I attended Berea College from 1999-2003. It is the ’03 after my name in publications and email signatures that designates me as an alumna and my era of attendance. I try not to focus too much on the fact that the first number tells people I started college last century. But the dash in between is the totality of my college experience. The dash represents the four years I journeyed through Berea. The dash is the professors, classes, friends, tears, celebrations, parties, broken hearts, memories, shared bathrooms, 2 a.m. fire drills, laughter, lazy Saturdays, road trips, work, sports, love, experience, support—the life I journeyed through!
Every student has such a dash, and this magazine focuses on how Berea supports students through their dash.
Though I could point to friendships I cherish and still invest in today, or life in D-suite in Kettering Hall or (again) to the amazing man I met and have shared 19 years of marriage with, instead I want to share a glimpse into the way faculty and staff lifted me up throughout my four years.
Dr. Stephanie Browner was one of my most influential College professors. She was intimidating and sometimes her high expectations almost felt ruthless. Yet, I took her for five classes because I loved the way she pushed me in my writing and thinking (and dancing during one short-term course). Yet one moment—outside of class—will stay with me forever. We had an assignment that involved watching a film and writing a commentary on it. The senior seminar class of seven students had to share one VHS throughout the week to complete the assignment. I was the last to get the video and went to Dr. Browner’s home to pick it up. She came outside as I pulled up, video in hand—it should have been a short exchange. But, by this point she knew me. She knew the look on my face meant I wasn’t OK. And instead of handing me the video, she invited me in. Several hours, many tears and two cups of coffee later, I returned to my residence hall lighter—she had helped lift a burden that had become too much to carry. She reminded me that I wasn’t alone and that my troubles were momentary, as she conveyed all she saw in me and hoped for my future.
She has since left Berea, so I’ve only seen her once since graduating 20 years ago, but what she imparted to me that night with her willingness to drop everything and be what I needed in that moment stays with me each time I feel overwhelmed, underappreciated and unseen. Yes, Berea offers SO many tangible supports to students which fill the following pages of this publication—from free laptops, to first-time study abroad experiences, to tailored writing support—but the human connections are what make this place special. Faculty and staff who stand in the gap for students who don’t always have someone else to turn to; who don’t just understand but appreciate the challenges students face and the beauty they can bring into the classroom or workplace and into their lives. It is this human support that has carried generations of Bereans through college into lives of extraordinary purpose.
Abbie Tanyhill Darst ’03