It isn’t quite déjà vu, but the feeling is close. Over the last few months, when rounding the corner to my new office, or dropping in for a first meeting with colleagues, I often have an eerie sense of familiarity. The feeling is strongest during conversations with student workers in the Marketing & Communications department or when, from the corner of my eye, I see someone walking to class and think, “I know you.”
Unlike real déjà vu, I know the source of my feelings. After 20-some years away, I am back on campus at my alma mater, walking from the Alumni Building to Lincoln Hall or Hutchins Library, debating whether or not to have lunch at Papaleno’s and weighing the pros and cons of attending convocation. Mixed with these familiar elements are numerous signs of change: the snack bar has been replaced by the fabulous Carter G. Woodson and Black Cultural Centers; a once coal-powered campus now has the “greenest” dorm in the world; and I only attend the convocations I choose. Oh, and I can spring for more than a garlic stick at lunch.
What has not changed are the students and the excitement of college life. When I overhear them talking about dreams and frustrations, why certain classes are required, how great such-and-such professor is, I hear echoes from my time as a student. Echoes that become forceful reminders that while my peers and I have moved on in our lives, some part of us still remains at Berea. The introvert from eastern Kentucky, the driven future businesswoman from Virginia, and the international student with big dreams are all still here, which is why today’s Berea is always “Our Berea.” Some part of us is still on campus, asking the essential questions and seeking the same chance to succeed in life that all alumni came to Berea to find.
I take the general theme for this issue, Bridges, from President Roelofs’ “Our Berea” meetings, which were held with alumni across the country over the last year. During those conversations he spoke of Berea being composed of three bridges: a bridge in, a bridge through, and a bridge out. This edition of Berea Magazine is a discovery and celebration of large ideas and the individual efforts needed to make those ideas a reality. In the bridge-in section, we highlight the efforts of the Admissions Office to identify and bring to campus the next generation of Bereans and the hard work done by the First Year Experience staff who help make the adjustment to college life as smooth as possible.
In the bridge-through section, we turn to aspects of life on a college campus that are too often unheralded. While academics and labor are Berea’s cornerstones, the programs that ensure safety and community are likewise essential to the learning and living experiences of our students. As we learn in Katherine Burlett’s article, the college takes a multifaceted approach to safety, one that includes preparedness drills, the ongoing efforts of public safety, and numerous programs that help empower students to create a better campus.
We close the issue with the bridge out, and the recognition that it is often also a bridge back in for alumni of all ages. At homecoming this year, many events brought current students and alumni together to share ideas, experiences, and the bond of fellowship. Also in the fall, we celebrated the rededication of the Bruce-Trades Building as Stephenson Hall in honor of former president John B. Stephenson. As a Berean of the 1980s and 1990s, I was particularly gratified to see Jane Stephenson and the rest of her family back on Berea’s campus. At the back of this issue, you will find a word cloud that represents some of what we learned from the alumni survey that so many of you filled out last year. In the coming months, the Alumni Relations office and many others on campus will be using the information you provided to build even better bridges to all the members of our community.