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“Work Colleges” Gather for Fall Conference

The nation’s six “Work Colleges” gather at Berea College for annual fall conference Oct. 28-31

Students and administrators from the nation’s “Work Colleges” – so called because a college job is an integral part of every student’s educational program at these institutions – will meet at Berea College Thursday – Sunday, Oct. 28-31. The event is the annual fall conference of the Work Colleges Consortium (WCC).

The WCC’s six member institutions include Berea and Alice Lloyd College in Kentucky; Blackburn (Ill.) College; College of the Ozarks in Missouri; Sterling (Vt.) College; and Warren Wilson College in North Carolina.

The conference will include activities designed to help participants examine work from multiple perspectives ranging from individual experience through institutional programs to global issues and service.

Guest speaker for the conference will be ethicist and author Gil Meilaender, Ph.D. Meilaender has edited a volume entitled Working: Its Meaning and Its Limits (2000) a volume in the University of Notre Dame Press’s series on the ethics of everyday life. He is the Richard & Phyllis Duesenberg Professor of Christian Ethics at Valparaiso University.

Students from the work colleges, especially a team from Berea, played a major role in designing the conference. Among the activities planned are:

Friday, Oct. 29
11 a.m. – 1 p.m. – visits to student work places on Berea’s campus, including student craft workshops, the College Farm and the planetarium and geology museum.

6 – 6:45 p.m., Trustees Room, Seabury Center – guest speaker Gil Meilaender

Saturday, Oct. 30
9 a.m. – 2 p.m. – Service project at the MERJ Cooperative on Hwy 421 in Berea, a sustainable community center promoting access to clean local food and knowledge sharing about sustainable living which opened last spring. WCC students will be helping with clean-up on the property and in the greenhouses; clearing fence lines; pruning and cutting trees, and cleaning out garden beds.

On each Work College campus, there has been a historical recognition of the value of work and an institutional commitment to promote an understanding of that value among students through establishment of a work program. These work programs help students to understand work as a tool for experiential education, as a means of serving the community, and as a place for integrating academic learning, practical knowledge, and life lived in the larger community. The colleges blend courses in liberal learning and applied studies with their own particular vision of the undergraduate curriculum.

Berea College’s first constitution (1859) included a statement that the school would try and make work opportunities available for students as a means of making higher education affordable. In 1906, Berea formalized its work program when it required all students to work a minimum of 7 hours a week in a campus job. Today, students work in more than 140 departments on campus and in community service positions off-campus.

The Work Colleges Consortium was established in 1996 to foster collaboration and information sharing between member institutions, assist members to improve their programs, develop and coordinate work/service/learning projects both locally and nationally, and to promote the dissemination of effective student work-learning programs more widely throughout American post-secondary educational institutions. The site of the WCC annual conference rotates yearly among member campuses.

The WCC is headquartered at Berea College and is directed by Dr. Dennis Jacobs. For more about the conference, contact Dennis Jacobs at (859) 985-3154 or

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