Accent Stories

Raquel Bermejo


Class of 1999

For high school seniors navigating the path to college, the journey is not always straightforward.

Raquel Bermejo ’99, leveraging her pivotal role at Ruffalo Noel Levitz (RNL), zeroes in on a critical issue: the disconnect between what students and their families need to know about college planning and the information available to them.

“Our goal,” she says, “is to bridge the gap between students’ expectations and the actual college planning process.”

Decades into a career that includes a great deal of time spent in classrooms–as both the learner and the teacher–Raquel’s passion for making a difference in education existed before she enrolled at Ashland University for her second graduate degree. But it was her experiences here that activated her calling, giving it the strength and direction she now applies to helping students and educators alike find their own transformative paths forward.

At RNL, Raquel conducts in-depth research to understand high school students and their parents’ concerns and questions regarding college. By surveying thousands nationwide, she and her team streamline the college planning process, making it less daunting and more accessible.

“In talking with many higher ed administrators,” she says, “the assumption is that all high school seniors are excited about going to college. But that’s not always the case. There’s a lot of fear–a lot of anxiety–around such a big life change. By understanding their concerns, we can tailor our advice and resources to meet their needs more effectively.”

Raquel’s commitment to education is deeply rooted in her upbringing. Born in Spain to parents who, despite not having college degrees themselves, were staunch believers in the power of education, Raquel was destined to follow a path of learning and teaching.

“Everyone deserves the support they need to find their path to success,” she says. Despite being the last of five children in the family, ensuring she could go to college and continue her education was a priority for her parents.

Her family background instilled in her the value of education and the power it holds to change lives, as well as her belief in its role as a catalyst for change. All this and more helped shape her educational journey at the University of Salamanca, where she earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees in linguistics—all on her way to what she hoped would be a career in which she could make a meaningful impact on others’ lives.

Raquel was teaching Spanish in Coventry, Ohio when she began looking for a certification program. While it might not have been apparent at the time, her choice to enroll at Ashland would be a transformative one.

Ashland University was more than just an educational institution for Raquel; it was where she found her calling. The personalized attention and mentorship from faculty like Dr. David Kommer and Dr. Carl Walley shaped her academic and professional trajectory, eventually leading her to pursue her Doctorate in Education from the University of Sarasota–in Florida, where she still resides–and carve out a niche in educational research.

“Ashland taught me the importance of looking beyond the surface to see potential in every student,” she says. “I didn’t expect it at the graduate level, but the quality was very personal and it was incredible how intensely involved the faculty were in my success.”

One of the defining moments of this time, she says, was realizing her true strengths. “My professors at Ashland helped me see what my next steps should be,” she says. “it’s incredible: sometimes people see you better than you see yourself.”

Raquel’s philanthropic commitment to Ashland University comes from a place close to her heart. “I started attending alumni events in Florida six or seven years ago,” she says. When her daughter began her own college search, Raquel brought her along. “At one point, she asked me about the fundraising element of the events and I told her how donations help keep universities running smoothly and ensure students can get a great education.”

Her daughter thought about this momentarily, then issued a challenge that still resonates with Raquel years later. She said:  “If this is so important, are you going to give?”

Raquel didn’t just donate; she started a trend of giving more each year. “I hope I passed on to her the value of giving back, maybe sparking a desire in her to continue the tradition with her future alma mater.”

For Raquel, supporting Ashland is driven by her gratitude for the doors the institution opened for her. Her yearly donations are her way of paying it forward, ensuring future students and teachers get their chance to shine, just like she did.

She puts it simply: “Supporting Ashland is my way of making sure others get the chances I did.”

Raquel’s story is a powerful reminder of the impact one individual can have in the world of education. Through her work at RNL and her commitment to giving back to Ashland, she embodies the values of dedication, resilience and generosity. Her efforts not only help demystify the college planning process for students and families nationwide but also pay homage to the institution that shaped her own path. Raquel’s story illustrates how education transforms lives—a message that resonates with all who are part of the Ashland University community.

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