May 27, 2024  
Course Catalog 2007-2008 
Course Catalog 2007-2008 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

About Oberlin

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Oberlin College: Goals and Objectives


Statement of Goals and Objectives for Oberlin College

Oberlin College, an independent coeducational institution, holds a distinguished place among American colleges and universities. Oberlin was the first college to grant undergraduate degrees to women and historically was a leader in the educating of African Americans; its heritage is one of respect for the individual and active concern for the larger society. The College uniquely combines an outstanding professional school of music with a leading undergraduate college of arts and sciences. The two divisions reinforce each other. The Conservatory provides flexible programs to prepare students as professional musicians and teachers of music. Deeply committed to academic excellence, the College of Arts and Sciences offers a rich and balanced curriculum in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Within that framework the College expects that students will work closely with the faculty to design an educational program appropriate to their own particular interests, needs, and long-term goals.

Oberlin seeks a diverse and promising student body. Recognizing that diversity broadens perspectives, Oberlin is dedicated to recruiting a culturally, economically, geographically, and racially diverse group of students. Interaction with others of widely different backgrounds and experiences fosters the effective, concerned participation in the larger society so characteristic of Oberlin graduates. Oberlin seeks students who are talented, highly motivated, personally mature, and tolerant of divergent views. The Conservatory of Music in particular seeks talented musicians with considerable potential for further growth and development. Performance is central to all of the curricula including music education, history, theory, composition, and technology.

Oberlin’s faculty is dedicated to combining effective undergraduate instruction with productive scholarship and artistry. Members of the faculty are highly skilled and professional, well-grounded in their chosen discipline; yet they characteristically have interests that extend beyond their own specialization. The College seeks to recognize and encourage teaching of unusually high caliber, and scholarly and other creative activities are considered essential to continued teaching excellence. Thus, active research, scholarship, artistry, and/or performance is expected of each faculty member.

Oberlin College enjoys an exceptional physical plant including libraries, art museum, computing center, scientific laboratories, physical education facilities, concert halls, and practice rooms. Creating an environment in which academic excellence can flourish, these attractive physical resources are important to realizing the aims of the College.

For its students, the aims of Oberlin College are:

to equip them with skills of creative thought, technique, and critical analysis which will enable them to use knowledge effectively;
to acquaint them with the growing scope and substance of human thought;
to provide for their intensive training in the discipline of a chosen area of knowledge;
to ready them for advanced study and work beyond the college years;
to foster their understanding of the creative process and to develop their appreciation of creative, original work;
to expand their social awareness, social responsibility, and capacity for moral judgment so as to prepare them for intelligent and useful response to the present and future demands of society; to facilitate their social and emotional development;
to encourage their physical and mental well-being; and to cultivate in them the aspiration for continued intellectual growth throughout their lives.

-Adopted by the General Faculty November 15, 1977

Oberlin’s Distinguished 174-Year History


The roots of Oberlin College reach back to 1833 when two young Yankee missionaries arrived at a stump-dotted clearing in the forests of northeast Ohio.

The Rev. John J. Shipherd and Philo P. Stewart, inspired by Alsatian pastor John Frederick Oberlin, resolved to found a college and colony on the western frontier “where they would train teachers and other Christian leaders for the boundless most desolate fields in the West.” They shortly gained the support of Charles Grandison Finney, one of the 19th century’s great revivalists. Finney’s reputation attracted students to the college and colony, “bound together by a solemn covenant which pledged them to the plainest living and highest thinking,” as well as financial support for the College and the town of Oberlin.

In the spring of 1833, the first settler, Peter Pindar Pease, built his log house at the center of Oberlin. That December, 29 men and 15 women students began classes in the Oberlin Collegiate Institute. Two years later circulars describing Oberlin noted that “youths are received as members, irrespective of color.” As a result, by the turn of the century one-third of all African American graduates of predominantly white institutions in the United States had graduated from Oberlin.

In 1837, four young women matriculated for the regular college course. Three of the four graduated in 1841 and became the first women in America to receive AB degrees.

In 1850, by an Act of the Ohio Legislature, the Oberlin Collegiate Institute became Oberlin College. The change was in name only since collegiate instruction had been offered from 1834 when the original charter was granted.

The music division became part of the College in 1867, two years after its founding as a private school. The Graduate School of Theology, organized in 1835 as the theological division, was merged with the Divinity School of Vanderbilt University in 1966.

Present-day Oberlin College reflects its early dedication to high intellectual standards, liberal education, excellence in teaching and social and moral commitment.

The town of Oberlin, Ohio (population 8,600) is 35 miles southwest of Cleveland and is easily accessible by car, plane, bus or train.

Degree Programs


The academic programs of Oberlin College are based in its two divisions: The College of Arts and Sciences (2,250 students) and the Conservatory of Music (600 students).

The College of Arts and Sciences offers a four-year undergraduate program leading to the Bachelor of Arts degree. The Conservatory of Music offers four-year undergraduate programs of professional and academic studies leading to the Bachelor of Music degree, as well as two-year programs leading to a Performance Diploma (undergraduate) and an Artist Diploma (graduate).

A five-year Double-Degree Program leading to both the Bachelor of Arts degree and the Bachelor of Music degree is also available. The Conservatory also offers limited graduate programs leading to the Master of Music (opera theater, conducting, historical performance), the Master of Music Education and the Master of Music Teaching degrees. All of these are five-year programs integrated with specific undergraduate Oberlin Bachelor of Music degree programs. The Master of Music in Historical Performance Program admits students with undergraduate degrees from schools other than Oberlin.

Academic information differs in some cases between the College of Arts and Sciences and the Conservatory of Music. For information about degree programs, graduation requirements, advising and academic standing, grading policies, major and minor study and other areas, please refer to the College of Arts and Sciences, Conservatory of Music or Double-Degree sections of this catalog.



Oberlin’s facilities are unsurpassed by any school its size. It has one of the nation’s most extensive college library collections, one of the finest college art collections in the country and first-rate facilities and equipment in music, theater arts, the natural sciences, computing and physical education.

The Oberlin College Library system consists of the Main Library in Mudd Center, the Science Library in the Science Center, the Art Library in the Venturi wing of the Allen Art Building, and the Conservatory Library in the Conservatory of Music. The library is a recipient of the Excellence in Academic Libraries Award from the Association of College and Research Libraries. Its collections exceed 2.4 million items and it provides extensive access to electronic resources.

The Allen Memorial Art Museum, internationally recognized for the excellence of its collection, was established in 1917 as the teaching collection of Oberlin College. Over the years the museum’s collection has been carefully developed through purchases and gifts. It has been recognized as one of the finest college or university art collections in the nation, and it continues to grow in size and distinction. The collection, which ranges over the entire history of art, is particularly strong in the areas of Dutch and Flemish painting of the 17th century; European art of the late 19th and early 20th centuries; contemporary American art; and Old Master and Japanese prints.

The Museum is a landmark building designed by noted American architect Cass Gilbert. In 1977 it was expanded through the addition of a large new gallery for modern art, designed by the architectural firm Venturi, Rauch and Associates. The Allen Memorial Art Building also houses the College’s art department with its superior art library of 100,000 volumes.

The Irvin E. Houck Center for Information Technology, located in the Mudd Center, is responsible for administrative computing, the major servers, computing labs, and data networks on campus. More than 250 computers along with a diverse offering of application software are available to students in public and departmental labs. Specialized services are available for multimedia processing, and a growing wireless network serves many public areas of the campus. Internet access in all dorm rooms is connected by a residential network and students are assisted by a trained workforce of “Residential Computing Consultants” (RCC’s). More information can be found at

Peters Hall, completed in 1887, was renovated in 1996 and its function redefined primarily for foreign languages. Extensive classroom space, including a dedicated seminar room for each department, and faculty office space are complemented by the Paul and Edith Cooper International Learning Center, a state-of-the-art language lab and media center. Also housed in the building are the Office of the Dean of Studies (including academic advising, international students, Study-Away library, and Winter Term), Student Academic Services, the Office of Undergraduate Research, the Oberlin College Press, and the Learning Assistance Resource Center.

The Oberlin College Science Center, completed in 2002, is an integrated science complex that incorporates the Roger W. Sperry Building, the Kettering Hall of Science, and the Wright Physics Building into a newly constructed facility offering the latest design in laboratory, lecture hall, and classroom spaces for teaching and research, as well as a new Commons area for use by all students and faculty. The center houses the biology, chemistry and biochemistry, neuroscience, and physics and astronomy departments, and the science library. The 230,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility has been designed to encourage collaborative learning between the disciplines of the natural sciences, to support both faculty and student research, and to provide an environment where both formal and informal learning are fostered.

The Adam J. Lewis Center for Environmental Studies opened in November 1999. Designed to purify and reuse non-potable wastewater on site, utilize sustainably grown or produced materials, and eliminate the use of toxic materials, the center has a rooftop photovoltaic array as well as a monitoring system that assesses energy performance levels. The building is intended to be a laboratory that showcases environmentally efficient building technologies and operating systems, and sustainable building techniques. The Lewis Center has won several major architectural awards and has attracted considerable national attention.

The performing arts at Oberlin utilize the Sophronia Brooks Hall Auditorium, for theater and opera productions, and Warner Center for the Performing Arts, used for theater and dance classes and productions. Finney Chapel is available for concerts, lectures, and performances of various kinds. It houses the Kay Africa Memorial Organ, built by C.B. Fisk, Inc., of Gloucester, Massachusetts, and installed in 2000. Other organs on the Oberlin campus include a three-manual Flentrop organ in Warner Concert Hall and a two-manual Brombaugh organ in Fairchild Chapel in Bosworth Hall. The facilities of the Conservatory of Music include two concert halls and numerous rehearsal spaces (see “Facilities” in the Conservatory section of this catalog.)

Athletic facilities are located in the Jesse Philips Physical Education Center. It contains Carr Pool (site of two NCAA swimming and diving championships), a Nautilus center, a free-weight room, three full-length courts for basketball, volleyball, and indoor tennis, six racquetball courts, nine squash courts, a training room, and specialty rooms for activities such as gymnastics and fencing. The Oberlin College Climbing Wall, unveiled in September 2003, features four climbing faces and a bouldering cave.

Oberlin’s John W. Heisman Club Field House was completed in the fall of 1992. Connected to the Philips Physical Education Center, it contains a 200-meter track and four tennis courts, plus space for football, baseball, soccer, and lacrosse practice. Other facilities include 12 all-weather tennis courts, 22 multipurpose outdoor fields, and 6 bowling lanes.

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