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Communications

The POWER of Communications

2015 students practicing public speaking skills

Communicating the New, Communicating You 

"The course taught me to move outside my comfort zone and push for success and understanding." —2016 participant

July 16-July 29

As most high school students know all too well, we live in a soup of marketing messages. Corporations sell cigarettes as an essential accessory for achieving coolness. Food companies slap labels like “all natural” on items filled with potentially harmful ingredients, and engineer their products to make them more addictive to the consumer. 

…And yet the previous paragraph was itself a marketing exercise. Earlier this fall, the New York Times published the results of a research undertaking demonstrating that teens are driven by their suspicion of authority. In the study, students who read an article about the shady practices of some food corporations were more likely to adopt healthy eating behaviors than those who read only about the negative impact of unhealthy foods upon their bodies. Influenced by these findings, this course description began as an attempt to exploit adolescents’ impulse to challenge untrustworthy institutions.

Communication skills are essential for creating positive change. Students in this course will acquire the fundamentals of effective oral and written communication, for both personal success and social and environmental impact. They will write personal reflections informed by their passion for social justice and climate change issues, with the goal of completing a draft college application essay. Public speaking “boot camp” will train them to more effectively advocate for themselves and the issues they care about most. And they will gain real world experience as communications consultants, partnering with local nonprofits in Oberlin to help them tell their stories more effectively. They’ll emerge prepared to succeed as change-makers and professionals in an increasingly hyper-connected and mass mediatized world.


Lead Instructor: Peter Nicholson

Peter—who graduated from Oberlin in 1991—is passionate about educating the next generation of leaders, and has consistently incorporated teaching in his professional activities for almost 15 years. This is his second summer as Lead Instructor for the Communications course; he especially loves challenging students to find their "inner rockstar" for public speaking and presentations. 

Peter leads a multifaceted career focused on innovating greater social, environmental and economic sustainability. He has consulted on and undertaken a diverse range of projects for clients, including municipal government agencies, institutional nonprofits, small businesses, and large corporations. Dedicated to empowering the next generation of sustainability-minded leaders, Peter regularly mentors interns, and leads a variety of education programs based on his professional experience. In 2002, he established the nonprofit Foresight Design Initiative, for which he serves as the Executive Director. In 2012, he formed Foresight Bright, LLC, an innovation consulting practice focused on private sector clients. Both the nonprofit and the LLC's services include Communications Design to inform and inspire stakeholders through clear and consistent branding, educational materials, and other marketing and outreach strategies.  Prior to this, he held a variety of positions in the private and nonprofit sectors, including working in the Offices of Communications for both Oberlin College and the Oberlin Conservatory. Peter began his study of Sustainability and Design at the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology and holds a bachelors degree from Oberlin College, where his dual major included an emphasis on writing.