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Ye Newe Pub

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

The year is 1984. The legal drinking age in Iowa rises to 21. The state’s largest vendor of beer, according to legend, loses three-quarters of its customers. Two years later, the Grinnell College campus pub closes.

Over the past two years, students have worked with the College administration to reinstate a pub on campus. The College stipulated that such a place must be open to all members of the campus community, while diligently maintaining College policy and upholding the law. Leading into this year, a committee of students looked into the logistics of implementing these precepts, while the administration secured a space in the basement of the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center and began construction. Thanks to a cooperative administration and student leadership (not to blow my own bugle — but did I forget to mention I’m the manager?), our new and completely student-run pub opened in February 2008 with a mission to provide a safe, comfortable atmosphere for the campus community.

Inside the pub, exposed ceiling, globe lamps, and a section of cement wall create an industrial feel, contrasting with the neon fixtures and cool dark colors. We named it Lyle’s, after campus celebrity Lyle Bauman, a friendly dining hall manager known for his immense hospitality, which even extends to cookouts on his farm. A student-commissioned portrait of Lyle dominates the far wall, watching over the nightly activity like some amiable Big Brother. In the painting, Lyle wears his typical big smile as he leans against a backdrop of fresh lime-green tiles of the dining hall elevator.

Other decorations change with the times, but there’s currently an exhibit of student photographs on one wall, while quite a few boxes of chalk have been liberally put to use by patrons on the cement wall. “Join us, it’s bliss,” one piece opines, swimming in the midst of a few colorful, somewhat-amorphous fish and an octopus.

The chalk also finds its way to the bar, often with pretty interesting results. The counter is a slate surface that appears to be recycled sections of old lab tables that had probably seen 20 years of science experiments before moving into their surprisingly natural-looking new role. The rest of the bar seems to be similarly cobbled together from spare parts. Just beneath its slate surface, the bar features nice finished wood trim, while sheets of corrugated metal cover the frame under the counter. The bar’s brick base doubles as a footrest. In spite of this apparently random fabrication, the components of the bar fit well together aesthetically. And to a certain degree, its unconventional construction makes it original, augmented by the chalk scrawls, messages, and drawings that appear in the course of an evening.

Activities at the pub, however, include more than impromptu art sessions. The pub has hosted numerous concerts by both student and touring performance groups. Most notable would be our opening night pairing of a student klezmerpunk band with a student jam band. The pub hosted a trivial pursuit tournament between academic disciplines, as well as a weekly pub quiz game symbiotically run by the manager of Bob’s, the latenight student coffeehouse.

Even when there aren’t events going on at the pub, it’s great to have a small place on campus where I can always expect to see a few buddies. Whether I’m going in to get a little homework done, working behind the bar, just relaxing with friends, or picking up a half-finished crossword puzzle, the pub has a chill atmosphere where I can choose exactly how I want to spend my time.

While the pub is a nice, familiar spot, it’s also a focal point on campus where I can meet people whose paths I would never cross elsewhere. As an English major who got most of his time in Noyce out of the way early by pretending to be a physics major first year, there are a fair number of science junkies I had never met until we started running into each other in the pub. These sorts of run-ins can lead to a whole discussion where we map out mutual friends, professors, stomping grounds, and life philosophies. These kinds of experiences have shown me how even a fairly small, social space on campus can exhibit itself as a microcosm of the amazing diversity at this school.

And this diversity does not apply solely to the students; even professors come to the pub. After talks, meetings, class-days, and especially at the end of semesters, it’s great to have a central meeting spot where the dynamic is a little different.
Conor McGee '08 is an English major from Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Tales of a Transfer

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

As my parents helped me unload the station wagon and carry my belongings up four flights of stairs on that hot afternoon in late August, the realization that this was the place where I would spend the next four years only added to my excessive perspiration. College. I was about to embark on the adventure of roommates, late night cramming, and defining myself.

I never expected it to be a one-year stint.

When people ask me why I transferred to Grinnell College from Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, I think they expect some sort of horror story. After all, transfers are so few and far between — something awful must have happened for an enthusiastic first-year student to want to leave. But such an assumption is wrong on both counts — on average, most colleges retain only four out of five firstyears, and my experience at Cornell was by no means awful. In fact, I’m grateful for it. I took some incredible classes, made some great friends with whom I stay in touch, and learned a lot about myself. So why did I leave a small, liberal arts school ending in “nell” for a different small, liberal arts school ending in “nell” — also located in a small town in Iowa? At face value, it seems as though the differences couldn’t be more subtle.

Cornell College is an awesome institution (and I mean that in its sincerest form), but it wasn’t for me. Grinnell has proved to be a better match. My reasons might seem trivial to some, but for me they’ve made all the difference. I’ve found the semester plan at Grinnell offers more lecture time than the block plan. Self-governance fuels an atmosphere of student activism and involvement at Grinnell. Without social groups like fraternities and sororities, Grinnell has a greater variety of student clubs and activities to try. Hardly anyone I know has a TV in his or her room, and the dorms, which are inhabited by the co-mingling of first-years through seniors, don’t have cable access. Students on this campus are less likely to wear high heels to class and are more likely to be seen walking barefoot.

Throughout my year at Cornell, I found myself often wondering what it would be like if I had gone to Grinnell. I didn’t want to spend three years wondering “what if,” so I made the switch. While transferring has had its challenges, it wasn’t as hard as I’d imagined it would be. All of my credits transferred, and I’m scheduled to graduate on time. My fear of being constantly mistaken for a first-year has seldom occurred, and the most common mistake people make about me is thinking I’m from Iowa. While I miss my friends from last year, adjusting to a new campus environment was easier the second time around, since I was used to to living away from home. (Meeting a bunch of people while being yourself gets easier with practice … round two was far less nerve-racking.)

But my greatest fear about transferring was I would trade in one set of grievances for a different one. And I was right. Grinnell isn’t perfect. But picking the right college is about figuring out what matters to you the most, and figuring out which gripes you are most able to tolerate. The whole process can seem like a shot in the dark. The best advice I can give is to visit the schools you apply to, and ask as many questions as you can of the students and professors (because after you’re enrolled, you rarely encounter admission staff). Ask the right questions, while you’re at it — such as what people like about a school and what they don’t like. And remember that it is always possible to make a switch — even if you’d planned on being in the same place for four years.

Elizabeth Jach '09 is a Psychology major from Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Roommates

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

 

It was late July, and I sat at my computer, feverishly checking the Grinnell PioneerWeb networking site for my first-year housing information. It was probably the third or fourth time that night I had checked, and yet I still had hope that another click on the refresh button would yield the answer to my question. Certainly knowing which dorm I got into was one thing — I could have seen myself in any of the rooms at Grinnell, from the cozy residence halls of South Campus to the high-ceilinged modernity of East Campus — but it was not the room I was concerned with, but rather the roommate.

Who would he be? I had always envisioned my roommate in the vein ofThe Catcher in the Rye: an outgoing, big-shot roommate to contrast with my own reserved self. I pored over the roommate questionnaire I had hastily answered earlier that summer. What had I checked again?

Then I saw it. An e-mail in my new Grinnell mailbox from my prospective roommate. My existing conceptions of him were shattered. I knew nothing. His name was Chinese, this much I knew. Later I would enlist the help of my Chinese-speaking friends to ensure that I would not make the fatal error of mispronouncing my future roommate’s name.

I eagerly read through the e-mail, starting with his humorous assumption that I was “from Deutschland,” to his introduction of himself, his city, and his hobbies. He told me we would share “tears and happiness” together at Grinnell. As excited as I was to meet him, I was worried my ignorance of his culture would make it difficult for us to connect as friends.

One month later, after occasional but regular e-mail communication, I was ready to meet my roommate, Wenyang Qian ’12. I arrived at Grinnell and unpacked my stuff in the already half-filled room. I found a note explaining Wenyang’s momentary absence and his excitement to finally meet me.

The door burst open, and in bounded the raw energy that I came to know as Wenyang. While I was exhausted by my day of traveling, he had spent the last few days getting to know Grinnell during International Student Orientation. He was all ready to show me around and introduce me to people. We went to dinner together, talked about how we had chosen Grinnell, and the strange hands of fate and coincidence that had brought him, from Nanjing, China, and me, from Redmond, Wash. (not Germany), to the same dorm room at a small college in the middle of Iowa.

We both marveled at the stars in the night sky and the openness of the Midwest, and shared our photos and stories from our lives at home. As it turned out, we were not so strange to each other as we had each imagined. We both possessed the intellectual curiosity and courage that had brought us to Grinnell. We both had experience with long-distance relationships and similar views of romance. We even found out that we enjoyed some of the same movies, including the French film Amélie.

As the academic year commenced, we still found time to enjoy our talks together, even when we busied ourselves with activities outside the room. We shared our tears and happiness.

What it Takes

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

Author:  Nik Jameson '11

Grinnell Monologues began in 2002 as a response to The Vagina Monologues about feminism and women’s empowerment, written and preformed by Eve Ensler. Grinnell Monologues expands Ensler’s themes to include body, relationship, and sexuality issues. The pieces represent a diverse cross-section of the Grinnell student body, and the event is open to anyone interested in writing or performing such pieces.

This semester I preformed my fourth monologue in a warm lounge packed with Grinnellians. The audience sat on the floor and in chairs with bottles of water, cans of soda, and pink cheeks, eagerly awaiting the start of the performance. Grinnell Monologues is preformed in the round, and the audience is required to scoot back and forth and turn around when each new performer stands up. This unique presentation style is only part of G-Mons history.

Twice a week, the leaders of G-Mons (two other students and me) organize writing workshops. The leaders work as a team to create writing prompts, secure performance dates, buy pizza, reserve lounges, and keep everyone on track. G-Mons features a specific type of personal narrative focusing on the body, relationships, coming out, staying in, and everything in between. Some memorable monologues have been about holding hands, first kisses, crushes, failed love interests, falling in love again, body hair (both lack of G and excess of), and self-governance as love, as well as several more risqué topics. Grinnellians tend to have unique perspectives. Even when topics overlap, each individual tells a different story from a personal perspective.

Each time we meet, we write for about 25 to 30 minutes. Then we share our work. Some bring a piece they have been working on and will continue to work on for the entire semester, in order to become really comfortable with it by the time we perform. Others write something new each week.

The most interesting and rewarding part of Grinnell Monologues is the community that forms around writing and sharing personal stories. We trust that what we share with the group will remain in a safe space: what’s said here actually stays here. We quickly learn to trust each other, and become a sort of monologue-writing family. G-Mons is unlike any other student group in that regard, and the friendships and trust built between us last even beyond the twice-weekly meetings.

I highly encourage new writers, and all Grinnellians, to come to workshops to see what G-Mons is about. Each person uses the space, time, and creative energy in a different way. It’s a great change of pace and a break from studying in the midst of a busy week, because it requires each person to think and write differently and outside of academic thought pattern.

G-Mons is love! G-Mons is sexy! G-Mons is what you decide to make of it.

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

Lindy Hopping Around the World

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

“So what kind of dancing do you do?” my grandmother asked me when I visited her for lunch one day this past summer. “Swing,” I tell her again and then try to explain a little better. “Like Lindy Hop, or the Charleston.”

“Oh,” she said. “I used to do those.” She’s surprised, of course, because a year ago if she’d talked to me about swing dancing, I would have said, “No way doll, you’re not getting me to flash my feet on the dance floor.” You know those kids in high school who just stand against the wall at prom, arms crossed, glaring at all their friends making fools of themselves with their crazy rave moves? Yeah, I was one of those kids. Wouldn’t even sway to music for a free iPod.

I tried to break out of that once I got to Grinnell. They had this club called the Grinnell Swing Society. Okay, cool. Went to one meeting, tried it out, felt like an idiot, and never went back.

Until the next year, when I promised myself I wouldn’t quit. I needed to challenge myself, and getting over my fear of public embarrassment seemed as big a mountain as any to start on. I went to every single class and still felt like a fool, but I had a whole lot of fun feeling like one.

Then it happened. I got addicted.

And gosh darn, it’s all Grinnell’s fault.

But let’s shim-sham this story back a bit. The leaders of the Swing Society were always urging members to attend swing exchanges. It’s a chance to visit someplace fun and dance with new people, they said. Each place has its own sense of dancing. Yeah right, I thought. Swing is swing is swing, and there’s only so many moves you can learn.

But then, with this new addiction running through my veins, I went to my first exchange. And boy, was I a million times wrong. It wasn’t completely different, of course, but the boys threw in quite a few moves I didn’t know. “Dude, show me that again,” I’d say, and they would, and I’d show my Grinnell friends, and we’d come back to campus with a sweet new move.

And that’s how you learn to swing dance. You visit places. You pick up their new moves.

The best part: you make a bazillion new friends.

I went home to Madison over the summer desperate to keep dancing. Now Madison’s not very far from Grinnell, but I still encountered some new moves I’d never seen before. By the end of the summer, my style had melded into a mixture of Grinnell and Madison. Grinadison Swing. And then, come August, I moved to London for the semester.

Woah.

When you visit various countries, the differences invariably stick in your head, be it foods, clothing styles, or even television commercials (British commercials make no sense!). When I flew into the old Swing Capital of the World, what I noticed, it seems, was their difference of dance. Behind the back? I’ve never done that before. And what’s with all these aerials? But hey, these are kinda fun. I guess I can figure them out.

Grinnell Swing Girl Becomes Grinnell-Madison-London Swing Girl … Grinadon Swing Girl.

While swing dancing started in the United States, over the century it has spread to the entire world. In each place I visit, I learn a new move and meet new friends. What I learned in a small town in Iowa opened up a whole new Aladdin-and-his-magic-carpet world for me, a whole new bit of culture I can search out and find wherever I go. Sweet.

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

ABBA Fans Unite

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

It’s a strange feeling, accomplishing a goal you didn’t know you had. It’s happened to me a few times at Grinnell, most markedly, when my former professor, Tim Arner, turned to me in the campus pub and said, “People who don’t like ABBA are bad people.” It happened again a few days later, when he wrote on his [plan], our Grinnell blog community, “If I could have a genie grant me just one wish, I would wish that everyone I know would sit down and watch Teen Wolf. Then I would wish that I had more wishes, but it would be too late because I already used up my one wish on the Teen Wolf thing.”

Who was this man? I wondered. He was my professor; he has a Ph.D. in the most painful period of British literature; and he had practically cried over the last lines of Beowulf, for God’s sake. Could he actually be cool?

I embarked on this road of professor-student friendship with my comrade-in-arms Jess Issacharoff ’09. Throughout my Grinnell career, I’ve often taken for granted the fact that I know my professors — until now. Because there’s no other way to say it: being friends with a professor is so cool. As undergraduates, I feel we’re often flailing for understanding. Knowing someone who knows so much more than I do — and plays video games — is both inspiring and comforting.

As you read this, I will have graduated from Grinnell, and it’s easy to wonder whether there’s a place for Grinnellians in the real world, a world of people who don’t think of “social construct” as a phrase to throw around at a dinner party. Professor Arner has shown me that life goes on after college; that I will have a house, a job, and a life, and I won’t constantly yearn to be back in college.

It’s a strange and sobering lesson, I suppose. But at this point, knowing intelligent, interesting, socially capable (for the most part) 30-somethings is exactly what I need. Plus, let’s be honest, there are too few ABBA-lovers in the world. We have to stick together.

Rachel Fields '09 is an English major from Lemont, Illinois.

 

The Sea Urchins and Me

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

 

The purple spines bristled as I lifted the sea urchin from its container. Water dripped down the curve of its body as I turned it over to examine the whitish underside. Nestled in the center was a tiny mouth that also functioned as an anus (sea urchins are much less complex than mammals). Remembering that the rest of the class was watching, I raised the syringe and pierced the sea urchin in the region surrounding its mouth, pumping it with hydrochloride. I turned it over. As Professor Sullivan had predicted, sea urchin eggs were bubbling up around the spines and dripping down its sides. I placed it upside down over a beaker of seawater, and thus we began collecting sea urchin eggs.

The exact same process is used to collect sea urchin sperm.

I haven’t explained very much, have I? My apologies. This is the Biology 150 lab: Introduction to Biological Inquiry. For those of you are considering biology as a major, you will begin with this course. There are four or five sections of the class offered every semester, each with a distinct theme, and not all of them involve sea urchins. Our section focused on cell differentiation, while other sections studied climate change or bacteria or neurons. Though each section has a distinct theme, all of them aim to prepare us for more advanced work in biology by letting us prepare our own research projects in an area within our theme.

I am not a biology major, but when reading the course descriptions for that semester, the opportunity seemed too good to miss. Nor was I disappointed. It was less than three weeks before we were introduced to our sea urchin friends, which we used to study how cells differentiate. It’s a fascinating question: how does a cell in an embryo know it’s to become a neuron or a cardiac muscle cell? How do the eyes form in the head, and how do some cells know they have to become eyes while others know they will become the head itself? These were the questions we tried to answer as we progressed through the semester.

The second half of the course was devoted largely to a research project. We were free to decide the topic, find the relevant research articles, and combine the methods and results from those articles to create and carry out our own experiments.

If there was one thing Biology 150 was, it was a hands-on. The entire class ran on students’ curiosity and the questions we asked. In fact, Professor Sullivan structured his lectures specifically around questions we wrote down and handed in before class.

I must admit there were times when I felt frustrated. Focusing a microscope, using a micropipette, and making a footed coverslip were things I had trouble learning. But those difficulties seem petty when you see in front of you with your own two eyes the sperm and egg of two sea urchins meet and an embryo emerge, an embryo that will, in its own time, become a sea urchin. When you see life unfolding in front of you, it becomes difficult to complain about technicalities.

As I said, I am not a biology major. I am a mathematics major. But now I am a math major who can type out a laboratory report and conduct my own research. Most important, I am a math major who has seen, with his own eyes, the point at which life begins.

Amar Sarkar '12 is a Mathematics and Statistics major and Neuroscience concentrator from Gurgaon, India.

Well Rounded, Like a Soccer Ball

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

Author: Alex Exarhos '10

I didn’t pick Grinnell for its strong academic reputation. I didn’t pick it for its strength in the sciences, illustrious alumni, or the brand new modern buildings. It wasn’t even the touted small-town community feel that sucked me in. Believe it or not, what ultimately cemented Grinnell as my choice for college was the soccer field — an absolutely pristine thing of beauty, so flat and consistent it could almost be mistaken for a living room carpet. The first time I set foot on it, I knew I was coming here.

OK, it wasn’t only the soccer field that sold me. But when I arrived on campus a week early in mid-August for my first practice, that’s definitely all I was thinking about. In case you haven’t figured it out, I really love playing soccer. Really. And when I picked Grinnell, it was the only extracurricular activity I knew for sure I would be doing. I had a great first year, playing all I possibly could and meeting people who loved soccer (almost) as much as I did. What I didn’t realize is, I was missing out on a huge chunk of the Grinnell experience.

It wasn’t until my second year that, as my non-soccer-playing friends might put it, “I came into existence.” Having focused all my energy on academics and soccer, I didn’t know about all the great ways to get involved at Grinnell. But as soon as I found out how cool, active, and involved all the student groups were, I started looking at them with the same passion with which I look at soccer. And so began my extracurricular explosion.

Every time I started a new activity, I would think, “Why on earth haven’t I done this sooner?” I joined the TC (technology consultants) corps and felt perfectly at home helping people with computer problems, working with all the incredibly cool equipment in the AV Center, and messing around with all the fun software installed in the Creative Computing Lab. These were places I had barely known existed before, having basically lived on the soccer field.

The experience with the TC corps gave me the courage to start testing my comfort zone, and soon after I found myself attending, of all things, a swing dancing lesson. Here again, I found an activity I loved because I approached it with the same open-minded enthusiasm I had reserved for soccer in the past. I have since gotten completely carried away with swing (in a good way!). I have gone dancing in the far corners of the country, and now my enthusiasm has made me an instructor/organizer for the Grinnell Swing Society.

This year, I have filled what little free time I have left with responsibilities to the computer science department as a member of the SEPC (Student Educational Policy Committee), as well as writing programs for the psychology department, volunteering at the local retirement home, arranging music, playing the guitar, playing the piano, and singing in an a cappella group (which doesn’t have a definite name yet — we have gone through Acappelloctopus, Acapellicopters, Rocktopus, Twenty Minutes of Solid Instrumentals …). My life is so much more full, satisfying, and rewarding than it was during my first year, thanks to all the great opportunities Grinnell has to get involved.

I realize my story is probably different from most people’s. Who picks a Division III school for a sport, even if they do have the nicest facility I’ve ever seen? I guess the main point of my story is that regardless of your mindset coming to Grinnell, the culture is so engaging you can’t help but get sucked into a million awesome activities.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an AltBreak meeting to attend.

Alex Exarhos '10 is a Computer Science major from Richland, Washington.

 

Tutorial: A Laughing Matter

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

Author: Ross Preston '10

Thinking back to the summer before I came to Grinnell, I recall an inordinate amount of anticipation for everything Grinnell-related that came my way. I would check my Grinnell e-mail account, only to find no new messages. I was constantly thinking of new things to bring to school. And I probably spent too much time on Facebook, discussing my excitement with future classmates.

One of the more interesting things we talked about was which section of the First- Year Tutorial we wanted to get. Tutorial is required for all first-year students — it teaches college-level research, writing, and presentation while examining some fascinating topic in depth.

Incoming first-year students receive information about all of the tutorials sometime over the summer; they send back their top five choices, rank-ordered, by a certain date to get a spot in one of those five. For my number one choice, I went with the simple title “Comedy,” mainly because I’ve always had an interest in the stand-up variety of comedy and because the course description said we would be watching Pulp Fiction, easily one of my favorite films. I actually had no idea what I was getting into, let alone that it would be perhaps the best class I ever took.

Taught by Erik Simpson, an English professor, the course had four units: theories of comedy/humor, fairy tales, Pride and Prejudice, and lastly, modern films. Each student would write a paper on something from each unit, and once during the semester, every person would receive a workshop-style critique of his/ her writing. Despite the wildly varying subject areas, the course was united by a constant attention to comedy, mostly as a literary genre.

Neither Erik nor anyone else could have anticipated the way the class turned out, which was as funny as the things we were supposed to be studying. Many different people said hilarious things throughout the semester, and the class managed to find ways to inject humor into serious and often thought-provoking discussions. We also worked hard at improving our individual reading and writing skills, which is the intent of any tutorial offered at Grinnell. But I have a hard time believing any other tutorial has had so much fun and so many laughs in doing so.

One of the ways Erik created this enjoyable experience was through the informal but serious atmosphere he established with the class. Early on, he divided the class into two groups: “talkers” and “non-talkers.” Placing the two groups in separate classrooms, he also distributed separate handouts for us to discuss with our group before we were to reconvene. The questions were about class participation, literally “talking” in class, which can be a big thing for new students and is something tutorial aims to help first-years work at as well. Sitting with a group of people who talked about as much as I did helped me discover that college isn’t any more intimidating than any class back in high school.

A great example of one of our open class sessions was the day when everyone had to bring a joke to class. Advised to avoid the “dirty” variety, someone would tell the joke and then the class would analyze how the joke did its work. There is always the danger of taking away all of the fun when performing this kind of exercise, but that never seemed to happen. We laughed at the jokes, and the analysis was never excessive or too basic. It was very instructive to realize how the set-up of a joke was structured.

Not every tutorial is as funny as ours — it’s hard to find comedy in plant genes or imperial regimes — but being able to learn and improve your writing skills while having fun is something I know you’ll experience no matter what tutorial you choose.

Ross Preston '10 is an English major from Ponte Vedra, Florida.

 

SEPC, Anyone?

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

Author:  Amy Henning ’10

In my first English class at Grinnell, I was awed by some of the upperclassman. Not only did they know their lit theory, but they also seemed to be involved in some mysterious, nebulous thing called the English SEPC. Was it a clique? A cult? Whatever it was, the members all seemed enthusiastic and committed to this SEPC organization. Eventually I figured out two things: they threw study breaks for English majors from time to time, and ordered English department T-shirts at the end of the year. It was a start.

As I talked with more people about the SEPC, I learned that it was much more than a social group. The acronym “SEPC” stands for “Student Educational Policy Committee,” which suggested slightly more serious educational involvement than just making T-shirts. I speculated with friends about what the SEPC might do, but still did not have a complete idea until the spring of my second year. At that point, the SEPC was looking for new members and sent out a description of the organization to English majors who might want to run for a spot on the committee.

I was immediately convinced to apply for membership. The SEPC, they said, works closely with the English department not only to throw fun study breaks, but also to truly shape the education we receive at Grinnell.

Because I have always cared about my classes and teachers and about pushing my education to the next level, I wanted to join the group to help other students like myself get the best Grinnell English experience possible.

Now I am in my second year on the SEPC, and we’re as busy as ever. We review professors, discuss the English curriculum, and work with the faculty to address issues that arise within the major (for instance, should we push to integrate more theory into survey-level classes?). The SEPC also participates actively in the hiring of new professors for the English department, thus ensuring that students (who know more about what students want to see in a professor than anyone) evaluate those who would teach at Grinnell. English is not alone in this, either — each major has an SEPC, and many of the interdisciplinary concentrations have them, too.

The English SEPC is so much more than I expected it to be back when I first heard of it. In each department, the SEPC is a group of dedicated, intelligent students with a mutual interest in helping create a strong, challenging environment in which to learn. We give students in our major a voice and serve as a liaison between faculty and the student body. The English SEPC is allied with other SEPCs, all invested in the same issues of educational quality and student voice. We all do a good deal to keep the excellence and value of a Grinnell education high. And, you know, we throw some pretty cool study breaks, too.

Amy Henning ’10 is an English major and Linguistics concentrator from Mundelein, Illinois.