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Academic Life


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Academic Life

The academic year (see the Academic Calendar) is divided into two 15-week semesters and a four-week Winter Term. Each semester consists of approximately 13 weeks of classes (not including a one-week break in each), a three-day reading period and a four-day evaluation period. During the reading period there are no classes; it is a time in which term papers can be finished and work reviewed in preparation for examinations. The evaluation period is reserved for final examinations.

The Honor System

The Honor System helps maintain a high standard of integrity in all academic work, under the basic assumption that all work submitted is the sole and original product of the individual student. The System respects the student's ability to maintain this standard and encourages the further development of this ability.

The System, which is supervised by the student Honor Committee, applies to all work submitted for academic credit, such as examinations, quizzes, papers and laboratory assignments. The system also applies to destruction, hiding and improper removal or retention of library materials with the intent of denying others access.

The administration of the Honor System requires the collective and individual cooperation of the entire Oberlin College community and is fully explained in the document Student Regulations, Policies and Procedures.

Winter Term

Oberlin provides a Winter Term of four weeks in January to encourage and enable students to discover the value of self-education. This term affords students an opportunity to devise and pursue programs of independent study or research and to undertake, individually or with a group, on or off campus, other projects of educational value which the structured curriculum during the academic year cannot accommodate easily.

Winter Term provides an opportunity for variations and supplements to the usual course offerings, with an emphasis on experimentation and creativity, intellectual independence, and personal responsibility. Projects may be proposed by faculty, students and occasionally by members of the administrative and professional staff and alumni. Many departments offer individual and group projects; students often devise their own projects.

Students who pursue their projects on campus can take advantage of the facilities and opportunities that Oberlin offers. Many concerts, theatrical productions, films, lectures, forums, and discussion groups that enliven Winter Term are part of on-campus projects. Typical off-campus projects include (but are not limited to) career exploration, internships, and community service.

Each fall the Winter Term Committee issues the Winter Term Handbook, a detailed description of Winter Term procedures and deadlines, and the Winter Term Supplement, a listing of publicized projects. Both the handbook and supplement appear online.

Winter Term Credits and General Information
Winter Term Credit Requirements

  • In order to graduate from Oberlin, students pursuing a bachelor's degree are required to earn three full Winter Term credits.
  • Transfer students must earn one credit in each Winter Term during their enrollment at Oberlin, unless this would result in more than three credits.
  • Credits are earned by completing a project, either individually or as part of a group. Individual projects require a written proposal, final report and a positive assessment of the project by the sponsor. Winter Term projects are evaluated as "completed" (Y) or "not completed" (N); no letter grades are given. Winter Term project titles and credit earned are recorded on student transcripts.
  • Winter Term projects are rated as half or full. Students may participate in one half, two halves, or one full project each Winter Term.
  • The time commitment for a half-time project is three hours per weekday; the commitment for a full-time project is five to six hours per weekday.
  • The required three credits may be earned on or off campus, in any combination.
  • Students who plan to take a leave of absence for study abroad for an entre academic year should plan to complete Winter Term projects during each of the three years in residence, since they may not register for Winter Term while on leave for the entire year. Students on leave for one semester may register for Winter Term if they are enrolled at Oberlin for the other semester of the year and if their courses of study elsewhere do not overlap with Winter Term.
  • Winter Term credits are not the same as semester credit hours, i.e., the Winter Term credits are not included in the required 112 Arts and Sciences or 124 Conservatory semester hours.
  • [This requirement affects students entering Oberlin in Fall 2000 or later]. Students may propose Winter Term projects from one of the following categories:
    1. Academic Study: a faculty-sponsored, academically-focused research, study, or performance project that can be conducted on- or off-campus, individually or as part of a group project.
    2. Field Experience: a learning activity that could include career exploration, social, or political action, community service, or an internship.
    3. Personal Growth and Development: an opportunity to learn a skill, try something new, or pursue subject matter outside of traditional academic disciplines.
  • Only one full project (or two half projects) may be earned from category three. All three Winter Term Credits may be earned from categories one and two. Student and sponsor together must determine the most appropriate category for a proposed project.
  • A student registered for Winter Term may not be paid for work associated with his or her project.
  • Questions about Winter Term requirements should be directed to the appropriate academic dean.


Every project must have an on-campus sponsor. Faculty members and, under some circumstances, members of the Administrative and Professional Staff, may serve as project sponsors. Finding a suitable sponsor is largely a matter of matching student and faculty or staff member interests.


There are no additional tuition or room fees for Winter Term. Students may purchase (or use their Oberlin College identification cards to charge) individual meals at Stevenson during Winter Term. Students may also use flex dollars that remain in their account from fall semester to purchase meals at Stevenson during Winter Term.

Some on-campus projects, especially those directed by an invited specialist, require a fee from each participant to help defray expenses. This fee typically ranges from $10 to $40 or more.

Winter Term Planning and Advising

Students should discuss their Winter Term plans with their academic advisors and potential project sponsors in October or early November. Early planning is especially important for students who choose an individual project.

In this catalog, many departments list information about the 2002 Winter Term. For students interested in a career-related or community service project, advisors and numerous resources are available to assist them in identifying opportunities. Please see the Winter Term Handbook for detailed information.


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Special Academic Programs

For the student who wishes to pursue topics outside the normal course offerings of the College of Arts and Sciences or the Conservatory of Music, two important alternatives are available:

Experimental College (ExCo) is a student-run organization that sponsors courses (for limited academic credit) taught by members of the Oberlin community: faculty, students, administrators and townspeople. Each year a list of subjects not found in the regular curriculum is offered. Students can receive up to five hours credit toward graduation from ExCo courses. Courses are typically offered for one credit. Experimental College catalogs are distributed shortly before ExCo registration, which takes place in the first week of each semester.

ExCo also invites applications from individuals who wish to coordinate an ExCo course. The Experimental College Committee approves applications for courses in advance of the semester in which the course is to be offered. Student instructors may receive the number of credit hours listed for the course, plus one additional hour. More information is available at the ExCo office in Wilder Hall.

Private Reading. For the student who wishes to pursue individually and in-depth a topic not covered in the regular curriculum, the option of a one-to-one tutorial is available. (For further information please refer to the College of Arts and Sciences and Conservatory of Music sections of this catalog. For information about independent, off-campus study, see the Enrolled-Not-in-Residence section of this catalog.)

Study Off-Campus and Abroad

Oberlin College recognizes the desire of students to supplement their Oberlin experience through a program of study off-campus for credit. By providing exposure to new perspectives, participation in quality off-campus programs enriches the educational experience. Students on financial aid should consult the Office of Financial Aid before planning to participate in an off-campus program, because not all types of financial aid can be applied to off-campus programs.

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Other Academic Programs

The Danenberg Oberlin-in-London Program runs each semester and involves two or three Oberlin faculty members and about 30 students each semester. The curriculum varies semester-to-semester and year-to-year, according to the academic disciplines of the instructors, but it seek sto take advantage of the unique opportunities afforded by the cultural and historical setting. Prerequisites and details of the curriculum for 2001-2002 are listed in this catalog under the London Program.

Studies in Spain at the University of Córdoba. Students of Spanish language, literature and culture may participate for fall, spring or both semesters in the Programa de Estudios Hispánicos en Córdoba (Spain). This program is sponsored by a consortium comprised of Wheaton College, Oberlin College, Smith College, Trinity College, Wellesley College and the College of Wooster. Córdoba, one-time capital of Roman Spain and seat of the Caliphate, offers a unique opportunity for on-the-scene study of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian influences on Spanish culture. Courses are offered in literature, history, art, architecture, music, economics and social and political reforms. (Please consult the catalog section on Spanish under the Department of Romance Languages.)

Oberlin-in-Italy is an intensive summer program in Italian language and culture sponsored by the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Based in Urbania, Italy, the month-long program includes intensive language study and the study of Italian culture, including art history, Italian opera history, literature, ceramics, drawing, and other fields. For singers and pianists the program includes musical, vocal and dramatic coaching, and performances of a chamber opera and opera scenes, and other concerts. Auditions are required for performers. Application deadline is early February. The program fee includes tuition and accommodations (choice of family or apartment). For information and applications, contact Anna Hoffman in the Conservatory Outreach Office (440/775-8044). Daune Mahy is the faculty sponsor. No financial aid is available for this program.


The Euro Summer School is a six-week intensive and multicultural program offered as a joint venture of the Center for European Studies (CES) at the University of Maastricht and three leading management schools in Europe: HEC-Paris, Bocconi-Milan, and WU-Wien. The program provides a unique opportunity for Oberlin students to mix with students from all over the world and to experience firsthand the life and business cultures of Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and The Netherlands, visiting several of the most vibrant cities in Europe. Fully credited courses by Oberlin College, offered in English, explore the economics, institutions and business practices shaping Europe today. David Cleeton is faculty sponsor for the program. More complete information and applications can be found on the program's web page.

Great Lakes Colleges Association Programs

Through its membership in the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA), a consortium of 12 midwestern colleges, Oberlin College allows its students to participate in certain off-campus programs in the United States and in foreign countries. Each program is administered by a member school. Information on these programs is available from the campus liaison for each program and from the Student Academic Affairs Office in Peters Hall. Through its membership in GLCA, Oberlin offers students the opportunity for academic leaves of absence to participate in the following:

Overseas Study. GLCA recognizes one-semester or year-long programs in Scotland, the Czech Republic, Russia, Japan, China, India, Nepal, Kenya, and Senegal.

American-Based Programs. In the United States, GLCA recognizes the following off-campus study programs:

  • The Urban Center in Philadelphia combines work-study in a community organization with a seminar in urban affairs and an independent study project.
  • The Oak Ridge Science semester places students with research scientists working on intensive investigations and provides advanced course work in the natural and social sciences.
  • The Newberry Library Program in the Humanities, based in Chicago, provides an opportunity for seminars and independent study with the Newberry's rich collection of books and manuscripts.
  • The New York Arts semester provides both seminars and placements in a variety of arts areas.
  • The Borders Program based in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, is offered each fall semester. It explores the cross-boundary relationships and encounters that now shape the U.S.-Mexico border region.

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Other Off-Campus Study Options

Inter-college Exchanges. Students may be selected each semester to participate in an exchange with Gallaudet University, the nation's only liberal arts school for the deaf, or Fisk University, a predominantly black university in Nashville, Tennessee. Sophomores and juniors in good academic standing and an interest in intergroup relations are eligible to apply. Application for these programs should be made through the Office of Student Academic Affairs.

Architecture at Columbia. Oberlin students wishing to study architecture, urban planning and historic preservation during their junior year may apply to a specialized program at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture and Planning, "The Shape of Two Cities: New York/Paris," a pre-professional program for undergraduates. Two options are available: Architecture or Urban Planning/Historic Preservation. The first semester is spent at Columbia University and the second in Paris, both under supervision of Columbia professors of architecture. (For information and applications, see the pre-architecture advisor in the Art Department.)

National Theater Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center is a one-semester program that combines the liberal arts philosophy of studies in a wide range of disciplines with exposure to professional production standards. The National Theater Institute's program has two components. For the major part of the semester students participate in classes in acting, directing, design, movement/improvisation and playwriting, as well as adjunct courses and special workshops led by guest artists. The remainder of each semester is devoted to workshops focusing on one or more specific theatrical exercises. Oberlin students wishing to attend N.T.I. must first be nominated by the theater faculty. Applications should be made in consultation with the Theater and Dance Program; final admission decisions are made by the N.T.I. staff.

Tisch School of the Arts' special semester in film production and cinema studies at New York University features a seven-credit course in filmmaking, and related courses in screen writing and other aspects of film production. Available spring semester. For information see Wi lliam Patrick Day, Associate Professor of English.

Additional Programs. Off-campus study is not limited to the programs described above. The Student Academic Affairs office maintains a list of other Oberlin-Affiliated Programs, as well as an extensive list of other programs approved by departments at Oberlin. Students should consult with the Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs in planning their studies off-campus.


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Center for Service and Learning

In keeping with Oberlin's historic commitment to thoughtful social action, the Center for Service and Learning promotes the linkage of intellectual inquiry, artistic development and community involvement.

Each year, an estimated 1,000 Oberlin College students volunteer their services to the surrounding communities. This involvement allows students to explore issues of personal and intellectual concern while becoming active members of their community.

The Center for Service and Learning links students with community organizations providing educational service opportunities that satisfy community needs. Students interested in opportunities for socially relevant research or in developing community-service programs receive consultation and assistance. The Center also offers several programs that enable participants to better understand how their efforts can contribute to long-term, systemic solutions to social problems.


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Office of Career Services

The office assists students and alumni in career planning, offers information about summer and full-time employment and internships, and provides guidance with post-Oberlin study opportunities. The career library and the Career Services homepage offer a comprehensive collection of resources including career, graduate/ professional school, internship and job information. A database of alumni who are potential resources for career information and networking is available in the career library. Career Services provides numerous on- and off-campus recruiting programs to assist seniors who are seeking employment. In addition, two programs within the Office of Career Service provide specialized assistance:

The Business Initiative Program (BIP) introduces students to the many and varied opportunities in the business world through an emphasis on Winter-Term Projects and Summer Internships. BIP presents workshops related to business careers, field trips to companies, provides opportunities to meet with business leaders, and has business publications available in the career library. The Director helps students clarify their business career goals, reviews essays for graduate business school, and aides in career searches.

The Shouse Nonprofit Leadership Program trains a select group of students for careers as nonprofit managers. The two-year program links academic study, individual advising, internships, community service projects, and skill-building workshops for up to 20 students.

The Career Services homepage is accessible at www.oberlin.edu/~career.

The Conservatory of Music's Career Resources Center supplements the offerings of the College's Office of Career Services. The Center offers a wide range of services and access to vital career planning and development information geared specifically toward Conservatory of Music students. Resources include: individual career advising appointments; comprehensive lists of competitions, festivals, music scholarships, jobs, and graduate schools; and assistance with writing application and resume materials. The Center is located in 129 Robertson Hall (within the Conservatory of Music complex) and is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.

The Director of Conservatory Career Development also offers a year-long series of Career Master Classes in which visiting artists share their perspectives on building successful careers in music, as well as the Professional Development for Musicians course (CNST 200), which is offered each semester.

Honorary Societies

Phi Beta Kappa. The Zeta of Ohio Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was established at Oberlin College in 1907. Students in the College of Arts and Sciences are elected to membership on the basis of scholarly achievement, broad cultural interests and good character. Rules of eligibility are established by the chapter in accordance with regulations of the national society. Among other requirements, students must have completed at least nine credit hours, of which up to four may be AP credit, in each of the three divisions of the College of Arts and Sciences and must have taken at least two-thirds of their hours for letter grades. Most students are elected in either the fall or the spring of their senior year; spring election for second-semester juniors is also possible for students with truly exceptional academic records. The total number of students elected from any class will not ordinarily exceed 10 percent of those expected to receive the Bachelor of Arts degree.

Society of the Sigma Xi. The Oberlin Chapter of the Society of the Sigma Xi was established in 1941 for the promotion of scientific research. Any graduate student who has shown noteworthy achievement as an original investigator in some field of pure or applied science may be elected as a member. Any graduate student or undergraduate student who has shown marked aptitude for research in pure or applied science may be elected as an associate member.

Pi Kappa Lambda. The Theta Chapter of Pi Kappa Lambda National Honor Society was established in 1926 at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music in order to recognize outstanding achievement in musicianship, musical leadership and scholarly attainment. Twenty percent of the Conservatory graduating seniors are eligible for election, provided the residence requirement of at least four semesters prior to graduation has been met.


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