Dr. Janice Blythe, chairperson of Division III at Berea College, is interested in people and the influential choices they make. She teaches a variety of courses dealing with food, nutrition, and other decisions we make as families and individuals.
Blythe earned her bachelor’s degree in dietetics from Eastern Kentucky University, her master’s degree in clinical nutrition at the University of Kentucky — she is a registered dietitian in Kentucky (R.D.) — and her Ph.D. in animal science with an emphasis in animal and human nutrition from the College of Agriculture at the University of Kentucky. Although Blythe is a phenomenal educator, she was not intending to be a professor at the beginning of her career.
Blythe came to Berea College in 1986. She has taught courses in nutrition, dietetics, food studies and courses in general studies. As Chair of Division III, she works with program coordinators, faculty and staff in Child and Family Studies, Physical Education and Health, Psychology, and Sociology. Her work as Division Chair involves serving on the Divisional Council, course scheduling, faculty evaluation, and facilitating professional development opportunities. She says the divisional work is all geared to “create more effective teaching and learning.”
The courses Blythe teaches focus on individuals and families and the decisions they have to make. Food security, hunger, health, preventive health through diet, lifestyle and exercise and healthful living are areas about which she is highly passionate. People within communities combining the dynamics of physical, spiritual, social, mental and psychological health is a concept she strives to promote in her teaching. Blythe initially saw herself as a patient educator; someone who explains self-care, and living a healthy lifestyle. But after her first year of teaching in a classroom, she realized this formal method of educating was more empowering than the patient education approach. She saw the classroom bring about greater awareness and ultimately better decision making by students who would go on to influence countless others.
In 2009, Blythe was awarded the Seabury Award for Excellence in Teaching, the highest award given to a Berea College faculty member.
In Blythe’s 36 years in higher education, she has had the opportunity to publish a variety of work including:
- A Study Guide to Accompany Nutrition and Health, a student learning book about nutrition
- two papers regarding an examination of the influence of alcohol and vitamin A in rats
- co-author of a chapter in the text Fostering Student Success in the Campus Community
- a contributor to a publication about Garrard and Madison Counties researched by the Kentucky Archaeological Survey in 2011
Blythe has also published work with service learning, emphasizing food security.
At this writing, Blythe is doing research on African American Families and their Heritage in Garrard County — the Kentucky county in which she grew up.
When asked what her favorite aspect about teaching at Berea College is, she said she learns “with, from and about students all the time.” She explained that Berea offers a unique opportunity to interact with students formally in a classroom, informally outside the classroom, and through advising. “Advising is more than academic at Berea. Advising also occurs through the labor program and through activities that involve faculty, staff and students as a community.”
Blythe says that being able to share with students as much as she can about how she came to appreciate higher education — as well as helping students appreciate becoming professionals — motivates her to be a better person, not just a better teacher. She concluded, “Being able to see students enter Berea as freshmen, move through all the different learning experiences within the community, and then walk across the stage as graduates are among the most gratifying moments in my life.”