The Ghost Light

Dr. Deborah Martin

Dr. Deborah Martin

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 next in a series appearing here at Berea Beloved. 

The Ghost Light

By Dr. Deborah G. Martin, Professor and Chair of Theatre

It is the isolation that hurts the worst. Sure, we have our students reading plays, watching videos, giving them modified assignments.  However, true Theatre means simultaneous space and time and teamwork, and teamwork means togetherness.  In Theatre we learn by DOING together.  In our Acting classes we tell our students that we expect them to fail the first assignment because on the second they will fail better and on the third even better.  Audiences do not come see actors thinking onstage; they come to see them DO onstage.  Confidence is built through trust and exploration with other students in the room.  We need to hear the breath and see preparation in the body.  Rehearsals are pedagogically electric; we teach our students to apply what they learn in the classroom to their production work. Together, we learn the lines, build the sets, sew the costumes, hang and focus the lights.  When a theater “goes dark” or closes, we leave on what we call the “ghost light.”   We are keeping the ghost light on – even now.  Hopefully it’s a beacon that leads our students back to our theatrical home.  We yearn to open our doors again; to take reservations again; to rehearse again; to hear the applause again.  We yearn for the belly laughs we would have at our department meetings. The pandemic has taken the one teaching tool we never knew we needed – togetherness.


Closer to Sustainability

Nancy GiftDuring 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 next in a series appearing here at Berea Beloved. 

By Nancy Gift Compton Chair of Sustainability; Associate Professor of Environmental Studies; Chair of Division II

I want to preface what I write about sustainability and this virus by saying that I am scared, and I am not trying to be blindly optimistic or insensitive to suffering. I am newlywed to someone with compromised lungs, and my mom, at 85, has heart problems; I worry for both of them. Every life lost to this virus matters, and the fact that medical care in this country is best for the privileged means that we are facing tragedies that need not happen this way.

On the other hand, I spend more energy than I would like worrying about our carbon emissions and our natural resources. And here we are as a globe, suddenly and dramatically improving air quality and water quality and slowing consumption of goods and fuel and resources. We are, many of us, cutting our busy lives to core essentials, hopefully to some of the basics that truly make us happy: simple meals with loved ones, walks and time with animals, reaching out via letters and phones and email and text to those we care about. We are buying less stuff and flying less and keeping important people close.

Some people in power are noticing that working people matter. And many people are protecting the vulnerable. The political ground is shifting. The stock market is literally shrinking.

I find myself watching this moment, with compassion and fear and hope and wonder and anxiety, hoping that we can make the best of this awful situation, soon return to community life and travel, but not return to the habits of production and destruction and pollution. Maybe this can be a turning point in the path of climate change, and maybe we can move closer to sustainability in the wake of COVID-19.


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 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