During his years at the helm, he has successfully pursued several priorities: raising the University’s profile; establishing Southern as Connecticut’s public university for social justice; expanding community outreach and partnerships, building strategic enrollment (through both recruitment and retention) and streamlining students’ paths to earning a degree. 

Initiatives include a major branding campaign that reintroduced the University to the region and beyond; the University’s first comprehensive enrollment management plan and the creation of a range of workforce needs-driven degree programs, including a palate of accelerated graduate offerings and the first Doctorate of Social Work program in New England. Additionally, the University has partnered with area community colleges to provide smoother entry into a four-year institution and initiated new community partnerships at multiple levels to establish Southern as a good neighbor.  Recently the New Haven Symphony Orchestra established residency at Southern, featuring on-campus concerts, classroom visits, hands-on learning experiences, and internships.  The Barack H. Obama Magnet University School opened on campus – the result of a signature academic partnership with the New Haven Public School System that will provide expansive experiential learning opportunities for Southern’s teachers-in-training. The University also entered into a multi-million dollar partnership with the Yale New Haven Health System that will see the School of Nursing double the number of its nursing majors by 2026, helping to address a critical nursing shortage in Connecticut heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Dr. Bertolino is an author, lecturer, and teacher, having presented hundreds of programs to tens of thousands of students at over 600 colleges and conferences nationwide. He has authored numerous articles and book chapters, and is the co-author of Let The Games Begin, A Guide For Peer Mentors (2012). His research interests include student immigration (with an emphasis on undocumented students/Dreamers), campus community engagement, campus social change, leadership development, and social justice. 

Dr. Bertolino has been recognized with numerous outstanding professional awards, most recently the 2022 ACE Council of Fellows/Fidelity Investments Mentor Award, bestowed annually to acknowledge the substantial role of mentors in the success of ACE Fellows Program participants.

He earned his doctorate in higher education administration and organizational leadership from Columbia University, Teachers College, a master’s in social work from Rutgers University, and a bachelor of science in psychology and sociology from the University of Scranton.

Dr. Bertolino lives with his partner of nearly 30 years, Bil Leipold, Ed.D., and their three dogs, Wanamassa (a 15 year old Shih Tzu), Willoughby (a 10 year old Llasa-Cocker Spaniel Mix) and Woodlock (a 5 year old Corgi). Together, Joe and Bil have 13 godchildren, two grandsons and a granddaughter.