Bertha M. Diggs has walked in the same shoes as the students she empowers through her work in the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) at Montclair State.
Diggs was once an EOF student herself, and that experience has given her discipline, devotion and motivation to work among EOF students and faculty.
EOF provides students from urban environments and low-income households with the tools necessary for college success. Higher education is not a frequent opportunity for those from marginalized communities.
Being affiliated with EOF since 1968, Diggs was a member of the program’s first graduating class in 1972 at Glassboro State College, now known as Rowan University. She is the blueprint for a program that has created endless success stories throughout New Jersey.
Diggs earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary social studies with a teacher certification in 1972. She then worked as a graduate assistant, earning her master’s degree in student personnel services in 1973. After receiving her degrees, she began her career in higher education.
Diggs’ office is located in Webster Hall, room 109, sharing the floor with other EOF faculty including the program’s director, Dr. Daniel Jean, and its administrative assistant, Gladys Valentin.
Diggs works as the associate director of EOF, overseeing EOF counselors’ performance, major program adjustments and recruitment events.
Students who have been mentored by Diggs shared powerful stories on how she made an impact on their lives.
“Ms. Diggs has always seen the bigger picture in everything,” said ElHajjMalik DeLoach, a recent EOF graduate. “I was involved as a student leader, where she encouraged, pushed and challenged me because she knew what could come of it.”
DeLoach served as a student ambassador in the Human Relations and Leadership Development Association (HRLDA), where Diggs was the advisor. Since then, Deloach graduated with a bachelor’s degree in television production. He is currently working for Fox News as a trainee. HRLDA is a program that Diggs co-founded with Richard Wright to promote leadership, development and community outreach through volunteer service. Diggs encourages her students to give back to the campus and outside communities.
Throughout the years, Diggs has remained committed to protecting EOF’s reputation. Her determination stems from the need for the program to continue bridging the gap between higher education and marginalized communities.
Many members of the EOF staff and faculty share the same beliefs as Diggs. Additionally, some of the EOF counselors have been impacted by her tenacious work ethic.
“Ms. Diggs has played an integral role in my development and adjustment to Montclair by being more than just a supervisor to her counselors, but by being a one-woman support system that’s motherly in its approach—firm, but compassionate,” said Reggie Walker, an EOF counselor who has worked alongside Diggs since 2010.
As an advocate for education, Diggs continues to enrich her knowledge through seminars, workshops and conferences. She is a firm believer in the idea that “no one is ever too old to advance their education.”
As of September 2014, Diggs resumed working on her doctorate in education leadership at Walden University. With an anticipated graduation date of May 2018, she remains driven in promoting the importance of a college education to her students, often referring to them as her babies.
“I see the development of students through education as a lifelong process,” she said. “The Educational Opportunity Program affords the prospective candidate the opportunity to become active alumni. School is a timed process. Education is everlasting.”