First-Years Get Big Welcome to Cleveland

August 23, 2019

Amanda Nagy

Students pose in front of museum artwork.
Students pose in front of an installation at Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art during the Connect Cleveland orientation in 2018.
Photo credit: Jessica Ford

Connect Cleveland Orientation brings the Oberlin class of 2023 to the city for a day of service work and exploration.

Oberlin's Connect Cleveland orientation program returns for its second year on Wednesday, August 28. This daylong experience is an opportunity for the entire class of 2023 to learn about Cleveland and greater Northeast Ohio, meet Oberlin alumni, and identify possibilities for future internships, service, and employment. In the morning, students will participate in service or visits to organizations throughout the city of Cleveland in small groups. Later in the day, the class will convene to explore the University Circle area.

Connect Cleveland was initiated by President Carmen Ambar as a way to strengthen ties between the college and city. The intent is to show students early in their academic careers possibilities for internships, and help them get to know an urban center where they can find ways to effectively apply their liberal arts education to real-world challenges.

Organized by the Bonner Center, the Connect Cleveland program will bring more than 800 new students from the college and conservatory, along with nearly 100 peer advising leaders (PALs) from the college and Conservatory of Music, faculty members, and Oberlin staff members to the city on August 28 to participate in a variety of service projects with a dozen organizations. The day also will include site visits, tours, and workshops across the city.

“We are excited to be partnering with many of the same organizations we worked with last year while also building new relationships with organizations like the Cleveland Botanical Garden, Cleveland Print Room, MetroHealth, and the Somatic Center,” says Trecia Pottinger, director of the Bonner Center. 

Service opportunities and workshops

Students will be divided into cohorts and led by Peer Advising Leaders (PAL) and ConPAL student leaders. Many will engage in hands-on service projects for a variety of organizations, including MedWish International, Ohio City Bike Co-Op, Refugee Response Ohio City Farm, and Rid-All Green Partnership.

Students will visit a number of sites including the BOP STOP, Cleveland Marshall College of Law, Ideastream, and MetroHealth, with workshops being hosted at ICA Art Conservation, Praxis Fiber Workshop, and the Somatic Center, among others. 

Pottinger says that some visits and workshops will be tailored to a selection of first-year seminars (FYS) requested by faculty members, while other sites present an opportunity to learn about Cleveland from the perspective of an organization. “This year we sought to deepen connections between the program and first-year seminars by inviting instructors to suggest sites that would complement their courses.”

Examples of participating FYS courses include “The Sixth Extinction” (Cleveland Botanical Gardens); “Heroes and Villains” (Cleveland Public Library); “It’s Never Aliens” (Great Lakes Science Center); and “From Renaissance Anatomy to Modern Medicine” (MetroHealth).

In recent years, the college has ramped up its engagement in Cleveland through its Cleveland Immersion Program and other initiatives. The Bonner Scholars Program already works with several Cleveland partners during its annual spring break service trip, in which first-years participate in service and site visits and engage in cultural and social activities.

“The college is working to more deeply embed this outing in Cleveland in future Orientation activities and tie it more directly to coursework students may pursue during their tenure at Oberlin,” Ambar says. “I’m really excited about building on this work.”

View a gallery of the 2018 Connect Cleveland Orientation.

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