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Jaci A. Thiede Appointed VP for Development and Alumni Relations

Jaci A. Thiede has been selected as the new Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations for the College. Thiede was most recently Vice President for University Advancement at Butler University in Indianapolis, Ind. Prior to her leadership role at Butler, she was the associate Dean for Alumni Relations and Development at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law in Chicago and before that Thiede served as a senior member of the Indiana University Foundation’s development division for 10 years. She will begin work at Grinnell July 31.

“Jaci brings extensive advancement, development, campaign, and alumni relations experience to our strategic priority of ensuring financial sustainability while providing access, maintaining intergenerational equity, and living our values. She has more than 20 years of professional experience in higher education advancement work and campaign consulting,” says Raynard S. Kington, president. “I look forward to the leadership expertise and broad experience she will bring to her role.”

As a member of Grinnell’s senior leadership team, Thiede will provide strategic vision and direction for all fundraising, alumni relations, and stewardship activities.

“Throughout the interview process I was struck by how incredibly passionate everyone — alumni, faculty, students and staff — were about Grinnell College,” Thiede says. “Over and over I had people tell me, ‘Grinnell is a special place.’ It takes just that kind of passion to develop and grow a strong culture of philanthropy and engagement, and I am excited for the opportunity to join the development and alumni relations team and help build upon the foundation that has already been laid. As a very strong advocate for the value and relevance of a liberal arts education, the chance to continue my career at an institution of Grinnell’s caliber is an honor for me.”

While at Butler, Thiede led efforts that resulted in recording the first and third highest fundraising totals in the university’s history. She helped to develop cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship strategies that resulted in the largest individual gift in Butler’s history and increased overall annual giving by 24 percent over two years.

Thiede holds a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University in Bloomington, and a Master of Business Administration degree from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Peaceful Protests and the Grinnell Admission Process

Grinnell receives thousands of applications for admission every year from the most qualified students across the nation and around the world. Through a holistic process of review, we consider each applicant’s demonstrated commitments to academic excellence, diversity, and social change. We would never penalize a prospective student for peaceful public protest. Indeed, we reward students in the application process who have used their voices to address important social problems.

Joe Bagnoli, Grinnell College
Vice President for Enrollment

Dean of Admission and Financial Aid

Grinnell College Student-Athletes Attend the NCAA’s APPLE Training Institute

There are a variety of barriers that can prevent student-athletes from maintaining wellness and the NCAA’s APPLE Training Institute is helping to end them. This year, the Wilson Center for Innovation & Leadership helped students attend.

The nationally recognized program — held at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA, from January 13-15 — aims to promote student-athlete wellness and substance abuse prevention. It creates a space where student-athletes can discuss their unique college experiences, collaborate on relevant issues prevalent in the student-athlete community, and build innovative foundations and solutions to enhance campus-wellness efforts.

Lessons from the Institute

Carson Dunn ’18, a mathematics major, says that hands-on learning approaches and facilitated discussions “have helped me learn what needs to be done on our campus as well as improve my leadership abilities as a whole.” The NCAA’s APPLE Institute not only facilitated his personal growth, but also reinvigorated his desire to bring about change for the Grinnell College community.

Maggie Remus ’18, an economics major, found that the institute fostered discussions that encouraged her to take on the challenges of being a student-athlete and to embrace this identity as a platform for change at Grinnell. She writes, “Throughout the weekend our group gained information about how to execute innovative strategies to improve the overall student athlete experience. We worked with groups from other colleges to develop action plans to bring back to campus.”

Nathan Zaroban ’18, a biological chemistry major writes that, “As part of the conference, we put together an action plan of how we wanted to address these issues when we got back to campus.” He describes that working with other student-athletes over a three-day period helped him to reflect on the student-athlete experience which helped frame the action plan he hopes to implement on campus.

Lauren Hurley ’18, a psychology major, writes, “The perspective of schools similar to ours and those that were very different gave invaluable insight into how substances abuse occurs on other campuses.” She describes that collaborative workshops with other student-athletes broadened her understanding of substance abuse — among other issues — allowing her to develop potential initiatives as well as to recalibrate previous ideas for reform.

What’s Next?

Zaroban found that, “It was very rewarding and motivating to hear that we at Grinnell College are so far ahead of the game in terms of both the institutional and peer support we give our students.”

However, he recognized that there were improvements to be made in other areas and immediate action steps to follow at Grinnell.

Zaroban says that he along with Dunn, Remus and Hurley “will be meeting with Athletic Director Andrew Hamilton to present some of our concerns and discuss how we should go about fixing them.” They hope to improve the student-athlete experience through developing comprehensive and cohesive wellness reforms related to mental illness and substance abuse preventions, framed by both student-athletes and faculty. Not only would this benefit the student-athlete community, but it would also have a long-lasting impact on the community atmosphere at Grinnell.

Dunn, Remus, Zaroban, and Hurley had different experiences at the institute that resulted in similar outcomes. They all appreciated the institute for teaching them the meaning of leadership as student-athletes and providing them the necessary training to establish innovative reforms for the Grinnell College community.

The students were sponsored by the Wilson Center, which seeks to inspire and prepare students as innovators and leaders through courses, professional development, and events that emphasize experiential learning.

Grinnell College Retains Highest Possible Credit Rating

Moody's Investors Service announced that it has assigned an “Aaa” rating — the highest possible — to Grinnell College's planned January 2017 issue of approximately $113 million of revenue bonds through the Iowa Higher Education Loan Authority.  In addition to the “Aaa” rating, Moody’s also affirmed a stable outlook for the College.

Similarly, Standard & Poor's Global Rating Service (S&P) also assigned the College its highest rating of “AAA,” with a stable outlook.

Both credit rating agencies also affirmed the “Aaa” and “AAA” ratings on the College's existing revenue bonds.

Proceeds from the Series 2017 bond issue will help finance three strategic campus investment projects, including:

  • Renovation and significant expansion of two existing historical buildings to create a new interdisciplinary Humanities and Social Studies Complex,
  • Design and construction of a new Admission and Financial Aid Center, and
  • Creation and partial implementation of a comprehensive campus landscaping plan.

As stated in the agency reports, the Moody’s and S&P ratings are justified by Grinnell's increasingly strong market demand and geographically diverse student body, as well as its exceptionally large balance sheet reserves, which are largely unrestricted, and extraordinary liquidity relative to debt and operations. Both agencies recognized the importance of the College's strong governance and senior management. Attentive fiscal oversight and focused discipline have driven consistently strong operating performance.

"Achieving the highest possible credit rating from both Moody’s and S&P affirms Grinnell’s exceptional financial strength," says Kate Walker, vice president for finance and treasurer of Grinnell College. "It also recognizes the important role effective leadership and governance play in preserving financial sustainability now and for the long term.

"Grinnell is on a positive trajectory in many ways. Institutional investments guided by our vision and strategic plan position Grinnell for continued success despite the many challenges of today’s highly competitive higher ed landscape," Walker adds. "The credit ratings we've been awarded by Moody's and S&P are a testament to Grinnell’s ability to deliver a quality experience for our students today and for generations to come."


Kington Signs Open Letter to President-Elect Trump

President Raynard S. Kington and more than 100 other college presidents from around the country distributed an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump today, urging him “to condemn and work to prevent the harassment, hate, and acts of violence” that have occurred across the nation since he won the election on Nov. 8. Many of these incidents, some of which have been perpetuated in the President-elect’s name, have occurred on college campuses, endangering and frightening marginalized communities.

In the letter, college presidents commit themselves to promoting the values of democracy, human decency, equal rights, freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination, and ask Trump to do the same. They argue that as leaders, it is their responsibility – and the President-elect’s – to “protect and empower” the most vulnerable.

The letter and the complete list of signatories was published in Inside Higher Ed on November 18, and the text of the letter reads:

Dear President-elect Trump,

As do you, we “seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict.” In order to maintain the trust required for such productive engagement, it is essential that we immediately reaffirm the core values of our democratic nation: human decency, equal rights, freedom of expression, and freedom from discrimination. As college and university presidents, we commit ourselves to promoting these values on our campuses and in our communities, and we stand alongside the business, nonprofit, religious, and civic leaders who are doing the same in organizations large and small.

In light of your pledge to be “President for all Americans,” we urge you to condemn and work to prevent the harassment, hate, and acts of violence that are being perpetrated across our nation, sometimes in your name which is now synonymous with our nation’s highest office. In our schools, on job sites and college campuses, on public streets and in coffee shops, members of our communities, our children, our families, our neighbors, our students, and our employees are facing very real threats, and are frightened.

One of the roles of leaders is to protect and empower the most vulnerable. As President-elect, this responsibility rests heavily on you. Let this be a mark of your leadership.

Bucksbaum Endows Growth for ‘Global Grinnell’

Carolyn ‘Kay’ Swartz Bucksbaum ’51Carolyn “Kay” Bucksbaum ’51, former chair and now life trustee of Grinnell College, has committed $5 million to support the expansion of the Global Grinnell Program at the College.

“I believe in the leaders of the College and their vision for the future,” Bucksbaum said. “I want to see Grinnell College increasingly recognized, and measured accordingly, for its leadership among similar colleges in my lifetime.

“The Global Grinnell Program is close to my heart because of my own global views and experiences,” she added. “It is my desire to have others join me in this opportunity to expand the impact of a significant factor that makes Grinnell stand above other colleges.”

“Kay Bucksbaum’s generous gift combines her dedication to Grinnell College with the vision and foresight to advance our mission in strategic fashion,” said Grinnell President Raynard S. Kington. “The programmatic support this gift will provide brings an increase in opportunities for students to gain global competence and leadership at a level that will distinguish Grinnell from our peers. We share Kay’s vision to engage other donors in the Global Grinnell Program.”

Bucksbaum said her desire to make this leadership-level commitment was influenced by various aspects of her own life, including having foreign visitors living in her family home, her mother’s world travels and Bucksbaum’s own daughter’s involvement in the international arena.

"Kay Bucksbaum’s generous gift combines her dedication to Grinnell College with the vision and foresight to advance our mission in strategic fashion," said Grinnell President Raynard S. Kington. "The programmatic support this gift will provide brings an increase in opportunities for students to gain global competence and leadership at a level that will distinguish Grinnell from our peers.  We share Kay’s vision to engage other donors in the Global Grinnell Program.”

Accompanying Bucksbaum’s gift is her agreement to serve as honorary chair as the College prepares for a comprehensive fundraising campaign. 

“We are currently organizing the College fundraising priorities in advance of the launch of a campaign, and Kay’s leadership arrives at a pivotal point in the life of this endeavor,” said Shane Jacobson, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations.

 “Kay’s generosity links the legacy of our previous campaign with our renewed effort to invest in students, faculty, staff, programs, and facilities,” he added.

The gift will create two endowments. The first funds the creation of a Chief Global Officer position to promote and ensure an integrated and innovative approach to international education across the divisions of the College. 

The second fund will create a Global Distinctiveness Fund that will enhance programs and student opportunities that continue to bring to life the Global Grinnell Program for each student. The Fund will make possible internships abroad, scholarships for global course work and language studies, and faculty and student research focused on collaborative, international projects exploring global problems and challenges. These additional resources will allow faculty and staff to benefit from opportunities to develop their own contributions to global engagement in their work with students.

“This commitment gives us the chance to pursue an integrated and sustainable global strategy,” said Michael Latham, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College. “Our large and diverse international student population, excellent off-campus study opportunities, inquiry-led curriculum, internship programs, alumni network, and external partnerships around the world have made Grinnell a profoundly international institution.”

“Kay’s partnership allows us to name the Chief Global Officer as soon as possible. This position will oversee the strategic utilization of Kay’s philanthropy, and bring to life the vision to expand Global Grinnell to faculty, staff, and students alike,” Latham added.


2015 Faculty Named Chair Installation Ceremony

Grinnell College faculty, staff, students, and the general public are invited to attend the College's 2015 Faculty Named Chair Installation Ceremony at 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 8. The event will take place in Herrick Chapel.

This celebration provides a unique opportunity to honor current named chairs and celebrate the naming of two new designees:

Speaking at the event will be President Raynard S. Kington, Dean Michael Latham, and the newly installed chairs, among others.

Vincent Eckhart

Vincent EckhartA full professor at Grinnell since 2012, Eckhart is a specialist on the evolutionary ecology of plant reproduction, life history, and geographic distribution. His publications include 27 peer-reviewed journal articles and five book chapters and reviews. At Grinnell he has earned seven prestigious grants from the National Science Foundation to further his research and teaching. The most recent grant, a $450,000 collaboration with researchers from Cornell University and the University of Minnesota, supports long-term research on what factors limit species’ ability to survive in unfavorable environments, a topic with major implications for how organisms respond to change.

Eckhart is the first faculty member to be named the Waldo S. Walker Chair in Biology. The late Margaret "Peg" Stiffler, a 1963 Grinnell graduate, endowed the chair in honor of her mentor and lifelong friend, Waldo S. Walker, professor emeritus. Walker served the College for more than 50 years as a professor of biology, dean, provost, vice president and acting president.

Jin Feng

Jin FengFeng, who became a full professor at Grinnell in 2012, is a highly accomplished scholar and teacher who provides exemplary service to her field, her students, and the College. She has developed a body of significant, interdisciplinary work that links literature to history, ethnography, gender studies, and popular culture. The author of three books and scores of articles in English and Chinese, Feng is an invited presenter at conferences around the world and across the United States. This year she received a prestigious Senior Scholar Grant from the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation for her most recent project, which explores food nostalgia in the Yangzi River valley.

Two alumni from the Class of 1908 established the Orville and Mary Patterson Routt Professorships of Literature. Orville Routt went on to serve as president of Scripps College. Mary Patterson Routt was a renowned national columnist and journalist and long-serving trustee of Scripps College. This professorship is a living example of the deep appreciation they had for Grinnell College.