The New “Short Term”: A Look at Berea’s Innovative Summer Curriculum

Until the 2010–2011 academic year, the Berea College calendar featured a month-long “short term” between the fall and spring semesters, during which students focused on one full-credit course packed into four weeks. This was often an opportunity for professors to experiment and explore innovative subjects with students. When the College restructured the calendar, these four-week sessions were moved to the summer, which consists of two consecutive four-week terms, the first in May and the second in June.

Summer courses offer a unique opportunity for students to immerse themselves in a single subject, functioning much like the January short term once did. According to Scott Steele, Dean of Curriculum and Student Learning, these non-catalogue courses don’t just represent a change of pace for students; they also encourage faculty to “stretch their expertise and try new things.”

Additionally, these courses frequently provide opportunities for hands-on learning. This summer, Richard Olson’s course, “Introduction to Ecological Restoration,” taught students the principles of restoring damaged ecosystems through participation in three projects: wetland restoration, re-vegetation of mountaintop removal mining sites, and restoration of Chesapeake Bay oyster reefs.

Another course with an environmental emphasis and real-world experience was Deborah Martin and Billy Wooten’s course, “Documenting Mining in Modern Appalachia,” in which students developed a documentary film telling the stories of communities affected by coal mining. Other courses provided students with an opportunity to explore aspects of cultural heritage that are typically overlooked. Judy Rector’s course, “The Geometry, Art, and History of Quilts,” introduced students to the tradition of quilt making, inviting them to learn about the history and the mathematics that inform quilt design.

Other creative summer courses included “The Guilty Vicarage: Murders, Mysteries, and the Divine,” “Film Noir and Neo-Noir,” “Obesity: From Cell to Community,” “Civic Engagement and Social Advocacy,” and “The Holocaust in History and Memory.” Whether they were learning here on campus, in the mountains of Appalachia, or in a major U.S. city, students participated in rich learning experiences that encouraged independent thinking and the ability to understand concepts in action.

Silas House and Dreama Gentry Recognized in Regional Magazine for Service to Appalachia

By Elizabeth Lieser, ’13

     Two Bereans, Dreama Gentry, ’89, and Silas House, were featured in “The Future of the Mountains: 25 Gen-X and Gen-Y People Making a Difference,” an article published in Blue Ridge Country magazine. The article, by Cara Ellen Modisett, profiled leaders in Appalachia who are serving the region through art, activism, and community work.

     Gentry was recognized for her work as the Executive Director of Partners for Education, based at Berea College. According to the article, the programs she leads make a difference in the region by “encouraging young people in rural Appalachian Kentucky to go on to college.” Once a first-generation college student herself, Gentry understands the support that is needed to help students get to and succeed in college. Her work at Berea has expanded from a part-time position working with one high school and one middle school to an executive director position overseeing an annual grant-funded budget of $20 million and a staff of 140 who collaborate with 19 Kentucky school districts.

House, acclaimed author and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Chair in Appalachian Studies at Berea, was cited in the article for his award-winning publications including Clay’s Quilt, The Coal Tattoo, and Something’s Rising, as well as for his loyalty to the Appalachian region. He was quoted in the article, stating, “This land is a part of me, and I feel incredibly sad to think about leaving…After one second of feeling like I ought to leave, my Appalachian pride kicks in and I think, ‘No, I’m going to stay here and fight. I’m going to do what I can to make this a better place.’”

Visit to access the full article.

Berea College Awarded Mellon Grants

By Jacob Appelman, ’15

Berea College has recently received two prestigious grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This funding will support the continued implementation and enhancement of the College’s divisional academic structure. Complementing that effort, the grants will also support a comprehensive faculty development initiative guided by the Center for Transformative Learning to “promote high-impact learning practices within and across the divisional structure.”

The Mellon Foundation directs substantial grant funding each year to liberal arts colleges across the country. Priority is given to projects that will have a long-lasting impact at institutions with a proven track record of success. According to Academic Vice President Chad Berry, the faculty development initiative at Berea will “enhance intra- and interdivisional interdisciplinarity, bring guest speakers to campus, support faculty conference travel, and build leadership capacity among faculty as a whole.”

With grants to deepen faculty expertise in high-impact, interdisciplinary teaching and learning, the Mellon Foundation supports the College’s mission to provide a high-quality, tuition-free, liberal arts education to promising students with limited financial resources.



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