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Danenberg Oberlin-in-London Program Revived

The Danenberg Oberlin-in-London Program is a go for the 2006-07 academic year, albeit in a somewhat revised format.

Provost Al MacKay has announced that Oberlin will collaborate with Grinnell College in what the two institutions hope will become a permanent, joint program in London. Oberlin’s program will undergo a two-year transition while details of the collaboration take shape.

The Danenberg Oberlin-in-London Program was suspended for the 2005-06 academic year due to budgetary concerns and to the inability either to renew the lease on the current building or to find a suitable, reasonably priced alternative site.

The joint arrangement allows Oberlin both to save money and to meet its goals—recently reaffirmed in the Strategic Plan—of internationalizing Oberlin and providing high-quality study-abroad programs and opportunities for faculty development and interdisciplinary teaching.

“We’ve still got to work out how to get the maximum benefit from the collaboration, and we will over the next two years,” MacKay says. “The more we can spread out fixed costs, such as administrative and facility expenses, the better it will be for everyone, as long as the quality is there. And I’m confident it will be.”

Oberlin will also save money by changing the way student room and board charges are handled and by altering its fall semester program somewhat.

A major difference between the two programs is that Oberlin’s operates during both semesters, while the Grinnell-in-London program operates only in the fall. To explore collaborative possibilities and determine how many Oberlin students can be accommodated by Grinnell’s program, in fall 2006 Oberlin will send a smaller contingent—one faculty member and between 15 and 20 students—than it has in the past.

During the spring 2007 semester, Oberlin will send two faculty members and between 25 and 35 students, as it did in the past. The number of Grinnell students who can be accommodated during the spring semester will be determined based on experience as the joint program proceeds.

The new program will allow Oberlin students to enroll in Grinnell courses, and vice versa. Grinnell regularly offers courses in the history of London, Shakespeare, Irish literature, theater in performance, and Flemish art.

Internships will be an exciting new program element for Oberlin students, says Marc Blecher, chair of the Oberlin College London Program Committee and professor of politics and East Asian studies.

“Internships are an integral part of the Grinnell program, and Oberlin students will be able to take advantage of internship opportunities in London for the first time,” Blecher says. “In the past, Grinnell students have pursued internships in Parliament, the arts, journalism, political organizations, and city government offices, to name just a few.” It is hoped that internships eventually will be part of Oberlin’s spring program in London.

The joint program’s facilities will be based in a site operated by Florida State University, from which Grinnell rents space. Oberlin will now rent space there as well. The site offers a number of advantages over Oberlin’s old site in London, according to Blecher.

“The location in central Bloomsbury is just a block from the British Museum,” he says. “It’s a secure building, accessible to people with disabilities, and students can use the Internet around the clock, something I’m sure they'll enjoy.”

The collaboration provides a number of benefits beyond the financial and academic, MacKay says.

“Our old London program sometimes seemed like an overly intense social environment. The joint program will expand the universe of social contacts for both Oberlin and Grinnell students, who will live and study together. By working with faculty members from Grinnell, our faculty members will have the chance to hear different points of view and to see things from another angle. Everyone will have expanded opportunities.”

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