College Lacks Opportunities to Study Business

Katie Lucey, News Editor

Oberlin describes itself as an institution with “longstanding commitments to access, diversity, and inclusion,” according to its website. However, what Oberlin achieves in terms of commitment to social improvement, it lacks in academic paths for students who want to pursue a career in business or entrepreneurship.

Though there are a few classes for students to explore their interests in business offered within the Economics department such as Principles of Accounting, there is no official major in business or entrepreneurship. While Oberlin is a liberal arts school and should remain committed to offering a broad, comprehensive education, it can go a long way in providing course offerings that support students interested in these fields.

Students desiring to incubate their entrepreneurial ideas can do so in the first-module, co-curricular course Introduction to Entrepreneurship and Leadership, offered by the Creativity and Leadership Program. Taught by Entrepreneur-In-Residence Holley Murchison, the class connects students with a network of current business innovators each week while also helping to prepare students to apply to LaunchU, Oberlin’s startup accelerator and pitch competition that takes place over Winter Term.

The Creativity and Leadership Program aims to create spaces for students to make their innovative ideas and solutions a reality by encouraging something that perhaps stirs up a fair amount of fear for the average student: failure.

“I have a feeling that a lot of people at Oberlin aren’t invested in failure,” said College senior Jaye Goldschneider, who took the class last semester. “It has been drilled in our heads to do well in high school so you can get into a good college, so you go to good grad schools, so you can get a good job, and then you can work for most of your life, retire for a few years … and then die.”

Potentially, this fear of failure has manifested in the relative invisibility of the program compared to typical college course offerings and majors, as “no one wants to fail” according to Goldschneider. Although Murchison is attempting to reverse this reluctance to risk failure — she hopes to “bring more programming and events outside of the entrepreneurship class” — Creativity and Leadership remains limited.

Rather than existing as an academic department, it remains a multidisciplinary effort that offers co-curricular experiences rather than full-fledged academic courses, according to its website. Additionally, programs like LaunchU, though invaluable in its opportunity to provide students with funding, are small and lack student involvement. This year, most of the participants in the final pitch were alumni, with only two students making it to the final nine.

“Being here has showed me that there’s a huge need for Creativity and Leadership to do more,” Murchison said. “I see — and this an ongoing conversation with the dean — more speakers, more events, but more importantly, more labs to actually build and prototype ideas and fail and try again.”

Students who took Introduction to Entrepreneurship and Leadership in the past have voiced a similar desire for the department to offer more classes and workshops.

“I think that everyone should have to take an entrepreneurship class at Oberlin,” Clasby Chope, a College first-year enrolled in the class, said. “As humans, we are born to be entrepreneurs. … Knowing how to market and present our skills and abilities is crucial.”

Murchison agrees. “When I learned [the class] was co-curricular I was like, ‘This school could have one of the best Creativity and Leadership departments in the country because it’s a small school, because it’s liberal arts, because there’s just so much energy here,’” she said. “But it is lacking.”

While the Creativity and Leadership program has been revamped over the past few years in order to expand its impact on the campus and community, the fact remains that the program is small and somewhat “isolated” according to Kelly Jackson, a graduate student working in the department. In order to benefit more students, the program should enter the vernacular of more students through increased advertising and more for-credit courses.

Ultimately, the Creativity and Leadership program at Oberlin needs to be expanded in order to provide opportunities for students looking to explore business or entrepreneurship both in and out of a traditional classroom setting.

“I bet that every single person on this campus is an idea person … every single person has an idea that they like, has an idea that they can contribute to,” Jackson said. “Just being presented with the tools to make that happen —  it’s critical and is what the department can do.”