There is no escaping technology. It touches every part of our lives, from the pocket-sized camera phones we use to communicate and the cars we drive, to the appliances that fill our homes. Unsurprisingly, Berea College’s technology offerings have grown exponentially since 1958, when the Danforth Technology Building was constructed. It has now become evident that that facility, constructed well before there were even any computers at all at Berea, has outlived its usefulness.

Today’s students are thinkers, makers and innovators, and they require adaptable, flexible, state-of-the-art learning spaces on par with those found at larger institutions to ensure they are positioned for success in careers that span a wide range of technology and communications pursuits. With student success in mind, the College has launched a capital campaign to construct two
future-focused buildings that, when complete, will harness the power of computer science, digital media and information technology, and engineering technologies and applied design (including sculpture and ceramics) to prepare the next generation of technology leaders.

Through the construction of these two buildings, the $10 million campaign seeks to prepare traditionally underserved students to be workforce-ready graduates. Once equipped, these graduates will have the opportunity to improve the economic prosperity of each community they enter, as well as enhance quality of life for themselves, their families and their communities.

Innovations in technology are constant, and Berea’s current facility lacks the flexibility to keep up with the pace of change. Student enrollment in technology courses—especially among female students—is rapidly growing as more graduates seek careers that will engage them in this burgeoning field. To support their goals, the College plans to create flexible learning spaces with the latest equipment to meet the demands of today’s students and the needs of future students.

President Lyle Roelofs expressed his enthusiasm for the project, noting that technology applications have always been key to the quality of life for Berea students and graduates.

“Traditional Appalachian lifestyles have always deployed impressive mastery of available technology, so students arrive at Berea with a strong foundation. It is no surprise that many, given the right opportunities, emerge to become leaders in technological innovation, and, importantly, that they bring with their creativity a strong sense of ethical sustainability.”

Our world is more connected than ever, increasing the urgency of collaboration. These buildings will be designed to bring classroom and lab learning together under the same roof. Computer science and digital media will share space with Information Systems and Services (IS&S), Berea’s information technology unit. All these connections will nurture a culture of collaboration and create synergy between academic departments and administrative functions, benefiting students in technology-focused majors with labor positions in IS&S. A key example of that sort of connection between student labor and learning is the student software development team. This group of talented students uses their skills and knowledge to develop software solutions to operational challenges, saving the College time and money on hiring outside vendors to do the work while readying themselves for great career opportunities after graduation.

Rendering of the back of the first technology building on campus
Rendering of the back of the first technology building on campus

Now, imagine transparent classrooms with glass walls to show technology learning in real time, or spacious labs and a maker space where creativity can flourish, or welcoming public spaces that beckon all members of the campus community to gather. That’s the vision for the first building, set to open in 2024.

For the second building, picture students in engineering technologies and applied design sharing space with sculpture—one discipline centered on function, the other on form. Such synergies can augment the design of both creative and functional three-dimensional projects students are eager to develop, test and refine. When complete this innovative learning space will equip new generations of students to advance the future of robotics and artificial intelligence that is increasingly essential to connecting them to advanced manufacturing careers.

Together, these new buildings will provide the perfect environment for preparing our students for the future. 

The future is here, and it is accelerating. These buildings will position us to meet the challenges it brings for the benefit of current and future Berea College students.

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