Spotlighting the host institution

Spotlighting the host institution
Friday, September 5, 2003
7:30 - 8:15 pm

Nancy S. Dye, President- Oberlin College
Dennison Smith, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology- Oberlin College
Janice E. Thornton, Associate Professor of Neuroscience & Biology, Department of Neuroscience & Biology- Oberlin College

Oberlin College has a strong tradition in preparing students for graduate school and for a wide range of careers in scientific and technological fields. According to the Franklin and Marshall study, Baccalaureate Origins of Doctoral Recipients, Oberlin led all other four-year, private institutions in the number of graduates who received doctorates in the sciences since 1920. More recently, in the NSF report, Undergraduate Origins of Recent Science and Engineering Doctorate Recipients, Oberlin is cited as the baccalaureate origin of 266 science and engineering doctorate recipients, the highest number for any undergraduate college.

The college has achieved this success through an emphasis on intellectual engagement, academic excellence and experiential learning in the research lab. Our successful integration of research and education was recognized by NSF through their AIRE program. In particular, faculty-student research projects– carried out during academic terms, the independent study-oriented Winter Term, or during the summer– are a particularly successful aspect of the integration of research and education. Oberlin's Honors Program directly supports these faculty-student research efforts, as participating senior students spend an entire year working on an independent project, with the experience culminating in the writing of a thesis and a written or oral examination. Oberlin's recent completion of a $65 million science facilities project also underlines the institutions' commitment to the integration of research and teaching. The new building includes expanded space for faculty research laboratories, and the teaching facilities were designed to create integrated classroom and laboratory spaces and to promote hands-on learning. The new space and the AIRE funds have catalyzed the rapid expansion of collaborative and discovery-based learning experiences throughout the science curriculum.

The dramatic growth of interdisciplinary fields in the sciences presents a challenge to leaders at Oberlin College. Because the college remains largely committed to the traditional departmental structure within the natural science division, it is essential that communication and collaboration between departments be enhanced to respond effectively to this national trend. The impact of the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of the natural sciences is profound, as it affects the key strategic decision-making processes (i.e., allocation of faculty positions, curricular intiatives, etc.) of the college, as well as providing challenges to individual faculty members.