President Cheryl Nixon knows a sense of joy is important to anyone’s life. She also feels that students across the country have struggled to maintain joy since the pandemic.

“We are still coming out of COVID. Mental-health issues, work-life balance and wondering where our community is are all questions that arose during the pandemic,” Nixon said. “Another big issue is that the world is getting more and more complicated. We spend a lot of time scrolling and looking at difficult problems such as wars and climate change.”

President Nixon hugs Berea's Mascot, Blue the Bear outside near a tree.
Photo by Brooklynn Kenney

Having moments of celebration allows for the entire community to come together. Mountain Day, where everyone takes a step away from campus, is the perfect example of what a celebratory moment is.

“There is joy and happiness that permeate the atmosphere,” Nixon said. “People are doing what they love, and they are away from the pressure of keeping up with society.”

This holiday is important to the community as the College celebrates its commitment to preserving nature by being in the mountains, but it is limited to one day in October. “I would love to expand this holiday to happen in the spring as well because it serves the College well,” Nixon said. “We learn so much about ourselves when we are in nature and away from everyday business that it is so easy to get caught up in.”

During her Listening, Learning and Building Community Tour, Nixon spoke with students about ways to increase joy on campus. Many of the students responded that they wanted more places to rest.

“Joy and rest are two interrelated things,” Nixon explained. “Rest doesn’t have to be sleep, but it can be reading a good book in a restful setting. A place where they can have restful moments allows a personal form of celebration. I want to know what other forms of celebration are occurring on campus, or what students would like to see.”

Community coming together is a form of celebration, too.

“It doesn’t have to be a campus-wide event, but it can be a practice or a music ensemble where students have a lot of joy and celebratory moments,” Nixon added. “If every student had a place where they felt like they could experience celebration, the campus may become an even happier place.” She has held regular Sunday Suppers, a Patio Party at the President’s House for St. Patrick’s Day and a bonfire as part of inauguration—all to see what forms of celebration work for students.

A group of students huddle for a picture outside on campus.
Photo by Breana Lovins ’25

Berea has a lot to be proud of and celebrate from its Great Commitments and its past, she noted.

“We are surrounded by our racial justice and social equality vision,” Nixon said. “We should be proud of our school and its special ideals. In return for being proud of our school, we should have more school spirit. By celebrating our identity as a school, we are creating moments of celebration for the campus and involving most of our student body.”

Being intentional about the time we make for joy is important to Nixon. “This intention can spark joy for many on campus. Some joy will be organically created through students interacting with one another, but we also have to make an effort to notice the small things in our lives that bring us joy.”

While Nixon isn’t entirely sure what new celebratory moments may look like on Berea’s campus, she knows that students’ input is the most important aspect. Bringing joy back after a global pandemic may be a difficult task, but it is one that Nixon wants to bring to Berea College.

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