Every autumn since 1975, several dozen college students from across the country have taken a step “out of the mainstream” for an unusual semester of vigorous intellectual exploration. Students earn 16 credits, but focus on one topic of study at a time. Daily reading, small group discussion, and one-on-one conversations with faculty members comprise the heart of the OE program. In a fresh academic atmosphere, students discover new intellectual energies within themselves. Naturally, they begin to identify and explore the issues that matter most to them.
The more relaxed personal setting invites students to pursue the kinds of questions that build up during a college education, but that often don’t get the attention they deserve in the normal routine. Questions like:
- What kind of person do I want to be?
- What kinds of relationships do I want shaping my life?
- What do I believe about God and the ultimate questions of life?
- What do all these facts and ideas mean, and what kinds of responses do they ask of me?
- What institutions and larger purposes are worthy of my life?
This academic adventure takes place in Lincoln, a renovated lumber-mill town in the mountains east of Ashland, Oregon. Students live in comfortable, rustic cabins with three or four of their peers. They fire their own wood stove, cook their own meals, and work to build mutual trust and honesty. When it’s time for a break from reading and writing, they head outdoors to hike, jog, mountain bike, and ride horses in the surrounding forest. We also take regular breaks from our studies to backpack, climb a nearby mountain peak, explore the Oregon Coast, and spend a few days in San Francisco.