Historically progressive. That is the hallmark of Otterbein University and those connected to this private university nestled in the picturesque, historic Uptown Westerville district in central Ohio.
Otterbein University was established in 1847 and named for Philip William Otterbein, a founder of the United Brethren Church. Shaped by its historic relationship with the Church, a set of deeply rooted values still guide this model community of leaders and learners. Otterbein has set the pace by providing an educational experience that is progressive, innovative and inclusive.
Otterbein lays claim to many “firsts.” Otterbein is believed to be one of the first colleges in the country founded as a coeducational institution enabling women to follow the same course of study as their male counterparts. The first graduating class consisted of two women, Sarah Miller and Mary Katherine Winter.
Not only did women stand shoulder to shoulder with men as students—they also proudly served as faculty members from the school’s earliest days. Founded by an anti-slavery church, Otterbein is also believed to be one of the first in the nation to open to students of color.
Early in its history, the University aligned itself with causes. University officials joined city founders in support of emancipation, and were active participants in assisting runaway slaves as Westerville became a station along the Underground Railroad. The town of Westerville was also home to the Anti-Saloon League. Today Otterbein is still, officially, a “dry” campus. Advancing the common good remains a mission-driven priority. Otterbein has been recognized on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll every year since it was established in 2006.
Curricular innovation has long been a hallmark of the University. The pioneering work of Dr. Lavelle Rosselot established the method of Foreign Language instruction that is still in use today. The Integrative Studies curriculum, a common course of study for all students, has garnered national recognition and serves as a model for many colleges and universities seeking to adopt similar programs.
In recent years, Otterbein is helping set the national conversation for its pioneering work in experiential learning. Chosen as one of only six institutions in the country, Otterbein is poised to lead others in understanding how best to harness the transformative power of hands-on learning through its “Five Cardinal Experiences.”
The turbulence of the 1960s led to a reorganization of the University governance system. In the early 1970s, Otterbein became the first University in the nation to have students and faculty seated as permanent, voting members of its Board of Trustees.
Today Otterbein University enrolls 2,919 traditional undergraduate students, 223 adult students enrolled in evening and weekend classes, and 440 graduate students working in one of several master’s degree programs, and some towards a newly established doctoral degree in Nursing. As they did decades ago, the students of today still come from towns in Ohio but they also come from 35 states and 22 countries, enriching the campus through their individual and collective diversity.
Integrity, humane values and an inherently just, moral compass have guided Otterbein’s forward-thinking vision and actions—from its curriculum to its responsibilities as a member of academic, regional and global communities.