Smeal Alumni in Profile: Management alumna founds nonprofit organization

A 2006 Penn State Smeal College of Business alumna, Bernice Innocent, is using her skills in leadership and talent development not only in her senior human resources position at Lockheed Martin, but also as the founder and CEO of nonprofit organization, the Berrette Family Foundation, Inc.

Innocent graduated from Smeal with a bachelor’s degree in management and a concentration in human resources. After joining Lockheed Martin’s Leadership Development Program, she went on to earn her MBA from the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School in 2010.

Along the way, she founded the Berrette Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization with the mission of assisting first-generation high school students in achieving their potential through personal branding and college preparation.

“You can have someone else speak on your behalf,” said Innocent, “but you can do a better job of it. We teach our students to stand up tall and represent themselves.”

As a first-generation Haitian-American and the first person in her family to graduate high school and college, Innocent knows first-hand the struggle to be aware and take advantage of opportunities for educational advancement.

“Though I was afforded a lot of opportunities, I saw a lot of my family members struggle,” said Innocent. “Just being aware of opportunities in general is a struggle. A lot of parents don’t understand the FAFSA [Free Application for Federal Student Aid], or even what students need to do to promote themselves.”

One of the foundation’s main activities is working with high school students on personal branding. The foundation holds workshops to teach students how to get involved in the community and how to build their resumes to showcase and differentiate themselves.

“You can have someone else speak on your behalf,” said Innocent, “but you can do a better job of it. We teach our students to stand up tall and represent themselves.”

Innocent has a history of leadership cultivated at Penn State. As an undergraduate, she co-founded Club Kreyol, an organization dedicated to Haitian awareness, and served as the president of the Student Minority Advisory and Recruitment Team (SMART). Her experience as a successful first-generation college graduate as well as her Smeal education inform her work with high school students born of immigrant parents.

“My success is their motivation,” said Innocent. “I’ve lived through what they’re going through.”

Last year, Innocent won the Smeal Alumni Diversity Award, which honors alumni who have demonstrated a commitment to Smeal’s goal of being a diverse and mutually supportive community. The Berrette Family Foundation partners with the Smeal College of Business and works to connect high school students with Smeal’s Business Opportunities Summer Session (BOSS) Program. BOSS is a two-week program through Diversity Enhancement Programs for high school students interested in pursuing business education in college.

Learn more about the Berrette Family Foundation at www.berrettefamily.org.

Smeal Alumni in Profile
A Penn State Smeal College of Business degree prepares students for a vast array of career opportunities. Catch up with recent graduates of Smeal via our regular Alumni in Profile feature, which details the unique paths alumni take as they embark on their professional lives.

The Smeal alumni network is more than 73,000 members strong. They're doing impactful work in diverse fields all over the globe, and many of them are also involved in giving back to the Smeal College of Business. Previously profiled alumni include:

  • Shubha Janardhan (MS&IS '04): A management science and information systems graduate initiates a new service in her family company focused on mom and baby wellness.
  • Ally Greer (Mktg '12): A marketing graduate turns community manager with West Coast tech start-up Scoop.it, a content curation platform based in San Francisco.
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Last Updated September 10, 2013