Oberlin Blogs

SwiftCo: My First ExCo

May 26, 2022

Phoebe McChesney ’25

This spring semester, I applied to several ExCos or experimental classes in the college which are taught by Oberlin students and community members. Of those I was accepted into, I decided on one: SwiftCo. 

SwiftCo is a course all about Taylor Swift, especially the meaning behind her music. Each class session lasts an hour, half of which is spent learning about the album: speaker notes, relevant people, what was happening in Taylor’s life at the time, and the rest is spent talking about questions related to the album. There are weekly assignments that include listening to the assigned album, writing a reflective journal entry on it, watching a few videos, and reading an article or two. Of course, there is also a midterm and a final. But you have a lot of intellectual and creative freedom with each of these and they can be fun to complete if you really get into it.

I did a close reading of Taylor’s song Cowboy Like Me for my midterm. For my final, I made concept book covers for nine songs off her Folklore album. And I must say, they turned out to be not too shabby. Of course, CanvaPro’s graphics and elements were a tremendous help to me getting the visuals right. Thanks CanvaPro (not sponsored, by the way)!

So, I recommend SwiftCo if you’re a major Swiftie, and I recommend it even if you’re not. It’s interesting to hear the various nuanced takes on Taylor’s life at different stages as well as how other classmates relate to her music. I’ve been more of a casual, but longterm fan and learned a lot of new information. Like, Holy Ground on the Red album is about none other than Joe Jonas! Or that New Romantics from the 1989 era was released as a single. Who would’ve thunk!

Even if Taylor Swift isn’t your cup of tea, there are still plenty of other ExCo options.

ExCos are one of the many reasons Oberlin stands out. They can be a nice break from the heavier academic courses, and they appeal to a diversity of interests: Percy Jackson, fencing, gardening, tarot cards, martial arts, etc. You can essentially pick up a multitude of life skills and trivia facts just by joining. For instance, you could become a psychically-attuned, karate-chopping, saber-waving, Greek-mythology armchair expert, botanist on top of being a fantastic student. I personally would not want to mess with that individual. 

So check out Oberlin’s ExCos when you get to campus!


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