Let It Be a Dance

AJ Bodnar

AJ Bodnar

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, many in the Berea College community submitted their unique perspectives on the situation to President Roelofs to share with campus. The following is the first in a series that will appear here at Berea Beloved. 



Let It Be a Dance by A.J. Bodnar

I play music for the dance classes in Health and Human Performance. It’s heaven. In the course of any given week, I may play modern jazz, improvisations, ballet, Argentine tangos, contradances, swings, waltzes, square dances, Morris dances, English dances, Danish dances, Appalachian folk dances, Scottish dances, dances from antiquity, and this last semester, even the Charleston. But now keyboard’s been unplugged – lights are off – dancing has stopped. And I’m sad.

And yet, I’m not as sad as I could be.

One part of me is looking forward; forward to the next time eyes and hands will lock, and groups of smiling students will once again celebrate life by dancing as Bereans have done for what seems like forever; forward to the next time our dance students eagerly watch their devoted teachers, at first imitating them, then finally flying under the power of their own wings; forward to the next class, or street dance, or Convo, or Berea Dances; forward to once again watching students’ journeys from the hangdog I’ve never danced before, to the exuberant Hey, check out THIS move!

Another part of me is looking back to when we had all just come back from spring break (five-hundred years ago), and how quickly the fear caused by COVID-19 gripped the classes. It was a bit of a shock watching the panic set into the faces of the student, even before anyone knew much about the virus or what was to come.

It’ll be agonizingly long before we dance again, and interesting in the interim to see how our particular classes will lend themselves to online work (the touch, the sound, the look, the hold, the smile, the contact all being so integral to dance). Between now and whenever I’m privileged to hit the first notes again, however, there’s no doubt our professors will have it all worked out. Soon, not soon enough, but soon – we will experience that sweet anticipation as across the campus we hear dance instructors count off, Five, six, seven, eight!

Daily COVID-19 Update: March 16, 2020

Dear Bereans,

Here are some updates from the AC for Monday, March 16.

The AC asks all those who are participating in non-essential gatherings on campus of any size to discontinue effective immediately.  Organizers of such activities are encouraged to explore virtual, non-in-person options.

Important announcement from Sodexo

Sodexo is making a change nationally to carry-out service only for everyone served in their dining facilities.  (This is to enhance social distancing by reducing the number of people dining together.)  Students and others eating through Dining will now go to pick up their choice of food placed into a portable and discardable container and will take that food elsewhere to eat.  This change is effective at dinner this evening.

Continue reading Daily COVID-19 Update: March 16, 2020

Berea College Opens New Women’s and Gender Non-Conforming Center

Dr. M. Shadee MalaklouBy Dr. M. Shadee Malaklou, Assistant Professor and Chair, Women’s and Gender Studies; Director of the Women’s and Gender Non-Conforming Center

This year, the Women’s and Gender Studies department opened a new Women’s and Gender Non-Conforming Center to complement the curricular revisions we are undertaking to advance Berea College’s great, historical commitment to gender equity. Both the new curriculum and the Center’s programming will re/imagine sex and gender as categories of difference, hence making room for all articulations of sex and gender, beyond the binary of male/man and female/woman, to be represented at Berea College. Further, both the addition of the new center and our curricular changes will emphasize that sex and gender are social constructs that intersect with a wide range of other experiences, like race and dis/ability.

It is my hope and the hope of my new colleagues—Dr. Meredith Lee and Dr. Jakeya Caruthers—as well as the hope of the Women’s and Gender Studies advisory committee that met biweekly during the Fall 2019 semester, and the hope of Provost Linda Strong-Leek, that together, these change will attract the burgeoning number of gay, trans, queer, and non-binary students who have flocked to Berea’s campus in recent years but who routinely report that they do not feel represented at the College.

As part of the changes we are undertaking, we are rebranding the flagship Peanut Butter and Gender series, now named “Gender Talk.” When thinking about the series, we wanted a name that would communicate some gravitas, to reflect the heavy lifting that our invited guests are doing to re/imagine sex, gender, and sexuality. At the same time, we hoped that the name change would forge some—what feminist theorist Karen Barad describes as—“common-unity” with similar programs on campus, like the “Truth Talk” series hosted through the Carter G. Woodson Center for Interracial Education.

We are also introducing new programming. Last fall, the center hosted a “coming out” door on Draper quad, in collaboration with Gender Inclusive Housing, for National Coming Out Day; a photo series about inclusive pronoun usage for Mountain Day; a workshop series for faculty and staff about inclusive pronoun usage; a teach-in and panel discussion to think about how sex, gender, and the movement for black life intersect; and an ‘open house’ to inaugurate the launch of our center. This semester, the Women’s and Gender Non-Conforming Center will introduce a new series called “Evening with an Activist,” in which student activists share their stories and strategies with the campus community.

You can also expect some programming from the department. This semester, we relaunched our monthly colloquium series. Our February colloquium event featured a timely conversation about upcoming changes to the curriculum. Other colloquium events this semester and next will feature Women’s and Gender Studies alumni; feminists who merge creative business practices with social justice activism; and present and former faculty who can speak about the history of gender equity at the college, as well as the history of the Women’s and Gender Studies department specifically.

I hope you will agree that we have some exciting changes in store. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram (@wgsberea) or subscribe to our monthly newsletter (email saderholmk@berea.edu) to stay up to date with our programming and curricular revisions!

Jay Stringer at the Women's and Gender Non-Conforming Center

Jay Stringer

Ty Hollowell at the Women's and Gender Non-Conforming Center

Ty Hollowell

Dr. Broughton Anderson (left), Gender Talk Speaker Mark Rifkin (middle), and Dr. M. Shadee Malaklou

Dr. Broughton Anderson (left), Gender Talk Speaker Mark Rifkin (middle), and Dr. M. Shadee Malaklou

Provost Linda Strong-Leek (left) and Professor Althea Webb

Provost Linda Strong-Leek (left) and Professor Althea Webb

Black History Month and Berea College

By Dr. Linda Strong-Leek, Provost

“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.” Dr. Carter G. Woodson

Provost Dr. Linda Strong-Leek

Dr. Linda Strong-Leek

Berea College is honored to celebrate Black History Month not only because we were the first interracial, coeducational college in the South, founded before the end of the Civil War, in a state that once held enslaved people; but also because one of our most distinguished alumni, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, is the reason we have Black History Month! Dr. Carter G. Woodson is also the founder of African American Studies as an academic discipline.

Known as the “Father of Black History,” Dr. Carter G. Woodson enrolled in Berea College in 1897, and graduated with a Bachelor of Literature degree in 1903. Woodson continued his education first at the University of Chicago, where he received two additional bachelor’s degrees and a Master’s Degree in European History in 1908. And in 1912, Woodson became the second African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University (W.E.B. DuBois was the first African American to receive a Ph.D. From Harvard University). Woodson is best known for his work as the founder of the Association for the Study of Negro History and Life (The Association for the Study of African American History and Life), and his seminal work as a scholar of African American history. As we celebrate African American History, we celebrate Dr. Woodson. And we must also remember that African American History is woven deeply into the fabric of the American experience.

For example, Garrett Morgan created the three position traffic signal; Sarah Boone, who was once an enslaved person, improved the  ironing board, and she was one of the first black women in US history to receive a patent; Mary Van Brittan Brown devised an early security unit for her own home, creating a path for many of today’s home security systems, and Frederick McKinley Jones created the refrigerated truck. So much of what we currently take for granted as “American” ingenuity is indeed, American—African American—and we must acknowledge the great contributions African Americans have made to the society in which we live. In these difficult times when the rhetoric of the day seeks to divide us as a nation, let us remember the work of our esteemed alumnus, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, and all of the African Americans and other people of color in this nation who have made the world a better place for all Americans.


Town and Gown Initiatives

By Bruce Fraley, Mayor, City of Berea

Berea Mayor Bruce FraleyFrom my perspective, the City of Berea and Berea College have an outstanding working relationship that continues to grow and improve.  President Roelofs has been eager to reach out to our city’s elected officials and the community as a whole.  Likewise, as Mayor, I am eager to do all that I can to see our relationship continue to grow.

There is a long history of strong “town and gown” relations; however, I will focus on a small sampling of recent initiatives that exemplify the strength of our relationship.

First, most of the city’s “shared use trails” are located along Berea College property.  The college administration has been eager to cooperate with and to assist the city in the development of our trail system by allowing rights of way and easements needed to construct the trails.  This cooperative relationship has helped create a network of safe routes for pedestrians, bicyclists, and those seeking recreational opportunities in our city.  In fact, we are currently working together on a shared use trail along Brushy Fork Creek, from Scaffold Cane Road to Slate Lick Road.  The new trail follows a segment of Boone Trace and opens a beautiful section of the Berea College Forest to citizens and visitors to our city.   We are also in the design phase of shared use trails along Ellipse Street and Scaffold Cane Road.

A second example of town and gown cooperation is the excellent working relationship between Berea College Public Safety and the city police department.  Former Police Chief David Gregory and Public Safety Director Lavoyed Hudgins met regularly to exchange information and needs of both the college and the city.  This relationship will continue to grow with new the new Police Chief, Eric Scott.  The welcome reception for Chief Scott, hosted in the Baird Lounge on campus, was well attended by the campus community and was greatly appreciated by the city.   In fact, this long standing, strong relationship created an opportunity for the City Police Department to work with Dr. Kennaria Brown, who has provided multiple sessions of diversity training for the department over the past several years.

Finally, there is truth in the old adage that “sometimes the smallest things make the biggest difference.”  During my first year as Mayor, we extended an invitation to President Roelofs to deliver a presentation on happenings at the college at a City Council Meeting.  The information President Roelofs provided was well received by the Council as well as members of the general public.  In fact, President Roelofs provided the Council with updates on three occasions last year, and we look forward to having him on the agenda regularly in 2020 and beyond.  Likewise, President Roelofs invited me to make a presentation to faculty members at the beginning of my term, has invited me and other city leaders to convocations, the annual Christmas concert, and commencement exercises.  This is important because the more often we are with each other in person, the stronger our friendships and relationships become.

I sincerely look forward to seeing our friendships, relationships, and joint initiatives continue to grow and flourish as we move Berea forward together.

Howard Hall Cupola: Honoring a Symbol of Our Mission

Howard Hall Cupola

The Howard Hall cupola stands at the south end of Fee Glade.

The Howard Hall cupola has been a fixture on Berea’s campus since that hall was taken down in 1971 after having served Berea students for more than 100 years.  As the first college dormitory in the South to house black and white men together, Howard Hall has a special place in history. It was named to honor General Oliver Otis Howard, a Civil War Union commander who later became the first Commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau and founder of Howard University in Washington, D.C.

After meeting Berea College founders John G. Fee and J.A.R. Rogers through the American Missionary Society, Howard led fundraising efforts to raise money to build the interracial dorm, a period picture of which is provided below. The U.S. Congress chartered Howard University the same year Howard Hall was built in Berea. Like Berea College, Howard University would be nonsectarian, interracial, and coeducational.

When Howard headed up the Freedmen’s Bureau, The Bureau provided scholarships for emancipated black men to attend Berea College. Howard Hall housed 89 men each academic term. What remains is the cupola, which until recently was placed on a brick plaza at the south end of Fee Glade where one also finds the memorial wall listing the name of every person who named Berea in their estate. The cupola serves as a symbol of the mission that has inspired people for generations.

Wanting to highlight this important symbol more, we are restoring it and moving it to a more prominent location.  We will also add signage to inform visitors of the place of Howard Hall and Gen. Howard in our history.   Though Howard Hall has been gone for a long time, the cupola reminds us of why we are all here.

For more on Howard Hall’s history, read about it in the Berea College magazine.

The following picture shows the hall with some residents standing around it.


Howard Hall 1924

Top 10 Things We’re Thankful for This Year

From national awards and rankings to national press coverage, Berea College has enjoyed a banner year. Here’s a list of accolades and accomplishments we’re thankful for and proud of. Our success is due to a beloved community working toward a better future we hope one day is available to all. Happy Thanksgiving!

  1. The North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) presented Berea College with the 2019 Outstanding Service to Environmental Education award.
    Berea College forester providing information to visitors of the Forestry Outreach Center
  2. The Richmond-Madison County branch of the NAACP honored Berea College at the annual Freedom Fund Banquet.
    Group of award recipients at the NAACP Freedom Banquet
  3. Berea College was featured on CNN in a major documentary created by Fareed Zakaria. Watch below.
  4. Berea College was also featured in an NPR special report recently. Listen online.
  5. Berea’s Center for Excellence in Learning through Service (CELTS) collected 774 bags of food for the local food pantry through their annual Hunger Hurts Food Drive.
    Hunger Hurts paper bags
  6. The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education ranked Berea College the No. 1 Best Value College in the nation in their 2020 College Rankings.
    Student reading an issue of the Wall Street Journal
  7. Berea gained the No. 1 spot in the nation for campus engagement in the 2019 Sustainable Campus Index.
  8. Washington Monthly named Berea College the “Best Bang for the Buck” and a top five liberal arts college.
  9. Using the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) pass rate (we have enjoyed 5 years of 100% of our graduates passing the exam on their first taking) and net-price of nursing schools to formulate its rankings, Nursing Explorer named the Berea College Nursing program as the best in Kentucky.
    Berea College student nurses
  10. The newly built Margaret A. Cargill Natural Sciences and Health Building was awarded LEED gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council and full project certification by the Forest Stewardship Council.
    MAC Building

A Full Community at Berea Students’ Fingertips

This editorial originally appeared in the Richmond Register on October 19, 2019. 

Imagine a high school senior. Let’s call her Emily. Imagine she is smart, talented, and hard working. Her mom is not in the picture. Her dad works second shift, and she works, too, when she’s not caring for her younger siblings. Emily makes sure they are fed and safe, and she reads to them at bedtime. She also has homework to do and needs to prepare for college entrance exams, even though she’s not so sure college is really an option. She has financial aid documents to fill out, but isn’t sure how to answer the questions on the form.

At 17, she doesn’t even know what, exactly, she wants to do with her life or how to achieve it. Emily needs help to get where she wants to go, but she doesn’t know where to look for it.

Helping students like Emily and their families is the idea behind new programming at Berea Independent Schools, funded by a U.S. Department of Education grant awarded to Partners for Education (PFE) at Berea College. PFE secured funding for the school system to become a Full-Service Community School. The funding allows Berea Independent to offer a suite of comprehensive services to students and their families from kindergarten through high school graduation.

In addition to offering support in literacy, attendance, and college and career planning, the program partners with local organizations and businesses like the Appalachian Community Federal Credit Union to help students and families with financial literacy and with White House Clinics to assist in accessing quality healthcare. The program can help Emily prepare for entrance exams, fill out her financial aid applications, and even set her up with an internship at a local company to help her explore career options and interests.

In short, the Full-Service Community School grant takes a very broad approach to meeting the needs of disadvantaged students and their families, helping them overcome obstacles that are typically not an issue for wealthier families.

This kind of work isn’t new to Berea College. In 1917, for example, Berea College librarians traveled by horse and buggy throughout Appalachia delivering boxes of school books to aspiring young students who dreamed of an education. This new grant is the latest addition to Berea College’s commitment to support education in the region.

At Berea College, we know it’s not enough to simply open a door. Not everyone is ready to go through it, and some may need extra encouragement to do so. It’s not even enough to open just one door. Opportunity means having a choice of doors, the freedom to come back through again and, if necessary, try a different one.

With this new grant, Berea College hopes to help maximize the full resources of our entire community for students who we hope will, in turn, become conscientious citizens ready to return the favor to a new generation of young people.

Families and Schools Together

Kat Reid works with Daeus Reid

Families and Schools Together

Michelle Ramsey eats with Rose and Graham Ramsay

Families and Schools Together

Brandon Denning and Kodi Mullins work with Aria Mullins

Families and Schools Together

Carmie Baxter works with Holden Blanton

Families and Schools Together

Jodi Mullins works with Penelope Ruth in the Families and Schools Together program from Partners for Education

The Value of Free

Dr. Lyle Roelofs headshot[This post is adapted from a column that appeared in the Richmond Register on September 21, 2019.  Bereans reading it will already be familiar with some of its points and themes.]

Recently, the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education named Berea College the No. 1 “best value” college in the nation. With Berea’s no-tuition promise, the ranking seems sort of obvious, but the true value of “tuition-free” is worthy of further comment.

If student debt is any indicator, free is worth a great deal!  This year, student loan debt topped $1.5 trillion, second only to mortgage debt. Defaults on this debt are also at record levels.  We can take a number of things from this staggering number. One, there is a lot of perceived value in education so students and families are willing to take on debt to better themselves through education. Another is that the cost of getting an education has become tremendously burdensome for the typical American family.  This debt has real impact on the people who hold it—people you and I know and love. Student loan debt means young people often must delay buying a home and cannot be full participants in the national economy. The MBA degree or other further study that a person might need to get a better job might have to be deferred, too.

The burden of debt has an even larger impact on low-income and first-generation students. They know that education is the key to moving up financially and socially, but find themselves in a tough predicament. A scholarship isn’t always enough because tuition isn’t the only barrier. For them, going to college means delaying a paycheck that could help those they love and having to take out loans makes that choice even tougher.

These burdens and our mission of providing transformative opportunity to students who cannot afford it are why Berea College has not charged tuition for more than 100 years.  But, just like freedom, a no-tuition college education isn’t really free.  Berea College must still spend a lot of money to be able to offer a high-quality educational experience for every student.  What makes it work?

Every Berea student works a campus jobs to lower the cost for everyone, while also gaining the real-world work experience that employers value.

Our donors, many of whom are alumni, step up to fund the difference.

And with all that generosity students gain access to paid internships in the summer, a fund for professional clothing, and a robust academic support system. Most importantly, there is little or nothing to repay as they start their lives after college. Forty-nine percent of Berea graduates in 2018-19 completed their degree with no debt. Those students who graduated with debt owed an average of $6,693 – far below the national average of nearly $33,000.

It seems to be working. Nationally, only 11 percent of low-income, first-generation college students graduate from college, yet up to two-thirds of the Berea College graduating class each year is first-generation.  We don’t achieve that just by giving away tuition.  We enable our students to succeed by offering the kind of support wealthier students pay for at other schools.

We believe the Berea model could be applied on a larger scale.  A tuition-free education still costs money, but it is past time to have a national conversation that acknowledges the value of a college education for many students and addresses the prohibitive costs of obtaining one. That conversation can start with the Berea model.


Queridas/os/xs Bereanas/os/xs* (Dear Bereans) :

This month, we invited Dr. Gwendolyn Ferreti and Ms. Alondra Barrera García to speak to the campus community. 

Warm greetings in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. President Roelofs has graciously invited us to write a guest entry for his blog. We are proud to recognize Latina/o/x and Latin American heritage and culture in the United States this month. Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15-October 15. Its formal observation began in 1968 under the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson as a week-long commemoration and was expanded to cover a 30-day period by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Its inception coincided with the rise of social activism in the 1960s, such as that of the Chicana/o Movement, which pushed to gain full social, cultural, educational, and political recognition for Chicano (Mexican-descent) communities in the Western and Southwestern regions of the United States. This movement came along with other ethnic, identity and social justice movements such as the fight for Civil Rights of Black people, Indigenous people and people of color, the Black Liberation Movement, the Women’s liberation movement, and more.

While Latinx people recognize the hard-fought legacy of this month-long celebration, the name of the celebration is fraught with debate. For many, “Hispanic Heritage” month reduces the recognition of Chicanx and Latinx communities in the US and Puerto Rico by tying us to a history of conquest by Iberian Spanish colonizers. As Latinx communities grow throughout the US (especially in the Appalachian and U.S. Southern regions), it is vital that we recognize our richness as a diverse group of people that include many racialized and ethnic groups including Afro-Latinx, hundreds of Indigenous groups, mestizos, and Whites/Euro-descendants; a wide range of sexual orientations and gender expressions; a wide breadth of religious and spiritual expressions; many different language speakers; and many national groups.

At this time, Latinx and immigrant communities in the US are facing increasing hostility. These hostilities have escalated to horrendous acts, such as the White Supremacist mass shooting that targeted Latinx and immigrants in El Paso on August 3, 2019. At the same time, the country faces deep questions about its commitment to immigrant communities, especially Latinx immigrants. Central American refugees, including children, are currently being detained en masse as they travel to the US to apply for political asylum. Latinx immigrant communities in the South and Appalachian region are also increasingly subjected to massive raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), such as those conducted at workplaces in Tennessee in April 2018 and in Mississippi August 2019. It is crucial, then, that we honor our historic and continued existence in this country to counter the ways in which our communities are being terrorized and erased. Celebrating and honoring Latinx culture and heritage is essential to counter the hate, racism, and xenophobia we face.

Today, Berea College continues to grow its commitment to Latinx students and the broader Latinx community. Many of Berea College’s faculty and staff teach, mentor, and serve Berea’s Latinx students. Latinx students have also taken on tremendous campus leadership through the Hispanic Outreach Program (HOP) which serves the broader Latinx community in Madison County as well as through groups such as the Latin American Student Association (LASA) who advocate for students and organize events like last year’s Latinx Empowerment: Rising Up Mini-Conference. We are looking forward to supporting and growing these efforts and are already celebrating success! This month, we organized a Latinx Student Reception and have taken up the work to open the Espacio Cultural Latinx (the Latinx Cultural Space) which was inaugurated at the end of the Spring 2019 term in response to students’ advocacy. We are also working to develop more Latinx Studies courses, programming, and will continue to support and mentor Latinx students in the years to come. We believe that Latinx studies and resources will become a lasting part of the College’s rich history of interracial co-education and will add to the College’s investment in equity, diversity, and inclusion through its Great Commitment to provide educational opportunity for students of all races, primarily from Appalachia, who have great promise and limited economic resources.

In the meantime, we encourage you to come visit us, say hello, and chat. ¡Muchas gracias (thank you very much)!


Gwendolyn Ferreti and Alondra Barrera García


*We recognize that traditional Spanish grammar dictates that the word “Latinos” technically encompasses both males and females. However, this practice prioritizes the masculine form to be representative of all bodies and excludes those who fall outside of the gender binary. The practice of using the “x” is a conscious choice to be fully inclusive of all gender identities and expressions. The use of an “x” does not preclude a/o, but rather specifically recognizes and gives respect to gender non-conforming and non-binary people and cis-gendered/trans persons who identify as male and female. A parallel usage of gender-neutral language that is more popular in South America is “Latine.”

About us:

Dr. Gwendolyn Ferreti

Dr. Gwendolyn Ferreti

Dr. Gwendolyn Ferreti is a specialist in Latinx studies and critical migration studies and joined Berea College this Fall as the new Assistant Professor of Latinx Studies. She is housed in the Peace and Social Justice Studies Department, is also the campus’s DACA Coordinator, and teaches a freshman course as a part of Berea’s Male Initiative.






Alondra Barrera Garcia

Alondra Barrera García

Ms. Alondra Barrera García is currently the AmeriCorps VISTA Latinx Outreach Coordinator. A recent graduate (May’19), she is proud to work to build capacity for the campus’ growing Latinx community. She has a BS in agriculture and a BA in Peace and Social Justice and has focused her studies on exploring Latinx immigrant experiences.