Mar 01, 2024  
Course Catalog 2016-2017 
Course Catalog 2016-2017 [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 182-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 from a coeducational college.

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 relocated to and 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 8,300), 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 with an unduplicated undergraduate enrollment of 2,930: the College of Arts and Sciences (2,558 students) and the Conservatory of Music (559 students). Included in the enrollments of both divisions are 187 students who are enrolled in the Double Degree Program, whose graduates earn both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Music Degrees.

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, 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, and selected graduate programs leading to the Master of Music (conducting, historical performance), Master of Contemporary Chamber Music, and the Master of Music Teaching degrees. The Master of Music in Conducting is a five-year program integrated with specific undergraduate Oberlin Bachelor of Music degree programs. The Master of Music in Historical Performance is available to students with undergraduate degrees from schools other than Oberlin, as well as part of a five-year program integrated with undergraduate study at Oberlin. The Master of Contemporary Chamber Music is available to pre-formed groups not yet under management whose individuals hold undergraduate degrees. The Master of Music Teaching is a 14-month degree program open to students holding undergraduate degrees in performance or composition from Oberlin or another institution.

Academic information differs in some cases between the College of Arts and Sciences and the Conservatory of Music. General policies that apply to all Oberlin College students, for example admissions, expenses, academic policies, and academic opportunities, are explained in the appropriate sections. For information about degree programs, graduation requirements, major and minor study, and other areas, please refer to the The College of Arts and Sciences , The Conservatory of Music , or The Double-Degree Program  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 Allen Art Building, and the Conservatory Library in the Conservatory of Music. A vibrant Academic Commons featuring the latest computer technology, integrated learning support, and a cafe was opened in the Main Library in 2007. The library is a recipient of the Excellence in Academic Libraries Award from the Association of College and Research Libraries. One of the nation’s largest liberal arts college libraries, its collections exceed 2.5 million items and it provides extensive access to electronic resources. The library staff is highly regarded for its service orientation and responsiveness to student needs.

Founded in 1917, the Allen Memorial Art Museum (AMAM) at Oberlin College is recognized today as one of the five best college and university art museums in the United States. Numbering more than 14,000 works, the collection is encyclopedic, with works from the Ancient Near East, Egypt, Greece, and Rome; European and American paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts dating from the medieval period to the present; important holdings of Asian paintings, scrolls, sculptures, and decorative arts, including nearly 2,000 very fine Japanese prints; notable African, Native American, and Pre-Columbian works; a large collection of prints, drawings, and photographs; and the archives of the artist Eva Hesse.

The collection is housed in an impressive Italian Renaissance-style building, designed by Cass Gilbert and named after Dr. Dudley Peter Allen, a distinguished 1875 graduate of Oberlin College. In 1977 a gallery for modern and contemporary art, designed by the architectural firm of Robert Venturi, John Rauch, and Denise Scott Brown, was added to the Gilbert building. The Allen art building complex houses the college’s art department with its superior art library of 100,000 volumes.

The Irvin E. Houck Center for Information Technology (CIT), whose primary location is in Mudd Center, is responsible for information technology services on campus. Services include account, connectivity, software, and computer repair support through the CIT Help Desk, detailed self-help guides via the CIT Wiki and web site, delivery and maintenance of faculty and staff office computers, enterprise-wide and specialized software, mobile device support, sales and hardware repair services through the Oberlin Technology Store (an authorized Apple Campus Store), network and server infrastructure, personnel, financial, and student  information systems, audio/visual services, and instructional technology. Both wired and wireless networking capability can be found throughout the campus including all on-campus residence halls. CIT also maintains several computer labs around campus which can be used by individuals as well as classes or groups. More information can be found

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, along with 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, Disability 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 comprehensive 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 design of the  230,000-square-foot facility encourages collaborative learning between the disciplines of the natural sciences, supports both faculty and student research, and fosters both formal and informal learning.

The Adam J. Lewis Center for Environmental Studies opened in January of 2000. The building and landscape provide a one-of-a-kind learning environment.  On an annual basis, the solar electric system on the roof and parking lot Lewis meets all or most of its energy needs. The “Living Machine” is an on-site ecologically engineered wastewater treatment plant that internally recycles more than 70% of the water used within the Lewis Center.  Ecological restoration, permaculture, and organic gardening are demonstrated within the center’s landscape, which includes a restored wetland ecosystem, a fruit orchard, and a household-scale organic garden. The center is a living laboratory that showcases sustainable environmentally efficient building technologies and operating systems. 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 the Warner Center for the Performing Arts, 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, which was built by C.B. Fisk, Inc., of Gloucester, Massachusetts, and installed in 2000. Other pipe 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, located in Bibbins Hall, include two concert halls, two recording studios, and numerous rehearsal spaces (see Conservatory of Music Facilities  in the conservatory section of this catalog.)

The Bertram and Judith Kohl Building which opened in May 2010, serves as the innovative home for the conservatory’s Department of Jazz Studies and its academic programs in music history and music theory. The Kohl Building features a world-class recording studio; flexible rehearsal and performance spaces; teaching studios and practice rooms; and an archive for the largest private jazz recording collection in America, rare musical instruments, and a rare collection of jazz photographs from the 1950s, among other holdings. The Kohl Building has been designed to be the first music facility in the world to attain a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold rating.

The Jesse Philips Physical Education Center is the primary wellness facility on campus. The facility provides numerous recreational opportunities, including; Carr Pool (site of two NCAA swimming and diving championships); a circuit weight and free-weight room; cardiovascular machines, two full-length courts for basketball; four racquetball courts; four squash courts; a sauna; and a multipurpose room for group exercise. The facility also features a bouldering cave and climbing wall in the northeast corner of the lobby that challenges students with four climbing faces. 

Oberlin’s John W. Heisman Club Field House was completed in the fall of 1992, and is connected to the Philips Physical Education Center. Heisman Field House contains a 200-meter track and four tennis courts for the use of varsity and recreational users.

The 25,000-square-foot Williams Field House features a 90 foot by 185 foot monofilament turf field and serves as an indoor practice location for all varsity and club sports.  As the first LEED (Gold) rated building on campus, Williams features natural ventilation provided by operable windows and skylights, abundant natural lighting, light sensors that save electricity, enhanced mechanical and electrical systems, and adaptive reuse of construction materials from a building formerly on the site.

A recent addition to the listing of athletics and recreational facilities is the Austin E. Knowlton Athletics Complex. When completed in August 2014, the complex will have a multisport artificial surface that will be able to serve varsity, club and intramural teams as well as Oberlin wellness endeavors.

Oberlin College also features two stadiums that are used by the varsity baseball and softball programs. Dill Field was recently renovated and is now one of the best in the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC).  Culhane Field was also updated recently with a new natural surface infield, scoreboard, windscreens, batting cage and bleachers. The field is one of the finest softball stadiums in the NCAC as it offers superior playability in a picturesque setting.

Other recreational facilities that are available for student and faculty/staff use include 12 tennis courts, multipurpose outdoor fields, a 400m track and 6 bowling lanes.

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