Dear Members of the Oberlin Community,
Over the last 11 months, Oberlin has simultaneously realized two impressive achievements: we adapted our teaching, creativity, student and campus life experience to address the pressing needs of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we continued to implement the strategies laid out in the One Oberlin report. Both efforts required unprecedented commitment across the institution, for which I offer my gratitude and admiration to you all.
Now, even as our work continues to protect our campus from this pandemic, we must accelerate into an uncertain future, plotting a course that will ensure Oberlin thrives and carries out its historic mission throughout its third century. The success of One Oberlin has sharpened this institution’s mission focus and created a window of financial stability. We will emerge from this crisis strong. Yet we face unprecedented financial and demographic pressures, heightened competition, and a society with expanding expectations for undergraduate education. We must move quickly to match the momentum, spirit, and ambition of One Oberlin, and push our re-invention to new heights.
In order to position ourselves for this historic challenge, we are making several changes within the College’s senior administrative staff. First, I have asked Dean of Arts and Sciences David Kamitsuka to reconvene and lead the One Oberlin Oversight and Advisory Committee, whose work was somewhat disrupted by the pandemic. To thrive into the next era, One Oberlin provided us with a runway—made shorter by the pandemic—for us to think creatively about our next institutional steps for enhancing our leadership role in higher education and competitively compensating our extraordinary faculty and staff. This committee will continue its oversight work for One Oberlin but will also launch into the second part of its charge, which is to advise on long-term challenges and opportunities for Oberlin in an increasingly competitive and fundamentally altered higher educational framework. While we have made strides in reducing our structural deficit, we have not solved it yet. We must now continue to explore new academic programs and growth, enhance our student experience and campus community, evaluate the innovative possibilities presented by expansion of technology and infrastructure, identify opportunities to extend the reach of Oberlin’s distinctive mission, ensure our commitment to diversity and equity, all while we strengthen our core commitment to the liberal arts and musical excellence.
When the pandemic hit, we quickly recognized how important it was to adapt our communications strategies and tell Oberlin’s distinctive story in new ways to capture the minds and hearts of prospective students who suddenly were unable to visit campus. Ben Jones ’96 threw himself wholeheartedly into this work of recruiting and yielding new students through innovative ways of storytelling, both excelling at and enjoying this new focus. We cannot allow this work to recede. We must continue to press our advantage, so I am pleased to share that Ben will become Oberlin’s first Assistant Vice President of Admissions Communications, working closely with Vice President and Dean of Admissions Manuel Carballo, as well as our two academic deans. As we look forward to the opportunities Ben can pioneer for us, we also want to thank him for his 13 years in charge of the Communications Office. During that time, Ben and his team overhauled our website three times, elevated our visual identity and videography, redesigned our two magazines, supported our last capital campaign, and so much more. We are excited to bring that energy and Ben’s deep Obie pride to his new position, which will begin at the conclusion of the Summer Semester.
Finally, I want to thank Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo for her role safeguarding students during this pandemic. Her tireless efforts in support of students have been invaluable these past several months. At the end of the Spring Semester, Meredith will step away from her role to take a well-earned sabbatical before returning as a tenured faculty member. Through her 18 years of service to Oberlin in both teaching and administrative roles, Meredith developed an invaluable perspective and sensitivity that she brought to our leadership team and applied when working with students and enhancing our campus culture. During her nearly five years as dean, Meredith elevated Oberlin’s dining options; strengthened the collaboration between Student Senate and other student organizations and the senior leadership team; and forged important partnerships among students, staff, and faculty in support of initiatives such as OC Votes and ObieSafe. We thank Meredith for her deep dedication to this work.
In the coming weeks, I will announce national searches for a new Vice President of Communications as well as a new Dean of Students. I look forward to our continued work together as we ensure Oberlin leads into its next century.
Carmen Twillie Ambar
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