Feb 24, 2024  
Course Catalog 2018-2019 
Course Catalog 2018-2019 [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 education of African Americans. The Oberlin community is known for its academic and musical excellence and its commitment to social engagement and diversity.

Oberlin uniquely combines an outstanding professional school of music with a leading undergraduate college of arts and sciences. The Oberlin Conservatory of Music 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 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 and Conservatory:  Mission and Goals

The mission of Oberlin College and Conservatory is to educate students for lives of intellectual, musical and artistic rigor and breadth, sustained inquiry, creativity and innovation, and leadership.  Oberlin aims to prepare graduates with the knowledge, skills, and perspectives essential to confront complex issues and to create change and value in the world.

Oberlin is committed to educational access and opportunity.  It seeks to offer a diverse and inclusive residential learning environment encourage a free and respectful exchange of ideas and shares an enduring commitment to a sustainable and just society.

The goals underlying Oberlin’s mission are given fuller explication in the division-specific Learning Goals articulated by the faculties of the College and the Conservatory.  Although the College Learning Goals  and the Conservatory Learning Goals and Outcomes  are distinct, with each division’s goals speaking in particular ways to the aspirations and needs of its students, they nevertheless are commonly rooted in-and, together, give fullest flowering to-the core values animating Oberlin and its work - namely, an abiding commitment, on the part of students, faculty, staff, and trustees, to educational excellence, diversity and community, stewardship, and sustainability.


Oberlin’s Distinguished 184-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), and the Master of Contemporary Chamber Music 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.

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 Libraries is a four-library system consisting 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 opened in the Main Library in 2007. The libraries received the “Excellence in Academic Libraries Award” from the Association of College and Research Libraries in 2002. One of the nation’s largest liberal arts college libraries, its collections exceed 2.5 million items including extensive access to electronic resources. The staff of the libraries is highly regarded for its service orientation, visionary approaches to information literacy, 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 15,000 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 more than 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) supports technological services and tools used in teaching and learning at Oberlin. CIT’s primary location is in Mudd Center, whose Academic Commons features the latest computer technology in a social space for collaboration. Also located in the Commons is a technology help desk that provides free software assistance and facilitates computer hardware repairs for students, faculty, and staff. CIT also supports computer labs in both academic and residential buildings, technologically-enhanced classrooms, and provides a library of audiovisual equipment available to students and specialized software for mathematics, the sciences, and the arts. CIT also works directly with faculty to facilitate technology in the classroom, specifically in science research, high-end computing, and digital arts. More information can be found at: www.oberlin.edu/cit/.

The Carnegie Building which houses the Geology Department classrooms and labs and three student and advisor support offices: the Academic Advising Resource Center/Registrar, the Office of Financial Aid, and the Student Accounts Office.

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 and media center. Also housed in the building are Study Away Office including an extensive study away library, and the Office of Winter Term, Student Academic Services, the Office of 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, lecture halls, classroom spaces, and communal spaces like Perlik Commons, Love Lounge, and Bent Corridor which are available for use by all students and faculty. The center houses the Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Neuroscience, and Physics and Astronomy Departments, the Science Library, and the Center for Learning, Education, and Research (CLEAR). The design of the 230,000-square-foot facility encourages collaborative learning among 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. 

Oberlin Conservatory is a complex of four contiguous buildings: Bibbins Hall, the Central Unit, Robertson Hall, and the Bertram and Judith Kohl Building (see also Facilities  in the Conservatory section of this catalog and more details about the complex).

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.

In 2016, the Conservatory opened the William and Helen Birenbaum Innovation and Performance Space, a club-like, subterranean venue at the Peter B. Lewis Gateway Center that is dedicated to interdisciplinary classroom experiences by day and Conservatory performances by night.

The Jesse Philips Physical Education Center has been the primary recreational facility on campus since 1971. The facility provides numerous fitness opportunities, including; Lifetime Fitness & Hammer Strength equipment, free weights, treadmills, elliptical machines, aerodyne bikes, and steppers, two full-length courts for basketball; racquetball courts; squash courts; a sauna; and a multipurpose room for group exercise. The facility also features a bouldering cave and climbing wall that challenges students with four climbing faces. 

August 2018 will feature the grand opening of the Patricia ‘63 & Merrill ‘61 Shanks Health & Wellness Center.  This is an expansion of Philips Gymnasium and is highlighted by a total renovation of Carr Pool.  The pool goes from six lanes to eight, with an improved competition diving well, and a walk-in entrance.  The center will include a new fitness center, cardio area, spin room, and a number of multi-purpose rooms for classes, yoga, and other physical fitness activities.

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 athletics as well as recreational users.  Heisman has been the site of numerous North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) championship events for both tennis and track & field.

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 numerous varsity, club, and intramural 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.

The Austin E. Knowlton Athletics Complex/Dick Bailey Field was dedicated in September of 2014.  The complex features an all-weather, multipurpose field with artificial turf and lights, suitable for nearly every athletics team, club sport teams, and intramural events, as well as Oberlin wellness endeavors. It also includes locker rooms for all of Oberlin’s outdoor varsity teams.

Oberlin College also features two newly renovated outdoor stadiums that are used by the varsity baseball and softball programs. Baseball’s Dill Field was recently renovated with infield turf, a press box, and stadium seating and is now one of the best in the NCAC.  Softball’s Mary Culhane Field was also updated very recently with a new press box and stadium seating.  The field has a natural surface infield, scoreboard, and batting cage. The field is one of the finest softball stadiums in the NCAC as it offers superior playability in a picturesque setting.

Kahn Track & Shults Field is the training and competition site for track & field and soccer. The facility opened in the fall of 2006. The Beynon track is a poured urethane surface and is widely considered one of the top competition surfaces in the area.  The field is a natural grass surface with Kentucky Blue Grass and perennial rye.  The track is open to members of the college and Oberlin community for recreational use. 

Other recreational facilities that are available for student and faculty/staff use include 12 outdoor tennis courts, multipurpose outdoor fields, and six bowling lanes located in Hales.



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