Cheryl Nixon
Dr. Cheryl L. Nixon
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Dr. Cheryl Nixon is Berea College’s 10th President and the first woman to serve in the role. She is honored to serve the first racially integrated, co-educational college in the South, which expresses its commitment to educational opportunity by providing every single student with free tuition. Her career has been dedicated to bringing the transformative power of learning to students who face barriers to higher education—and she is inspired every day by Berea’s founding mission to educate “all peoples of the earth” together, as one. Dr. Nixon is a passionate advocate for educational access, excellence, and inclusion. She is proud to be leading the College that is a national model for these goals: Berea meets 100% of every student’s full financial need and serves 50% students of color.

Dr. Nixon emphasizes higher education’s need to create a culture of possibility for all students, inspiring them to imagine new ideas and move them into action. She is a firm believer that our students are our most powerful force for a positive future—and that Berea’s Great Commitments provide an unparalleled foundation for this visionary work. This fall, she held a “listening and learning” tour that gathered ideas for shaping Berea’s future. She asked people to express their thoughts on the topics of Berea Beloved, Even Better Berea, Brave Berea, and Out-of-the Box Berea—and she quickly learned of Berea’s capacity for generating and debating groundbreaking ideas!

Access to college must provide access to new ways of thinking and new ways of serving. Throughout her career, Dr. Nixon has created innovative liberal arts programs, ensuring that students with wide-ranging interests feel welcomed into and inspired by the world of ideas. Having designed student success programs at both rural and urban institutions, she brings to Berea College an understanding of how we can empower our students to address our community’s most important needs, working together to create new ways to serve Kentucky, Appalachia, and beyond.
Dr. Nixon most recently served as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Fort Lewis College (Colorado), the most diverse public liberal arts college in the country, and Associate Provost at the University of Massachusetts Boston, the most diverse four-year institution in New England. Her work at Fort Lewis College, a rural Native American-serving institution, focused on launching a nursing program dedicated to expanding rural healthcare and creating an academic hub devoted to student achievement. During her 17-year tenure at the University of Massachusetts Boston, she initiated programs focused on experiential learning, first-year student support, and career exploration. Throughout her career, she has forged collaborative partnerships with institutions such as the University of Colorado Anschutz, San Juan College, Boston Public Library, and Boston Mayor’s Office.

The author of numerous books and articles, Dr. Nixon’s research focuses on the invention of the novel, comparing family plots to legal cases. One of her favorite classes featured students working together to create rare book exhibits of early out-of-print novels. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. in English from Harvard University, and her B.A. from Tufts University.

  • M.A. and Ph.D. in English, Harvard University
  • B.A. in English and Political Science, Tufts University