During the first two months of this year, I traveled to Washington, D.C., New York City, Boston, and Cleveland to speak with alumni of the College and the Conservatory of Music. It was great meeting so many of you, and I appreciate the time you took to share your enthusiasm for Oberlin and your ideas, insights, and concerns.
In our conversations, many of you described your Oberlin days as transformative, in part because studying here exposed you to ideas, events, and people you might never have considered on your own. I’ve heard so many lovely stories about how alums first came to Oberlin as the son or daughter of well-educated, affluent parents living in New York City or Seattle, and became roommates or best friends with someone whose parents were blue-collar workers from Lorain or Chicago. Those encounters helped you to see the world from someone else’s perspective and to get the most out of your Oberlin experience.
Having a mix of young people from all socio-economic strata is critical to the success of liberal arts education in general and, in particular, to Oberlin, where inclusion and diversity are our bedrock values. That is why in my remarks to alumni I have been stressing access. I believe one of our primary tasks is to ensure that future generations of young people from every level of society have access to Oberlin’s excellence in liberal arts, science, and music.
Access is currently a hot topic in higher education. Oberlin is already doing more in terms of financial aid than many of its peer schools. But we need to enhance our commitment. If there was only one thing I could ask you to do, it would be to help ensure access by funding scholarships for needy students. To build on the extraordinary achievements of Oberlin’s past and present, to raise Oberlin’s national and international profile to a level commensurate with its standing as a preeminent liberal arts college and conservatory of music, we need to keep our outstanding teaching and our remarkable research opportunities open to all.
Oberlin’s spirit of inclusion and social activism, its insistence on academic and artistic excellence, and its great traditions of leadership, innovation, and creativity can be seen in our new Graduate Teacher Education Program, in Robert Lemle and Roni Kohen-Lemle’s cofounding of the Long Island Children’s Museum, and in Sarah Belchetz-Swenson’s compelling paintings, all featured in this issue.
Last but not least, I am thrilled to pass on some late-breaking news. After a nationwide search, Sean Decatur has been named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Sean is an outstanding leader, scholar, and teacher. He is coming to us from Mount Holyoke College, where he is associate dean of faculty for science and professor of chemistry. Professor Renee Romano, Sean’s wife, is also a superb scholar and teacher, and will join the College of Arts and Sciences faculty as an associate professor of history. Please join me in welcoming them!