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Nancy Dye Returns to Oberlin from Asian Sabbatical

by Adrian Leung

During fall semester's finals week, President Nancy Dye returned to Oberlin, rejuvenated after her semester-long sabbatical in Asia. Although she was on a different continent, she still monitored Oberlin College and its endeavors.

Dye's tour of Asia included Japan, Indonesia, India, China, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. "I've been to Asia several times. I've been to Japan, very briefly to China and Hong Kong. So I've never really had a sustained experience in Asia. I came to Oberlin without much serious, or any sort of real interest in Asia. Oberlin has so many Asia relationships and Asian connections, and such strong Asian studies that it made me get more interested in going to Asia and spending some time. So it was a great experience for me because I learned a great deal, saw so many parts of the world that I had no knowledge of at all," Dye said.

Since 1975, the Oberlin College Trustees have made it possible for the College president to take a sabbatical. Faculty members are allowed to go on sabbatical every seven years, but the president, along with the vice president of finance, dean of the College, dean of the Conservatory and the dean of students, are allowed to take leave every five years. Dye said, "Now that I've taken a sabbatical, as Oberlin's president I have much more energy and ideas than before I left."

On her return, Dye brought the global context of her experience back with her. "I certainly found myself thinking more and more about how to internationalize Oberlin. And that certainly was a big result of the trip. I also found it interesting that there's an enormous interest in American higher education, particularly things that distinguish undergraduate education, such as the credit system, the fact that students have a lot of flexibility, that students also have many more responsibilities for readings, for not just showing up to lectures, to read a great deal and discuss things in class. I had not realized there was so much interest in the way Americans did liberal arts education."

While thinking about a more global context for the College, Dye expressed concern about last semester's protest globalization lecturer and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers when members of the audience used heckling and noisemaking in order to display their objections to his ideas. "I'm probably in agreement with a lot of people who went to the talk who have a lot of serious reservations about the impact of economic globalization on people but who also think that things get accomplished better with civility and respect. I wish that the students who were intent on blowing kazoos, and booing and so forth, would have instead conceptualized some opportunities with, not just Summers, but the whole audience and the media. Instead of getting coverage about disruption, which you know the media is going to cover negatively, I wish they took some opportunities to get your point of view in front of the media," she said.

Although dissatisfied with Summers' reception, Dye approved of last semester's student conversations with Indians owner Larry Dolan, also a College trustee. "I was glad that students wanted to meet with Dolan and I suspect that the conversations can be continued. Personally, I would like to see the Indians have another mascot. I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know what the Indians are going to do about it," she said.

For this semester, Dye hopes to see the progression of the teacher education program, and she notes that the College is in the process of adding more facilities, not forgetting that the College is also in the middle of a capital campaign.

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Copyright © 2001, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 129, Number 13, February 9, 2001

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