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Suit Up

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Author:  Sunanda Vaidheesh '12

Grinnellians love to dress up. We embrace every chance to put away our homework and don the most ridiculous, fantastic costumes you’ve ever seen — and we do it at least three times a semester!

Part of the fun is designing and crafting the costumes — a ritual filled with frantic runs to Goodwill, the consignment stores downtown, and friends’ closets to borrow a hallmate’s couture: neon green tights and fedora? Halloween is, of course, the costume favorite, but there are several other big themed events that attract those who love to dress up: ’80s, Disco, Mary B. James (our annual cross-dressing party…“Mary, Be James!”…get it?), and the Spring and Winter Waltz evenings, to name just a few.

What amazes me isn’t so much the sometimes bizarre costumes, but the precision with which they’re done, and the vast range of ideas people come up with. Costume designs span the decades, from Danny in Grease to Lady Gaga, from Mary Poppins (umbrella with parrot’s head on the top, giant bag, hat, tape measure, and all) to the yellow-jumpsuited revengeful bride in Kill Bill. Last Halloween, some particularly notable partygoers wove academics into their costumes. Representing the world of the fine arts, roommates Heather Riggs and Mandy Fassett (both ’12) dressed up as Van Gogh’s Starry Night and a Jackson Pollack piece, respectively. A trio of Grinnellians currently studying Russian dressed up as characters from an old Soviet TV show they’d recently watched in class. They dropped by the Russian language house and their professor’s house for trick or treating. The sciences were represented by a student dressed as a very convincing Rubik’s cube (handmade, with rotating sides). My personal favorite costume for this year: H1N1. Not only did the wearers of this costume have the molecular structure of the virus quite accurately depicted between the two of them, but the pig ears, nose, and tail, and accompanying oinks helped make it very clear what they were for the night. Needless to say, the sign on their backs was unnecessary. I did love that it took two people to rock out the H1N1 look.

After Disco, glitter seems to turn up everywhere on campus. The following Sunday, I even found some in Burling Library! Nor can I forget just how many Grinnellians own spandex and seize any chance they can to rock out in their favorite fabric.

Costuming here isn’t about buying the snazziest outfit online, but rather how creative you can be with the resources you have. That includes awesome peers who will own a feathery pink boa, available for loan, or a sewing machine to make your sneezing-panda-from-YouTube outfit. It’s about being passionately creative, resourceful, and different.

To me, the love Grinnellians have for costuming says a lot about who we are: passionate, goofy, wildly inventive, socially conscious, bold — and very sparkly under the lights at Disco.

Sunanda Vaidheesh '12 is a Sociology Major and Global Development Studies concentrator from Mumbai, India.

 

Top 10 Coolest Places to Study at Grinnell

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)
Author:  Ross Preston '10

Ross Preston '10As a senior who for almost four years now has enjoyed stretching the possibilities of where homework can most enjoyably be completed, I hereby submit a top 10 list of places to casually get stuff done on Grinnell’s campus:

10. Fireplace Lounge: Hidden away in the Joe Rosenfield Center, this cozy, centrally located haven is the undisputed place to bring your reading. Read a little, and then wake up a few hours later wondering where you are and what day it is. Just make sure you actually get the reading done and make it to class on time with this option.

9. Residence Hall Lounges: If it’s your dorm lounge, it offers a nice halfway point between your room and the rest of campus. Unfortunately, dorm lounges can be reserved/ occupied, so you can’t always count on them being available. Main Lounge on South Campus is especially good, since it is quite spacious and does not have a TV.

8. Dining Hall: This option doesn’t appeal to all students, but entering the dining hall with some work can often be the perfect way to squeeze in a meal and be prepared for class, as long as you can avoid being distracted by your friends.

7. Your Room: Sometimes, it’s good to get some things done on the home front. Having friends over with similar intentions of doing some not-too-intense work and hanging out is a great choice as well.

6. Noyce Common Rooms: Throughout the Noyce Science Center, there are lots of spaces out in the open that still provide a sense of partial privacy. These “commons” are especially nice for group meetings and study sessions that require conversation, as opposed to the utter silence you sometimes experience in other parts of Noyce and the library.

5. Bob’s Underground Café: Located in the basement of Main Hall, Bob’s is a Grinnell staple, hosting Open Mic nights as well as some smaller concerts. This a great spot for an evening cup of coffee and hanging out with people with just a little bit of work to do.

4. Creative Computing Lab: Located in the Forum and hands-down the best place to do a little bit of work when you need a computer. All the computers are top of the line and are rarely all being used at once.

3. The Spencer Grill: Also in the Rosenfield Center, the grill is the premium spot on campus for socializing under the pretense of doing work. With lots of food options as well as decent coffee, this is often the answer for informal meetings with professors, group meetings, and generally “grilling” some time.

2. Saint’s Rest Coffeehouse: Though not on campus, this wins out over the grill for me because of the fantastic coffee and College-friendly atmosphere. Some people go to Saint’s Rest every day to do work. If you don’t mind the two- or three-block walk, it’s a great choice.

1. Outside: Weather permitting, there’s nothing like being outside on a gorgeous day. While it may feel a little bit tainted by that book you have to read, some of my best memories of studying at Grinnell are outside, whether on the wide-open Mac Field, the bench outside Younker, or the questionably named “Cleveland Beach” (sans beach). For some reason, work just seems to feel better outside.

Ross Preston is an English major from Ponte Verda Beach, Florida.

 

What a Prospective Student Host Fears Most

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Author:  Nik Jameson '11

I am sometimes called “Prospie Host Extraordinaire” because I match up prospective visitors with suitable hosts in my job for admission. But I’m also a prospective student host myself. In about two years, I have hosted 16 prospies. Each time it is the same basic routine:

  1. Finish homework;
  2. Know what activities are happening on campus;
  3. Remember what time to pick up the prospective student; and
  4. Remember her name.

I usually get numbers one though three done successfully, with the occasional late night homework session outside the door of my room after the prospie has gone to sleep. It is the last one that proves difficult for me — always.

All hosts receive their prospective students’ names well in advance of the first meeting. No matter how many times I look at the piece of paper, it seems impossible for me to remember the name when I am standing in front of her. Luckily, the student usually doesn’t expect me to know her name either, so we have a nice little mutual introduction in the Office of Admission lobby. Sadly, about 30 seconds later, I have forgotten it again. Was it Erin, Jessica, or Julie? I have to tactfully ask her to repeat it, or dig through my bag discreetly for the piece of paper with her name on it. Sometimes, though, I am slyer than that and manage to have her introduce herself to someone else and pick up the name when she says it again.

Yet by some weird bit of social magic, soon after arriving on campus, prospective students start to answer of their own accord to the name lovingly given to them by current students: Prospie. Each prospective student gets introduced to countless Grinnellians, and each of those Grinnellians approaches us yelling excitedly, “Is that a prospie?”

Grinnellians are really eager to meet prospies. One of my friends recently compared prospies to babies. Everyone gets excited to see a new one. No matter how many you meet, each one is always appealing and different. The problem is, when Grinnellians meet a prospie, they expect his or her host to know everything about the student. So instead of asking the prospective student direct questions, they tend to ask the host instead. Not very helpful, I know, and I’m sorry about that. It usually means the name “Prospie” will stick more than the student’s given name, which I take such pains to try and memorize. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but many prospective students come to Grinnell College with respectable names and leave with the name of Prospie + Respectable Name.

This means if my prospies return as first-years, they will often get the question, “Aren’t you Prospie Erin/Jessica/ Julie who stayed with Nik?” It is my fear as a host that I am creating an army of first-year Grinnellians who spend their first weeks as Prospie Erin/Jessica/Julie before donning their respectable titles of just plain Erin/Jessica/Julie.

Nik Jameson '11 is an independent major from Kewanee, Illinois.

"Off Campus" Adventures

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

During the first-day orientation for Grinnell-in-London (GIL), one of the College’s oldest off-campus study programs, we received an exciting list of fieldtrips. In addition to GIL’s fabulous main dish of courses and internships, fieldtrips are the delicious dessert. Designed as essential parts of all GIL classes, fieldtrips add first-hand learning experience and broaden our views of England and Europe.

Some fieldtrips explore London venues, such as the Tower of London and Greenwich. Greenwich, in far-southeast London on the south bank of the Thames, is best known for its maritime history. It gives its name to the Greenwich Meridian (0° longitude) and Greenwich Mean Time. One Saturday morning, we took a boat trip from Westminster Palace down the Thames. The view was charming, with sparkling water, a bright broad sky, and happy chanting crowds in other boats. Our boat reached Greenwich Pier around lunchtime, so we spent a little time shopping in Greenwich Market, visited the Maritime Museum, stood over the Prime Meridian line with one foot in each hemisphere, and then lay on the grass field outside Queen Anne’s House. Boat shuttles back to central London left every 30 minutes, so we were free to pick our own departure time.

Other GIL fieldtrips are more academic. Students are required to attend the fieldtrips for their courses, but all GIL students are allowed to join virtually any of the trips. The British Welfare State and Family, a class taught by Professor of Sociology Kent McClelland, had two fieldtrips: a two-hour tour of Parliament and a two-night trip to Norwich, Cromer, and Cambridge.

The majority of the GIL students attended the Parliamentary tour in Westminster Palace. The tour guide was eloquent, funny, and most important, very English. The smaller group that visited the high school, hospital, and home for the elderly in small-town Norwich was treated to great hospitality. The trip fit neatly into what we’d been learning about the British welfare system, especially Britain’s beloved National Health Service.

Norwich does not have a youth hostel, so we stayed in some beautiful bed and breakfasts with charming hosts, rooms, and food (the accommodation fees are paid for by the GIL program).

Many GIL students have close contact with Brits through an internship in the second half of the program. But in the meantime, fieldtrips provide a valuable chance to interact with the British people and see different perspectives of their lives.

Liting Cong '11 is Sociology Major and Policy Studies Concentrator from Shanghai, China.

Humanities Majors Can Like Science Too

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

I arrived at Grinnell my first year as a wannabe physicist and a wannabe writer, and I had no idea which of these subjects I wanted to follow. If I had been stuck with such diverse interests at any other college, I might have been in trouble, but at Grinnell this dilemma was not as serious as it might have originally seemed. By pure luck, I got the perfect first-year adviser to help me work through my science-humanities schizophrenia: Professor Paula Smith, an English professor who teaches creative writing. Her husband, Professor Paul Tjossem, teaches physics.

Professor Smith did her best to cultivate both of my interests in my academic plan. I ended my first year in a good position to double major in English and physics, with at least two very excited professors to help guide me through any conflicts.

But then I had an epiphany, an epiphany that had absolutely nothing to do with challenges of double majoring or balancing schedules. The epiphany was very simple and concrete: for me, math sucked. Like really really boring sucked, and any career path that included me spending the rest of my life with equations was not a career path I wanted.

So heigh-ho, heigh-ho, off to English I go, never to set foot in a physics room again.

Not that my adviser didn’t try. She pushed and she pushed to get me to continue my studies in physics, but my interests had changed to gender and women’s studies. Plus, I had found an even better way to satisfy that inner geek in me. I made friends.

Science friends are awesome. Physics, biology, computer science — they all understood and appreciated the necklace I made out of circuit resistors. They get the dweeby jokes I make. Well, maybe not when they’re about Charlotte Brontë, but they do when they’re about indefinite integrals. By observing as my friends learned and synthesized knowledge and repeated it back to me, I in a way got exactly what I had been looking for in physics: the science community. And I didn’t have to do a single problem set to get there! I got to write my postcolonial, my poststructural, my postfeminist papers for all the lit classes I wanted — something I actually could see myself spending the rest of my life doing — without having to give up that attachment to science.

And yes, I was a bit of a phony, a science groupie, if you will. I made T-shirts and traveled everywhere with the science band during their semester tour without ever actually picking up an instrument myself. But that’s what I wanted, and had I wanted to double major I could have done that as well. By virtue of its close community, Grinnell allows students with such diverse majors to interact all the time. It doesn’t trap you within your area of study. I like being around science people even if I don’t want to be a science person myself.

When I officially declared English as my major and asked Professor Smith to stay on as my adviser, I received an e-mail consisting only of one line: “Do you promise to take Modern Physics your senior year?” I balked. I could promise I would hear from my friends all about the awesome experiments they were doing, so by osmosis, yes …

A few minutes later, I got a second e-mail:

“Just kidding. Of course I will.”

Molly Rideout '10 is an English major and Gender and Women's Studies concentrator from Madison, Wisconsin.

Serving the Community via Dorm Life

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

One of the first people I met when I came to Grinnell College as a student was my future friend Alyssa. As I hauled my huge bags out of the car, Alyssa approached me and my family with a big smile. “Hi! Welcome to Grinnell!” At first, I thought she was just volunteering to help first-year students move in, but later I found out she was my floor’s student adviser (SA). As my first year progressed, not only did I become close friends with Alyssa, but I also learned about the unique structure of residential life at Grinnell.

With such positive first-year memories of living on the third floor of Rawson, I decided to apply to be a student adviser myself my second year. Now I am the SA on the second floor of Smith and I’ve completely enjoyed my experience of being on student staff. As an SA, I work as a voluntary student leader and am in charge of fostering community and overseeing activities on my hall’s floor. While these tasks might seem rather vague, I basically serve my peers as a campus resource. So if anyone wants to rant, chat, jump around, or ask a question, I’m there to help.

Because of our system of self-governance — which encourages students to take responsibility for their actions and to be respectful to their community members — I have a fairly easy job of keeping my floor in check. I don’t patrol the floor during the weekends, reporting bad behavior to my superiors. Instead, I mediate conflicts through dialogue.

One of my favorite parts of being an SA is throwing study breaks. Each semester I get to spend some of the student government’s money to throw mini parties on my floor. How cool is that?! I’ve thrown all kinds of study breaks, from a kindergarten theme study break — where we made goop and had juice boxes and goldfish crackers — to a candy sushi study break. During midsem exams week, I bought four large pies to share with my floor.

Aside from giving my residents an excuse to avoid a paper for a few extra minutes while still trying my hardest not to make them diabetic, I’ve enjoyed talking to them, getting to know them better, and building a community on my floor. And bonding doesn’t just occur during study breaks. There have been many times throughout the year when I’ve sat in the hallway and chatted with my peers about old school Nickelodeon cartoons while sharing a big bowl of popcorn (ah, more food), or stood in the doorway and talked to students while holding a big bowl of candy (even more sugar).

Even though it has not always been particularly easy, at the end of the day, with all the laughs, tears, jokes, and smiles, being an SA is very rewarding. It’s satisfying to know I can help contribute to the community and make self-governance function, and thus make our unique Grinnell College student life work. I’m looking forward to returning to staff next year and getting to know a whole new batch of people on my new floor.

And judging by how much sugar I’ve given out on my current floor throughout the year, I just hope my new residents like their sweets as well.

Aki Shibuya '11 is a History major from Orinda, CA.

Flaking Out

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

On Friday afternoons I flake out with my archaeology professor, some of his friends, and any students interested in giving up two hours of their weekend. We hang out, relax, talk, and get down to the serious business of what’s known to everyone who’s anyone as flintknapping. Flintknapping is the process of creating flaked or chipped stone tools — projectile points, knives, scrapers, and awls. Those arrowheads in museum display cases — those are what I aspire to make. You start with a smooth, uniform rock, the glassier the better. Chert and obsidian work well. When you hit them with another rock at the right angle, you force the smooth rock to shatter in a conchoidal fracture (a phrase that I think is only used when talking about flintknapping — think of how a chunk of glass would break if you hit it). This process creates long flakeshaped rocks that you refine and sharpen until they’re ready for use.

As one of my friends put it, “You’re hitting rocks with other rocks to make sharp rocks.”

Talk about a hobby with a history: the earliest flaked stone tools date to 2.5 million years ago. For most of human history, stone tools have been the main technology of humankind. Only recently (archaeologically speaking) did metal tools become the norm in the Old World. Even then, stone tools were still a mainstay in the New World, and some parts of the Old World as well.

Flintknapping’s modern incarnation as a specialized hobby can be traced to a Californian American Indian, Ishi, who taught academics interviewing him how to use stone tools for survival. In recent years, archaeologists have increasingly used experiments with flintknapped tools to recreate prehistoric technology.

The basics of flintknapping are pretty easy to learn, but six months after starting, I’m still trying to get the hang of it. Hitting rocks with other rocks is harder than it sounds, especially for people such as me, who have problems with something called “accuracy.” And there are tricks to it that I haven’t mastered — the ones that don’t involve accuracy mostly require upper body strength, which is also something I lack. At one point last semester, after I’d managed to create a rather crude-but functional point, my professor turned to me and said, “Congratulations, you’re now the technological equivalent of a Neanderthal.” As I said, I’m still getting the hang of it.

One of the fun things about flintknapping is you have an automatic product. Two hours of sitting outside of the anthropology building, flaking chert, and I’ve made two arrowheads. I now have a toolbox under my bed filled with points in various stages of completion. Some are nothing more than mangled bits of dull rock, but they have sentimental value. I’ve never been very crafty, so being able to actually make something is a treat for me. And my distorted, inelegant tools illustrate my point: you don’t have to be strong or creative or talented to flintknap — you just have to be interested in history. That’s not to say I have no aspirations for my lithic experiments; eventually, I’m hoping to progress to Neolithic technology. But while I work my way up the evolutionary ladder, I get to spend my Friday afternoons playing with rocks and flaking out.

Beth Miller '10 is an Anthropology and English major from Iowa City, Iowa.

Alternative Break and Our Dream Man

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Issue:  Spring 2009

When my fellow Alt Breakers and I started to give each other nicknames, I knew all barriers between us had vanished. It surprised me — after less than a week together on our spring break service trip, our group skipped the polite acquaintance period that exists after introduction and went straight to familiarity. After all, you don’t call someone “Creepy Voice” or “Lost in Boys” until you feel they won’t take it the wrong way. The nicknames signaled we had become family.

I applied to the Mt. Madonna County Park, Calif., Alternative Break trip in spring 2008 for a chance to reconnect with the outdoors and experience an intentional community of service. I definitely didn’t expect the loving camaraderie that resulted. Weed-pulling doesn’t sound like your usual bonding activity, but done in the context of an Alternative Break service trip, almost any project can turn a group of 10 strangers into fast friends. It usually takes me a good while to loosen up around unfamiliar people, but something about the two weeks of intensive outdoor work, chilling temperatures, and spirited campfire conversations quickly brought us together.

As in other bona fide communities, iconic symbols began to spring up around day four. The imaginary “Dream Man” was a group favorite — a Scottish accent, casual good looks, a happy trail persona, and a habit of closing his eyes while singing and playing guitar rounded out this much discussed ideal character. He was born out of group musings and quickly became a presence in daily conversation. Needless to say, Dream Man’s existence summed up the idiosyncrasies of our group dynamics.

Even within a small community like Grinnell, meeting people outside one’s normal social circles (no matter how large they are) can be difficult, and I treasured the opportunity to connect with a different set of Grinnellians whom I might not have known otherwise. Some of my closest friendships and warmest memories resulted from this Alt Break trip.

As I write this, I can’t wait for this spring break to come around. My roommate and I are leading another trip out west, this time to the Redwood National and State Parks in northwestern California. With three weeks until spring break 2009, I can already tell my group is going to be as awesomely eclectic as the last. New nicknames and defining moments will crop up, sing-a-longs will fill our lengthy car rides, and maybe we’ll come up with our own “Dream Man” to keep us smiling long after spring break has ended.

Alisha Saville '09 is a Sociology major from Carbondale, Illinois.

Bringing Imagination to Life

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

The Neverland Players was started around six years ago by a Grinnell student who, while visiting a friend at Northwestern, saw a great children’s theatre production and decided to bring the magic she had found back to Grinnell. Neverland Players is an independent theatre group that transforms stories written by local third and fourth graders into short skits. A cast of Grinnell College students performs the stories on campus for the children as well as other college students. It is a great way to give back to the community and promote the spirit of Grinnell.

The whole process takes about four weeks and begins with an audition session, followed by a week of warm-up acting games, then three weeks of working and shaping the actual stories. The work put into Neverland is very intense and sometimes demanding. That being said, it has to be one of the most de-stressing activities on Grinnell’s campus. The cast and directors get to spend three-hour rehearsals laughing and acting like children. It is a great experience.

I started with Neverland in 2006, my first year at college, after my friend Barbara forced me to audition with her. It was perhaps the best thing I could have done. Immediately, I fell in love with the whole program and realized it was something I wanted to do all four years of my time at Grinnell. I acted in both performances my first year, as well as the single performance my second year. This year, my third year, I returned from studying abroad, and it had been a whole year since a Neverland Show had happened. So together, Barbara and I made the decision to bring Neverland back to Grinnell — better than ever.

The problem this semester was that the theatre department already had many shows planned, and all the “traditional” actors were already committed. Undaunted and unafraid, Barbara and I set out to find the “diamonds in the rough” — those actors who did not know they were actors yet. We assembled an excellent cast of talented and hilarious people. It was the first time Barbara or I had directed, and we had a rough start. However, we quickly learned what worked and what did not. In the end, our actors were fantastic, and we were able to work with them to create something truly beautiful. Our show went up and it featured Zombys (intentional spelling), Icebergs, Dinosaurs, a color-changing girl, and jaguars! The magic of the Neverland Players had been brought back better than ever, and this time it is here to stay.

The Neverland program is fun for everyone involved. While it is built from the foundations of stories written by children, it is important to remember that college students are the ones acting it out. While it always will be for the children first, as directors we make sure there is humor everyone can enjoy. The program is a great opportunity for the College to get involved with the community.

We have no shortage of big ideas either. Barbara and I have plans to begin a “Neverland Writers’ Workshop,” in which we college students will write stories with children, giving them pointers and ideas. We still have much planning to do, but it is something that Neverland is looking forward to exploring.

Overall, Neverland has been one of the greatest things I have done with my college career. It is something that I can look back on and say, “I made a difference.” Neverland is giving children the chance to see their dreams come to life, and that is something very powerful.

Mitch Avitt '10 is a Psychology major from Des Moines, Iowa.

Singing Outside the Mold

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

 

I was extremely active in my high school’s choir. I spent more time, and certainly got more joy out of it, than I did in most of my classes. Not that I was a fantastic singer, but I found happiness in the group’s sound.

Coming to Grinnell, I assumed I would leave that world behind. I knew I would have a work-study job, I knew I wanted to concentrate on building friendships more than anything, and most of all, I was terrified of the work load I had heard college brought with it. So I assumed that whatever time was not spent in the dishroom or making friends to last a lifetime would be spent studying.

Silly me — I thought I would be OK with that sacrifice.

Instead, I regretted not trying out for the Grinnell Singers horribly. It was painful how much I missed the camaraderie of a choir, and the satisfaction that came of being part of a wall of sound.

I was right, however, that my time would be precious. I had very few free nights, and even if I did try out for Singers later on, I knew that it would require more time than I could give. On a whim, second semester of my first year, I left dinner Wednesday night with a couple of friends and walked with them toward Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. That night I attended my first YGB rehearsal.

YGB, or Young, Gifted, and Black Gospel Choir, is now one of my favorite activities. You may think, when hearing the name of this choir, that there is a certain type of person who is a member. But I promise you, Grinnell is a place where we fight every social construct created.

I am Christian, so for me there is meaning in the music that we sing. But the two girls I went with that first night are both Jewish. Other members of the choir are professed atheists or agnostics. Similarly, I am caucasian, so there is another criterion I might not seem to fit. We also have several members who practice with us who live in the town of Grinnell, and are not exactly “young.”

The common factor in all of us? We love to sing. Without fail, there are smiles on all of our faces. We sing, laugh, dance, and tour together. Once more, I am a member of a wall of sound that thrills me to the core.

This wall also spreads God’s word and joy to communities across the country. I said that every member of the choir smiles and laughs, but that is nothing to the expressions that I see on the faces of those we sing for. You can see that our music reaches the congregations and schools we sing to on tour. This is an awesome thing, whether you believe in God or not. Changing someone’s life while singing and dancing is without a doubt one of the best ways you can spend your time, and I have never once regretted walking into that rehearsal last year.

Karin Bursch ’12 is undecided about her major and from Iowa City, IA.