Labor Program History
Berea College students on labor day

Labor Program History


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.

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 1,500 jobs available on campus, including those found in community partnerships in off-campus locations such as:

Notable Alumni

Jack Roush
Jack Roush, ‘64

Jack Roush, ‘64 is a top automotive engineer and designer, NASCAR team owner and CEO of Roush Racing.

Chris Thomas Hayes
Chris Thomas Hayes ’06

Chris Thomas Hayes ’06 is an actor and puppeteer currently performing on Sesame Street, where he first debuted in 2016.

alix harrow
Alix Harrow ‘09

Novelist Alix Harrow ‘09 is the youngest woman in the history of the Hugo Awards to be nominated for best novel.