Oberlin Alumni Magazine

Winter 2011-2012 Vol. 107 No. 1 OAM Home | Oberlin Online

Teaching and Learning

President Marvin Krislov
(Photo by Roger Mastroianni)

Since becoming Oberlin’s president, I have spoken with alumni from across the country and around the world. In almost every conversation, I’ve heard about how much that man or woman’s life was changed by an Oberlin professor who taught, inspired, and mentored them. In many cases, the alums are still in touch with that person. When they return to campus, these alums get together with their professors, including those who have attained emeritus status. Those relationships testify to Oberlin’s long, proud tradition of great teaching.

Oberlin teaching is dynamic and continually evolving as our faculty members strive to provide their students with an exceptional education in the liberal arts and sciences. As always, our classes are taught by outstanding teacher-scholars. That means Oberlin’s students have opportunities to work directly with faculty members on scientific and academic research, on musical and artistic performance, and on planning for life after graduation.

I teach a politics class every semester, so I know how much work goes into teaching Oberlin students. Our faculty members teach multiple courses each semester, in addition to serving on committees. And they give freely of their time and wisdom to students in and out of the classrooms, the labs, and the studios. This dedication is what defines teachers and teaching at Oberlin.

Because of the importance we place on teaching, it was especially gratifying for all of our faculty members to see Professor of History Steve Volk named U.S. Professor of the Year for baccalaureate colleges by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Created in 1981, the U.S. Professors of the Year awards program is the only national initiative specifically designed to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring. Steve is the first Oberlin professor to receive this award.

That news was followed by the announcement that Associate Professor of Chemistry Rebecca Whelan had received a Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award from the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation.

While those are great honors for Steve and Rebecca, they also speak to the high quality of all our faculty members who excel in teaching and who positively influence the lives and careers of their students. Their teaching drives Oberlin’s vibrant intellectual life.

Studying at Oberlin is an intense experience. Our students’ workload is heavy. And they are passionate about their studies. Their love of learning—whether it is academic, experiential, or peer-to-peer—is another great Oberlin tradition. Learning doesn’t stop when a class session ends. It just moves to another location and continues.

That mindset, combined with the tremendous talent on Oberlin’s faculty, among our students, and on our staff, makes the college and the conservatory exciting places to work and to study. As they have been through the years, Oberlin’s faculty and students remain dedicated to learning, teaching, researching, performing, and using their talents and abilities to make the world better for everyone.