First-Year Seminar Program
The First-Year Seminar Program is a unique opportunity for newly enrolled students to begin their Oberlin educational experience in a small seminar setting. The topics and academic approaches of seminars are varied, but each is designed to encourage critical thinking, develop discussion and writing skills, and provide a venue for intellectual exchange between students and faculty. First-year seminars engage students in intellectual inquiry, artistic endeavors, and thoughtful exploration. These seminars also provide important opportunities for you to reflect upon the personal value and social relevance of a liberal arts education. College of Arts and Sciences faculty offer first-year seminars on subjects that will stir your intellectual curiosity and inspire you to question and understand how society and the larger community function. Some recent first-year seminars have explored the concept of peace, conflict, and violence; black women and liberation; origins and treatment of cancer; the politics of public art and space; the genesis of controversy; and social justice in the United States.
Oberlin provides a winter term of four weeks in January that will enable you to discover the value of self-education. Regular course offerings are suspended, and in their place, you will complete an educational project of your choosing, either individually or as part of a group. You may propose an educational project or select from a variety of intensive courses. Winter term is an opportunity for experimentation and creativity, with an emphasis on intellectual independence and personal responsibility. You may complete a project on or off campus, in the United States or abroad. Whatever you decide, winter term allows a full-time, self-directed commitment to pursue educational goals through internships, community service, applied research, or career-related experiences. You must complete three winter-term projects to graduate from Oberlin. The college’s Office of Winter Term coordinates preparation for this unique monthlong period of study and exploration.
A high-quality liberal arts education develops a global view and provides an opportunity to experience different cultures, languages, and perspectives. That’s why we provide opportunities for all interested students, regardless of major, to spend a semester or year away from campus, either through Oberlin’s own study-away programs or through more than 85 affiliated programs, at such sites as London, England; Beijing, China; Dakar, Senegal; Hyderabad, India; and Cordoba, Spain. Study away opportunities offered by Oberlin or affiliated with the college cover a wide range of geographic areas of the world, curricular or academic interests, and program types. Not all study-away sites are overseas. No matter where you choose to study, our Office of Study Away will help you select an appropriate program and help you complete all related requirements for travel and study.
It’s OK to think outside the box: If you have an idea for a trade, venture, or business, you don’t have to wait until you receive your degree to launch it. Oberlin supports an approach to entrepreneurship that is firmly rooted in the liberal arts and draws on your intellectual, artistic, and innovative ideas, and on your leadership and social sensibilities. Through Oberlin’s Creativity and Leadership Project, any student in any major may pursue the challenges and demands of implementing his or her ideas through select semester or module courses, concept development funding, mentored experiential opportunities, workshops, internships, lectures, and other resources. The Entrepreneurship Scholars Program offers another foray into business development for those with the passion and the drive to make something happen. All together, these programs provide a vital experiential opportunity to explore entrepreneurship and begin building a foundation of the practical skills essential to planning and launching a venture.
ExCo: Experimental College
Experimental College (ExCo) is both a student organization and a department of the college that sponsors for-credit courses taught by Oberlin students, administrators, townspeople, and faculty. ExCo supplements the regular curriculum by offering classes not typically available in traditional courses of study. These courses reflect the current academic, cultural, social, political, and intellectual trends of the Oberlin community. You might sign up for such academic courses as Korean language study or an introduction to Japanese cinema, or take a nontraditional class on the fundamentals of rock climbing, community organizing, knitting, Taiko drumming, or swing dance. As far as we know, no one has offered a course in underwater basket weaving. You may earn from one to three credit hours for an ExCo course, and you may apply up to five ExCo credits toward the 112 credit hours required for graduation.
Research and Collaborations
Learning at Oberlin doesn’t stop when you exit the classroom. One way you can continue your education is by working alongside faculty members on groundbreaking research projects. Oberlin professors maintain active research interests and believe that mentoring undergraduate students through research is an important part of the teaching and learning process. Research opportunities at Oberlin have allowed students to transfer their curiosity from the classroom to the library, the laboratory, and field sites across the globe. With excellent research facilities and equipment at your fingertips, your work might lead to coauthoring an article for a scholarly journal, or to discovering a pulsar. The extensive research experience our students gain as undergraduates is one of the reasons why Oberlin produces more eventual Ph.D.s than any of our peer institutions. The Office of Undergraduate Research coordinates much of the administrative, financial, and intellectual resources required to ensure successful student-mentor relationships
As an Oberlin student, you will have a robust advising network to support you. An academic advisor will help you navigate academic requirements and plan an educational program consonant with your interests and goals. He or she will help you develop meaningful educational plans and goals, make the most of your educational choices, reflect on and synthesize your Oberlin experiences, and grow intellectually, artistically, and personally. Before you register for class each semester, you will meet with your advisor to ensure that your courses, projects, and related assignments are consistent with your major and goals. As an incoming student, you will be assigned an advisor based on your academic interests. You may change your advisor at any time, and will select a new advisor in your major department when you declare a major. A wealth of other resources are also available to help you to define and achieve educational, career, and personal goals, including but not limited to career advising from the Office of Career Services, and non-academic advising provided through the Division of Student Life.
Students with proven independence and high academic ability may achieve an Honors designation at graduation by completing an Honors project within their major during their senior year. Honors projects vary, but always involve independent work supervised by a faculty advisor, which may be done in seminars or private readings, in research, or in the preparation of a thesis, exhibition, or performance. Every honors candidate must also pass a special examination at the end of the senior year—oral or written or both—which is often given by outside examiners. If your work in the Honors Program demonstrates the requisite degree of excellence, you’ll earn the BA with departmental honors, high honors, or highest honors.
Our Honor Code provides the foundation for the intellectual freedom that is encouraged and shared by all members of the academic community, and it embodies the belief that true academic freedom and discourse can only exist within a framework of honesty, integrity, and responsibility. With the privilege of attending Oberlin comes the responsibility of supporting both the expectations and the spirit of the Honor Code, which calls for submitting work of your own creation and giving proper credit to the ideas and work of others. This requires each individual to respect all fellow members of the Oberlin College community and to vigorously support the protected nature of intellectual property. We emphasize personal responsibility and expect everyone will adopt, uphold, and adhere to the core values inherent to the Honor Code. As an example, professors do not proctor exams; rather, they trust students will follow the Honor Code. We encourage you to be accountable to other students and pledge to not cheat, plagiarize, fabricate, or falsify information, nor assist others in these actions.
A Bachelor of Arts degree from Oberlin’s College of Arts and Sciences recognizes that the graduate has spent four years pursuing a rich and balanced curriculum in the liberal arts. Our curriculum provides many opportunities for you to pursue fields of interest in ways reflecting the characteristics of breadth and depth typical of a liberal arts education. By selecting a major, you engage in the study of a particular discipline, or field, in depth. Breadth comes from the opportunity to explore a number of different fields of inquiry. We do not have a core curriculum, but we ensure that breadth is achieved by requiring students to complete courses in each of the three curricular areas: arts and humanities, social and behavioral sciences, and natural sciences and mathematics. We also require students to complete courses that attend to the processes of quantitative reasoning and writing in multiple contexts, as well as courses that focus on cultures and languages other than their own.