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Blanche Villar

Peters Hall houses the college’s world language departments and the offices of academic advising and disability services. Photo credit: Kevin Reeves

Oberlin College has long held that educating our students to think globally about themselves and their place in the world is an important characteristic of a liberal arts education. We have admitted and graduated students from around the world. We have sent our students to study away from campus with the belief that experiencing and understanding another culture is an invaluable part of a liberal arts education. 

Our curriculum reflects a commitment to thinking and learning about global issues, and covers all major areas of the world, including Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and Latin America and Caribbean.

Some quick facts:

  • Oberlin offers instruction in a dozen world languages, from ancient Greek to modern Hebrew, Arabic to Portuguese.
  • Approximately 300 Oberlin students each year participate in approved semester- or year-long study away programs. In the most recent Open Doors survey (2014/15) sponsored by the Institute for International Education, Oberlin College was ranked 5th in the top 40 Baccalaureate Institutions in the total number of study abroad students.
  • Oberlin’s international student community makes up 13 percent of our student body and includes foreign nationals, dual U.S. and foreign citizens, U.S. citizens living abroad, and foreign nationals with permanent residency in the United States.
  • About 10 percent of Oberlin’s continuing faculty hold degrees from non-U.S. institutions.
  • More than 10 percent of Oberlin’s courses are offered in languages other than English.
  • The majority of the more than 50 formal areas of study that Oberlin offers in the arts and humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and mathematics deal in significant ways with the world outside of the United States. 
  • More than 80 students per semester work as language teachers in the community, teaching Spanish, Chinese, French, and English as a second language through such programs such as SITES, Locohs, and the Immigrant Worker Project.

Oberlin Center for Languages and Cultures (OCLC) is dedicated to working with existing campus offices and departments to strengthen the college’s profile as an international institution. Additionally, OCLC seeks to provide resources to ensure students, faculty, and others have the necessary support for international travel and the study of world languages, issues, and cultures.

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OCLC Mission

The Oberlin Center for Languages and Cultures is dedicated to strengthening Oberlin College as an international institution by:

  • encouraging the learning, teaching, and research of languages and cultures among students, faculty, and staff;
  • coordinating with the Paul and Edith Cooper International Learning Center to provide resources for language students and faculty;
  • improving the coordination among courses and events from different programs and departments that focus on international topics;
  • integrating the use of languages other than English in courses across the curriculum;
  • increasing the number of students who spend time abroad as part of their study;
  • strengthening Oberlin’s connections with academic institutions abroad; and
  • sponsoring community events of international and intercultural interest.

OCLC Administrative Structure

  • OCLC has a director who is supported by a Steering Committee consisting of 8-10 faculty and staff.
  • OCLC’s list of affiliated faculty will include most of Oberlin’s faculty.
  • OCLC Steering Committee appoints subcommittees where appropriate (e.g., language pedagogy).
  • The director of the Cooper International Learning Center is a member of the Steering Committee and collaborates with the OCLC director .

OCLC History

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded a grant of $950,000 to Oberlin in fall 2011 to strengthen international humanities teaching and research through the creation of a Center for the Study of Foreign Languages and International Cultures. The challenges facing the world today are inherently global, making knowledge of other cultures—their languages, histories, beliefs, political and social structures, and values—essential for informed citizenship in the 21st century. Climate change, national security, human rights, food security, finance and trade all require approaches and solutions that recognize not only local conditions but also the complex ways in which these issues span borders, cultures, and continents.

The center will play a critical role in meeting the college’s strategic goal of “internationalizing” Oberlin by providing an ongoing source of support for faculty development, curriculum development, and humanities programming essential to sustaining a current and vital international curriculum.

The grant from the Mellon Foundation includes a challenge grant of $500,000 that must be matched by $1.5 million in new gifts through the 2015-16 year, to create a $2 million endowment to support the center’s faculty and curriculum development activities, international programming, and staffing. To launch the center while fundraising for the match is under way, the Mellon Foundation also awarded the college $450,000 in current-use funds to begin activities of the center in 2012-13.

Read an interview with the center’s first director

OCLC Services

  • Website and databases 
  • Direct programming 
  • Cosponsor programming and distribution of programming funds 
  • Distribution of curriculum development funds 
  • Student and faculty workshops, 
  • Resource center for students and faculty interested in teaching, learning, or studying world languages via Cooper International Learning Center 

Upcoming Office Events