From the President

Berea College has always been a place where deep commitments have been translated into vigorous action in the service of young women and men, black and white, primarily from the Appalachian region but also far beyond. Berea’s distinctive and multifaceted mission has always been firmly rooted in inclusive Christian values such as “the triumph of love over hate, human dignity and equality, and peace with justice.” Based on those founding principles, Berea College became the first interracial and coeducational college in the pre-Civil War South, and has consistently maintained a stance of progressive social and educational leadership in subsequent years.  

Berea’s primary mission is to serve students of “great promise and limited economic resources” by providing them with liberal arts and professional educations of the highest quality. Thus, all students receive a substantial cost-of-education scholarship so that no money from students or their families is required for tuition. Berea’s educational community is predicated on the notion that work of all kinds, mental and physical, provides opportunities for furthering a student’s education and personal development. Therefore, all students work in our campus-based Labor Program. Just as one of our institutional goals is to serve others, so too we seek to prepare our students to be “service-oriented leaders for Appalachia and beyond” (Being and Becoming: Berea College in the 21st Century, 2011, p. 34). Learning, labor, and service, then, are the three foundational pillars of Berea’s educational edifice. Berea’s motto, included in the original catalog from 1866 and still proclaimed today, is reflective of the Christian values that inspired our founding and determined our mission and identity, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth” (Acts 17:26).

Today Berea College depends on College Faculty to provide most of the formal instruction in the classroom, on other employees throughout the institution to provide learning opportunities for students in the Labor Program, and on yet other employees to guide the spiritual development of students and oversee the service and outreach components of the institution. This integrated and multifaceted understanding of our education program has been articulated in the form of four pairs of Common Learning Goals for all students and workers at the College. These are set forth in Being and Becoming and paraphrased as follows:

  1. Develop the critical intellectual ability to address complex problems from multiple perspectives and nurture moral growth with a commitment to service;
  2. Understand the relationship between humans and the natural world, and consider both the benefits and limitations of science and technology;
  3. Explore our own individual roots and our shared American culture, and know and respect cultures from around the world;
  4. Educate students, faculty, and staff to be creative, independent thinkers and encourage collaboration and teamwork in learning and working (Being and Becoming, p. v; see pp. 56-60 for a detailed discussion of each learning goal).

These four sets of learning goals represent an application of our eight Great Commitments within the context of our contemporary world.

By providing students with both academic learning and opportunities to apply the knowledge they gain, by encouraging students to work on applied projects outside the classroom, by supporting extra-disciplinary learning in areas like wellness and sustainability, and by relating classroom activities to the service and labor activities in which students are engaged, more and more Berea faculty members are bringing those other aspects of students’ lives and experiences into the reflective environment of the classroom. While the classroom does and must remain the primary domain of instruction in the traditional disciplines, ideally it is also open to students’ struggles with their faith, their personal development, and their searches for new ways of viewing their vocation or work in the future.

Finally, I urge you to see your work and yourself in the context of Berea as an academic community. I hope and expect that you will support your colleagues, faculty and staff alike, as we partner in providing a transformative educational experience for all our students. I hope equally that you will enjoy in return everything you learn and gain from your colleagues and the students, too. Our students, both now when they are on campus and later when they are in the world as Berea graduates, are also members of our learning community and they and we will benefit to the extent that they come to understand this. As the 9th President of Berea, I am so very happy to be part of an intentional community in this special place with you, my faculty colleagues, and all the other devoted Bereans.

Lyle D. Roelofs


August 2021