Business Concentration to Launch This Summer, Receives $2.5 Million in Donations


Madison Olsen

A student works on an assignment for Principles of Accounting — a course in the College’s new integrative Business concentration.

Oberlin College is introducing an integrative Business concentration, which will launch this summer. First recommended in the One Oberlin report in 2019, the concentration has already attracted significant donor attention and will allow students to take courses in foundational business concepts that will complement their liberal arts major. 

Classes from various departments will count towards the concentration, but Oberlin plans to hire one faculty member who will teach classes solely for the concentration.

“A core number of donors have committed $2.5 million to the new endowed professorship,” wrote Vice President for Advancement Michael Grzesiak in an email to the Review. “This will fund the salary, benefits, and other associated costs to the faculty member.”

Chair of Economics Ron Cheung hopes to find someone with a variety of experience for the role. 

“It would be somebody who has had a connection with the business world, but really does have a desire to enter the academic world for a little bit,” Cheung said. “[The faculty member would] create courses, programs, and content that fits the culture of Oberlin and actually helps to make Oberlin’s mark in business.”

Associate Dean of the College of the Arts and Sciences Laura Baudot has similar hopes for the position. A job description for the position has not yet been approved by the College Faculty Council. 

“Currently, in the proposal that was approved by the faculty, it is a five-year position,” Baudot said. “So not quite a ‘visiting’ position — it’s an ‘executive-in-residence’ model.”

The Business concentration was developed after a recommendation from the Academic and Administrative Program Review noted that the program could influence prospective students’ decision to enroll.

In a survey of admitted students, more than a third of respondents rated business education as a 4 or 5 on a 1-5 scale of their interest. Other data collected by the Admissions Office indicated that prospective students are interested in gaining professional skills from their undergraduate education. 

One of the challenges of incorporating a Business concentration into the curriculum is ensuring the content fits into the Oberlin ethos. Business ethics will be a core required class, and students will also have the flexibility to choose courses that align with their career goals — such as courses focused on nonprofit work or social entrepreneurship. 

“[The Business concentration] is not a major — it’s an integrative concentration, which means it enhances a student’s chosen major,” Baudot said. “The thinking is, with a business integrative concentration, students are really empowered to pursue the change they want to see in the world.” 

The first class offered for the concentration will meld social justice with business. Jesse Gerstin, OC ’07, who previously worked with the Clinton Foundation, will teach Foundations of Sustainable Business Management this summer. The class will focus on environmental issues within the business world. 

College third-year Matt Siff is a transfer student who is excited by the opportunity to participate in the Business concentration.  

“Going into my first year at Grinnell [College], I knew I wanted to study something related to either business or international relations,” Siff said. “Because Grinnell didn’t have a major for either of those two subjects, I began taking a bunch of economics and political science courses. … In terms of a possible career, I was very unsure.”

Siff’s appreciation of his Economics courses at Oberlin has piqued his interest in adding a Business concentration to his degree. He believes that the concentration could expand his options post-grad.

“Not only would I get to take actual business courses, but I’d also be able to gain valuable workplace experience with Oberlin alumni that would be a fantastic learning experience and would be a great career opportunity for the future,” Stiff said. “I feel like I would be much more prepared to enter a potential career in business after having completed this concentration.”

College second-year Jon Dromlewicz is another student who is considering pursuing the Business concentration. 

“My initial reaction is excitement because it would be a huge benefit to students who might want a future in finance but can’t get a degree in finance itself,” Dromlewicz said. “I think it would be a great focus to add, and I would definitely look into studying economics with a business focus.”

According to Cheung, faculty designed the course requirements to encompass students’ interests and applications in areas that are not necessarily business or finance. 

“We understand that a number of our students who major in our artistic fields have an interest in the ‘back office’… or how arts organizations get managed,” Cheung said. “For students that are interested in arts management and music management, for instance, they can do the Business concentration but take classes that specifically address arts and theater management.”

Baudot believes that every student can benefit from taking these courses and learning the fundamentals of business. 

“The Business integrative concentration signals, like the other integrative concentrations, Oberlin’s serious commitment to helping students launch into careers,” Baudot said. “We will do this in our distinctly Oberlin-y way.”