Oberlin Summer Academic Enrichment

All new Oberlin students (including newly admitted transfer students) are invited to enroll in our specially designed summer course offerings and begin earning academic credit toward your Oberlin degree.

These virtual courses, offered free of charge, are intended to spark your curiosity and build your confidence in transitioning to the Oberlin academic experience. Each course features faculty lectures and small group discussions led by current student leaders. Throughout the lectures and discussion group meetings, you will engage liberal arts perspectives and develop skills including asking questions, writing, critical thinking, and problem solving.

These eight-week courses will take place via Zoom between June 7–July 30, 2021. Full course descriptions and schedules of weekly meetings are provided below. You can enroll in the course of your choice online by Thursday, May 27, 2021.

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2021 Course Descriptions and Weekly Schedules

Healing Democracy

Instructor of Record and Course Host: Laura Baudot, Associate Dean of the College of the Arts and Sciences

Tuesdays from 6:30–8:30 p.m. EDT

Please note that this course was offered for the first time beginning in April. Due to high demand, we are offering it a second time for students who did not enroll in the first offering.

The cascading crises of 2020 have brought attention to the condition of democracy in this country. We witnessed challenges to democracy in both fundamental meanings of the word. Democracy signifies both a system of representational government with the rule of law protecting the rights of citizens. The word democracy also refers to an ideal of equal access to opportunity and the basic conditions necessary for a life of dignity and purpose. The pandemic exposed profound inequities in access to health care. The murder of George Floyd and countless others has laid bare systemic racism in the United States. Our very ability to discuss what ails the body politic is compromised by the polarization of political parties and public discourse. Democracy depends upon our ability to debate and disagree while seeking a path forward. 

Responding to the urgency and complexity of this historic moment, this course examines the conditions of democracy in the US and explores how we might begin to restore a sense of common humanity and mutual accountability, reform the system of government to be more responsive to the needs of the people, and mend faith in democracy as the promise of equality. Oberlin, a liberal arts college, is not just an observer of the state of democracy. Institutions like ours have an opportunity to shape public and private life through the production of knowledge and a model of education that cultivates empathy, critical thinking, and the ability to balance individual rights and desires with collective responsibilities. In this moment in which ideological barriers, mistrust, and pain challenge our ability to communicate across political differences, we have the obligation to convene conversations that can help build bridges.

In weekly lectures and Q&A, President Carmen Twillie Ambar and Oberlin faculty members in History, Politics, Psychology, Religion, Neuroscience, Creative Writing, and Africana Studies will provide a variety of perspectives on the challenges we face and the changes we can make. Each lecture will be followed by an opportunity for discussion in small groups led by current Oberlin students serving as Peer Advising Leaders (PALs). This course serves as an introduction to the power of a liberal arts education. Prospective Oberlin College students will have the opportunity to meet Oberlin faculty and student leaders, and get a sense of what it means to ask big questions at Oberlin.

Week 1: Tuesday, June 8

“Imperfect Union: Slavery, Settler Colonialism, and America’s White Republic”

Lecturer: Renee Romano, Robert S. Danforth Professor of History; Professor of Africana Studies and Comparative American Studies

Week 2: Tuesday, June 15

“The Principles and Practices of America’s ‘Democratic’ Elections”

Lecturer: Mike Parkin, Erwin N. Griswold Professor of Politics

Week 3: Tuesday, June 22

“The Psychology of Partisan Politics”

Lecturer: Cindy Frantz, Norman D. Henderson Professor of Psychology and Environmental Studies

Week 4: Tuesday, June 29

“Free Speech, Academic Freedom, and Democracy”

Lecturer: Carmen Twillie Ambar, President

Week 5: Tuesday, July 6

“Is Politics America’s New Religion?”

Lecturer: Cindy Chapman, Adelia A. F. Johnston and Harry Thomas Frank Professor of Religion

Week 6: Tuesday, July 13

“Disparities in Global Health”

Lecturer: Gunnar Kwakye, Associate Professor of Neuroscience

Week 7: Tuesday, July 20

“Poetic Language and Restoring Black Humanity”

Lecturer: Chanda Feldman, Assistant Professor of Creative Writing

Week 8: Tuesday, July 27

“The Bondsman’s Unrequited Toil and a New Birth of Citizenship: Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations”

Lecturer: Charles Peterson, Associate Professor of Africana Studies

Cinema & Change: Ritual, Identity, & Coming of Age

Instructor of Record: Laura Baudot, Associate Dean of the College of the Arts and Sciences

Course Host: Josh Sperling, Visiting Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies and Creative Writing; Creative Media Director for Arts and Sciences

Thursdays from 6:30–8:30 p.m. EDT

This course explores the complexities of the transition from childhood to adulthood as depicted in a range of cinematic genres. The films illuminate the challenges, rituals, institutions, and narratives of becoming an “adult.” Students will learn key approaches to visual analysis, film criticism, and digital storytelling. Questions and themes explored include those of race, gender, class, religion, and sexuality, and how these intersecting identities impact the social and psychological experiences of young adults. Recognizing that the cascading crises of 2020 have only further complicated an important time of change and transition, this course aims to meet students where they are: at the threshold of adulthood and transitioning to college in the midst of significant social upheaval. In the context of this social disruption and its impact on rituals of transition, this course uses film to help students navigate and contemplate cultural markers in times of change.

Week 1: Thursday, June 10

Call Me by Your Name, dir. Luca Guadagnino (2017).

Lecturer: Josh Sperling, Visiting Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies and Creative Writing; Creative Media Director for Arts and Sciences

Week 2: Thursday, June 17

American Graffiti, dir. George Lucas (1973).

Lecturer: William Patrick Day ’71, Professor of English and Cinema Studies

Week 3: Thursday, June 24

Ash Is Purest White, dir. Jia Zhangke (2018).

Lecturer: Hsiu-Chuang Deppman, Professor of Chinese and Cinema Studies

Week 4: Thursday, July 1

Les Quatre Cents Coups (The 400 Blows), dir. François Truffaut (1959).

Lecturer: Grace An, Associate Professor of French and Cinema Studies

Week 5: Thursday, July 8

Pariah, dir. Dee Rees (2011).

Lecturer: Charles Peterson, Associate Professor of Africana Studies

Week 6: Thursday, July 15

Beasts of the Southern Wild, dir. Benh Zeitlin (2012).

Lecturer: Jeff Pence ’88, Associate Professor of English and Cinema Studies

Week 7: Thursday, July 22

Into the Scrum, dir. Rian Brown-Orso (2012). 19 min.

Presence of Water, dir. Rian Brown-Orso (1999). 28 min.

Lecturer: Rian Brown-Orso, Associate Professor of Cinema Studies

Week 8: Thursday, July 29

The Return of Elder Pingree — Memoir of a Departed Mormon, dir. Geoff Pingree (2020)

Lecturer: Geoff Pingree, Professor of Cinema Studies and English

Writing Through Transition

Instructor of Record: Elizabeth Hamilton, Associate Dean of the College of the Arts and Sciences

Lecturer and Course Host: Hal Sundt ’12, Visiting Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Composition

Mondays and Wednesdays from 6:30–7:30 p.m. EDT

How do you write a first sentence that compels readers to read the second one? What do we really mean when we say writing “flows,” and how can we achieve this in our own writing? How do you construct an argument that is engaging,  insightful and guides the reader along seamlessly from beginning to end? With “transition” itself as its theme, the course will explore these questions (and more!), while fostering self-reflection and critical awareness of audience, context, rhetorical flexibility, and persuasion during a time of profound transition for all of us. Narratives across a variety of genres will link discrete skills, teaching when and how to tailor writing to best meet the needs of wider publics. Through readings, responses to writing prompts, free-writing, outlining and reverse-outlining, small-group workshopping of drafts, and frequent, short writing assignments, students will build essential skills for successful and meaningful college-level writing.

Week 1: Monday, June 7 and Wednesday, June 9

“Transitioning from high school to college writing”

Week 2: Monday, June 14 and Wednesday, June 16

“Discovering your intellectual process”

Week 3: Monday, June 21 and Wednesday, June 23

“Writer-Based Prose”

Week 4: Monday, June 28 and Wednesday, June 30

“Reader-Based Prose”

Week 5: Monday, July 5 and Wednesday, July 7

“Who’s Your Audience?”

Week 6: Monday, July 12 and Wednesday, July 14

“Writing Beyond the Classroom”

Week 7: Monday, July 19 and Wednesday, July 21

“Working with sources”

Week 8: Monday, July 26 and Wednesday, July 28

“The role of self-reflection”

Quantitative Toolkit: Patterns and Predictions

Instructor of Record: Daphne John, Associate Dean of the College of the Arts and Sciences

Mondays and Wednesdays from 6:30–7:30 p.m. EDT with an additional hourlong meeting each week on either Monday or Wednesday, beginning at 7:30 p.m. EDT.

Patterns are everywhere. Finding patterns in the world around us is at the heart of intellectual inquiry and an essential skill for college. The goal of this course is to build and apply quantitative skills to find, interpret, and describe patterns using local and global data. What data sheds light on weather and climate patterns, models of addiction, or housing values? We will use models to analyze data and make predictions in a variety of scholarly fields. In addition to reviewing quantitative skills, the course will teach students to use spreadsheets. Students will gain confidence in their ability to solve quantitative problems and make an argument with empirical evidence.

Week 1: Monday, June 7 and Wednesday, June 9

“Introduction, Scientific Notation, Measurement, Central Tendency, and Dispersion”

Lecturer: Daphne John, Associate Dean of the College of the Arts and Sciences; Associate Professor of Sociology and Comparative American Studies

Week 2: Monday, June 14 and Wednesday, June 16

“Political Polling”

Lecturer: Mike Parkin, Erwin N. Griswold Professor of Politics

Week 3: Monday, June 21 and Wednesday, June 23

“Using Excel and Google Sheets: Summative and Predictive Models”

Lecturer: Nancy Darling, Professor of Psychology

Week 4: Monday, June 28 and Wednesday, June 30

“Probability Sampling”

Lecturer: Christie Parris, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Week 5: Monday, July 5 and Wednesday, July 7

“Interpreting and Generating Scientific Graphs using COVID-19 and Vaccine Statistics”

Lecturer: Lisa Ryno, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Week 6: Monday, July 12 and Wednesday, July 14

“Polarization in Congress: Looking at Distributions and Difference in Means”

Lecturer: Jenny Garcia, Assistant Professor of Politics and Comparative American Studies

Week 7: Monday, July 19 and Wednesday, July 21

“Model Building, Curve Fitting, and Variable Choice: Predicting Property Values”

Lecturer: Ron Cheung, Professor of Economics

Week 8: Monday, July 26 and Wednesday, July 28

“Social Science Research Design”

Lecturer: Adam Howat, Visiting Assistant Professor of Politics and Postdoctoral Fellow

Learn More

To learn more about course credits, class formats, and more, check out our FAQ. If you have any additional questions, please contact Associate Dean Elizabeth Hamilton at elizabeth.hamilton@oberlin.edu.