Residential Life Collegium
What does the phrase “democratic community” mean to you?
It means social and political equality for all. That’s really what I think it is, a community where everybody gets a chance to flourish, where they all have the same opportunities for growth. Whether or not people take advantage of these opportunities, and how they take these opportunities, puts people in different places, but everyone starts on the same playing field with the same opportunities to grow and develop.
How do you see “plain living” encouraged day-to-day?
We put money into renovating residence halls on campus, and when you look at the numbers, it’s like “Oh my gosh! That’s a lot of money that goes into that.” But then you go in the halls, and they’re Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED)-certified. They put all that money into building a simpler hall and using land and resources that we have here. So it’s that simplicity of function and structure that I think we’re modeling. Also, this particular Commitment is about more than plain living; it includes ideas like, “pride in labor well done.” It is about how labor supervisors provide leadership development and how that’s linked to having high personal standards. And then we have the recycling and composting bins, and the movement toward using local foods, and professors who push you to think outside the box. I graduated in 2010, so having been a student at Berea and now being on the staff side of it, I can appreciate the importance of these connections. I appreciated it then, but now I understand how day-to-day encouragement comes from connecting thinking and doing on campus.
The “plain living” Commitment has sometimes been called the “kitchen sink” Commitment because it has so many components. Are there aspects, other than “plain living” that resonate with you? Why?
I like all of them. I couldn’t pull just one and say, “If I had to pick one it would be this.” Take for instance, the idea of pride in labor well done…I feel a person should have pride in what they do, and even more pride that they’ve done it well. And then there’s zest for learning. I believe that the moment a person feels like they have learned everything, they are no longer of value to the community. The world is constantly changing, so there are constantly things to learn. You have to look back and learn from the past, so that you can appreciate where you are today and understand how to move forward. We should have high standards for ourselves to be better, but not just in the context of career goals. For me, a personal high standard is how I live and interact with people every day. The question I try to ask myself is “what will I have accomplished that I find valuable?” I think that a valuable community member has to care about the welfare of others. A person can show this by donating money to charities or countries that don’t have enough. Or, you can be the person who’s feeding people at soup kitchens or the cashier who goes to work happy every day because you enjoy checking people out and providing that smile. People who do well at their jobs, especially in the service industry, have to care for others because what they do affects someone else.