Oberlin Prepares Students for Real World

To the Editors:

Are you a newly arrived freshman or a senior about to graduate without a clear plan for Year One after college? If you are, or you are simply wondering if Oberlin was the best school for you, take it from someone who is nearing the end of his working career that nothing is more valuable for an engaged and satisfying life than an Oberlin education.

When I graduated from high school, I chose Oberlin over two large public universities. I was a strong student in all subjects, but I did not have a “passion.” Luckily, it wasn’t really important to have one back then. It was a few years after Woodstock and the Vietnam War protests, and I remember a lot of students were critical of higher education not being “relevant.”

As it was then and is today, Oberlin allows students to explore a variety of relevant fields of study. The course offerings remain steeped in the traditional liberal arts disciplines, yet are contemporary at the same time. If you really feel the need for a more modern experience, there are ExCo classes and Winter Terms. What I like, then as now, is that Obies are authentic — when they eventually do discover their passions, they are genuine.

One of the great things about being an Obie and interacting with other alumni is discovering how much we exhibit the same breadth of interests, natural curiosity, fluency in numerous topics, and contexts to help process the external environment. We are likely to find we have recently read the same book or periodical. There is rarely a shortage of topics to discuss. We are lifelong learners continually expanding our knowledge footprint at the edges.

Obies are very familiar with the term “critical thinking.” We are very proud of how good we are at it. Besides the classic notion of deep and intense examination of a problem from the inside out, Obies also tend to be especially creative in associating diverse fields of knowledge in their analysis of a subject.

My Oberlin education not only provided me with these unique critical thinking skills, but also a basic literacy by which to navigate the world. My introductory philosophy course allowed me to have a rudimentary understanding of an opinion article on epistemology and fake news. When someone says we are living a gilded age, I remember reading Mark Twain’s eponymous novel in an English class. When I am trying to embrace the atonality of a Shostakovich symphony, I remember Ellen Johnson explaining in her art class how artists of the 20th century felt compelled to reflect society in their works. I even think of the entropy principle from chemistry class when I contemplate how we might become less polarized as a society.

And what about finding a worthwhile career? Though there seems to be some debate about the issue, it is worthwhile to remember how valuable this kind of preparation truly is. In his review of two books whose authors contend that the tech world really needs liberal arts majors, Timothy Aubry recently wrote that to thrive in the burgeoning fields of project management, recruitment, human relations, branding, data analysis, market research, design, fundraising, and sourcing, “one must be able to communicate effectively, read subtle social and emotional cues, make persuasive arguments, adapt quickly to fluid environments, interpret new forms of information while translating them into a compelling narrative, and anticipate obstacles and opportunities before they arise.” These skills come uniquely from the humanities.

So take heart Obies! It is a big world with lots of opportunities out there. Be happy you have four years in which to really prepare yourself for the long haul.

Donn Ginoza
OC ’74
At-Large Member, Alumni Leadership Council