I was delighted to be among those who attended the first of the campus-wide focus groups for the Oberlin 2020 strategic planning program. Facilitator Elaine Kuttner choreographed the sessions and the opinions of students, faculty members, and administrators were fairly represented.
The 15 members of my group bonded cheerfully, sharing cookies and beverages before settling down to invent Oberlin's future. The five questions prepared for discussion were met with spontaneity and imagination. Discussions centered on these issues:
1. What will be the dominant characteristics of the environment in which students will find themselves in the next century?
2. What kinds of skills will Oberlin graduates need to thrive in this new environment?
3. What is Oberlin already doing that will help students thrive in the future?
4. What will we need to do differently in the future for students to thrive?
5. What are some of the internal challenges we will have to address to develop this kind of future capacity?
The group also had a chance to speculate about Oberlin's future as a residential community and an interracial institution; the relationship between the College and the Conservatory; how to promote curricular innovation and faculty development; how to create a diverse, yet still united, academic community; the relationship between research and teaching; and how to determine what Oberlin's educational "niche" can be in the future.
Each person left feeling an ownership of some small part of the unknowable future.
Return to the ATS-January 1997 Table of Contents