Bergen is a fifth generation Kansan, whose undergraduate degree in history and political science and master's in journalism are from Kansas State University. She was a journalist in Kansas and Indiana prior to earning a Ph.D. from Indiana University. She has also served as associate director of the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Kansas State University, and was a faculty member at both Southwest Texas State University and Wichita State University.
Since arriving at Marquette, Dean Bergen has led the Diederich College through a successful reaccreditation by the Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, and a strategic plan process that led to both organizational and curricular changes in the college. Her focus on diversity and digital technology, coupled with a strong emphasis in developing programs that are distinctive and mission driven, has resulted in new initiatives with high impact for student learning. These include the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, the Diederich Ideas Series, now broadcast on Milwaukee Public Television, and establishment of the only National Association of Black Journalists student chapter in Wisconsin.
Bergen completed the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities Ignatian Colleagues Program, was a representative of the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication on the Accrediting Council, and is a member of many professional organizations, including the Online News Association, the Broadcast Education Association, the International Communication Association, the American Society of News Editors, the National Communication Association, and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
Bergen has received fellowships and grants from the Poynter Institute, the American Society of News Editors, Kaiser Family Health Foundation, Menninger Foundation, National Association of Broadcasters and Radio TV News Directors Foundation. Her research on the interaction of auditory and visual working memory as a way to understand how visual clutter affects memory for news story facts was featured on the Discovery Channel and in The New York Times. Bergen co-authored Media Violence and Aggression: Science and Ideology, a book on children and media violence published in 2008. Her research appears in Newspaper Research Journal, Journal of Health Communication, Human Communication Research, Journal of Advertising and Mass Communication & Society.