SOAR Retreat 2021: Complex Problem Keynotes

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“As you take classes, debate with friends, grapple with complex problems, and reflect on previous experiences, you’re not just gathering knowledge. You’re also building a way of thinking about the world, how it exists today, and what it could become tomorrow.”

Nathan Carpenter, director of SOAR

Complex Problems, Interdisciplinary Solutions

More than 300 sophomores participated in the 2021 virtual SOAR retreat. Expanded programming engaged students during their spring semester away from campus as part of the College’s three semester academic calendar, created in response to COVID-19.

Over the course of the monthlong program, students envisioned academic plans, explored co-curricular opportunities, and engaged critically with questions of diversity, equity, and inclusion in academic spaces.

Students also attended a series of keynotes and panels that explored four complex problems — sweeping, global challenges of today and tomorrow that will require interdisciplinary solutions. Visionary leaders working across a range of fields provided their insight into both the demands of the present and the opportunities of the future. Throughout, students were encouraged to consider how their own academic interests could play a role in addressing each complex problem.

After these keynotes and panels, and opportunities to debrief in their “Academic Houses,” students selected one complex problem to focus on for the remainder of the retreat. Working in small, interdisciplinary teams, students developed potential projects that would work to address their chosen problem, which they pitched to panels of experienced entrepreneurs.

Keynote Recordings

Listed in chronological order

Public Health

Sophomore Practicum Keynote: Public Health from Oberlin College and Conservatory on Vimeo.

Sibling team Helene Gayle and Jacob Gayle ’79 discuss their respective paths to public health careers and the key challenges in the field today.

Climate Change

Sophomore Practicum Keynote: Climate Change from Oberlin College and Conservatory on Vimeo.

Roy Torbert, principal on the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Islands Energy Program, sat down with Chris Canavan ’84, chair of Oberlin’s Board of Trustees.

Race, Refugees, & the Current Crisis

Sophomore Practicum Keynote: Refugee Protections from Oberlin College and Conservatory on Vimeo.

Presentation by Eric Tang, a professor at the University of Texas, Austin who has published research on narratives of the refugee experience.


Sophomore Practicum Keynote: Gentrification from Oberlin College and Conservatory on Vimeo.

Discussion between Andrea Batista Schlesinger, partner at HR&A Advisors focusing on the Inclusive Cities practice, and Chris Canavan ’84, chair of Oberlin’s Board of Trustees.