The Oakley Center was established in 1985 to support research across the humanities and social sciences, with a special emphasis on interdisciplinary work. Since that time, it has come to play a vital role in the scholarly life of Williams College. The Center provides a meeting place where faculty and administrative staff can pursue their intellectual and research interests. It sponsors many events and programs throughout the year, some exclusively for faculty and staff and others for the entire campus and the wider public.
Programs especially for faculty include fellowships, colloquia with distinguished visiting scholars and Center-supported faculty research and reading groups. Each semester, about eight faculty Fellows are in residence and participate in a weekly research seminar. Through the Ruchman Fellowship program, two Williams seniors participate in the Fellows' seminar as well. Through the Clark-Oakley Fellowship, offered in conjunction with the Research and Academic Program of the Clark Art Institute, the Center also provides an office and funding for one scholar, from outside the College, who will take part in the programs of both institutions. The Center's public events include occasional conferences and the annual Richmond, Weiss, and Davis Lectures.