A presenter sits on the edge of a stage speaking with audience members.
Program Overview

Public Humanities

Expand the conversation.

Students in the Practicum for Museum Education discuss the role and function of art museums and explore how meaningful exchanges with art can create lifelong impact.
Photo credit: Yvonne Gay

Tap Into the Power of the Humanities

The growing field of public humanities moves conversations about cultural artifacts and practices beyond the academic classroom in order to engage diverse publics. Humanities disciplines have the power to help individuals and communities reflect on big questions about life’s purpose and meaning, as well as helping to make sense of the past and imagine better futures. Public Humanists seek to tap into that power, working with communities to use humanistic methodologies and knowledge to explore and address the most pressing political and social problems.

Reach Diverse Publics

Students pursuing the public humanities integrative concentration take courses across the humanities to learn methods for engaging diverse publics while exploring fields such as museum studies, public history, public philosophy, digital humanities, and cultural heritage and preservation. For their experiential learning and capstone requirement, students work on projects ranging from digital and physical exhibits to podcasting, documentary filmmaking, oral history, and facilitating dialogue across differences. With the help of CELA staff, students connect with the alumni network of Obies working in museums, education, archives, libraries, and other community-facing arts organizations to help them explore humanities-oriented careers outside of the academy.

StudiOC offers integrated learning communities affiliated with the Public Humanities concentration
Mining the Museum

Community-Based Learning

The Bonner Center is Oberlin’s hub for connecting students, faculty, and staff to communities engaged in social change and public service.

Two college students interact with a group of elementary students.
40+ interviews by students, staff, and faculty as part of the ongoing Latino Lorain Oral History Project
Learn more about the project

Digital Scholarship

In the History Design Lab, Oberlin students experiment with how to convey information about the past to audiences of today and tomorrow.

Students in class.

Featured Courses

ANTH 211

Learning with Indigenous Material Culture

Oberlin College is home to a small but important collection of 19th century cultural objects made by indigenous peoples across Arctic North America. The collection provides an avenue for indigenous knowledge repatriation and object-centered learning within a liberal arts context. This course combines hands-on study of the Arctic Collection with consultation with an indigenous knowledge bearer.

Taught by
Amy Margaris ’96
HIST 214

Oberlin Oral History: Community-Based Learning & Research

Learning the history of a place as recounted by members of a community helps us understand and act in the present. This course introduces students to community-based learning & research, with a focus on oral history. Students will learn from members of the Oberlin community and establish historical context and methodological familiarity through readings and visits to local organizations.

Taught by
Tania Boster
PHIL 214

Philosophy in the Schools Practicum

The Philosophy in the Schools (PHITS) practicum gives students a new community-engaged way to develop their philosophical skills and understanding, by teaching philosophy through children’s literature. Students will make eight weekly visits to Eastwood Elementary School, working in pairs to lead lively philosophical discussions.

Taught by
Katherine Thomson-Jones
ETHN 303

Ethnomusicology as Activism

This course explores the growing field of activist ethnomusicology, exposing students to the variety of ways ethnomusicologists use their training to address social justice issues in the U.S. and abroad, ranging from education, racial, and social inequities to environmental justice and conflict resolution.

Taught by
Jennifer Fraser

Student Profiles

Truman Scholar and Community Advocate

Henry Hicks ’21, a comparative American studies and creative writing double major, has been awarded the Truman Scholarship, the premier graduate fellowship in the United States for those pursuing careers as public service leaders.

Henry Hicks

Poet, Activist, and Optimist

Anthropology and Creative Writing double major David James ("DJ") Savarese '17 now works as a public speaker, artful activist (poet, essayist, filmmaker), and practicing optimist, working to make interdependent, self-determined lives a reality for non-traditionally speaking people.

DJ Savarese

What does Public Humanities at Oberlin look like?

Three women at a table facing an audience.

Oberlin students discuss the legacy of  Shirley Graham Du Bois ’34 as part of a two-day symposium held in honor of the Oberlin alumna, composer, playwright, biographer, nation builder, and activist.

Photo credit: Dale Preston
A man speaks to a group of students in a classroom.

Oberlin students visit the Lorain Historical Society as part of a collaboration exhibit with El Centro de Servicios Sociales celebrating 100 years of Latinas/os in Lorain County.

Photo credit: Dale Preston
Students seated in a library.

Students, faculty, and community members participate in the bell hooks Read In at Mudd Library.

Photo credit: Anokha Venugopal
A film crew works with people in military fatigues.

Students in the field working on a documentary for StoryLens, a nonprofit run by professor Geoff Pingree that produces independent short documentaries of social relevance.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Oberlin College

Next Steps

Get in touch; we would love to chat.


People seated in a circle on the grass.
Photo credit: Mike Crupi