The Paul and Edith Cooper International Learning Center expands the international reach begun when Oberlin's founders looked across the Atlantic toward the example of social, political, and spiritual engagement set by its eponym, John Frederick Oberlin.
The tradition of internationalism spans Oberlin's history--from establishing ties with Asia in the 19th century to hosting a Peace Corps training site in the 1960s. The Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association provides numerous opportunities for faculty and graduates to work and study in China, India, Indonesia, and Japan.
Residential life is richly international, with language and cultural programs thriving in eight residence halls, including Asia House, La Casa Hispanica, and La Maison de la Francophonie. In the last 10 years, more students from around the world have enrolled at Oberlin than ever before, and there is a greater geographic diversity of faculty, too. Together, this group represents approximately 50 countries, and their presence on campus makes significant contribution to intercultural exchange.
The renovation of Peters and the advent of the center have enabled the College to add a new curricular option--an international studies concentration (ISC)--to its impressive array of curricular offerings, among them the Judaic and Near Eastern; Russian and East European; East Asian, and Latin American studies programs. The ISC offers a broad range of courses--more than 110 across the board--designed to help explain political, economic, historical, sociological, cultural, and religious factors shaping contemporary global affairs. Students may pursue the concentration in addition to their majors. Requirements and more details are available on Oberlin Online: www.oberlin.edu/~instudnt
The center's state-of-the art work stations and equipment, purchased with support from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, create a laboratory setting almost without peer. Each grouping of tables in the lab has a fat, black column down the center that conceals all the electrical and networking wiring--there is no nest of cables to snare the unwary. The facility has been designed to be upgraded to meet new technology, with computers and tape players flexible and basic enough to convert, in future, to digital formats.
The teaching and learning of foreign languages, literatures, and cultures has taken a dramatic turn from the days when the modest use of audio materials was the best supplement available.
A recent Mellon Foundation grant to the Five Colleges of Ohio Consortium¼ supports further developments in technologically enhanced teaching methods. The five colleges exchange information about developments in their own labs, and share their contributions through a special list serve.
Nelson de Jesus, associate professor of French and chair of the Romance Languages De-partment, is enthusiastic about the new teaching methods the center encourages. "Technology adds variety," he says. "Our goal is to get authentic materials into students' hands. We, as teachers, have to see the way technology will change our pedagogy."
Students utilizing the center's resources can complete a taped listening assignment and move immediately on to another computer-based activity, such as visiting restaurants in Italy via the web and using the information they find to compose--in Italian--their own dinner menu. They can watch newscasts via SCOLA--a nonprofit service that rebroadcasts news from 30 countries via satellite--then compare the televised news with online newspaper accounts.
McCandless Professor of French Janice Zinser notes that today's student's do not focus on performing precise word-for-word translation. They and their teachers are more interested in communicating effectively, gaining confidence, and building on momentum. In one of her recent classes, she and her students visited the web site of France's biggest mail order fashion catalog, La Redout [www.redoute.fr/]. Leafing through the online pages, students were exposed to more precise vocabulary than they would find in textbooks, and the experience was a swift way to pick up contemporary language nuances.
*Members of the Five Colleges of Ohio Consortium are Kenyon College, Ohio Wesleyan and Denison universities, the College of Wooster, and Oberlin.