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. Read an article with a link to video of Jeff’s testimony.
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/.