Rankings and Faculty Recognition

A chemistry class in the Margaret A. Cargill Natural Sciences and Health Building
Berea College students learn in classrooms with faculty from prestigious graduate programs across the nation and the world. The student-to-faculty ratio is 10:1.

Major media outlets say great things about Berea College. Top national and international evaluators of higher education consistently rank Berea College number one for academic quality, affordability, sustainability, diversity, low debt and a host of other things that actually matter to you. But don’t just take our word for it. See for yourself what the experts have to say about Berea College.

Rankings by Year

The Princeton Review says: Berea College is one of the nation’s “best institutions for undergraduates to earn their college degree.” in its latest book, The Best 387 Colleges: 2022 Edition.

Berea College, nationally recognized for its high-quality education and its distinctive labor program, which hires every admitted student to help operate the school, has again been named one of the nation’s top colleges in The Princeton Review’sbook, The Best 387 Colleges: 2022 Edition.”  Berea also appeared on four other lists within the publication:

  • Best Colleges in the Southeast
  • Best Value Colleges
  • Best Green Colleges
  • Tuition Free Schools

Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education says Berea is a “Best Value College”

Berea College is ranked No. 148 – the highest-ranked Kentucky college – in The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education (THE) 2022 College Rankings. Berea also ranked No. 3 on the publication’s list of “Best Value Colleges” in the nation. Only two schools ranked in the top 10 for best value are private universities – Berea and Stanford. The rankings measure the best value among the top 250 schools by dividing each institution’s overall score by its net price.

Washington Monthly says: Berea College ranks No. 13 among the nation’s liberal arts colleges

Berea College earned the No. 13 spot in the overall ranking of liberal arts colleges in the Washington Monthly 2021 College Guide and Rankings. The College also earned the top spot for “Best Bang for the Buck College in the South. Washington Monthly author Robert Kelchen recognizes Berea College for maintaining “consistently high rankings thanks to their economic diversity, relatively strong graduation rates and commitment to meeting students’ financial need.”

Forbes says: Berea College is one of the Colleges that “gives you the biggest bang for your buck in 2021.”

Berea was named as one of only two free tuition colleges in the nation in Forbes“Colleges that Give You the Biggest Bang for Your Buck in 2021.” Citing a study of nearly 400 colleges in the United States, Berea College stood out in terms of affordability and academic quality.

The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education says: “No. 1 Best Value”

For the third consecutive year, The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education (WSJ/THE) put Berea College at the top of the list of “Best Value Colleges” out of 250 schools in the nation. Berea’s no-tuition model contributed to this No. 1 best-value ranking. Plus, the College ranked No. 144 overall among more than 800 institutions (tops among schools in Kentucky), climbing from 155 last year.

Washington Monthly says:  At No. 3, Berea College maintains “consistently high rankings.”

Berea was named the nation’s No. 3 top liberal arts college in the 2020 Washington Monthly College Rankings guide. No other college in Kentucky was in the top 50. Such recognition comes from Berea’s success in educating and graduating academically talented, low-income students who become service-oriented leaders in their professions and communities.

Washington Monthly says: “No. 1 Best Bang for the Buck”

Washington Monthly again ranked Berea College No. 1 “Best Bang for the Buck” among colleges in the South. Washington Monthly lauded Berea for maintaining “consistently high rankings thanks to [Berea’s] economic diversity . . . strong graduation rates and commitment to meeting students’ financial need.”

The Princeton Review says: “one of the nation’s best institutions for undergraduates to earn their college degree.”

The Princeton Review cited Berea College as “one of the nation’s best institutions for undergraduates to earn their college degree.” Only 14 percent of America’s 2,800 four-year colleges were profiled by the Princeton Review in The Best 386 Colleges: 2021 edition of the annual college guide. The publication has also recognized Berea as:

  • Best Value College, based on academic rigor, affordability and graduates’ career outcomes
  • Best Green College
  • Tuition-Free Schools

The Princeton Review says: “Berea College is one of the nation’s most environmentally responsible colleges”

The guide, which profiles 416 colleges, is a resource college applicants can use to identify schools with exemplary commitments to the environment and sustainability. In addition to its annual Guide to Green Colleges, The Princeton Review is known for its dozens of categories of annual college rankings and books, including The Best 386 CollegesThe Best Value CollegesBest Southeastern and Tuition-Free Schools, all of which feature Berea College.

U.S. Department of State says: “Berea is Top Producer for Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program”

Berea College was named the top U.S. college with the most undergraduates to earn a Gilman International Scholarship during 2018-2019, with 21. The recognition is for colleges with enrollments under 5,000. Berea also was recognized in other categories, including:

  • Top producers for first-generation students
  • Top producer for most diverse destinations for studying abroad

The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education says: “No. 1 Best Value”

Berea College tops the list of “Best Value Colleges” according to The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education (WSJ/THE) in its 2020 College Rankings. Berea’s Tuition Promise Scholarship contributed to this top “best-value” ranking. The College ranked No. 155 overall among more than 800 institutions.

The Princeton Review says: Berea is one of the nation’s most environmentally responsible colleges”

The Princeton Review again included Berea College in The Best 385 Colleges: 2020 Edition. The Princeton Review’s Guide to Green Colleges also said, “Berea College is a model for sustainability in higher education for the Appalachian region and beyond.”

Nursing Explorer says: Berea College has “the best-value RN program” in Kentucky

Berea College is ranked by Nursing Explorer as the best-value RN program, taking the No. 1 spot out of 39 programs ranked in Kentucky.

U.S. Department of State says: “Berea is Top Producer for Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program”

The U.S. Department of State recognized Berea College as one of the U.S. higher education institutions that sent the most students to study abroad through the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program in the previous academic year. Berea was noted for its success in making international study and internships more accessible and inclusive for American students of all backgrounds through the Gilman program.

Berea College was cited for success in seven categories:

  • Top Producer: Small Colleges and Universities (less than 5,000 undergrads)
  • Top Producer: First-Generation College Students
  • Top Producer: Most Unique Destinations
  • Top Producer: Students with Disabilities
  • Top Producer: Racial and Ethnic Minority Students
  • Greatest Growth: First-Generation College Students
  • Greatest Growth: Students with Disabilities

The Princeton Review says: Berea is “Best Bang for Your Buck”

Berea was named in The Princeton Review’s book, Colleges That Pay You Back: The 200 Schools That Give You the Best Bang for Your Tuition Buck. Only 7 percent of the nation’s four-year colleges earn inclusion in this publication.

OnStage says: “Berea’s Theatre Department in top 25 Bachelor programs in America.”

OnStage Blog, a media site that covers theatre on an international level, ranked Berea College’s Theatre Department in the top 25 Bachelor of Arts programs in America. A major highlight was Berea’s “First Theatre in Human Culture” course, which studies the first theatres and extant play scripts of selected human cultures representing Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe.

The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education says: “No. 1 Best Value”

The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education (WSJ/THE) ranked Berea College No. 1 on the list of “Best Value Colleges.”

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance says: Berea, at No. 1, is “Best College Value” for “Least Graduate Debt”

Berea College was named as the No. 1 College with Lowest Average Graduating Debt by Kiplinger Personal Finance. The publication also ranked Berea among the top 50 of Liberal Arts Colleges (#49) in the U.S. and in the top 100 of all colleges and universities ( No. 95) in its list of the 300 Best College Values for 2018.

Washington Monthly says: Berea is “Nation’s top liberal arts college” and “Best Bang for the Buck College in the South”

For the third consecutive year, Washington Monthly ranked Berea College No. 1 in two major classifications, citing Berea as the nation’s No. 1 liberal arts college and ranking Berea the No. 1 Best Bang for the Buck College in the South.

INSIGHT into Diversity says: Berea is one of 96 institutions to receive its Higher Education Excellence in Diversity or HEED Award.

The HEED Award is the only national honor recognizing U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion across campus.


Dr. Jarrod Brown, assistant professor of Philosophy, will complete a four-year grant from NASA’s South and Southeast Asia Research Initiative in 2022. A first for Berea College, the grant “Land-Cover/Land-Use Change in Southern Vietnam through the Lenses of Conflict, Religion, and Politics, 1980s to Present” investigates the influence of Vietnamese Buddhism on environmental ethics and attitudes, and their impacts on land-use change. The grant included funding for an undergraduate research assistant. Dr. Brown conducted two summers of fieldwork in Vietnam, including leading a team of faculty from the University of Maryland and Miami University in 2019, and will complete a final year of fieldwork in Summer 2022. Additionally, he has received the Freeman Foundation Faculty-Student Fellowship grant from AsiaNetwork to take four undergraduates to Vietnam in summer 2023 for research on sacred geography and environmental change.

Dr. Kennaria Brown, associate professor of Communication, was awarded the Anne Ray Charitable Trust (ARCT) Faculty Fellowship in support of her sabbatical partnership with Madison Southern High School (MSHS) in Berea as MSHS endeavors to become a more inclusive and equitable learning environment. The partnership with Madison Southern has led to relationships with the Mercer County and Montgomery County school districts in Kentucky as they respond to the current racial climate and assess their roles in bridging differences in their communities.

Madison County Historical Society recognized Dr. Jacqueline Grisby Burnside ‘74 for her contributions to Madison County history through her book “Berea and Madison County, Kentucky” (part of the Blacks in America Series). The organization also honored the College’s Special Collections and Archives department for its significant contributions and long-standing efforts to collect, maintain and share its vision of “oneness” of the Southern Appalachian Region, especially Berea College and the City of Berea.

Dr. Patrick Dillon, assistant professor of Gerontology, and a team of collaborators received the National Academies of  Medicine Healthy Longevity Catalyst Award, ($69,588; 12 months) in fall 2021 for their proposal, “Enhancing Cognitive Reserve in the Community: Exploring the Effects of Sensory Environment and Playfulness on Depression and Cognition.”

The essay “Francesco di Valdambrino’s Wood Sculpture at the High Altar of Siena Cathedral” by Dr. Ashley Elston, associate professor of Art History, was included in the edited volume of The Art of Sculpture in Fifteenth-Century Italy, which was named one of Choice Reviews Outstanding Academic Titles for 2020 (Fine Arts).

Dr. Nicholas D. Hartlep, associate professor of Education Studies and chair of the Education Studies department, was elected to the board of directors for the Society of Professors of Education (SPE). The SPE is an interdisciplinary professional and academic association that provides a forum for consideration of major issues, tasks, problems, and challenges confronting professional educators. He was named a 2022 “Asian Leader Worth Watching” by Profiles in Diversity Journal. Additionally, Dr. Hartlep recently published the book “Student Loan Debt as a Wicked Program: Moving from Pessimism to Possibility and Hell to Hope” and co-authored the article “Charting your path to endowed or distinguished: A guide for mid-career faculty members.”

Dr. Scott Heggen, associate professor of Computer Science, received a 2021 Appalachian Colleges Association Faculty Fellowship. Dr. Heggen used the fellowship to begin creating open-source software designed to support the members of the Work Colleges Consortium, building from the software he has created for Berea College’s Labor Program.

Dr. Dee Hill-Zuganelli, assistant professor of Family Studies, received the 2021 Cognella Innovation in Teaching Award for Family Science. His entry, “Supporting LGBTQPIA+ Education, Safety, and Dialog in and out of the Classroom,” explained how he leveraged remote teaching technology and online communication platforms to help students evaluate safety and sense of belonging among LGBTQPIA+ minoritized students. Dr. Hill-Zuganelli also had a collaborative article titled “If Lil’ Wayne Can Say it, Why Can’t I?’: White Male Undergraduates Using the N-word” published in The Journal of Higher Education.

Silas House, professor and National Endowment for the Humanities Chair of Appalachian Studies, was awarded a Duggins Prize for Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist. The award, given annually by Lambda Literary to two novelists, is the largest prize given to an LGBTQ writer in the United States. House has gained a reputation as one of the most visible LGBTQ people in the South, particularly in Appalachia and Kentucky, and this award focuses on his work about LGBTQ rural people.

Additionally, House received the 2020 Artist Award from Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear as part of the annual Governor’s Award in the Arts. The Commonwealth’s most prestigious arts award honors Kentucky individuals, businesses and organizations that make significant contributions to the arts in the state.

Dr. Monica Kennison, and Registered Nurse and chairperson of the Nursing department, made four presentations in 2021 and 2022. She delivered three of her four presentations at Creating Healthy Work Environments events hosted by the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing in February 2021 and March 2022. Topics covered included workplace bullying; self-care in the midst of a pandemic; and journaling and mindfulness for post-traumatic growth.

After receiving her certification in Crucial Conversations from Crucial Learning Inc. in 2021, Dr. Kennison gave three “Crucial conversations” presentations to Berea College human resources staff, Nursing faculty and staff, and senior Nursing students in 2022.

Dr. Kennison’s joint publication credits in 2021 and 2022 include a Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) course titled “Rural and Island Healthcare” for the Institute for Innovative Global Education (IIGE) for Kansai University in Japan, and a piece titled “Transformative Learning in an International Immersion Experience for Nursing and Other Undergraduates” for Nursing Education Perspectives, an online publication.

Dr. Carol Kirby, associate professor of Nursing, obtained national certification as a Certified Simulation Healthcare Educator (CHSE) by the Society of Simulation in Healthcare. Dr. Kirby currently serves as the Nurse Manager for the Nursing Department Simulation Center.

Dr. Cindy McGaha, professor of child development and director of the Child Development Laboratory, collaborated with other scholars in early childhood development to publish the article “Reflecting on the Fish Tank: Using the Project Approach to Make Connections in Teaching Young Children.

Dr. Lauren McKee, associate professor of Political Science and Asian Studies, was selected by the Mansfield Foundation and the Japan Foundation’s Center for Global Partnerships for a two-year U.S.-Japan Network for the Future fellowship. During the first year of the fellowship in 2022-23, Dr. McKee will travel frequently to Washington, D.C., Tokyo, and the Mansfield Foundation headquarters in Montana as she studies common policy issues in the U.S.-Japan relationship. The second year of the fellowship will involve intensive writing, governmental policy recommendation, and public outreach on the same topic.

Dr. Troy Messina, associate professor of Physics, was awarded an Appalachian College Association Faculty Fellowship for Fall 2021 and granted user access to Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) during 2021-22. The fellowship supports a full-year sabbatical during 2021-22, with research taking place in the department of chemistry at the University of Kentucky and at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at Oak Ridge National Labs. His research focused on photophysical characterization of nanoscale devices for use in biomedical experiments. The collaboration brought together three Appalachian institutions (Berea College, University of Kentucky, and ORNL) that will continue once sabbatical is complete as Berea students develop a new microscope technique for use at the University of Kentucky.

Additionally, Messina’s article titled “Searching for Magnetic High Entropy Alloy Treasure in CoCrxFeNiQy” was accepted to the journal Intermetallics for publication in 2022. Berea College alumni Valéria Rosa Rocha and John-Paul Cesare performed the research as part of Berea’s Undergraduate Research and Creative Projects Program (URCPP) and co-authored the paper.

Dr. Ian Norris, professor of Marketing, served as an American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow at the University of Louisville for the 2021-22 academic year, working with President Neeli Bendapudi and Provost Lori Gonzalez (who served as an ACE fellow at Berea College in 2002). In addition to being published in leading business journals, Dr. Norris collaborated with Dr. Nancy Sowers, professor of Finance, to publish “Invest in Your Financial Literacy: A Guide to Financial Decision-Making” – a textbook for the financial literacy program they developed for Berea College.

Dr. Mireille Pardon, assistant professor of History, was awarded the 2022–23 Mellon Junior Faculty Fellowship in Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame’s Medieval Institute. This prestigious

research-in-residence fellowship is for junior faculty working on a book related to the Middle Ages. Only one applicant is selected each year for the fellowship.

Dr. Jan Pearce, professor of Computer Science and chair of the Computer Science and Information Science department, was selected by the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board to receive the Fulbright award to Ghana for the 2022-23 academic year. She will use the award to teach classes, engage in research, and lead workshops.

The essay “Honor the Power Within: Daoist Wizards, Popular Culture, and Contemporary Japan’s Spiritual Crisis,” by Dr. Jeff Richey, professor of Asian Studies, appeared in Ken Koltun-Fromm and Assaf Gamzou, eds., Comics and Sacred Texts: Reimagining Religion and Graphic Narratives, which won the Popular Culture Association’s Ray and Pat Browne Award for Best Edited Collection in 2019. Dr. Richey has published four books, including Confucius in East Asia: Confucianism’s History in China, Korea, Japan, and Viet Nam (Ann Arbor, MI: Association for Asian Studies, 2013). The second, revised edition will be released in 2022.

Dr. Maggie Robillard, associate professor of Education Studies, received a MACP grant for her work with trauma-informed pedagogical strategies. The purpose of the research is to determine how students experience stress; analyze how writing influences the perception of stress; examine how the benefits of writing can influence a trauma-informed classroom; and determine how the benefits of writing can help meet the needs of students.

Drs. Jon Saderholm and Julian Viera are in the second year of a four-year National Science Foundation (NSF) Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) grant in partnership with the University of Kentucky, the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and the University of Central Florida. The goal of the project entitled, “Collaborative Research: Transforming Undergraduate Mathematics Teacher Preparation Programs using the Professional Development: Research, Implementation, and Evaluation Framework,” is to connect pre-service teachers, mentor teachers, and college faculty in a continuous improvement loop focusing on professionalism, equity, and community. This $251,000 grant supports the continuation of prior research out of which several publications have been produced.

Dr. Lisa Turner, associate professor of Nursing, received the President’s Award for Exemplary and Extraordinary Service from the Association of Community Health Nurse Educators (ACHNE) for her service as the organization’s vice president and program committee chairperson for 2018-2021. The award presentation took place at the 2021 ACHNE Annual All Members Business Meeting, in conjunction with the 2021 Annual Institute.

Dr. Turner is a section editor and contributor of two chapters for the 11th edition of Stanhope & Lancaster’s Public Health Nursing textbook, which has an anticipated publication date of fall 2022.