Then and Now Banner
Work is embedded in the history of Berea College.  From its earliest days, Berea has enabled students to contribute to their cost of education while gaining valuable work experience and serving the college and surrounding communities.  Historically, it also allowed the College to operate in a self-sustaining manner, with students growing their own food and building their own living and learning facilities.  As society has changed, the nature of the work has changed, but the underlying principles of the program have remained constant through the years.

The Labor Program originated in 1859 and was formalized into every student’s educational experience in 1906, when the College Catalog declared that every student must contribute at least seven hours per week to the necessary work of the College.  This was raised to ten hours in 1917, a requirement that remains in effect to today.

White and black picture of students holding signs on labor day

The value of student work is reinforced in our Great Commitments, first published in 1969, revised in 1993, and most recently revised in 2017.  The fourth of eight statements affirms Berea’s commitment, “to promote learning and serving in community through the student Labor Program, honoring the dignity and utility of all work, mental and manual, and taking pride in work well done.”  The Labor Program has long been an integral component of Berea’s educational program, providing valuable opportunities for learning, service, and work well done.

Today, the labor program has over 1500 jobs available on campus, including those found in community partnerships in off-campus locations such as:

Notable Alumni

Harriette Simpson Arnow, Cx’23
Best-selling novelist and author of The Dollmaker

Dr. Dean Colvard, ‘35
Chancellor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina Charlotte and former President of Mississippi State University

Dr. Chella David, ‘61
Professor of Immunology and Lead Researcher at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine

Dr. Donna Dean, ‘69
Senior Scholar in Residence at the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academies of Science

Dr. John Fenn, ‘37
Recipient of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Dr. John E. Fleming, ‘66
Vice President for the Cincinnati Museum Center and former Director for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Dr. Samuel Hurst, ‘47
Inventor of touch-screen technology

Dr. Juanita Kreps, ‘42
First woman on the Board of Directors of the New York Stock Exchange and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce

Dr. Robert Lawson, ‘60
Professor of Law and former Dean of the University of Kentucky College of Law

Dr. Harold Moses, ‘58
Founding Director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and former President of the American Association for Cancer Research

Jack Roush, ‘64
Top automotive engineer and designer, NASCAR team owner and CEO of Roush Racing

Dr. David Shelton, ‘69
Senior Vice President, Lowe’s Companies, Inc.

Billy Edd Wheeler, ‘55
Award-winning songwriter, poet, and playwright inducted into the Nashville Association of Songwriters Hall of Fame