Initial Publication Date: May 18, 2016

Communicating Mission and Vision

Matthew Saderholm, Berea STEM Education Center (SEC), Berea College

Berea College is breaking ground on a brand-new 125,000 square foot Natural Sciences and Health Building that will open for the 2018-19 academic year. This building will house our Division 1 programs (Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Nursing, & Physics as well as a Geology/Archeology program that has been dormant for almost 15 years). Planning for this space started as a divisional self-study using the Berea's "Great Commitments" to ask what our division's vision and mission were. This communal process produced a final report reaffirming our strong commitment to liberal arts education. We also strongly supported finding ways to increase opportunities for students, both current and potential, to succeed in STEM and related health fields like Nursing. To this end, we advocated for spaces in our new building that could serve us and the regional K12 student population and community (outreach) like a state-of-the-art digital planetarium. We also pushed to include spaces that would support new/current students who were considering STEM/Nursing majors but less likely to succeed without support (i.e., "inreach"), like a STEM Education Center. We want to provide support for all our students, not just the ones who would succeed regardless.

While all faculty from the five academic programs were involved, the Program Chairs, Division Chair, and Faculty Building Project Shepherd were instrumental in strongly advocating that we reserve space for outreach and inreach in our new building. However, we quickly realized that just planning rooms was not sufficient for success. Staffing our SEC with a strong director and designing and implementing effective programing were also essential. To this end, the current Division Chair and Building Project Shepherd appointed an unofficial SEC steering committee to lead the planning on the SEC and seek out funding to support the model for which we are advocating. As we move forward toward a functional SEC, we are working diligently to build excitement with current and prospective students, faculty, administration, and potential funders. We plan to focus our message to students on showing them they belong in our building through activities coordinated with aligned Centers (i.e., the Black Cultural Center) that provide support and practical strategies for success. We plan to focus our message to faculty on how the SEC will build student skills and core knowledge to enhance success in classes. We plan to focus our message to our administration on how the SEC will lead to higher retention rates in STEM & Nursing classes as well as the institution as a whole. And finally, we are focusing our message to potential funding agencies on the track record Berea College has with at-risk students and how the SEC is an essential component to expanding that success to STEM & Nursing. When the doors open on the Martha A. Cargill Natural Sciences and Health Building, we believe that our STEM Education Center will be ready to serve everyone who seeks it out for assistance.


Center Profile: Berea STEM Education Center (SEC) - Berea College