North Central College - Naperville, IL

Alumnus Highlight: Peter Berg '00

Peter Berg ’00 came to a crossroad in his life that would’ve defeated many people and decided instead to better himself with a degree from North Central College. Now coordinator of technical assistance and employer outreach for the Disability Business Technical Assistance Center housed at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Berg is an expert on architectural accessibility, the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and employer accommodations. At the federally funded center, Berg answers questions from people in the Great Lakes region. Of 600 to 700 monthly calls, employment is the most frequent topic on the toll-free hotline.

“Sixteen years after the ADA went into effect, there are still so many issues out there,” says Berg.

While Berg is now a recognized expert, he never imagined this outcome when he attended St. Norbert College in the late 1980s, left school and embarked on a career at Dominick’s. “I worked my way up from bagger to a customer service manager,” says Berg, a native of Elmhurst, IL.

But his life took an unexpected turn when he lost his vision due to diabetes. “I had no concept of what someone who’s blind does for work,” he says. “I chose to treat it as a new opportunity to do things I wouldn’t have otherwise done.”

Berg attended an intensive 16-week program at the Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education in Chicago, where he learned travel, communication and independent living skills. He remembers the instructor who said he’d only be limited by his ability and imagination. That was the motivation he needed to finish his bachelor’s degree, and he applied to College of DuPage in fall 1997. He transferred to North Central in 1998 and two years later, graduated with a history major.

“Dr. Barbara Sciacchitano inspired me,” Berg says. “She got me interested in Russian studies, which prompted me to apply for a Richter fellowship. I spent two weeks in Russia in 1999.”

He also credits help from Laurie Hamen, vice president for enrollment management, athletics and student affairs, and the Office of Academic Support Services with providing the tools he needed to complete his degree. “I realized that without losing my sight, I probably wouldn’t have a bachelor’s degree,” he adds.

After graduation, he heard about the position with the assistance center and realized he’d found his niche. His expertise was derived from on-the-job study and he continues to follow court interpretation of ADA regulations. Berg frequently attends and presents at conferences, traveling to Washington, D.C., Nevada and Florida.

Today Berg lives in Naperville and especially enjoys time with his children, ages 14 and 10. He may be reached at pberg@uic.edu.

North Central NOW Fall 2008

01/09/2008