The Common Good
May-June 2003

Berea College: 'We Are the Source of Hope'

by Elizabeth Palmberg | May-June 2003

Local culture meets global issues.

During its 148-year history, Berea College—which from the beginning served a poor, interracial, co-educational student body—has never kidded around about its commitment to a "gospel of impartial love." The college charges no tuition and admits only low-income students, most of whom come from the surrounding Appalachian region (although other students hail from dozens of countries). This gives Berea a unique perspective: When a class on globalization recently took a field trip to Chiapas and Oaxaca, Mexico, it was the first time some students had left Kentucky.

Several service learning courses integrate the school's historic commitment to service in Appalachia into a larger perspective on economics, gender, and local culture. This combination of theory and hands-on service also shows up in Berea's Sustainability and Environmental Studies Program, where classes often involve local problem solving, including a soon-to-open campus eco-village.

At Berea, working locally is part and parcel of thinking globally, as shown in recent years by campus visits from the Dalai Lama and farm labor activist Baldemar Velasquez. As junior Tricia Feeny, a member of Greenpeace's U.S. youth delegation to the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, says of her fellow grassroots activists, "We are the source of hope."

—Elizabeth Palmberg
Berea College, Berea, KY 40404; (859) 985-3000;

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