Oberlin to Launch Liberal Arts-Centered Integrative Concentration in Business

February 27, 2020

Communications Staff

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Photo credit: Christopher Navin

Oberlin College is poised to prepare visionary and creative leaders in the business, arts, and non-profit worlds.

As part of a larger effort to address the changing needs of 21st-century students, Oberlin College will launch an integrative concentration in business that will provide students with both the values of a liberal arts education and high-quality experiences in business and finance.

Launching in fall 2021, the integrative concentration will be available to college and conservatory students, cultivating globally minded graduates who can apply critical thinking and agile action to a wide range of challenges.

Students from economics to jazz studies will tap into a rich array of experiential learning and coursework that provides access to key business concepts, networks of mentors, and intensive work-related and project-based experiences.

“Current and prospective students want meaningful ways to connect their liberal arts education to an after-Oberlin path,” says Ron Cheung, professor of economics and chair of the business curricular committee. “An Oberlin credential in business will help our students stand out to cutting-edge employers who already appreciate the long-term value of a liberal arts education, especially when the student is equipped with the range of educational experiences and core business-related skills to launch rapidly within the sector.”

Faculty unanimously approved the integrative concentration in business, which was recommended as part of the One Oberlin report, the college’s blueprint for a prosperous future. The concentration joins new integrative programs launched in music and journalism, along with an expanded and refocused Winter Term, as Oberlin harnesses its academic and cocurricular strengths to help students and graduates lead lives of meaning.

“This is a bold and exciting development that will allow Oberlin students and graduates to impact the world of business in new ways,” says President Carmen Twillie Ambar. “The integrative concentration in business will combine Oberlin’s ethos with best business practices.”

Oberlin’s alumni are already well represented in the field. Business and finance together constitute the third most common career path for Oberlin graduates, slightly behind higher education and health care. These graduates bring their Oberlin perspectives and values to effect positive change in the world from within the business sector.

“The world would be a better place if more Oberlin-type students ended up in business," says Stewart Kohl ’77, co-CEO of the Riverside Company and cofounder of Ashby Business Scholars, which provides select scholars with a foundation of skills, knowledge, and contacts to help them compete for jobs and internships. "They have a background in critical thinking and also a prospering set of values to live their lives. This would be a good thing for business. It would also be a very good thing for Oberlin.”

In keeping with Oberlin’s commitment to liberal arts education, students who pursue the concentration will be expected to explore and articulate the relationship of their business acumen to their core area of study—be it psychology, musical performance, physics, or politics.

"The world of business touches on so many issues that we wrestle with regularly as part of an Oberlin education—diversity and inclusivity, justice and equity, climate change, the list goes on," says Cindy Frantz, professor of psychology and environmental studies and member of the business curricular committee. "If our society fails to address these issues in the business world, then we will fail to address them, period."

“I am particularly excited that conservatory students will be able to enroll in this concentration,” says Bill Quillen, dean of the Conservatory of Music. “To be successful as a professional musician today, our students need not only the highest levels of technical proficiency and historical awareness, but also an ability to identify and create new opportunities and distribute and monetize their work. Every one of our graduates will, in essence, be their own start-up, and skills in business will be crucial to their success.”

The business education pathway will consist of three components: curricular, experiential, and integrative. The curricular component will address foundational areas in business education: accounting, economics, management, and ethics, as well as an elective in an applied area. The experiential component will provide students with immersive and formative hands-on experiences in the world of business. The integrative component will include mechanisms for students to draw together the theory from the curricular component with the practice from the experiential component.

"Integrative concentrations are Oberlin’s creative solution to the age-old challenge of connecting classroom theory to real world practice," says David Kamitsuka, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "The concentration in business will be a wonderful complement to a student’s rich liberal arts education and academic major, helping them acquire skills and savvy for business through a high-quality internship and other hands-on experiences."

The new concentration is expected to appeal widely to students in all majors across the college and conservatory, not just those who are interested in business careers.

“No matter what professional path Oberlin graduates follow, it’s good to know business fundamentals—how to effectively run a business, what a human resources group is, how to market yourself, how to achieve the greatest degree of success possible," says Steve Dolcemaschio, former chief operating officer of Comcast Entertainment Group, Oberlin trustee and parent, and teacher of the 2020 Winter Term course Business For Life. "These questions are relevant to all students, in any discipline.”

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