The alumni engagement working group is developing "Blue Sky" ideas, as encouraged by the Board, centered upon three themes: alumni-student interactions, alumni-faculty/staff interactions, and alumni-alumni interactions. One of the major ideas is to create an interactive searchable database in which alumni, students, faculty, and staff can interact with each other by interest, location, profession, etc. For example, an alum moving to New York to pursue a law career and who has an interest in swing dancing could find similar alums. Our current alumni database, the Loggia, does not appear to be meeting the goal of connecting our alumni.
The distinctiveness working group is identifying Grinnell's distinctive (defined as "different and excellent" by President Raynard S. Kington) features and how best to highlight them. These aspects include:
- A sense of community
- Inquiry-based learning in all disciplines
- Global awareness
- Individual freedom and responsibility
- Financial and intellectual assets
- Small-town Midwestern location
- Need-blind admission and meeting full demonstrated need for domestic students
- Dedication to social justice
Many colleges provide these elements, but few combine them in the same way Grinnell does. This particular mix creates a distinctive Grinnell culture that is one of Grinnell's most powerful and compelling points of difference - but because it is more than the sum of its parts, this is difficult to articulate. Doing so remains the committee's greatest challenge.
The enrollment working group is studying admissions and financial patterns and the financial implications of enrollment. They discovered that Grinnell has a lower-than-expected yield of students from middle-income backgrounds. The group is considering the use of merit aid more strategically to address this inconsistency. They are also considering developing legacy scholarships.
The postgraduation success working group's Student Government Association member, Raghav Malik '13, posed a series of questions to students. He found that students have trouble anticipating how they will incorporate the skills and perspectives they've learned at Grinnell into their postgraduation life. Telling students they can do anything they wish with a Grinnell education is not particularly helpful, his survey found. Students reported concern about how to adapt to "life after Grinnell." The working group seeks to address these issues and is also discussing:
- Ways of utilizing the alumni network' alumni express an interest in helping graduates but are not effectively connected.
- On-campus employment; campus employment is currently decentralized and difficult for students to navigate.
- Negative attitudes toward careers in for-profit organizations.
- Highlighting work done for the common good by Grinnellians in a wide variety of professions.
- Developing an extensive list of "Blue Sky" ideas.
Teaching and Learning
The teaching and learning working group has discussed:
- Rethinking the curricular and departmental structure.
- Exploring new pedagogies, experiential learning opportunities, and mentoring opportunities.
- Repurposing physical spaces to encourage collaboration and innovation.
- Examining the relationship between teaching and scholarship.
- Reducing faculty time spent on administrative duties by increasing efficiency.
- Tying student cocurricular activities to credit-bearing activities.
- Creating an honors program in which seniors would have advisers from all three divisions and focus on an interdisciplinary issue as part of their course loads.
The transparency working group is posting periodic progress reports in a variety of campus media, including a biweekly, condensed version of the steering committee minutes, of which this report is an example. They are also scheduling a weekly series of discussion sessions, beginning in November, on the strategic planning process.
Interested parties are encouraged to share their strategic planning ideas by sending them either to SP[at]grinnell[dot]edu or directly to the working group chairs:
Alumni Engagement, Beth Halloran (halloran[at]grinnell[dot]edu)
Distinctiveness, Jim Swartz (swartz[at]grinnell[dot]edu)
Enrollment, Pablo Silva (silvajp[at]grinnell[dot]edu)
Postgraduation Success, Lesley Wright (wrightl[at]grinnell[dot]edu) and Mark Peltz (peltzm[at]grinnell[dot]edu)
Teaching and Learning, David Harrison (harrisod[at]grinnell[dot]edu)
Transparency, Mary Phipps (phipps[at]grinnell[dot]edu)