Global learning has always been central to the Grinnell experience. The College has long offered rigorous foreign language programs, popular concentrations in area and global development studies, and many opportunities for study abroad.

Grinnell is also a leader in the field of international student recruitment, enrollment, and retention. Over the past two years alone, the international student population has jumped from 13% to 20%. A full 24% of the incoming class of 2020 hails from 25 countries outside the United States.

Despite these successes, the College is always looking for ways to improve. In 2014, President Raynard S. Kington commissioned the Global Grinnell Task Force to frame global learning goals and chart a dynamic path to improving international engagement.

The task force’s recommendation to integrate international initiatives at Grinnell plus a generous gift of $5 million from Carolyn “Kay” Swartz Bucksbaum ’51 made it possible to establish the Institute of Global Engagement. By providing a centralized structure for Grinnell’s new and existing international programs, the institute will essentially serve as a one-stop shop for everything global at Grinnell.

Travel with a Class

Interested in deepening your understanding of the world as a first-year student? Apply to participate in the new Global Learning Program. It sends internationally-oriented tutorial classes on a 3–4 week trip to investigate course themes in a global context.

In spring 2016, two pilot courses were offered: Origins of Liberal Education and Tolerance and Intolerance: What Is Enlightenment Today? They emphasized an interdisciplinary approach featuring team-teaching from history and Spanish department professors, and French and German department professors, respectively.

Megan Tcheng ’19, whose participation in the Origins of Liberal Education tutorial took her on trips to Italy, Spain, and Mexico City, says the Global Learning Program “has made me consider the impact of ancient histories and foreign cultures. It has made me question the roots of my own experience. And above all else, it has made me undeniably excited for my next 3 years at Grinnell.”

Students and professor pose on steps near Newgrange near large rocks decorated with the famous tri-spiralAdvanced special-topic class Anthropology of Collective Memory at Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland.

It’s not just first-years who get the chance to make the world their classroom. Selected upper-level courses also offer opportunities for embedded travel. In 2015–16, Brigittine French, assistant professor of anthropology, led her advanced special-topic class, Anthropology of Collective Memory, on a weeklong trip to Ireland to examine major course themes in context. After they returned, students presented scholarly posters or creative visual representations of the research they completed during their week abroad.

Travel for MAPs, Internships, or Off-Campus Study

From First-Year Tutorial to graduation and beyond, the Institute for Global Engagement will streamline students’ opportunities for international engagement. Perhaps you’d like to conduct one-on-one research with Grinnell faculty across the world? Apply to pursue a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) at an international location. Or maybe you’d like to spend a summer interning abroad? Grinnell’s advisers at the institute and the Center for Careers, Life, and Service can help you with that, too.  

And if your third year rolls around and you’re itching to join the 60% of Grinnellians who spend at least one semester studying off campus, the Off-Campus Study program can guide you in the search for a program that matches your interests and goals.

Get Global at Home in Grinnell

Of course, students need not leave Iowa behind to get global at Grinnell. Under the leadership of David Cook-Martín, professor of sociology and newly named assistant vice president for global education and senior international officer, the institute is actively searching for new ways to infuse international learning opportunities into every academic department on campus.

Each year, various academic departments invite approximately 5 international visiting fellows to teach short- or full-term courses on campus. Through the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights, Grinnell also brings distinguished scholars, public servants, and commentators to campus to discuss social and political issues affecting the larger world.

If you’re interested in learning a language that’s not offered in the regular curriculum, Grinnell can help you pursue that, too. Check out ALSO (Alternate Language Study Option), a self-instructional language program enhanced by peer tutoring. Led by Claire Moisan, senior lecturer in French, ALSO offers self-motivated students the opportunity to take two semesters of coursework in a variety of languages, including but not limited to Italian, Portuguese, Korean, Hindi, Czech, and Kiswahili.

Citizens Without Borders

Perhaps Cook-Martín explains the institute’s mission best:

“At a time when politicians worldwide argue for a retreat behind national walls, the institute offers a space in which to cultivate thinking about what it means to be full members of local communities and of a global community.”

As a diverse campus rooted in a strong tradition of social justice, Grinnell strives to cultivate students’ curiosity, passion, and engagement with issues facing the broader world. With the creation of the new Institute for Global Engagement, Grinnell College has taken a major step forward toward achieving that goal.

Share / Discuss