Herbert Berg holding a glass globe in his hands

February 19, 2019

Herb Berg was hesitant when he was first asked to launch UNCW’s international studies program. He’d just stepped down from a five-year term as director of Graduate Liberal Studies and wasn’t sure he wanted another role with administrative duties. Besides, his specialty was philosophy and religion.

Then he realized he’d spent his whole life preparing for the opportunity he was being offered.

“I am a descendant of four or five generations of immigrants,” said Berg, who has taught at UNCW since 1997. “My first language is a dialect of German. I was born in Brazil, raised in Canada and am now a citizen of the United States. I studied traditions, language, history and culture of a people with whom I had no personal connection.”

Berg stepped down as director of international studies – which became an autonomous, interdisciplinary department in July 2018 – and has contemplated retirement. But he is teaching two courses this semester, including an online class, and is supervising four Directed Individual Studies and an honors thesis.

After pursuing an undergraduate degree in math and computer science at the University of Waterloo in Canada, Berg realized his passion was exploring the traditions and beliefs of people around the world. His expertise is religious studies, with a special emphasis on Islam, but international studies gives him the freedom to teach courses in diverse fields like global health and the history of global capitalism.

“UNCW and international studies allowed me to become the person I was meant to be,” he said. “If that doesn't lead to job fulfillment, nothing will.”

Berg’s teaching and research skills are well-known among his colleagues. During his career at UNCW, he has earned numerous honors, including the Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award; the Governor’s Award for Excellence for Outstanding State Government Service; and the Board of Trustees Teaching Excellence Award.

The day before his first classes were set to begin this semester, he spent time memorizing the names and faces of the students in his online courses, just as he does when he teaches in the classroom.

“I learn each student's name and hopefully something meaningful about them,” Berg said. “I think most of my colleagues do, too. Because of our guidance and the unique combination of teaching and research, we help make most of our students not only employable, but also better human beings. I have always believed this is UNCW's niche, its strength and its source of excellence.”

-- Tricia Vance