urbana
B.A. in Spanish & French - University of IL, Chicago Campus
2008 IL Community College Board of Trustees Association Award for Outstanding Faculty
1998 League of Innovations Award for Excellence in Teaching
1996 Illinois Lt. Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching of Foreign Languages
1986 Joliet Junior College President’s Grant for Expanding and Enhancing Foreign Languages
Amelia Tree Conservancy Board Member (2013 - present)
American Beach (Amelia Island, FL) POA Trustee (2020)
Amelia Island Museum of History Trustee (2017 - present)
President, Illinois Latino Council on Higher Education (ILACHE) (1992-2002)
Executive Chair Illinois Consortium for International Studies & Programs (2007-2011)