Founded in 1855, Berea College offers high-quality liberal arts education to students who have great promise but limited economic resources. Founded upon inclusive Christian principles in 1855, Berea College was the first interracial and coeducational college in the South. The College promotes understanding and kinship among all people, service to communities in Appalachia and beyond, and sustainable living practices that set an example of new ways to conserve limited natural resources. In addition, Berea is the only top American college that makes a no-tuition promise to every enrolled student. This generous tuition promise scholarship makes it possible for students not only to attend higher education but also to graduate with minimal debt. With this promise, one in three Berea students graduated with no debt in 2013—an achievement that Berea accomplishes by offering a nationally recognized labor program, in which all students participate, working a minimum of 10 hours per week in community service, outreach programs, and service-learning courses.
Berea College serves primarily the Appalachian region and the Common wealth of Kentucky, but its students come from over 40 states and more than 60 countries. Currently there are 1,623 students enrolled in Berea: 47% come from Appalachian counties; 24% African-American, 36% a racial or ethnic category other than “White, non-Hispanic,” and the average age of all Berea students is 20.6, and the vast majority of students (81%) live on campus. Reflecting the College’s commitment to diversity, of 133 faculty, 17.2% are members of minority groups, the highest percentage of minority faculty among its benchmark institutions.
The College offers Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in 28 fields. Its Asian Studies program was only instituted in 1999 but the College has had a long history with Asia as part of its mandate to “assert the kinship of all people.” Berea’s longest-serving president, Francis S. Hutchins, spent nearly 20 years in China and, casting his vision beyond the College’s immediate environment declared in his inaugural address that, “Our curriculum must always be those cultural objects which will enable us to think, and understand the world in which we live.” Berea's Asian Studies faculty teach and research in a variety of disciplines including Religion, History, Art History, Political Science, Sociology, Film Studies, Theater, Health and Human Performance, and Japanese Language. However, only the History and Religion programs offer sequenced courses focused on Asian culture. Many Berea faculty have benefited from professional development programs offered by the East-West Center and the Asian Studies Development Program with particular regard to East and Southeast Asia. Participation in this grant will provide a solid foundation for students interested in China. Berea faculty have led student trips to China and Japan, while a number of students participate in exchanges with Kansai Gaidai and Kyushu Universities in Japan and Keimyung University in Korea.
In spring 2016, Berea hired a tenure-track professor of Chinese language to begin teaching Chinese language and culture courses on a full-time basis in fall 2016. Consequently, the central focus of the Asian Studies program in the short term is the integration of the new language and culture courses with existing China-focused offerings. Concomitant with that is establishing an exchange program in China, similar to the ones in Japan and Korea.