Oberlin Alumni Magazine Spring 2001 vol.96 no.4
Feature Stories
Planet Earth
High Atop Wilder
[cover story] Creating a Scene
You've Got Mail: Now What?
Experience, Exposure & Enlightenment
Body Art
Message from the Board of Trustees
Around Tappan Square
Oberlin Partnership sharpens Economic Development
Composing a Career
President Dye's Sabbatical
Closing Institutional Devides
In Brief
Alumni Notes: Profile
Alumni Notes: Losses
The Last Word
Staff Box
One More Thing
Around Tappan Square
Closing Institutional Divides
Exchange Program Draws on Strengths of Oberlin and Michigan
by Anne C. Paine

A new program being launched by Oberlin and the University of Michigan may prove to be a model for future reform in higher education.

The brainchild of Clayton Koppes, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and University of Michigan president emeritus James Duderstadt, the collaboration centers on the idea of using complementary strengths to enhance both institutions.

Through the program, recent PhD recipients will be awarded two-year, supervised teaching fellowships at Oberlin, and current Oberlin faculty members will go to Michigan to pursue research or immerse themselves in new fields.

The simple idea will bring far-reaching results for both campuses.

"Broadly speaking, graduate schools prepare students primarily for careers in research, leaving them ill-prepared for a job search in the wider world of higher education," says President Nancy Dye. "Conversely, scholars at schools like Oberlin can find it difficult to keep pace with rapidly evolving knowledge. Access to the resources and facilities of a major research university, as well as to research colleagues, will ultimately enhance teaching at the undergraduate institutions."

The Oberlin-Michigan collaboration is certainly not the first in the higher-education reform movement, but it is unique, Koppes says, because it is a direct, formal, cooperative, and ongoing link between two very different types of institutions.

"Oberlin has a lot to offer Michigan," he says. "We have highly qualified faculty members who are actively engaged in scholarship, and who can work on an equal basis with the Michigan faculty. We have highly talented students whom Michigan likes to enroll as graduate students.

"There's not much cooperation now between different types of institutions, but it's a natural," Koppes continues. "There are ways in which colleges and universities can complement each other. We should emphasize the teaching aspect of colleges and the research aspects of universities and play on the relative strengths of these different types of institutions."

Duderstadt, the former Michigan president and current professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences, agrees. "Even today, current proposals to reform higher education too often persist in a rhetoric that pits teaching against scholarship, as if to excel in one means shortchanging the other." he says.

"Overturning this false opposition, our program draws upon and develops pre-existing strengths in different kinds of institutions and will help set the stage for future exchange relationships that cut across institutional divides."

The first teaching fellow will begin work at Oberlin in the fall 2001 semester. A timetable has not yet been established for Oberlin faculty members to do work at Michigan.

"We're starting small because we're starting with our own resources," Koppes says. "We're seeking foundation funding and are confident that such funding will be secured."

In addition to faculty development opportunities, Koppes says the program will help Oberlin with faculty recruitment.

"Recruitment and retention of faculty of color is a tough problem for everybody, but finding solutions is essential to our future. Michigan has been a leader in the recruitment of a diverse graduate-student body. Prospective faculty, especially faculty of color, are always concerned about being part of a larger community. This program will help with that."

Students will also benefit, as improved courses and revitalized faculty members mean better teaching at Oberlin.

"Cooperation between types of institutions is going to be very important to the future of higher education, and to the future of colleges like Oberlin," Koppes says.

"The only impediment to this partnership is getting around Toledo," he jokes, referring to the two-hour drive between Oberlin and Ann Arbor.

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