Jul 21, 2024  
Course Catalog 2019-2020 
Course Catalog 2019-2020 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Academic Opportunities

Academic Opportunities

Oberlin College offers many opportunities to its students; this section is intended to provide information about those opportunities. Each opportunity also has policies which govern how and when students may participate. Please see the Academic Policies  section of this catalog for detailed academic policy.

Click on a link to be taken to the entry below.


The Academic Advising Resource Center

The Academic Advising Resource Center (AARC) supports students, faculty, and advisors in both the College of Arts and Sciences and in the Conservatory of Music. Collaborating with other offices on campus, the primary goal of the office is to support advisors and help students succeed in their Oberlin College careers leading to a successful completion of the student’s degree program. The offices in the Academic Advising Resource Center include academic advising and the Office of the Registrar.  

The Academic Advising Resource Center coordinates academic advising in the College of Arts and Sciences and advises students about curriculum and academic policy and offers advice and resources for academic, career, and personal counseling.

Winter Term


Oberlin provides a Winter Term of four weeks every January that empowers students to discover the value of self-directed education. It affords students an opportunity to devise their own individual project in collaboration with a member of Oberlin’s staff or faculty, or to participate in a group project that has been organized by Oberlin staff, faculty, or even other students. Projects are meant to have an emphasis on experimentation and creativity, intellectual independence, and personal responsibility. They can either be a continuation of students’ academic study, or they can supplement interests or academics not easily accessed through the standard curriculum. Whether individual or group, projects extend across a wide range of possibilities, such as research, intensive language classes, internships, artistic work, enreprenuership, community engagement, personal development, and many, many others.

Students choose to participate in projects on campus, anywhere inside of the U.S., and even abroad. Those who remain on campus during Winter Term can take advantage of the facilities and opportunities that Oberlin offers. Many concerts, theatrical productions, films, lectures, forums, and discussions that enliven Winter Term are part of the on-campus experience. Students can start planning their projects with Oberlin staff or faculty as soon as their ready; the earlier the better.

Winter Term policies and deadlines, and a listing of Winter Term Group Projects can be found at www.oberlin.edu/winterterm, as well as in the Academic Policies section of this catalog. Please consult that section for guidance on completion of the Winter Term requirement.


The First-Year Seminar Program


The First-Year Seminar Program (FYSP) invites incoming students to begin their Oberlin educational experience in a small seminar setting.  The topics and academic approaches of seminars are diverse, but all are a designed to help students hone their critical thinking, discussion and writing skills.  First-year seminars provide a venue for intellectual exchange between students and faculty. Each seminar is limited to 16 students. First-year seminars are offered primarily in the fall semester, with a small number occurring in the spring. Most seminars allow satisfy part of the Writing or Quantitative and Formal Reasoning requirements, as well as part of certain other graduation requirements as indicated in particular course listings. A full listing of FYSP courses can be found in the First-Year Seminar Program section of this catalog. Individual departments and programs also list these courses in their curricula. For further information, please see www.oberlin.edu/fys

Experimental College (ExCo)


For students who wish to pursue topics outside the normal course offerings of the College of Arts and Sciences or the Conservatory of Music, an alternative is available in the Experimental College.

Experimental College (ExCo) is a student-run organization that sponsors courses (for limited co-curricular credit) taught by members of the Oberlin community: students, faculty, administrators and townspeople. Each year an array of subjects not found in the regular curriculum is offered. ExCo also invites applications from individuals who wish to coordinate an ExCo course. The Experimental College Committee approves applications for courses in advance of the semester in which the course is to be offered. Student instructors may receive the number of credits listed for the course, plus one additional credit. Information is available at the ExCo office in Wilder Hall 302 or by emailing exco@oberlin.edu. 

Students in the Arts and Sciences may earn up to 8 co-curricular credits toward graduation; these 8 co-curricular credits include but are not limited to those from ExCo courses. Students in the Conservatory may also earn up to 8 co-curricular credits of which a maximum of 4 may be from ExCo courses. ExCo courses are typically offered for one credit. Credits earned in ExCo courses count toward the general graduation requirement; they do not satisfy any distribution, cultural diversity or other requirement.

The ExCo Committee disseminates information on Experimental College courses shortly before ExCo registration, which takes place in the first week of each semester. Students must follow the academic dates and deadlines calendar for registration and course adjustments for ExCo courses. Students must complete all ExCo course work during the designated course time. No incompletes are given for ExCo courses.

Study Abroad and Study Away


Oberlin believes that studying abroad is an integral part of the liberal arts education and a pivitol piece of career readiness. With that in mind, we endeavor to support all interested students, regardless of major, identity, or financial need-level, in finding a semester or year-long program that meets their adacemic, personal, and cultural interests. We offer over 100 programs in more than 40 countires spread across six continents - including several programs here in the U.S.

Regardless of students’ major, minor, and whether a student is in the College or Conservatory, they can transfer coursework completed abroad back to Oberlin to satisfy major/minor requirements. While studying abroad students are also able to participate in international internships, immersive language study, community engagement, research, perofrming arts, solidarity work, and much more. Nearly 400 Oberlin students participate each year in international programs during winter term, summer or semester/academic year.

In many cases, students’ financial aid packages on campus can transfer to their study abroad experience (please contact the Office of Study Away for specific details). The Office of Study Away also supports students in finding and applying for study-abroad specific scholarships that can help offset the travel-related costs of their programs.

Study Abroad Programs Sponsored by Individual Departments


The Danenberg Oberlin-in-London Program offers students the opportunity for intensive disciplinary and interdisciplinary study with Oberlin College faculty. Oberlin students live and study in London, a great, diverse city. The curriculum is designed to take advantage of all that London has to offer. The program was instituted as a memorial to the late Emil Danenberg, eleventh president of Oberlin and a great friend to international education. For further details, see London Program in this catalog or www.oberlin.edu/london.

Oberlin-in-Italy is an intensive summer program in Italian language and culture sponsored by the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. This month-long program includes intensive language study and the study of Italian culture. For singers, instrumentalists, and liberal arts students, the program includes musical, vocal and dramatic coaching, and performances of an opera, chamber opera, opera scenes, chamber music, and other concerts. Auditions are required for performers. Application deadline is early February. More complete information about application for this program may be found at www.oberlin.edu/con/summer/italy. No financial aid is available for this program.

Off-Campus Study through Great Lakes Colleges Association Programs


Through its membership in the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA), a consortium of 13 schools in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, Oberlin College allows its students to participate in certain off-campus programs in the United States and in foreign countries. Each program is administered by a member school. Information on these programs is available from the campus liaison for each program and the Office of Study Away. Through its membership in GLCA, Oberlin offers students the opportunity for academic leaves of absence to participate in the following:

Overseas Study. GLCA recognizes a one-semester or year-long program in Tokyo through the Japan Study program.

In the United States. GLCA recognizes the following off-campus study programs:

  • The Philadelphia Center combines work-study in a community organization with a seminar in urban affairs and an independent study project.
  • The Oak Ridge Science semester places students with research scientists working on intensive investigations and provides advanced coursework in the natural and social sciences.
  • The Newberry Library Program in the Humanities, based in Chicago, provides an opportunity for seminars and independent study with the Newberry’s rich collection of books and manuscripts.
  • The New York Arts semester provides both seminars and internship placements in a variety of arts areas.
  • The Border Studies Program based in the Southern Arizona borderlands is offered each semester. It explores the cross-boundary relationships and encounters that now shape the U.S.- Mexico border region.

Further information about consortial study away programs is available at http://new.oberlin.edu/office/study-away/study-away-information/choosing-a-program/

Other Off-Campus Study Options


Inter-College Exchanges. Oberlin College has entered into an exchange agreement with Sciences Po in Paris, France. Application for these programs should be made through the Office of Study Away following the Academic Leave of Absence deadlines and procedures.  In addition, each year Oberlin welcomes visiting students from Waseda University through the Japan Study exchange program.

Oberlin Affiliated Programs. Oberlin College academic departments and programs have affiliations with over 85 U.S. and international programs and institutions. Oberlin Affiliated Programs are offered in nearly all parts of the world and cover a broad range of curricular opportunities. Affiliation indicates that the program has been recommended by the faculty of a department or program and approved by the Off-Campus Study Committee. In addition, students who receive approval to participate in affiliated programs may apply Oberlin financial aid to the program costs within the specified guidelines. Students who participate in non-affiliated programs may not apply Oberlin financial aid to the program costs.

The Office of International Programs maintains a Study-Away Library and a list of Oberlin Affiliated Programs. Detailed information about these and other programs is available at http://new.oberlin.edu/office/study-away/study-away-information/choosing-a-program/.

The Bonner Center for Service and Learning


In keeping with Oberlin’s historic commitment to thoughtful civic engagement, the Bonner Center for Service and Learning promotes the integration of intellectual inquiry, artistic development and community involvement. The Center’s mission involves working in collaboration with students, faculty, staff, community partners, and alumni to forge and facilitate common efforts that address the most pressing challenges of our time. The Bonner Center for Service and Learning also supports a growing number of faculty-initiated, community-based research and community-based learning experiences that educate students and strengthen the community.

Each year, over half of Oberlin College students serve organizations and individuals in the surrounding communities and beyond. This involvement allows students to explore issues of personal and intellectual concern while learning how to become active citizens. The Bonner Center for Service and Learning connects students with community organizations providing educational community service opportunities that satisfy community needs. Students interested in opportunities for socially relevant research or in developing community-service programs receive consultation and assistance.

The Center also offers several programs that enable participants to better understand how their efforts can contribute to long-term, systemic solutions to social problems.

Examples of current programs include the Bonner Scholars Program (a community service scholarship program), the Community Service Work-Study Program (which includes both America Reads and America Counts), and the availability of community-based learning courses at all levels of study. The Bonner Scholars Program, which accepts 15 participants per year, provides students who have demonstrated outstanding community service with financial support needed to attend college and continue to be involved in the community.

For more information about all of these programs, please see www.oberlin.edu/bcs

The Career Development Center


Oberlin College’s Career Development Center helps students and recent alumni in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Conservatory of Music identify and achieve meaningful career objectives that build upon their Oberlin education and experiences. We offer group and individual advising as well as experiential opportunities that complement all students’ learning and experiences during their time at Oberlin.

We encourage students to take advantage of the center’s many programs and resources in order to:

  • Enhance self-awareness of interests, values and talents
  • Explore future paths
  • Acquire knowledge and experience
  • Develop skills for effective self-presentation

Cole-Oberlin Initiative in Electoral Politics


The Oberlin Initiative in Electoral Politics (OIEP) provides academic and experiential learning opportunities for students with a strong interest in campaigns and elections.  The “Cole Scholars Program” is the core component of the OIEP.  Interested students apply to the program in the fall.  Those who are selected then take a “Studies in Electoral Politics” seminar before doing an eight-week summer internship on a political campaign.  Students then return in the fall to take another seminar, “Projects in Electoral Politics,” in which they write a major research paper that draws on insights from the internship in light of the academic literature on campaigns and elections.  The OIEP also brings to campus campaign experts and researchers who conduct workshops and give talks to the general campus community.  For more information, please visit http://oberliniep.org.

Honorary Societies


Phi Beta Kappa. Founded in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest academic honor society in the United States. The Zeta of Ohio Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was established at Oberlin in 1907. Students in the College of Arts and Sciences are elected to membership on the basis of scholarly achievement, broad cultural interests, and good character. Rules of eligibility are established in accordance with regulations of the national society. Among other requirements, students must have completed at least 3 full courses for letter grades at Oberlin in each of the three divisions of the College of Arts and Sciences. AP credits, transferred credits, and courses taken P/NP at Oberlin do not count towards these requirements. 85% or more of the overall credits presented for graduation must be earned with the letter grade option. Starting with the class that matriculates in 2013, students must also complete one course at the 200-level or higher in a language other than English. Most students are elected in the spring of their senior year; spring election for second-semester juniors is also possible for students with exceptional academic records. The total number of students elected from any class will not ordinarily exceed 10 percent of those expected to receive the Bachelor of Arts degree. 

Society of Sigma Xi. The Oberlin Chapter of the Society of Sigma Xi was established in 1941 for the promotion of scientific research. Any undergraduate student who has shown marked aptitude for research in pure or applied science may be elected as an associate member.

Pi Kappa Lambda. The Theta Chapter of Pi Kappa Lambda National Honor Society was established in 1926 at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music in order to recognize outstanding achievement in musicianship, musical leadership and scholarly attainment. Pi Kappa Lambda elects the top twenty percent of graduating music majors from the Conservatory and the College of Arts and Sciences. 

Nu Rho Psi. The Oberlin chapter of Nu Rho Psi the National Honor Society in Neuroscience was established in 2011 to encourage and recognize excellence in the discipline of neuroscience.   Oberlin Neuroscience majors are elected to membership on the basis of scholarly achievement. Majors must have a minimum cumulative college GPA of 3.2 and a minimum departmental GPA of 3.50. Most students are elected in the spring of their junior or senior year.

Oberlin Shansi


Oberlin Shansi is a non-profit educational exchange program partnered with Oberlin College and institutions in China, India, Indonesia and Japan. Shansi believes in empowering people to bring diverse worlds together. To Oberlin College undergraduates it offers Winter Term and summer fellowships to journey to Asia to volunteer with non-governmental organizations, to study languages and cultures, or do research. For recent Oberlin graduates, it offers two-year fellowships at its Asian partners. For Asian faculty and staff, Shansi provides opportunities to do research, study and teach at Oberlin.  For Oberlin faculty and staff, Shansi provides grants to lecture and do research at its Asian partners. On the Oberlin campus Shansi sponsors a series of public programs on current Asian and Asian American topics.  Further information is available from the Oberlin Shansi website at www.shansi.org.

Oberlin Shansi considers without prejudice, all eligible applicants regardless of race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion, creed, age, sex, sexual orientation, academic major or physical handicaps (where reasonable accommodation is possible).  In the selection process the priorities and sensitivities of the host institutions and cultures also will be taken into consideration.

The Office of Undergraduate Research


The Office of Undergraduate Research provides intellectual and administrative support for students conducting faculty-mentored research at Oberlin College. The student-mentor relationships supported by this office have allowed students to transfer their curiosity from the classroom to the library, the laboratory, and field sites across the globe. The opportunity for learning and laboring under faculty supervision provides our students with a first-hand understanding of the rigor and discipline necessary to maintain an active research program. Oberlin College produces more eventual PhDs than any of its peer institutions, and the opportunities for research provided by this office help ensure that Oberlin alumni with PhDs represent the diversity of their alma mater.