At Berea College, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a time when you aren’t busy. Classes, labor and extracurriculars can take time, and we can all get caught up in the moment and forget to slow down and enjoy the company of friends, socialize or just sit out on the Quad and watch the world go by. President Cheryl Nixon has been trying to increase communication between not just the College and students, but also encourage a culture where students find a little more joy in their day-to-day lives as Bereans.

In her first months as president, she and her office have hosted multiple events for students, staff and faculty. During the recent cold weather that brought snow and a declared snow day, the president hosted an informal sledding event, a continuation of a tradition former President Lyle and First Lady Laurie Roelofs began.

Students sitting on a sled in the snow, about to be pushed by Dr. Cheryl Nixon.
Photo by Liz Stokes ’25

This event saw the president open the backyard of the iconic President’s house to students for sledding on a snowy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, even providing sleds for students to use. The president was present for a time with students, engaging with them and talking about her agenda for her term as Berea’s president. This event was certainly a big hit with students.

With goals to expand communication between students and College leadership, Nixon also followed up on
a long-time request from the Student Government Association (SGA). Setting out chairs and other gathering spaces on Berea’s Quad in the middle of campus has been seen as a great first step toward opening up the campus and strengthening interaction.

This bridge-building can help students who were either in high school during the COVID-19 pandemic or were just starting their college careers. Even after the world opened back up and normal life returned, things haven’t quite felt the same. But with this renewed push for connectivity, interaction and communication, the hope is that everyone on campus can recover from the trauma brought about by the pandemic.

After spending all that time in isolation, campus life can be reinvigorated by President Nixon’s push to encourage joy on campus, and that was echoed in the sentiments of Ülvi ’24 and Suneil ’25, SGA vice president and senate speaker, respectively, who meet with President Nixon on a monthly basis.

“She’ll ask us, ‘What have students been telling you?’ Ülvi said. “We bring our concerns as students to her, and I think she does a good job of listening to them. She even takes notes.”

Suneil specifically recalls meeting the new president for the first time at a breakfast at Boone Tavern the president invited the SGA to attend.

“She asked us what the role of the SGA is, and after we explained it, she let us know that there would be more interaction between administration and SGA going forward, and I think she’s delivered on that promise,” Suneil said.

One detail that was stressed was an appreciation for the president’s respect for Berea College traditions. For any campus culture, tradition is key for bringing students together and creating joy through being a community member.

“She even sent an email about the sleds. I’m really glad she did that. It feels like she really cares about the Berea spirit,” Suneil said.

Two female students sitting in blue adirondack chairs in front of Hutchins Library
Blue chairs were set up in spaces throughout campus to give students places to relax, gather and build community. Photo by Breana Lovins ’25

Ülvi and Suneil also appreciated the placement of the new chairs on Berea’s Quad. The chairs are Berea blue and are part of the new president’s project to connect campus.

The chairs represent a means for the student population to experience the positivity and sense of community a campus can generate. Referred to as “third spaces,” the new president wants to build new areas where students can collectively gather outside their classrooms and residence halls, increasing student social interaction and solidarity.

“I felt really seen by this change,” Suniel remarked about the chairs.

With these new third spaces and communication with the student body, the new president hopes to encourage the moments that make the time spent at Berea just a little more joyful.

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