Oberlin College Archives


RECORDS, 1887(1937-70)-1991


Between 1837 and 1905, placement assistance was offered informally to Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music graduates seeking careers in teaching or religious work. (Oberlin Theological Seminary placed its own graduates even after formal placement service was instituted). Seniors typically sought letters of reference from their teachers or other individuals who couldvouch for their character, academic preparation, and fitness to teach. In 1895, under the direction of English Professor W. W. Cressey (1867-1900), a "teachers' agency" was established to refer seniors to prospective employers. The formation in 1904 of a faculty Committee on the Placing of Teachers led to the creation in 1905 of the Bureau of Appointments, so-called because its main function was the appointment of teachers.

From 1905 to 1915, the Bureau of Appointments took shape. It was headed by William Frederick Bohn (1878-1947), an assistant to President Henry Churchill King (1868-1934), who worked with an advisory committee chaired by the Dean of College Men and Professor of Pedagogy, Edward Alanson Miller (1866-1958). In his first annual report to the President (1905/06) as Bureau Secretary,Bohn emphasized the importance of gathering accurate data on students for use in providing letters of recommendation. To this end, he proposed the creation of the "President's Senior Record"-- a form supplying biographical data furnished by each senior and character assessments made by deans, teachers, and college officials. Bohn tied an effective placement service to strengthening relations with alumni. In time, the Bureau responded not only to undergraduates seeking teaching positions but also to those wishing to enter other professional fields.

Between 1915 and 1923, even in the face of frequent changes in its personnel caused by the war-service of faculty members, the Bureau of Appointments expanded its activity on two fronts: alumni involvement in placement, and the psychological study of individual students for the purpose of offering vocational guid- ance. Under Bureau Secretary and Assistant Professor of Psychology Edward S. Jones (1888-1969), assisted by Professor of Psy- chology Raymond H. Stetson (1872-1950), the Bureau urged alumni to send notice of vacancies and to establish local placement committees to assist Oberlin graduates. At the same time, the Bureau strengthened its contacts with business, industrial, and social work organizations, although most Oberlin graduates continued to choose teaching over other occupations until the depression of the 1930s made all work difficult to find. Figures show, for example, that 52.63% of the Class of 1910 entered teaching. In 1920, of the 371 students served by the Bureau, 266 chose to teach.

In 1928, the administrative structure of the Bureau of Appointments was altered in order to eliminate the annual reappointment of faculty advisors serving as liaisons between the Bureau and the College administration. The Bureau of Appointments was established as a division of the newly-created Department of Personnel Service, and the Secretary of the Bureau was made an associate to the Director of Personnel Service, J. Anthony Humphreys (b. 1894; A.B. 1916). Humphreys, well-educated and experienced in personnel work, moved in 1928 to centralize the placement function of the entire institution--including campus, summer, and post-collegiate employment--within the Bureau of Appointments. In 1930, the Bureau reported 1,401 registrants, the largest number in its history. Personnel Services now directed the administration of intelligence and subject placement tests to freshmen by the Department of Psychology; conducted individual interviews with students; and offered counseling and referrals. Drastic program cuts, brought about by the national depression, forced the elimination of the Department of Personnel Service in 1933.

The merger in 1938 of two positions, the Director of Admissions and the Director of the Bureau of Appointments, stretched the staff and budget of the Bureau at a time of increased office activity. During visits to area schools, Bureau Director William H. Seaman (1902-48) combined both student recruitment and teacher placement. In 1939, in cooperation with the Dean of Men, the Bureau organized the first in an ongoing series of biennial career conferences for men; conferences for women, begun in 1937, were held in alternate years. As more students chose to attend graduate or professional schools during the post-war years, the Bureau faced new demands. Consequently, it developed informational files on scholarships and graduate education, conducted regular meetings and interviews with seniors, and established a credential service to supply student transcripts to schools and employers. The expansion of placement programs prevented the Bureau Director from offering guidance counseling on a regular basis. In 1946, Director William Seaman recommended to President William E. Stevenson (1900-85) the appointment of an individual solely to offer vocational counseling. Services of this kind were not initiated or funded until the mid-seventies, when a presidential Task Force concurred with Seaman's assessment.

During the sixties, the office once again modified its programs to meet the changing needs of graduating seniors, underclassmen, and alumni. In 1962, during the tenure of Director Dorothy Mabel Smith (b. 1908; Acting Director, 1948-52; Director 1952-74), the Bureau of Appointments changed its name to the Office of Placement and Graduate Counseling. This title reflected more clearly the office's expanded services in the area of vocational guidance. The preference of seniors to spend their "first year out" traveling or in social service led to the formation of an in-house library of vocational literature. Workshops on career planning were offered to freshmen and sophomores in an effort to link their undergraduate studies with vocational choice. The increased use of placement services by alumni/ae (as they delayed graduate study for several years following graduation) added significantly to the office's administrative duties.

Events of May 1968 focused campus-wide attention on the Office of Placement and Graduate Counseling. The prospect of violent student protests against military recruiters led President Robert Kenneth Carr (1908-79) to close the office to all recruiters; the office remained closed for six months. Continuing student protests against the Viet Nam War, combined with the abolition of distribution requirements and the shrinking job market, brought into question the role of the Office of Placement as it entered the decade of the seventies.

During the years 1972 to 1974, under the administration of President Robert W. Fuller (1970-74), a Task Force studied the general question of what the future emphasis in placement and career counseling should be at Oberlin. The Task Force advocated the establishment of a program in career counseling and guidance to be centralized within the placement office rather than carried out by various staff, faculty, and college officials. In 1974, the name of the office was changed to the Office of Career Development and Placement in order to account for a new emphasis on career development as part of the educational process. The director of Career Development reported to the Office of the Dean of Students, known after 1990 as the Office of the Dean of Student Life and Services.

Director Lanna C. Hagge, who has served for the past eighteen years, has developed new programs to enhance employment opportunities for liberal arts graduates in the business fields. These include the Oberlin Career Counseling Program, developed in 1976, which puts students in touch with alumni in various professional fields; and the Longman Business Initiatives Program, established in 1987. Under Directors Benjamin Bailey (1929-88) and Perry Boyle (b. 1934), the Business Initiatives program assists students in finding internships and jobs in the business sector. To promote an Oberlin liberal arts education as a basis for success in business, the Office of Career Development and Placement is making every effort to market the institution to corporate employers.

Officials of the Office of Career Development and Placement and Predecessor Bodies

Bureau of Appointments, 1905-62

Office of Placement and Graduate Counseling, 1962-74

Office of Career Development and Placement, 1974-


Published Sources

I. Books

II. Articles

Unpublished Sources

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Last updated: 17 April 1996