Presidential Announcement
campus in the fall

Presidential Announcement

Dr. Cheryl L. Nixon

A perfect fit for Berea’s “beloved community” based upon the “kinship of all people,” as expressed by Berea’s motto and its Great Commitments.

Dr. Cheryl L. Nixon was unanimously selected by the Berea College Board of Trustees to be the College’s 10th president, the first woman to serve in the role. She will begin her tenure as president on July 1, 2023, following the retirement of President Lyle D. Roelofs.

Dr. Nixon’s career has been dedicated to providing access to educational excellence. She is a passionate advocate for educational opportunity and equity, as demonstrated by her work as provost at Fort Lewis College, the most diverse public liberal arts college in the country, and associate provost at the University of Massachusetts Boston, the third most diverse four-year institution in the country. Dedicated to educating underserved populations, Nixon worked with colleagues and students at Fort Lewis College to create a “community of care” that honored Native American students’ concept of kinship, or k’é in Navajo. This makes her a unique fit for Berea’s “beloved community” based upon the “kinship of all people,” as expressed by Berea’s motto and its Great Commitments. By creating programs that enact the transformative power of the liberal arts, she has helped students with wide-ranging interests and abilities feel welcomed into and inspired by the world of ideas. 

The search process for Berea’s 10th president was extensive and detailed. As the selection process advanced, it was increasingly apparent that Dr. Cheryl Nixon not only possesses excellent academic and experiential credentials but, just as important, she has both the heart and values of a Berean.

Dr. Charlotte F. Beason '70
Presidential Search Committee, co-chair
Charlotte Beason

Nixon earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in English from Harvard University and her B.A. in English and Political Science (summa cum laude) from Tufts University. Her research focuses on the invention of the novel in the 18th century, and her books and articles compare the early novel’s representation of the family to manuscript legal cases. Through fellowships at the Huntington, Clark and British Libraries, she discovered a love of archival research and discovered the little-known diaries, letters and legal materials featured in her publications. 

She currently serves as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Fort Lewis College, a position she started in July 2019. At Fort Lewis College, she has overseen the creation of a new Academic Hub focused on student success. The Hub provides academic support such as tutoring while also providing academic inspiration through undergraduate research, career design and place-based learning. With grants from the Department of Education, Colorado Governor’s office and the Mellon, Teagle and El Pomar Foundations, she has worked with faculty and staff to build new pathways into environmental education, expand Native American and Indigenous studies and create summer programs that emphasize learning cohorts.

Dr. Nixon was a standout from the beginning. She has served in two widely divergent institutions, both of which serve student populations with significant commonalities with Berea students. So, she is already living many of our core values. Furthermore, I respect that she showed courage and creativity in addressing her institution’s problematic racial legacy in a forthright and inclusive manner.

Dr. Kennaria Brown
Presidential Search Committee, faculty representative
Kennaria Brown

“Dr. Nixon’s background, knowledge, experience and presence positions her to effectively fit and collaboratively lead current and future expressions of our Great Commitments and mission,” Presidential Search Committee Co-chair Dr. David Shelton ’69 said.

Prior to working at Fort Lewis College, she served as associate provost at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she was previously chair of the English Department. At UMass Boston, she oversaw the Office for Global Programs, where she created a Fulbright program for Iraqi scholars. She developed an “Experiencing Boston” curriculum for first-year students, using the city as a classroom for programming that featured experiential learning and community connections. Student-centered partnerships connected UMass Boston to the Boston Public Library, JFK Presidential Library, Boston Mayor's office and Boston Harbor Islands National Park. Some of her favorite classes featured hands-on work with students in the Boston Public Library Special Collections room, which resulted in students sharing their findings in popular rare books exhibitions for the public. 

A hallmark of her work has been building academic collaborations that benefit underserved populations. She has spearheaded the launch of a new collaborative nursing program with the University of Colorado College of Nursing that features community-centered approaches to rural nursing and Indigenous approaches to health. As the lead for Colorado’s largest Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) grant,  she helped design the Southwest Colorado Educational Collaborative, which creates pathways from regional rural high schools into higher education. In addition, an Equity Transfer Initiative partnership with San Juan College in New Mexico is strengthening transfer pathways from two-year to four-year college for underrepresented students. 

Dr. Nixon has exceeded my expectations for Berea’s next president. Her enthusiasm and dedication to learn, grow, and serve give me the utmost excitement to see how she contributes to Berea's marvelous legacy.

Cameron '24
Presidential Search Committee, student representative

“Our president must be a true believer and advocate for equality, access and the transformational power of education,” Board of Trustees chair Stephanie B. Zeigler said. “I’m deeply pleased to say Dr. Cheryl Nixon is all of that and more. Her academic and professional background, breadth of experience and embodied values are a true fit for our next president. I am very much looking forward to working with her and am excited about the next chapter in Berea’s story.”

Dr. Nixon is married to Tim Monroe, who serves as the North American executive director of El Hogar Ministries, an organization providing homes and educational opportunities for up to 250 students in Honduras living in extremely impoverished and vulnerable circumstances. The couple has an adult son.

The Search Process

The Berea College Board of Trustees began a presidential search process earlier this year after President Lyle D. Roelofs announced his upcoming retirement. The Board appointed a search committee comprised of a diverse mix of students, faculty, staff and trustees, led by Berea College trustees Charlotte Beason and David Shelton. The committee engaged an executive search firm, Academic Search, to partner and assist in the process and worked diligently to evaluate submissions from a field of 125 applicants.