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Arpeggios and Touchdowns
Chris Jordan is as comfortable on the gridiron as he is in a Conservatory practice room

A typical day for senior Christopher Jordan involves more stops than a politician on the campaign trail.

A piano player since the age of 3, the aspiring concert pianist is also a 200-pound running back for the Yeoman football team. His friends and supporters come from all corners of the campus; Conservatory cohorts cheer his Saturday afternoon performances on Dill Field, just as his football teammates turn out for his recitals of romantic Russian masterpieces.

“Chris is one of many Oberlin athletes who are also musicians, student senators, and scholars,” says Head Football Coach Jeff Ramsey. “Their desire to compete and experience college life off the gridiron is something Oberlin encourages.”

Mornings for Jordan begin with a private piano lesson, followed by a class in music theory. After a quick lunch, he heads to the gym to review game film and prepare for the upcoming gridiron battle. Replacing Xs and Os with a grand Steinway, Jordan then practices for several hours before heading to the football field. After dinner, it’s time to study compositions, musical notes, and Spanish before heading to bed. “The time always works out,” he says.

A native of Oceanside, California, Jordan was driven to play piano at an early age. Despite needing refinement in reading and technique, he set his sights high—determined, for example, to master Schubert’s Impromptu, Opus 90, No. 4, which became a four-month-long process. “Chris’ personality and his sheer love of playing affect audiences when he steps onstage,” says his longtime hometown piano teacher Arlene Antin.

Oberlin’s Conservatory and the chance to study closely with world-renowned pianist Alvin Chow were the magnets that attracted Jordan to Ohio. “Chris is a very gifted musician and athlete who performs best when an audience is in front of him,” says Chow. “We’re able to identify problem areas, find solutions, and work constantly to improve.”

It was this close relationship, says Jordan, that led to his stellar performance of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite during his junior recital last year. “The one-on-one attention with one of the best teachers around really helped,” he says.

The Steinway and the gridiron are but a few of Jordan’s varied interests, which also include English literature, Japanese, and Spanish. He’s even found time to teach an ExCo course on Salsa dancing.

“Chris brings energy and enthusiasm to everything he does, which I know will carry him far,” says Antin.

The Deans Are In

A dozen students surround the conference table in Wilder 105, chatting and nibbling on homemade pumpkin bread. Shozo Kawaguchi, the associate dean of community life, a new position created this year in the Office of the Dean of Students, declares the bread’s recipe a secret, promising to bring the chocolate chip mocha variety next week.

The students are gathered for a new Kawaguchi-initiated program called Deans Are In. Each week a small sign placed in front of the deans’ office invites students inside to discuss campus concerns, special group interests, and the merits of aluminum over plastic wrap for keeping baked goods fresh.

“Of course we have an open-door policy, but we wanted to be more proactive,” says Kawaguchi. “We want students to get familiar with our office, to establish and develop positive working relations. We want to be more intentional. It’s great to chat, but we’re trying to find out what’s on students’ minds.”

As associate dean of community life, Kawaguchi searches for ways to strengthen connections among people and groups on and off campus. In another program, Deans Out and About, he and his colleagues drop in at campus locales such as Stevenson Dining Hall or Fairchild Co-op to eat lunch.

Another pilot program, the Oberlin College Community Life Education Project, rounds up 10 faculty and staff members to interview a random group of first-year students three times over the course of the year.

By connecting students to at least one staff person during the year, the process serves to keep tabs on how well students are adjusting to the College and their level of participation in the community.

"It’s a project that’s being approached on micro and macro levels,” says Kawaguchi. Initial findings suggest that students who adjust well to college life are more likely to contribute to the community.

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