#PeopleofBC

You may have seen the “Humans of New York” profiles on Facebook. We have our own version – People of Berea College. One student, Dave Bell ’19, and some of his classmates, were recently featured in a segment about the College on CBS This Morning: Saturday. President Lyle Roelofs was also interviewed, along with Admissions Director Luke Hodson ‘02. The broadcast focused on the College’s no-tuition policy and how Berea makes a high-quality education accessible to students who can least afford it. Click under the images below to learn about the unique students, staff and faculty members that make Berea College such a special place.

Blue Daniel ’18

“My high school had 300 students, 7th to 12th grade. It’s a really tiny community, but we always struggled so much with things like poverty, drugs, and crime. The conditions that people live in are unimaginable. It’s hard to think that people actually live in these kind of conditions. My family is also very small. I have a mom, a stepdad, and some siblings. Where I was from it was always the mentality that in order for you do something significant you either had to be a teacher or a doctor, and that you would always had to leave there. So I kind of grew up being not necessarily ashamed, but always kind of thinking of ways to outgrow my Appalachian heritage or hide that part of my identity. But then coming to Berea, taking my first General Studies class… that was so celebrated, like hearing Berea talk about how they love getting students from Appalachia. That was so different from what I heard growing up. I was always told that we should be ashamed of our heritage, and here at Berea it was so liberating to find out that being from Appalachia it’s not something to be ashamed of. It’s all about reframing the negativity that you see around Appalachia. So when people call us hillbillies, to take pride in that instead.”

— Blue Daniel ’18
Booneville, KY
Child and Family Studies major

Brandon Noble ’16

“My mom couldn’t make it to my graduation, which is crazy because she was the one who said “You’re going to college!” “But what if I don’t want to go to college?” (me at 14-years-old). She said, “That’s not an option for you. Your skin color means you’ll have to fight twice as hard as others, but education is the great equalizer.” She didn’t make it to my graduation because she was on the kidney list and she was number one, so if a kidney became available she had to be there. No kidney became available then, but still she couldn’t leave. On my graduation cap I just put her initials and I felt like she was there with me. Eventually she did get a kidney, and she is doing so much better now. It’s been over a year since she’s had it and it’s great. But she’s proud of me, she really is. It feels good, we had such a complicated relationship growing up, just a natural kind of defiance towards my parents, you know. As I got older and I got closer to leaving for college I started to appreciate her a lot more. And now I’ve succeeded at making her proud. Every time we have a phone conversation she tells me, “I’m so proud of you and everything you’re doing! Keep striving, keep dreaming.” She’s still in my corner, still supporting me as I take on this crazy, crazy world. It’s so good to know she has my back.”

— Brandon Noble ’16
Benefits Coordinator, Human Resources

Lee Myers ’20

“My biggest fear would be going back into the circumstances where I came from, perpetual poverty. It made me more aware of who I am. At least now, in the later years. In the early years of my life I wasn’t really aware of what was happening. As I learned more, and I became more cognizant of my situation, everything seemed to fit in. It has definitely given me motivation to continue. I see myself not just pulling myself up, but helping other people pull themselves up. That’s why I want to study Economics because I don’t want improvement just for myself, but also help improvement of other people’s real situations. 5 years from now I’ll probably be in graduate school or probably working at a nonprofit. Something that can produce real concrete results and help people do better in their lives, at least physically and materially.”

— Lee Myers ’20
White House, TN
Economics major with a concentration in International Politics & Policy

Minashsha Lamisa ’18

“My biggest struggle is accepting the fact that I am going to have to leave Berea College. I grew up in a military family and I had a lot of different homes, but I think Berea is the one place I lived the most in my life. Surprisingly, right? It really became home because not only I found the people I could resonate with, but I also found home in them because of all the ways I could relate to them as a young girl, who’s also international, of color, still exploring different aspects of her life. My biggest struggle is realizing that I’ll have to leave home and find “home” somewhere else. It may or may not be the same again.”

— Minashsha Z. Lamisa ’18
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Economics and Mathematics double major

Heather Schill profile

“Honestly our region has been exploited so much and so many people have come in and said, ‘Hey you people this is what we think can solve the problem!’ And you know what? That’s not helpful to anybody. What’s most helpful is us standing hand in hand with people and listening to them and seeing what can be done. That’s how true change happens. It’s not me coming in and saying ‘Oh, let me tell you what’s wrong with you and how you can fix it.’ That’s ridiculous. And that’s why so many things don’t work. [Real change] is about being a partner.”

— Heather Schill
Director of Operations, Partners for Education at Berea College

Adriana Williams ’18

“[When I tore my ACL] that was probably the lowest point in my life. I was coming off this high. During my sophomore year I got All-American as far as Basketball, and then my internship during that summer… Coming back into the school year, I was very excited. Not only did I grow professionally in my career, but also worked really hard that summer because I wanted to be so much better than before. We were playing open gym and I came down on my knee wrong, obviously didn’t know what it was at the time, and then I found out that my ACL was torn and you know, I felt like my life was over. I started Berea with a tunnel vision, I came here only for basketball. So when you’ve been playing basketball and it has provided you with so many opportunities, including academic ones, meeting a lot of people, going to AAU tournaments, and then it took one second and it’s being taken away from you that quick it really hurt my feelings. I didn’t know how to respond, so I had to take a step back because I entered depression. I entered that low point but then, once stuff happens it’s really how you respond to it, so instead of just being low – I had surgery, I missed classes, I can’t play – I started feeling myself becoming one again, I just started picking up the pieces. Really, I just took over a role as a supporter, so it was weird coming down from being a top athlete to getting the water for others. Being able to take that role “of the other”, taking a step back from being just a leader as in “I can score the most points” and leading from a different aspect. That really helped me to realize 1. How important basketball is to me, but 2. The importance of being able to step back. And it clearly showed that, yes, I love basketball, but I can still survive without it. So I think that my biggest learning over the course of those 9 months was that I had to figure out what made me happy outside of basketball. I got to study abroad in Cuba, hang out with my friends, just do things that I wasn’t able to do because basketball is a big time commitment. My junior year I got to just be. You know, not Ad the athlete, I was just Ad… Adriana.”

— Adriana (Ad) Williams ’18
Cincinnati, OH
Business Administration major, Broadcast Journalism minor

Jennifer Covey ’18

“I wish I could change the perception of teachers in the United States. You always hear the statement “those who can’t do, teach”… teaching is not as easy as people think. I’m working with a group of fifth graders right now in my field placement and they are some of the most amazing kids. I see how hard their teacher works. How can you look at her [the teacher] and see the work that your kids are doing, and still say that her work is easy? They’re also seen as babysitters, and there is a stigma surrounding teaching, especially within the U.S. We’re more than just babysitters, “teaching is the profession that teaches other professions”. You want good teachers in the field to teach your kids. When I think about what I want to do with my life, the only thing that comes to my mind is teaching. I truly enjoy it. When I go to my field placement 3 days a week I don’t see it as a chore, getting up, being there at 7:45 A.M. I actually love being around the kids, seeing what they’re learning, and watching them learn. I always hear the saying “Find a job that makes you feel like you’ve never worked a day in your life”, and that’s how I truly feel about teaching.”

— Jennifer Covey ’18
Albany, KY
Elementary Education major

Andrew Baskin profile

“We’re talking about a campus of students who should understand but maybe don’t… Before you ever enroll in a single class, before you work a single hour at any labor department, Berea College believed in you. When Berea College said we accept you, they essentially gave you over $100,000 dollars. They said, ‘We are going to invest over $100,000 dollars in you because we believe you can be successful.’ So I think many of our students if they sit down and think about it, that isimportant. Before you ever did a single thing on this campus, this institution believes in you enough that it’s going to invest that amount of money in you. Compare that to other potential students at other prestigious universities, you see that they’re taking out loans. I think that you have to get Bereans to understand that the institution believes in them but quite often they come from environments where people do not believe in them and it’s very difficult to get them to believe it.”

— Andrew Baskin
Associate Professor of African & African American Studies & General Studies
Chair of the African & African American Studies Department

Shona Thakur ’18

“When I first came to America the biggest excitement for me was that I didn’t have to deal with this whole idea of gender. I thought America was so inclusive, but clearly I was wrong. My first year at Berea I was a Physics major and I was one of the two girls in the class. And then I ended up in Computer Science and Math and I was like “Wow…”, the same story. Honestly, Berea has not been traumatic in the way of people being mean to me. I discovered that the gender problem is real when I went out to work [at my internship]. I had been alone here [at Berea], but the community was always supporting. I had guy friends who would help me with my assignments and the faculty was just amazing. Once I started venturing out and learning more about how women face so many challenges, I actually felt it. Whenever I’d get an amazing opportunity people would say things like “You got it because you’re a girl.” It’s subtle and nobody perceives you like an important person in group projects. Also, psychologically, I think it’s important to see people in your office who look like you. Where I worked before in my [internship’s] office there were few women, and especially women of color. Not seeing people who look like you makes you feel like you don’t belong there. But even being Asian, I do realize the privilege that I have. If you look in tech, at the percentage of Asian women in tech, there’s a lot of us. When I went to Grace Hopper, which is the biggest conference for women in tech, there were very few Black women. So overall I don’t think I’ve had this hardship [of being alone], but I’ve definitely heard mean comments. That’s why I really am invested in bridging this gap.”

— Shona Thakur ’18
Kathmandu, Nepal
Computer Science and Mathematics double major

Amanda Tudor profile

“Many career advisors focus on ‘understanding the intellectual exploration of career and major’… and my response is, ‘If you don’t follow your passion, you’re cutting yourself off from the chance to reach your potential!’ Career development constantly flows between your head to your heart; that way your decisions for choosing a major and career harness your creativity and passion, and adds fuel and direction to your intellect and strengths. It’s so wonderful to experience this in my life: not just having the gift of this position to talk to students about what they might love to do, but how we can support them in the entire career development process. The biggest joy for me this year was graduation, which sounds so corny. (I know, I’m such a goofball). I went to Baccalaureate and then I wore one of those crazy-yellow usher shirts at graduation and it was such a blessing to see them [students] walk across the stage! At the conclusion, it meant a lot to me to take pictures with so many new graduates. I feel like I’ve never been so connected with a class of students — they were all amazing and unique. It was meaningful to me to be there; to see them so accomplished, and that I had the opportunity to get to know them during their experience here at Berea College.”

— Amanda Tudor
Director of Career Development

Lakshya Bharadwaj profile

“My first semester when I came here after my first introductory debate class, I planned to drop out. I don’t remember who (I should thank that person a lot) told me to stick it out for this one more session. How has it transformed me since? Until that day, I thought debate was just about being loud, just being heard. But now I know that it’s about listening, observing, analyzing what the other person says, and trying to persuade them with evidence and with logical statements that you have. So it has changed the way I think. Now I am more receptive to ideas that people have and their different viewpoints. I receive them. I think of them and then I get back to those people, talking about those views very respectfully. I might disagree with them, but I try to respect the other person and that has changed the way I deal with people… because of debate.”

— Lakshya Bharadwaj ’19
Patna, India
Economics and Political Science double major

Adanma Barton profile

“I came to the college because I believed in the motto [“God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth”] and I stay at the college because it is my goal to usher through or help through the students and see the motto become a reality. I teach Theatre classes but I also teach a General Studies class and I love that class because I get exposed to students I would never normally see. And there’s always a few tough ones that want to say their piece and that’s it. But by the end of the semester, they’re talking to everyone. It’s hard work but we have to keep at it. If not us, then who? Especially since we’re in some trying times for the U.S.A. In the end, I hope that places like ours will be the beacons of light in the darkness.”

— Adanma O. Barton
Associate Professor of Theatre
First female Black President of Kentucky Theatre Association

Ishara Nanayakkara profile

“[My biggest fear is] time. I feel like yesterday I just turned 16 and now I’m 21, almost going to graduate. It’s like you’re just learning to do things and to be by yourself. Growing older, I’m afraid of how fast it goes because you don’t feel it. I’m so scared that one day I’ll turn back and say ‘Where did it go?’ You want to do everything you can so you don’t turn back and regret anything.”

— Ishara Nanayakkara ’20
Sri Lanka

Political Science and Communication double major

Dara Evans profile

“I am very thankful for the people that I have met in my life at the Upward Bound program here at Berea College. I’d work for them as a college student during the summers as an Activities Director. So they got me back into the Berea life. [After college] I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was asking myself a bunch of questions like “Am I going to go to grad school?” I was thinking “What am I going to do?” And then I fell in love. So at that point, I was never leaving Berea. My husband is a teacher so he was already pretty invested in high school here and around Berea. So I got a job in Admissions, got really lucky at landing an entry-level job. I worked in Admissions, Student Academic Services, and Residential Life. So I’ve been at Berea for 12 years. And I love it. I love the Berea College students. I love giving back to the college that gave me so much. I love watching a student come on their very first day when they’re super scared and super shy and then watch them walk across the stage. The person walking across the stage is so much different than the person who I first saw, so I really love that piece.”

— Dara Evans ’04
Campus Life Program Associate, Student Life

Emily Parrish profile

“Two things I always wanted for my daughter, even when she was still in my tummy: to be loving and to be wise. And I always knew that with wisdom usually comes heartache. That was really hard for me to see in her life. Because she is so kind, loving, and she’s extremely loyal and wise, but along with that it did come heartache. I think most people aren’t as loyal as she is. Some of these experiences will definitely change as she goes to college and finds her people. As she’s seen her core group of girlfriends leave the group and become more experimental it’s been hard on her because she’s seen them fly the coop. It takes incredible integrity to stay true to yourself and do the right thing and it’s a hard lesson for such a young person to learn.”

— Emily Parrish
Senior Graphic Designer, Printing Services

Ron Young ’18

“There are two moments that I consider to be the happiest moments of my life. The first one is going to be really weird. It was restaurant week in D.C. and I went to this restaurant by myself. I had a reservation for one, because I really wanted to see this restaurant for years. I sat down and the dining experience was so amazing. I remember they brought me out this huge glazed pork chop, it had to be 2 ½ in. thick, and I remember cutting into it… dipping that pork chop into the potatoes underneath. When I put it in my mouth, it was one of the happiest moments of my life. Then, the second happiest moment, was probably when I got the call back that I got the internship with the Senate. The year before I was offered the same internship, but turned it down. Before I turned it down I talked to a lot of my family about it and with my grandfather. For someone who grew up in the middle of the Civil Rights and Jim Crowe, when he told me that working at the Senate would be one of the most incredible things that could happen to one of his grandchildren, it was amazing. When I turned the offer down that year I kind of forgot about what he told me. So when I got the offer the next year and I accepted it, all I could think of was how proud I would be making my grandfather. Between getting the internship the first time and getting the offer again my grandfather passed. So he actually never saw me working at the Senate, never got to actually know I did it, but that moment when I realized “Wow, it happened.” was probably one of the proudest moments because I felt I was making my grandfather proud. So yeah, between the Senate and that meal, pretty much wraps up my life.”

— Ron Young ’18
Springdale, MD
Child and Family Studies major

Salamata Waiga ’18

“My biggest struggle is not giving myself enough credit for the things that I contribute to and the things that I bring to the table. I always second guess myself, no matter what it is. I always tell myself “Oh, you’re not good enough. You don’t know about this.”, but I’ve been working on it. I’m 21 now, so I’ve been working on it for a long time… since I was a child. I’ll get there someday. In a way, it’s humbling to acknowledge the struggle of always second-guessing yourself because when you do something great you recognize that in yourself immediately. It is great to know that I’m not as terrible as the little voice that’s inside my head, that continuously tells me about how bad I am. It has been very eye-opening and I credit Berea for that a lot because it has pushed me out of my comfort-zone the four years that I have been here.”

— Salamata Waiga ’18
Cincinnati, OH
Spanish major

Anne Bruder profile

“I live a thousand yards from the edge of campus and so I like the fact that I come to know students in their wholeness so I don’t just know students in say an 18th-century literature class. Instead, I get to know their families; I come to know their stories. They come into my office all day and we sort of have these wide-ranging conversations about what they want to do and where they want to be and who they love and what matters to them. Unlike a big university where there sort of might be… I don’t know… more pressures towards anonymity and I would probably have 350 students. Instead, I have 50 students a semester and that means I can really get to know them or the ones that actually want to have that relationship. And some students don’t which is totally fine but there are a handful of students that I see walk across that stage and I start crying in the audience because I’m so invested in them and I’ve gotten to know them so well and their families. So, I think that the people are definitely at the center of why I love being here. Some of that can be tricky to navigate, right? Sometimes it’s 8:30 am and I teach at 9 am and a student comes in upset because her grandmother is sick and I think “No, I don’t want to do this right now.” What I need to be doing is putting my head down and do my work so that I can get ready for a class. So, there is a side of it that is emotionally exhausting but the flip side is that it’s sort of about being human and connecting with people.”

— Anne Bruder
Associate Professor of English
Director of Berea Bridge Program

Rubem Rodriguez profile

“Growing up with a single mother makes her the most influential person in my life. Sometimes, there were times in our lives when I wouldn’t see her pretty much the whole day. I’d see her when I woke up to go to school, but she had jobs during the day and during the night. So I’d see her maybe before bed. She worked really hard and taught me to keep a positive attitude and work hard for what I want…to never put those negative thoughts before me. And that’s how I always get by. I try to stay positive and do the best I can. Since she is a teacher I always had to be on top of things. Whenever the opportunity arose I came to the U.S. because I know that Brazil is not in a good situation. I try to pay it back to her. Maybe now that she’s retired I can give her a better life. She’s definitely the one who always pushed me to be the best I can.”

— Rubem Rodriguez
Head Soccer Coach

Corey Walker ’18

“I don’t know if I have ‘the happiest moment’, but I do know things that make me happy. […] My grandparents make me happy. My grandmother, she sends me “coffee money”… She sends me text messages with a bunch of hearts because she learned how to use emojis, even though she didn’t even know what those were 5 years ago. She says “Hey Corey, I sent you some coffee money.” And then I go look and it’s like $150. I’m thinking “I can buy a lot of coffee with that money…” Then, the thought of success, the idea that I will be successful one day kind of makes me happy and motivated, and gives me hope. Maybe it’s not happiness, but it’s hope. And within that hope there is happiness. I think that being successful depends on the person you’re asking, but for me… actually, let me give you some statistics. It’s something crazy like 8% of the people in the region of Sardis, AL have a bachelor’s degree. And it’s 12% of the people in Alabama have a college degree. For the national average 36% of the population has a college degree. So if you put it on that scale, it’s like people in my hometown are really behind. There’s a real gap there when it comes to success. It’s kind of the reason of why I want to be a teacher because I want to go back to that community, invest in them, and help them get bachelor’s degrees. I’m a Biology and Education double major and I want to teach kids Science. There are a lot of people in the world that say that teaching kids job skills is far more important than teaching them to go get a bachelor’s degree. But in my community, I can see the need for that because we are so far behind. So I think that for me, being successful one day means that I will invest in that community, providing them with the skills to reach that college education. I define my success by how successful I can make other people.”

— Corey Walker ’18
Boaz, AL
Biology major

Guerds Jean profile

“My adoptive dad is the most influential person in my life. He taught me how to love and how I should be loved. He adopted me and my sister, and he didn’t mind the family issues, he just took us in like we’re his own kids. I remember when we were little, my adoptive mom was going through cancer and he worked 3 jobs and he didn’t complain at all. We didn’t even know she had cancer, we thought it was a cold because he took care of us so well. He would just come home and take care of everything else. He’s such an amazing man. The way he loves my adoptive mom it just teaches me how a man is supposed to love me and makes me hope for a family. He literally helped me with everything, even finances. I remember my senior year of high school he was like “You have to get life insurance.” and I was like “What is life insurance?!” and then freshman year of college he told me “You need to get a retirement account” and I said “Why do I need one, I’m 18-years-old?!”. Now I’m looking back at all of these things and I realize my dad not only taught me how to be a good person, Christian, and woman but a well-rounded individual.”

— Guerds Jean ’18
Naples, FL
Peace and Social Justice and Spanish double major

Jan Pearce profile

“What’s interesting is that the most gender restrictive countries of the world actually have higher percentages of women in tech. Saudi Arabia has a great percentage of women in tech for example. I served on an international committee to look at this particular issue a couple years ago and we published a paper on it. That paper was a huge surprise to me so in other words there is something going on within our society. Maybe we realize with the #MeToo movement that women, underrepresented minorities, are being held down so it’s not an issue of not being capable, it’s an issue of empowerment. This is something we work on really hard. There’s a lot of research on how to help students learn how to learn which is critically important in tech. The languages I learned as an undergraduate, a long time ago, some of them exist and some don’t but they’ve morphed a lot so you have to learn new things. If you’re a person in tech, you have to be a lifetime learner which is one of the key commitments of Berea. We use a teaching methodology called Process Oriented Guided Inquiry-Based Learning which is demonstrably more effective at helping people feel like they’re empowered rather than sitting down and listening to a lecture. The students work together in teams to construct and understand and grapple with the knowledge. It’s really effective. So when looking elsewhere at different computer science programs, dropout rates are high and failure rates are huge and that just isn’t the case at Berea. We have nationally recognized success rates from one course to another which we’re very proud of.”

— Dr. Jan Pearce
Professor of Computer and Information Science
Department Chair of Computer Science

Jackie Collier profile

“My father experienced his first heart attack when I was six years old and he was disabled and had a pretty severe stroke when I was in the fifth grade. He did recover to the point where he could walk and talk and drive and function. He never really got to back to work but I never really thought he was sick because he was just so involved in our lives. At the very end of my summer going into my sophomore year [at Berea], I had returned home to work. He had a massive stroke in June of that year and passed away the following March, so I went home for a week. When I came back, I was way behind. I was really behind in one of Professor Cleo Charles’s classes. He was probably one of the toughest professors that I ever had but he was wonderful. But it just took everything I had for that class and I found myself in a place where I needed to just drop the class and I did. Shortly after, Dean Hager had messaged me and asked me to meet him in his office. I was like ‘Okay, I don’t know what this is about.’ It was, I guess, the first time I had ever met Dean Hager. I walked in and he said ‘Jackie, you do relatively well. I want to tell you that if you drop this class, it will put you at 2.25 credit instead of 3.25 and that would put you on academic probation because you are not carrying a full load.’ I was like ‘Oh, no! I can’t do that.’ I said to Hager ‘I guess I’ll go and pick that class back up.’ Hager advised me to go talk to Professor Charles which I’ve greatly appreciated. Dean Hager was able to guide me in the right direction. Cleo Charles and his wife were both dorm directors at the time and he tutored me for the rest of the semester and brought me up to date. He made sure that I got through his class. I will forever be grateful because it changed my life. Berea changed my life.”

– Jackie Collier ’80
Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations

Hunter McDavid ’21

“Here I am, an outdoor adventure education major. Forensic psychology was my previous major—I was going to investigate murder. The biggest sign for me now that it wasn’t the right choice is people asking if I watched all those crime shows. But I never watched any of the crime shows. Honestly, I was fooling myself. We do that as humans all the time. We are so stubborn. But once I was out in nature, I saw what it did to me and how much it helped me learn. I go out to the Brushy Fork Forest and Trails daily to check on it and for my own emotional and spiritual needs. I feel connected to this place and the environment, really.

During May term (2018) with Dr. (Penelope) Wong, we flew out to Arizona and spent two weeks in a Navajo community. I learned firsthand how environmentally aware they are—so rooted in nature. Spiritually, it made me realize that even though I come from a different background, I can still find my own way to spiritually connect with nature. I give them credit for showing me that, for showing me their connection. It was just beautiful.

Now I want to bring other students on board. I can’t do it alone. I have to find other leaders for the environment because the environment can’t save itself.”

– Hunter McDavid ’21
Kingsport, TN
Independent Outdoor Adventure Education major