New Initiatives for the New Year –The Motley Fool Investment Club

3.

Berea College has long given its students real-life experience and entrusted them with managing aspects of College operations. Beginning in Fall 2016, we expanded this initiative in a new direction by granting students the opportunity to manage a $100,000 portfolio of equities on the U.S. stock market.

This initiative is called the Berea College Motley Fool Investment Club (BC-MF Investment Club), the product of a partnership with The Motley Fool, an Alexandria, VA-based organization dedicated to “helping the world invest —better.” Open to any student, the club meets regularly, headed by an executive board of students. This year, the board includes:

  • Harry M. Tsiagbe, Lead Portfolio Manager and President
  • Eugeniu Prodan, Research Analyst and Vice President for Administration & Treasury
  • Starson Audate, Research Analyst and Vice President for Compliance & Taxes
  • Minashsha Z. Lamisa, Research Analyst and Vice President for Outreach Services
  • Syrine Bessaad, Research Analyst and Vice President for Outreach Services
  • Benjamin E. Willhite, Research Analyst and Vice President for Communications

To become a board member, students must apply and be accepted by a selection committee, which includes Trustee David Chow, Dr. Ian Norris, Dr. Nancy Sowers, Jeff Amburgey, Harry Tsiagbe, and alumnus David Kretzmann ’14, who serves as liaison with the Motley Fool organization. In addition, five of the club’s board members will participate in the Chartered Financial Analysts Institute Research Challenge. The CFA Challenge is a global competition that provides students with hands-on mentoring and intensive training in financial analysis.

The BC-MF Investment club is an outgrowth of our financial literacy course (GST 186), which is taught each semester as part of the college’s Fresh Start programming, also developed in partnership with the Fool. Students who complete GST 186 are well prepared for participation in the BC-MF Investment Club.

The origin of the nest egg for the Club funds came from the Hillier Family Foundation in 1996. This generous gift had earlier been managed through the college’s BUS 346 Investments course. With the advent of the new club, the Hillier Foundation allowed us to transfer management of those funds to it.

When the Investment Club took over the portfolio, the corpus amounted to about $47,000. We’ve raised additional funds to bring the total to $100,000, placing, in the usual Berea fashion, enormous trust in the lives of great promise attending our school. Much of the new support came from members of the Motley Fool organization, which sees this activity as a model that might be replicated at other colleges and universities. The support of these new ‘investors’ is being matched by resources from the Ventures Fund, which is managed by the President’s Office. The Club will provide semi-annual reports on its activities and transactions to all ‘investors’ as well as to the Board of Trustees.

The club’s goal is to grow the initial $100,000 to $500,000. Upon reaching the goal, allocations from Club funds will be provided to the College according to the same formula under which endowment returns provide support, thus providing a stable, and sustainable contribution to the operating budget of the College. We thus expect the BC-MF Club to “do good while doing well.”

Coming Together; Being There for One Another

Dear Bereans,

Throughout its history Berea College has been committed to inclusive community, as called for in its inspirational motto, “God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth.”  In words and actions, then, Berea became the first coeducational and interracial college in the South.  When the forces of segregationism arose in the late nineteenth century, Berea College stood as long as it was able against Kentucky’s Day Law, appealing that exclusionary requirement all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.  When that law was set aside in the 1950s, the College was quick to re-integrate.  More recently the College extended its welcome to students from other countries and now admits about 7 percent of each incoming class from countries across the globe where young women and men face great challenges in attaining higher education. In recent decades, incoming classes have become more diverse racially and ethnically and with respect to gender identity, reaching beyond the founding mission of educating blacks and whites and women and men together.  With the incoming class in the fall of 2014 we also began to admit undocumented students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, an initiative that has added to our already impressive Hispanic and Latino student body cohorts.

In 2001 the College formally stated its dedication to equal protection for students and employees regardless of sexual orientation, and when the issue of fairness arose in the City of Berea in 2014, I wrote to the citizens in our town, sharing with them the advantages of a welcoming community. (That commentary is included in the Addendum document under the title: “To the Editor of the Berea Citizen.”)  In November of 2015, instances of racial and sexual harassment of members of our community by persons driving through campus began to occur, and on November 23 we as a community stood together in a demonstration against hate speech, proclaiming the power of love over hate.

In the wake of disturbing rhetoric throughout the presidential campaign, and with the results of the recent national election, profound concerns have arisen for many members of our community from across the political spectrum.

  • International students, particularly those from Muslim countries, are alarmed.
  • DACA students are rightly very concerned about the strongly anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric, including a pledge to roll back DACA, a highly successful program created by President Obama.
  • LGTBQ students and students of color report having experienced renewed verbal assaults.
  • Students who supported President-Elect Trump in the election are reporting serious verbal abuse on social media by those who opposed him.  (This concern has also arisen elsewhere. K. N. Pineda, an Hispanic NYU student who voted for Mr. Trump has an eloquent piece entitled “Divisions in My Dorm Room” in the New York Times on Monday, the 28th.)
  • Women are expressing concerns about gender equality.

I share these deep concerns and want to address two challenges for our community that stem from them.

First, I am concerned about the impact of these developments on the community we treasure at Berea College, a community created by our Great Commitments and dedicated to “the power of love over hate, human dignity and equality, and peace with justice.”  When persons in the community feel marginalized or threatened, it becomes much harder to focus on our educational mission and to dedicate ourselves to that larger enterprise of building community.  And, when the threats are exacerbated by externalities beyond our immediate control, we begin to wonder whether the consensus around our values is robust and intact, whether our commitment to true community will hold firm.

In times like this, though, the work of sustaining our strong community becomes even more important.  Even as that sense of togetherness is challenged, it becomes our best resource for supporting one another to transcend current challenges and to achieve our shared goals.  So, this is a good time to remind ourselves of those inclusive goals.  All are welcomed here no matter their gender, race, religion, country of origin, and even political ideology.  That’s right, fellow Bereans, whether we are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, etc., we need to welcome one another.  And all are not merely tolerated, but rather appreciated for the differences that distinguish us.  We value those differences because they are the foundation of the vibrancy, interest, challenge, learning, and ethical integrity of this community first created by Rev. John G. Fee.

Elections can be traumatic, particularly when “the country” seems to be in the mood for change.  It has been traumatic for our community as well, and in this area, as in so many others, I sincerely believe that Berea College needs to be a model for our town, for Kentucky, and even for the country as a whole, in showing that our unity can transcend such a challenge.  I heard some recent pertinent comments by President Obama on the subject of elections, democracy, and stability.  They are appended under the title, “Remarks by President Obama at the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Town Hall.”  As Americans we are committed to managing transitions of political authority without disruption of our national unity, and in that we can join President Obama in his leadership.

We need to come together to meet these challenges to community.

A second concern for me is the immediate threat perceived by our DACA students to their continued access to the benefits and security that that program has provided, of which access to higher education is an important component.  Hearing of those concerns in the days immediately following the election I wrote to our DACA students, and then subsequently shared that communication with the faculty and staff of the College.  That communication is reproduced below under the title, “Message to DACA students.”  The concerns of these students and others who support them have continued in the following days, and I have received a letter from that group requesting further commitments and assistance.  That communication is reproduced in the Addendum under the title “Letter from SGA.”

The SGA letter calls on Berea College to become a “sanctuary campus”  In alignment with a number of other schools, including Wesleyan University, Reed College, the University of Oregon, and Portland State University, have taken this step, using as a model “sanctuary cities” such as Austin, New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and dozens of other municipalities, which have declared their intention not to cooperate with federal officials seeking to deport residents simply because they lack appropriate immigration documentation.

Taking a formal step of this sort will require further consultation on campus and with the Board of Trustees, but irrespective of that further process, please know that Berea College will remain committed to the principles of non-discrimination, including equal protection under the law, regardless of national origin or citizenship, and that the College will not voluntarily assist in any efforts by the federal government to deport our students, faculty, or staff solely because of their citizenship status.  These two commitments are fully consistent with our history, mission, and identity.

In an anxious time, such small steps, added to the assurances previously made in the letter to DACA students, may offer some comfort to the most vulnerable population in our community.  I expect them to be supported as well by other members of the community as a continuation of Berea College’s strong historical stand for social justice.

This is a time we need to be there for one another!  From that we can draw confidence and comfort.

Lyle Roelofs

A Penny Saved, Is A Penny Earned

I hope many of you heard about or have seen the testimony given by Vice President for Finance, Jeff Amburgey, to a House Ways and Means subcommittee on college endowments.  Jeff was asked to explain how Berea uses its endowment to pay the cost of tuition for all of its students, an accomplishment that is especially striking in an era where the cost of a college education has risen so dramatically. Jeff explained how we carefully manage our endowment and that the gap between the cost of providing an education to 1,600 students and the income generated by the endowment is covered by generous donations from alumni and friends to the Berea Fund.  An article with a link to video of Jeff’s testimony can be found here.

Certainly these financial procedures are essential to the Berea Way, but, as Jeff also pointed out, Berea’s success is rooted in the values established by the Great Commitments.  Because of the Seventh Great Commitment, which reminds us to live in a sustainable fashion, Bereans have developed a knack for joining idealistic goals with pragmatic solutions, and nowhere is this more evident today than in our continuous improvement team led by Aaron Beale. Continuous improvement describes a variety of methods used for improving processes, which even though it is often associated with manufacturing, can be used in many different occupations. For example, at Berea, continuous improvement has been used by the registrar’s office to make scheduling classes easier, by the sustainability office to make recycling more efficient, and by the marketing and communication office to simplify the work of our photographers and videographers, to name but a few of its applications.

Improving our efficiency enables us to do better work with fewer resources, and that means we can educate more students with our fixed level of resources. But, efficiency is about sustainability in more ways than one. Continuous improvement can also be the key to making workloads more manageable for faculty and staff.  Derrick Singleton, our vice president for operations sustainability, who brought continuous improvement to the College from his previous work in industry and developed the team, likes to say that the real purpose of continuous improvement is “to alleviate your pain.”  A couple years ago, the continuous improvement office, which was then led by the recently retired Richard Smith, made a video highlighting how we use these processes to save money and enhance the quality of our working lives. I hope you will take the time to view it as it provides a unique, behind the scenes view of the college and because I hope some of you will be inspired to apply the principles yourself.

I should also note that our continuous improvement efforts serve our students in another way. Students who participate in these efforts learn skills that are applied almost universally in the corporate world. Because we involve students in all phases of these continuous improvement projects, from conception to implementation, they will enter the work world prepared to contribute in leadership roles.

To learn more about the various methods for achieving continuous improvement and how we use them to enhance the mission of Berea College, see http://berea.edu/ci/.

A First for Berea

Anphoto for blogne Frank said, “How wonderful that no one need wait a single moment to improve the world.” This aspiration has been ever present at Berea College, but on September 1st we will be celebrating not only the new school year, but also a campus first. That day will be our first ever Giving Day, as we invite our supporters to help us raise $25,000 in 25 hours* through online giving.

A new school year is always an exciting time on campus. Welcoming a new class of Bereans to our community always reminds us of why these students come. First and foremost they are here because they are outstanding students who have earned their place among the best and brightest. Second, but just as importantly, they are only able to be here because of the generosity of our supporters who have made it possible to provide a high-quality education without charging tuition.

Move in - welcome to your new homeLaurie and I always think especially about what arrival day means for our first-generation college students and their families.  As we help the incoming class move in, we encounter their excitement, their pride, their anxiety, all their hopes and fears as they face such an important transition and transformation in their lives.  In that situation I am so reassured that our faculty and staff care deeply and have the experience successfully guide them through the life-changing and transformational experience that can only happen here. Berea’s mission isn’t just talk. It’s deeply rooted within the hearts and souls of everyone on campus. This passion and commitment to our mission are the reasons we are celebrating Giving Day.

We have made promises to these students, a high-quality education and an experience of learning through work. While other schools depend on the tuition, Berea runs on commitment, on the support of our friends and alumni, who believe that the education of deserving students should not depend on their ability to pay.

This September 1st, you can help us keep that promise by making a gift online, joining us and the whole community in celebrating another year of Berea’s Great Commitments. Will you help us keep that promise?

To stay updated on our progress during Berea’s first ever Giving Day click here: https://www.berea.edu/give/givingday/

Follow Berea College on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat and stay tuned on September 1st for more information on how you can join in the fun on Berea’s first ever Giving Day.

* OK, a little longer than the typical day

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Tension? Balance? Synergy?

The Berea College community is made of many individuals with almost as many passions. And while we are bound by a shared commitment to excellence and to education, these passions sometimes lead to tension with each other and difficult balancing acts. This can be a challenge, but I believe that by looking beyond tension and even balance for synergy, we foster a stronger and more intentional community.

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Berea College honors Eight Great Commitments, so there are a LOT of places tension can develop and many places to seek balance.  For example, when we consider “whom shall we serve,” the question arises, should we focus on Appalachian students from the mountains or emphasize our commitment to interracial community and education? Similar conundrums occur when we ask, how do we honor our Christian commitment while recognizing that God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth, whatever their faith commitment, and welcoming all into the community; or how should we balance the tension and stress for students who participate in a very rigorous academic program while making substantial time commitments to their work for the College and their interest in service?

When the community confronts such questions, Berea’s approach is unlike the strategies that most other institutions use. For example, unlike other institutions, we do not simply allot each idea a certain amount of resources and “let a 1000 flowers bloom.”  Nor do we ask the community to vote on priorities for the year and use the results to choose between alternatives, because we are committed to all of the Great Commitments regardless of changes in outside circumstances or our own varying interests.  Most importantly, we do not simply ignore the tensions, which is probably the most common strategy of all when it comes to institutional planning.

How, then, does Berea College confront these challenges as a community? The truth is, there is no simple recipe or governance process, but our solutions and outcomes often reflect a synergy between efforts that might have been in tension, a synergy that finds value beyond simple balance.

A good example of this is how we approach the tension between our Second and Seventh Great Commitments to a high quality liberal arts education and a labor program requiring all students also to provide upwards of 10 hours of work to the College each week.  In this case the tension manifests itself as stress in the lives of students who are trying to meet both of those obligations at a high level of accomplishment.  And simply seeking balance might mean lower expectations in both areas, so that students could accommodate both a full academic schedule and their labor contributions.  Here, the synergy we have found is the understanding that that work is a key part of student learning.

Jay Buckner, multimedia production manager, helps Felicia Johnson '17 develop skills in video editing as part of her labor position in Integrated Marketing & Communications.

Jay Buckner, multimedia production manager, helps Felicia Johnson ’17 develop skills in video editing as part of her labor position.

Labor supervisors are not only helping students learn work skills, but also supporting them in learning the time management abilities that will be crucial to them later in their future busy professional lives.  And, many of Berea’s labor positions allow students the opportunity to apply what they are learning in their courses.  While not every current Berea student would agree that seeing work as part of education resolves that tension, I have spoken with countless alumni who see that aspect of their Berea education as its single most important aspect and a key reason for the successes they have achieved in their professional lives.

 

Does the realization that work contributes so essentially to the educational experience fully resolve the tension for Berea students?  No, it does not, and we are very aware that these pressures are a challenge for our students. So I am very happyrevised-wheel-2015-no-shadow-290x300 that our newly created FRESH Start initiative, will introduce understanding of stress and coping skills to our students in their first year, as a way to improve their academic performance and health, with the added benefit of providing a model for understanding how activities in one area of life connect to other areas. The model uses eight dimensions of wellness: emotional, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, spiritual, and sustainable. Through the program, students will see that one’s occupational wellness influences all the other dimensions, not just financial wellness, as some might expect.  Understanding these interrelations helps prepare students for success throughout college and also, for their futures, to seek synergy when facing similar challenges later in life.

 

Public and Private Institutions in Kentucky

EKU Commencement-2

From left to right, Craig Turner, Michael Benson, Lyle Roelofs, and Janna Vice.

Last Friday morning, I had the great pleasure of attending Commencement at Eastern Kentucky University at the invitation of President Michael Benson.   Actually, I attended just one of five of the commencement celebrations, the one for the school of arts and sciences.  What a thrill to celebrate with over 700 new “eternal colonels.”  It was also a pleasure to meet other leaders at EKU including Craig Turner, chair of the board of regents, John Wade, dean of the college of arts and sciences, and Dr. Janna Vice, provost.  The inspirational commencement address was provided by graduating student, Ms. Jenna Sehmann.

It was also a thrill when one of the graduates stopped to greet me as she walked across the stage, introducing herself as Shelby Williams, 2014 graduate from Berea College, and now holder of an EKU Master’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology. Seeing Shelby reminded me of how closely linked Berea College and EKU really are.

Both strongly emphasize serving students from Eastern Kentucky, both serve a large number of first generation students, and we both celebrate the first generation graduates by asking them to stand for applause during commencement. Both have very fine student concert choirs and other vocal groups, but EKU has a steel band that played the recessional. Together we provide access to higher education in a state where only 21% of adults hold a college degree, so we both have a LOT more work to do to ensure the commonwealth has an outstanding work force and all of its citizens have the opportunity to pursue the careers that interest them and to live lives of fulfillment.

So, despite the differences in our size and the fact that one of our two institutions is private college and the other is a public university, enjoying support from the commonwealth, we have a lot in common and a shared task, providing an affordable education to those who need it.    With the large number of young people (and also some adults) who desire a college education in Kentucky, both our institutions are essential, so while I am very proud that Berea offers a no-tuition education to all the students it admits, there is no question that our commonwealth urgently needs the public university system to be affordable and accessible.

Berea College enrolled 194 students from Kentucky in the Fall of 2015, about 45% of our total of 432 incoming students.  Each year about 45,000 students graduate from Kentucky high schools, and around 60% of them (27,000) plan to attend college.    Berea and the other private schools in Kentucky are doing their utmost to educate the young citizens of the Commonwealth, but serving all these students requires supporting large, public universities like EKU.

From that point of view, recent developments in Frankfort regarding funding for the public universities in our state are very discouraging.  Institutions were asked to accept a reduction in state support in the current fiscal year, and also to anticipate further reductions in the two upcoming years covered by the biennial budget just approved.  Although these changes do not impact private institutions directly, they still raise big concerns.  Access and affordability will of necessity be reduced as the public institutions respond to these reductions by increasing tuition or decreasing programs offered to students, or a combination of both.

Jasmine TowneRecently there have been conversations in our state about whether higher education is a right or a privilege, and whether we citizens want our tax dollars to support post-secondary education. I certainly do want the taxes I pay to support higher education for our young citizens. And in my opinion the right or privilege debate misses the most important point. If Kentucky is to remain competitive in the 21st century, 21% of adults in the state holding a college degree simply will not cut it!  So, whether you consider it a right or a privilege, we should really be thinking of higher education as a necessary and worthwhile investment. We need a partnership between public institutions and private institutions to move us forward in educating more young Kentuckians, and we need the support of state government in Frankfort to do so.

Those concerns did not diminish the celebration of Berea’s 240 graduates two weeks ago or EKU’s 2,700 new “eternal colonels” last weekend, and rightly so, but they do very much deserve to be on the minds of all Kentuckians.

Branching Out and Staying Rooted

Kaitlyn Reasoner '16, Mary Robert Garrett, and Teri Thesing head out for a final run.

Kaitlyn Reasoner ’16, Mary Robert Garrett, and Teri Thesing head out for a final run.

For me, last week’s graduation festivities kicked off with an invitation from Mary Robert Garrett, associate professor of chemistry and original member of the Berea College President’s Run Club (BCPRC), to join her and Kaitlyn Reasoner ’16 for a final outing. The BCPRC was formed in 2012 as a way to promote community and healthy activity, and Mary Robert and Kaitlyn have participated with the group that typically meets each Tuesday and Thursday for a run (or walk) along the Beebe-White trail.

Mary Robert’s invitation brought into sharp focus for me the fact that graduation would be a little different this year. I’ve had the privilege to attend many graduation ceremonies over the years, and each contains a mixture of excitement and loss.  Excitement for the accomplishments of the graduates and their future plans, but tinged with the sadness of all those departures from our community.

Lyle Roelofs helps new students move in to their dorms. Photo taken on August 18, 2012.

Helping new students move in to their dorms. Photo taken on August 18, 2012.

So, what makes this year different than the first three?  Simply put, Laurie and I began our own Berea story with this class of students. They were the first that we welcomed to campus, the first to join us for a run or a walk, and the ones with whom we learned the ins and outs of Berea. Together we have seen the campus change with the renovation of several residence halls and the addition of Deep Green, shared Berea traditions, like Mountain Day, and created traditions of our own, like the Green Games and the new up-tempo version of “Berea, Berea, Beloved.”

While we have shared and learned much with these students, our paths are now diverging. For the recent graduates, the new path leads outwards on a journey to new communities, new places of work or study, and to whatever comes next for them.  I am certain that Berea has prepared them to branch out and take full advantage of all the opportunities that are before them.

Laurie and I will be staying, of course, continuing the process of growing deep roots here. In a few months, we will have the pleasure of welcoming the class of 2020 to campus.  Though the class of 2020 won’t share the campus with the class of 2016, that class gets credit for a lot of what we have learned about Berea, and so the class of 2020 and future classes are actually in their debt.  From the class of 2016 we learned that every Berea student is a story of ambition, resilience, and accomplishment; we learned of their passionate interests in art, music, athletics, student government, debate, and much more; we learned last November through our Unity Rally how much they care for one another; we learned to ascend the Pinnacles to celebrate sunrise with them on Mountain Day; and, of course, we learned that college students can develop an interest in exercise and fitness, even running or walking in the early morning.

One community all the 2016 graduate have joined is the community of Berea College alumni, and this is something in which I want to encourage all our graduates to participate. As you branch out, share your stories through the Berea College Magazine, connect with the college on social media, and, when time permits, let your own path circle back to campus for Homecoming, Summer Reunion, or anytime the opportunity arises. That’s how you will join us in staying rooted in Berea.

Faithfully yours,

Lyle

P.S.  The feelings of one staying rooted as graduates branch out were rather beautifully captured by my favorite 19th century poet, John Greenleaf Whitter in his lovely poem, “At School Close,”  written about the time of Berea’s first commencement!

Invest. Connect. Transform 

Chad Berry, vice president for academic affairs; Charlotte Beason, trustee, Hal Moses, trustee chair; Lyle Roelofs, president; and Matt Saderholm, division I chair.

The campaign leadership for the Margaret A. Cargill building breaking ground on the project: Bernadine Douglas, vice president for alumni and college relations; Chad Berry, vice president for academic affairs; Charlotte Beason, trustee, Hal Moses, trustee chair; Lyle Roelofs, president; and Matt Saderholm, division I chair.

Very few days are truly transformative for an institution, particularly at an institution so mindful of its mission and traditions as Berea College, but April 21st, 2016 will certainly be remembered as one of those days for us. On Thursday, with the support of friends and alumni, I was privileged to help break ground on the Margaret A. Cargill Natural Sciences and Health building and to officially kickoff the campaign to raise $10 million in support of the project.

Members of the campaign leadership are joined by Dr. Warren “Gene” Bulman ’48 founder of Ohio Semitronics, Inc., his daughter, Linda Iben, and Laurie Roelofs, first lady.

Members of the campaign leadership are joined by Dr. Warren “Gene” Bulman ’48 founder of Ohio Semitronics, Inc., his daughter, Linda Iben, and Laurie Roelofs, first lady.

Prior to the groundbreaking, members of the Berea community had a day-long opportunity to participate in demonstrations highlighting how science affects all aspects of our everyday lives. There were demonstrations of the mathematics of quilting, the chemistry of jewelry making and much more by faculty, staff, and students. Showing these connections is symbolic is one way to highlight the themes that guided our planning for the building: the value of an interdisciplinary approach to the physical and health sciences; the opportunities for leveraging the innate interest of scientific ideas for outreach; and the great potential of active learning in mathematics the sciences.  These themes will be brought to life in the new building. Not only will the programs be housed under one roof, but the building will also incorporate many glass walls so that everyone entering the building will see intense activity in the labs and classrooms and meeting spaces, will see students learning science by doing science and will see scientific subjects brought to life in a state-of-the-art visualization facility.

Members of the science and nursing faculty pose alongside Lyle Roelofs and Chad Berry.

Members of the science and nursing faculty pose alongside Lyle Roelofs and Chad Berry.

In addition to being visible, the rooms will also be adaptable, allowing classes to move easily from lecture and discussion to lab work.  An additional advantage of the new building is an increase in overall lab space, which will permit students to run more complex experiments that extend over multiple laboratory sessions, work of the type that will better prepare them for graduate school or careers in industry or healthcare related fields.

I hope this message conveys a sense of the great excitement the new building is bringing to campus. Over the next two years, I will offer periodic updates about construction through this blog.  Take a look, too, at our campaign website, which will continue to document the progress of the construction and of the campaign.

The Berea College Board of Trustees poses with Lyle and Laurie Roelofs.

The Berea College Board of Trustees poses with Lyle and Laurie Roelofs.

Digging into Sustainability

For many people, the word “sustainability” calls to mind images of recycling and hybrid vehicles. Both are important, but genuine sustainability goes much further: it is comprehensive, deeply rooted, as it were, in how we as a community and as individuals approach our place in the world. Berea is fortunate to have a tradition of thinking about sustainability guided by the Seventh Great Commitment, which calls us to adopt “a way of life characterized by plain living, pride in labor well done, zest for learning, high personal standards, and concern for the welfare of others.”

These same goals are reflected in the definition of “sustainability” that guides the work done by students in our Office of Sustainability, led by Joan Pauly. Their definition of “sustainability” refers to the capacity of individuals, communities and societies to coexist in a manner that maintains social justice, environmental integrity and economic well-being today and for future generations.

Sustainable DashboardThe college has long been mindful of the need to recycle, to reduce carbon emissions and to limit our use of electricity. Now, thanks to Joan’s team, led by Tsering Dhondhen ’17, data tracking & analysis coordinator, and with the help of Dr. Scott Heggen, lecturer in computer science, and his student Phyo Phyo Kyaw Zin ′16, we can all see the progress being made through a newly developed dashboard that tracks our efforts on a month-to-month basis. It can be accessed at http://sustainbc.wpengine.com/.

While the dashboard shows the College’s overall progress, we are also interested in what can be achieved in single home. Clover Bottom House, the 110-year-old log house that serves as the new headquarters for the sustainability program, models sustainable retrofits for single family homes. Some features, like the use of solar panels, high performance windows and a biomass-fired generator for creating electricity, support energy efficiency, while others, like a Victory Garden and a Monarch Butterfly Station, encourage good nutrition, self-sufficiency and environmental health.

Clover Bottom House

Soon, we may have the opportunity to achieve a first in the state of Kentucky, when a Tesla Powerwall battery is installed in the house. Joan believes the battery will store enough power to enable the home to be energy self-sufficient. We are also taking this initiative on the road with grant funding from the United States Department of Agriculture, enabling Berea College to become a center for energy efficiency. Working in partnership with Kentucky Highlands Corporation, the Promise Zone Board and Jason Delambre from Midwest Clean Energy Enterprises, our students will perform energy audits for businesses like grocery stores and small factories in Eastern Kentucky helping them to reduce energy costs and thereby enabling them to grow and support the region’s economy.

Laurie and I are joined by members of the men's basketball team to plant trees to offset carbon emissions as part of the Green Game project.

Laurie and I are joined by members of the men’s basketball team to plant trees to offset carbon emissions as part of the Green Games project.

Lest anyone think this is all hard work, we also have a lot of fun with sustainability on campus.  In each of the last two years our athletic program has organized “Green Games” in which the community, working together, takes measures to fully offset the carbon footprint of an athletic event. We celebrate at half-time (https://youtu.be/5GivUstO5xo), and afterwards the teams lead the community in planting enough trees to offset the carbon emissions from building energy use during the game and the bus travel.

And that brings to mind what we’re doing in the College Forest, but that’s a story for another blog.

Fostering the growth of an inclusive community: The Women’s and Gender Studies program

Fellow Bereans,

As we approach the close of Women’s History Month, the time seems right to celebrate past contributions and give thanks for the efforts to shape our future regarding the sixth Great Commitment. From Matilda Fee onward, Berea has been fortunate to have so many of our community committed to gender inclusion and equity, and in this blog I’d like to draw special attention to the Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) program. That program’s formal origin came in 1991 when the faculty recognized Women’s Studies as a minor in order to promote gender awareness across the campus, and it became a major 10 years later in 2001.

While one tends to think of academic programs in terms of opportunities for students, it is important to recognize, too, how the WGS program and the values it stands for strengthen the whole community – faculty, staff as well as students. As Berea’s founders knew more than 160 years ago, a healthy community develops and draws on the perspectives, strengths and abilities of all its members, which is why Berea began as a coeducational institution committed to diversity and inclusion. And, it is why today we are committed to learning to see beyond the simple binaries of “male and female” or “masculine and feminine” or “gay or straight” and to understanding gender identity as the richer spectrum it really is. The WGS program plays an essential role in helping our community as it learns to be a welcoming and supportive environment for its transgender members as well.

Group Photo

From left to right: Peggy Rivage-Seul, professor and program chair of WGS; Carrie Jadud, WGS program associate; Shahwar Ali ‘16, WGS labor student; Marcella Fitisone ‘17, WGS major and labor student; Qrescent Mason, assistant professor of WGS

The practice of living out this commitment has changed over time. For most of the College’s history, it is fair to say that the male voice has been privileged. But, more recently, the WGS program has been instrumental in moving us toward a dialogue in which all voices are heard and valued. The signature program for creating this dialogue is “Peanut Butter and Gender,” a series of lunch meetings held 10-15 times per year where Bereans gather to share a simple meal, hear a presentation and then discuss a significant issue of the day. Past speakers include Dorothy Allison (author of Bastard out of Carolina), bell hooks (feminist author, social critic and distinguished professor-in-residence at Berea), Judy Chicago (artist and creator of the “Dinner Party”), Winona LaDuke (Native American activist, environmentalist, economist and writer), Lori Wallach (director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch), Vandana Shiva (author, physicist and biodiversity activist), Carol Browner (administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), Nikki Giovanni (poet) and Gustavo Esteva (journalist and advisor to indigenous groups in Mexico). It is worth pausing for a moment to consider just how remarkable this line-up of visitors to a small school in Kentucky really is!

Laurie and I have enjoyed participating in supporting some of these wonderful visits, and I have been privileged to play a part in Berea College’s Women in Public Service Project, which has connected Berea College to influential woman leaders all over the world.

For all these reasons, I want to thank the members of the WGS faculty for making Berea a stronger, more thoughtful, community. Special thanks to Barbra Wade, the first chair of the program, to Peggy Rivage-Seul, who currently guides the program and organizes “Peanut Butter and Gender,” and to Linda Strong-Leek, past program chair, division chair and now Berea’s vice president for diversity and inclusion. Please join me in actively supporting Peggy, Linda and the entire WGS program as they provide leadership in living out our sixth Great Commitment and our ongoing effort to be a community that welcomes “all peoples of the earth.”

Faithfully yours,

Lyle

You can follow me on Twitter @RoelofsLyle.