What do these Commitments mean to you?
To me, they represent core elements that make Berea unique and set us apart from all other institutions of higher education. Both commitments are integral and essential keystones of the college’s dedication to educate the whole person – the academic program (“the head”), the labor program (“the hands”) and the service and spiritual program (“the heart”). Together with the academic program, they create the educational environment and fertile ground upon which the other Great Commitments can be expressed and applied. That is why it was so important for me to come back to Berea. Most individuals, especially in staff positions, could make a lot better money somewhere else. I cut my salary tremendously to come back here. I like it that individuals come here for the mission, not just to work. The only way that happens is when there is a spiritual side. I chose to come back and work here because Berea provided more opportunity for my spiritual growth than a job at Lexmark. Those are the kinds of things that happen to folks that attend Berea because it causes such a change in you based on what you are exposed to on campus.
How do they fit in your worldview?
Both are extremely important in preparing students for the multi-faceted and fast paced international world of work they will experience upon graduating. The Christian commitment, “the gospel of impartial love” as it is applied at Berea, opens doors and welcomes students, staff, and faculty of any faiths, religions, or belief systems. This open door policy provides our students the opportunity to work, study, and live alongside individuals whose philosophy and life experiences are very different from their own.
At the same time, the transferable and hard skills students learn and apply through their labor positions gives them a distinct advantage when competing for jobs outside of Berea College. Today’s employers seek applicants who have solid work experience and that can demonstrate the core values and work ethics of an ideal “ready to work” candidate.
I like the idea that we try to educate the whole person and that includes the spiritual side of people. I come from a very Christian background in the mountain region, and my parents were much more conservative in their Christianity. What I love about the environment here is that when you attend school you broaden the concept of your religion, and you start meeting other people and gaining an understanding of other people’s religions. That spirituality is, for me, a foundational piece of the college. And yes, working here is very different because there is that foundation that exists here that doesn’t exist out in industry. It doesn’t mean that the individuals I worked with at Lexmark were not spiritual or didn’t have a strong belief, but that wasn’t part of the mission. So it’s very different when you make that a part of your mission. I believe in an all loving God and to me that impartial love is absolutely essential in what we do here. Because you don’t want to open your arms and say, “here are all these opportunities!” and then limit it as Baptist or Methodist or a denomination that might lean toward being conservative or liberal or whatever. You want to open your arms and say that everybody can come, and that includes those that are not Christian. But that impartial love, no matter what religion, is part of a spiritual life.