Introduction to the Labor Program

The Student Labor Program originated in its earliest form at Berea College in 1859 and expanded to become one of the College’s Great Commitments. The Labor Program provides economic, educational, social, personal, and spiritual benefits to students and those served by their work.

The Labor Program is designed to serve the following purposes:

  • Support the total educational program at Berea College through experiences providing the learning of skills, responsibility, habits, attitudes, and processes associated with work;
  • Provide and encourage opportunities for students to pay costs of board (meals), room, and related educational expenses;
  • Provide staff for College operations;
  • Provide opportunities for service to the community and others through labor;
  • Establish a lifestyle of doing and thinking, action and reflection, and serving and learning that carries on beyond the college years.

Designed to serve these multiple purposes, the program reflects a unified vision of labor as student and learning centered service to the College and broader community, and as necessary work well done. The administration of the program is the responsibility of the Dean of Labor.

Labor assignments function very much like classes. Beginning at entry levels of work, students are expected to progress to more skilled and responsible levels. Through these experiences it is expected that student workers will:

  • develop good work habits and attitudes;
  • gain an understanding of personal interests, skills, and limitations; and
  • exercise creativity, problem-solving, and responsibility. Students also may learn the qualities of leadership, standard setting, and effective supervision.

The Labor Program makes it possible for students to know each other as co-workers as well as classmates. More importantly, linking the Academic and Labor programs establishes a pattern of learning through work that continues long after college.