UNK’s online Sociology B.S. program moves Maria Bergner one step closer to changing the world

Posted: October 21, 2023 12:00:00 AM CDT


Two women smiling in front of photo backdrop.

“Live as if you will die tomorrow. Learn as if you will live forever.” - Mahatma Gandhi.

“It’s one of the quotes I live up to, and that's always been a mantra,” University of Nebraska at Kearney 2022 alumna Maria Bergner said. 
Bergner completed her Sociology B.S. degree online after experiencing a workplace injury that forced her to reconsider her long-time career in the medical field. She found a calling that incorporated her passion for the medical field and helping those in need. 
“If you want to make a difference in a person's life, you go with psychology. But if you want to make a change that would affect everyone in the world, you go with sociology,” she said. 
Originally from the Philippines, Bergner now considers North Platte, Nebraska home. Her many life experiences, love for learning, and being a self-proclaimed “nerd” have made her quotes, like Gandhi's, mantra worthy. 

“Sometimes you have to row your boat against the waves in order to get to where you want to go.” - Maria Bergner.

“No matter how much education you have and how many professors you meet in your life, there's no better teacher than experience,” Bergner said. 
Bergner has 16 years of experience working in the medical field. The positions she has held within the field ranged from midwife to surgery technician to medical missionary.  
“I started working in the hospital when I was 16,” she said. “In health care you see the beginning of life and the ending of life. When you encounter that, at a young age and have worked in that field for 16 years, it programs your mind to realize what is really important in life.” 
An unfortunate workplace injury caused Bergner to row her boat in a new direction. 
“I'll just go back to school and get a different career,” said Bergner after her medical team encouraged her to make a career change that would be less physically demanding. 

Woman with certificate standing between two professors.

“The best revenge is to do it stealthily. Let your success do the talking.” - Maria Bergner.

“People who pull you down are the people who want you to remain below them,” Bergner said. “Try to move up and it angers their demons because now they can never look down on you. Your real friends and your real family are the ones who know your worth.” 
Bergner’s father knew his daughter’s worth and made her promise to graduate summa cum laude at UNK.  
“So, I did,” she said nonchalantly. 
However, not everyone in Bergner’s life was supportive about her decision to return to school. She didn’t allow their criticism to shatter her dreams, instead she used it as ammunition to conquer them.  
“The more they say I can't, I do. Then take pictures and post them on social media. Let them eat their heart out. Never let anyone limit you from what you can achieve,” she said. 
Some of the pictures she was able to post include being active in UNK’s Undergraduate Research Fellows, accepting multiple invitations into honor societies, being awarded the 2022 research paper of the year at the Nebraska Undergraduate Sociological Symposium, and receiving UNK’s outstanding sociology senior award. 
“When you're a nerd, you like learning,” Bergner said. “For other people, it's work but for me, it's something that brings me joy. I'm just after the experience and to learn from it, the awards that I got are just icing on the cake.” 

“It can be done.” - Maria Bergner.

“You can get an education online and have extracurriculars at the same time. You can graduate at the top of your class. You can graduate summa cum laude. It's not impossible,” Bergner said. 
Bergner believes nothing is impossible with a whole lot of effort and "the very best professors.” 
“The professors in the sociology department will help you learn a lot and achieve a lot,” she said. “They will help bring out the best in you. But of course, you have put in the work and not expect them to do everything for you.” 
Bergner also credits UNK for providing a plethora of resources for online students.  
“I highly encourage students to really tap into all the resources that the university gives you,” she said. “You have libraries, you have professors, you have Zoom, there's lots of tools that UNK gives for a student to be successful.”

Woman holding cap at a graduation reception.

“Always aim for excellence, not perfection.” - Maria Bergner.

Bergner always aims high, and she has no plans to change that this fall when she begins her online master’s program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. She will study Public Health with two concentrations, Administration and Policy, and Maternal and Child Health. 
Bergner hopes to utilize her UNK sociology degree, her upcoming master’s degree, and her medical and missionary experience to become an international medical missionary. 
“There's a big need all over,” she said. “It's always been in me to help and give back. I have lots of experience working in the missionary field, and I want to help on a much larger capacity.” 
She believes her education will allow her to do just that. 
“When you don't have the degree or the educational backing, you can only help so much,” she said. “That's the reason why I decided to go back and get this degree so that when I go back in the field, I'll be able to help in a better capacity because I'm not satisfied with what I can do.” 

By: Heidi Knake

Category: Natural and Social Sciences, General, UNK Online

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