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News and Media

Oberlin's Heart and Soul

Sep. 16, 2009

Marvin Krislov

President Krislov

I hope everyone’s autumn semester is off to a good start. I especially enjoyed the terrific performance in Finney Chapel this past Saturday by Ed Helms ’96. Mr. Helms is a talented comedian, actor, and musician, and he did a brilliant job of telling stories about his Oberlin career and his life, and pondering the question of why we love Oberlin, which he clearly does. I think it is important to be able to laugh at ourselves once in a while. And laugh we did. I also have to mention the audience doing the wave, which circled Finney not once but twice, possibly for the first time in Oberlin history.

I have really enjoyed meeting our new students and our new faculty members. In keeping with Oberlin tradition, the new professors are remarkable teacher-scholars who enjoy working closely with their students. They are joining a faculty that is nationally recognized for the excellence of its undergraduate teaching, and for its scholarship, research, and, as is the case with our conservatory faculty, their musical mastery.

Making our faculty even stronger is one of the key objectives of the college’s Strategic Plan, adopted in 2005. So I am thrilled to report that the American Council on Education has selected Oberlin College as one of six institutions to receive the 2009 Alfred P. Sloan Award in Faculty Career Flexibility. Oberlin received the award for its outstanding leadership in supporting flexible working conditions for tenured and tenure-track faculty. The award will provide Oberlin with a $200,000 accelerator grant to expand career options already available to faculty as well as incorporate discussion of career flexibility into its junior mentoring program.

The ACE/Sloan award came after two rounds of submissions, including an all faculty survey administered here. Many liberal arts colleges applied for these awards. Allow me to extend thanks to all those who responded to the survey. Special credit is due to Sean Decatur, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Lynne Bianchi, associate dean of the college; Nick Jones and Jeff Witmer, former associate deans of the college; Pam Snyder, director of the sponsored programs office, and Susan Morse, assistant director of that office.

The faculty is the heart and soul of this institution. This award suggests we are doing comparatively quite well in supporting our faculty and their work. But we want to do more, and are endeavoring to do so.

This week I have the pleasure of shining the spotlight on particularly successful teachers who have been judged by their peers and students to merit Oberlin’s annual teaching awards. The recipients in the College of Arts and Sciences are Mary Garvin, D.R. Longman associate professor of biology; Erik Inglis, associate professor of art; and Wendy Kozol, professor of comparative American studies. In the Conservatory of Music the recipients are Warren Darcy, professor of music theory; Robert Ferrazza, associate professor jazz guitar; and Peter Slowik, professor of viola.

Congratulations to these superb teachers! They will be honored at a special dinner on October 14.

I also want to thank the Multicultural Resource Center for cosponsoring and providing support for this year’s varied and exciting Latino/a Heritage Month program. It will feature a series of speakers, screenings, performances, and gatherings organized by the community of Latino/a students, in collaboration with the MRC and other faculty and staff at Oberlin, around topics related to the diverse Latino/a heritage. I encourage everyone to attend the events and learn more about the cultural heritage and history of the various groups and people who are Latino Americans.

As part of that celebration, Junot Díaz, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, will be giving our next Convocation lecture, Wednesday, September 23, at 8 p.m. in Finney Chapel. Junot Díaz is the author of Drown and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the 2008 Pulitzer Prize. He is the fiction editor at the Boston Review and the Rudge (1948) and Nancy Allen professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Finally, I look forward to meeting students new and old at my Coffee with Krislov, from 10 to 11 p.m. on Monday, September 21, at Azariah’s Café in the Mudd Learning Center.

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