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The Great Disruption: China's 21st Century Reemergence

It is often said these days that whenever China sneezes, the world catches a cold. Indeed, some time within the next decade, China is likely to become the world’s largest economy. This paradigm shift has wide-ranging implications, in particular for a United States that dominated the 20th century.

A generation of Americans will age into a profoundly changed world in which the rise of China will affect many facets of their lives — economic, social, environmental, perhaps even philosophical — and thus a basic understanding of 20% of humanity can no longer be relegated to specialists and policymakers.

Damien Ma will present “The Great Disruption: China's 21st Century Reemergence” at 4 p.m. Friday, April 29, in ARH Auditorium, Room 302. In his talk, Ma aims to provide an overarching picture of the Chinese political economy, where it has been and where it may be headed. More broadly, Ma seeks to explain why the US-China relationship is so consequential to global economic and environmental prosperity and stability. 

Ma’s visit is sponsored by the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights; East Asian Studies; and the Department of Chinese and Japanese.

Damien Ma

Damien Ma is a fellow and associate director of the Think Tank at the Paulson Institute. His work at the institute also focuses on investment and policy-related programs. He is the co-author of In Line Behind a Billion People: How Scarcity Will Define China’s Ascent in the Next Decade. He currently also serves as an adjunct lecturer at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Previously, Ma was a lead China and Mongolia analyst at Eurasia Group, the political risk research and advisory firm. He specialized in analyzing the intersection between Chinese policies and markets, with a particular focus on energy and commodities, industrial policy, elite politics, US-China relations, and social policies. His advisory and analytical work served a range of clients from institutional investors and multinational corporations to the US government. Prior to joining Eurasia Group, he was a manager of publications at the US-China Business Council in Washington, DC. He also worked in public relations firm H-Line Ogilvy in Beijing, where he served major multinational clients.

In addition, Ma has published widely, including in The Atlantic online, New York Times, Foreign Affairs, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, and Bloomberg, among others. He has also appeared in a range of broadcast media such as the Charlie Rose Show, BBC, NPR, and CNBC. He also served as an adjunct instructor at Johns Hopkins SAIS in Washington, DC. Ma is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations and was named a “99under33” foreign policy leader in 2012 by the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy. He speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese.


Grinnellians Earn Esteemed Watson Fellowships

Lane Atmore ’16 of St. Paul, Minn., and Chase Booth ’16 of Wichita, Kan., have been awarded the prestigious Watson Fellowship for one year of independent study and travel abroad.

They are two of 40 students selected nationwide to receive the $30,000 fellowship for postgraduate study from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation.

The students’ projects will take them around the world during their Watson year.

Lane Atmore

Lane AtmoreAtmore, an anthropology and Chinese major, will travel to Guam, Micronesia, Thailand, Greenland, Russia, and Greece to examine “Boat Culture as Island Identity” in coastal communities.

She plans to attend festivals, live with local families, and work with boat builders and cultural leaders to study the relationship between boat culture and island identity. She hopes to be able to find some universal aspects of island culture, as well as see how climate change and globalization have impacted traditional island communities.

“I’m most excited about deepening my appreciation and knowledge of something that I love and also understanding how much it means to the people I will be living with,” Atmore said. “I’m going into this with no expectations and an open mind, excited to learn what the world has to teach me.”

“Lane put a great deal of thought, passion and effort into crafting her wonderfully original Watson proposal,” said Jon Andelson ’70, professor of anthropology. “I know from having supervised her summer MAP (Mentored Advanced Project) research last summer that she will bring an open mind, a discerning eye, and a boundless curiosity to her Watson project.”

An accomplished pianist, Atmore won a piano competition despite breaking her right elbow and learning a one-handed piece only three days before the contest.

Following her Watson year, Atmore plans to pursue a doctorate in anthropology and continue to do field research.

Chase Booth

Chase BoothBooth, a classics major, will journey to Australia, South Africa, Greece, and Ireland to study the different forms of support offered in response to a community’s shared emotional crisis.

His project, “Emotional Support in Communities Under Duress,” will investigate whether the support offered by government-funded agencies and nongovernmental organizations is responsive to the needs of various communities. These communities include the displaced aboriginal populations in Australia, black youth and students in South Africa, sexual assault victims-survivors in Ireland, and victims of the economic crisis in Greece.

“While traveling around the world is obviously a huge part of the Watson and something I am looking forward to, having the opportunity to pursue something I love and care about in depth will surely be the most rewarding part of my year abroad,” Booth said. “I can’t thank enough everyone who has helped me get to this point in my life.”

“I am thrilled for Chase” said Monessa Cummins, associate professor of classics and Booth’s faculty adviser. “He embraced academic and personal challenges at Grinnell and is now well poised to take on the rigors and opportunities of a Watson year abroad.”

Booth served as co-leader of Grinnell Monologues, a student group in which participants write and present essays on emotional well-being and self-perception.

After his Watson year, Booth hopes to work for a program similar to the Schuler Scholar Program, which provides support to underprivileged Chicago-area high school students going to selective universities. Then he intends to apply to law school and pursue opportunities in civil and human rights law.

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program offers college graduates of unusual promise a year of independent exploration and travel outside the United States to foster effective participation in the world community.

Grinnell has been a partner with the Watson program since it was established in 1968. With the announcement of this year’s Watson Fellows, 75 Grinnell students have received this prestigious award.

Learn more about what a fellowship can mean through the journey of Wadzanai Motsi ’12, an earlier Watson winner.

Art Collecting, Inventory, and Criminality in Ming Imperial China (1368-1644)

Huiping PangHuiping Pang, professor of art history at the University of Iowa, will give a talk using Chinese art as historical documents to investigate the legal history and imperial violence of the Ming imperial era. The free, public lecture starts at 4 p.m. Nov. 20, in Alumni Recitation Hall, Room 120.

Titled "Art Collecting, Inventory, and Criminality in Ming Imperial China (1368-1644)," this lecture will explore the darker side of the art collecting culture of the Ming imperial dynasty. Pang will look at 201 canonical Chinese artworks, focusing on the imperial half-seals and half-codes marked on the art. These marks show how Ming emperors abused their prime ministers, took their art collections, and put inventory half-marks on the stolen art to make their actions legally justifiable. 

An accomplished art historian, Pang holds two Ph.D. degrees in the history of Chinese art, one from Stanford University and the other from Beijing University. She received her postdoctoral fellowship from the Smithsonian Institution. Her scholarship focuses on a diverse range of topics, including 10th-17th century Chinese institutional and court history, climate change, politics, art-collecting culture and horse paintings. Pang has published 20 articles in leading English and Chinese peer-reviewed journals.

Bejing Filmmaker and Author Visits Grinnell College

November 9, 7:30 pm – Screening of A Chronicle of My Cultural Revolution (ARH 302)

November 10, 4:15 pm – Roundtable discussion, “An International Life of Arts and Letters” (Burling Lounge)

Bejing writer and documentary filmmaker Xu Xing is finishing a month-long speaking tour of universities in the United States with a visit to Grinnell College on November 9 and 10. His time here includes a screening of one of his films followed by a time for questions and answers, a roundtable discussion and reflection on his experiences in China and abroad, and several other opportunities for conversation.

Born in China in 1956, Xu Xing was separated from his parents as a child when they were sent away for re-education during the Cultural Revolution. He has traveled extensively, in China and other countries, and his short stories reflect themes of wandering, loneliness, bitterness, and the quest for individual freedom. His films also explore these themes, and often include humor and elements of fantasy.

Burling Library has available Xu Xing’s collection of short stories, Variations Without a Theme and Other Stories, translated by Maria Galikowski and Lin Min. Three of Xu Xing’s documentary films are also available in the library’s collection: A Chronicle of My Cultural Revolution, in which Xu Xing narrates chronologically his personal experiences during China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution; Five Plus Five, a humorous depiction of the life of a taxi driver whose customers are residents of a Bejing artists’ colony; and Summary of Crimes, which relates the true story of a group of counter-revolutionary peasants who were jailed for exercising free speech during the Cultural Revolution.

All are invited to events planned during Xu Xing’s visit to Grinnell. On November 9 at 7:30 pm in ARH 302, East Asian Studies will sponsor a screening of the documentary film, A Chronicle of My Cultural Revolution. Xu Xing will be available to answer questions following the screening. The film is subtitled, and a translator will also be present.

On November 10 at 4:15 pm in Burling Lounge, Grinnell College Libraries will sponsor “An International Life of Arts and Letters,” an informal gathering during which Xu Xing will reflect on his experiences in China and abroad. Translation and refreshments will be provided.


Curien, Annie. “Xu Xing.” Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture, 2011. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.

Social Justice Activated

When Sydney Banach ’18 browsed college websites as a prospective student, Grinnell College’s Liberal Arts in Prison Program quickly grabbed her attention.

“I remember reading about it on the website and the program contributed to my decision to apply to Grinnell early decision,” says Banach, who jumped at the chance to work in the justice system as an undergraduate.

At Grinnell, social justice is paired with an abundance of enriching and unique opportunities that allow students to explore issues of social justice up close. In the College’s innovative Liberal Arts in Prison program, student volunteers work as coordinators and tutor incarcerated students.

“This experience has definitely cemented my decision to work with juveniles in the future — whether as a lawyer, psychologist, or in another way,” Banach says.

The second-year student spends four hours a week tutoring youth and another five hours a week coordinating the volunteer program at a juvenile justice facility. Tutoring has broadened student volunteers’ definition of scholarship — incarcerated students are eager students whose lives, like their own, can be transformed by the liberal arts experience.

New Relationships

More than 20 student volunteers travel weekly to the juvenile detention facility to tutor incarcerated students in math and reading. The volunteers build rewarding relationships with students.

“The experience made me understand why people go into education,” says Cody Combs ’15, a volunteer coordinator and math tutor for three years. “To see someone go on to take a GED test and succeed is very gratifying.”

 “It expanded my definition of what a student is,” says Emma Morrissey ’15, a coordinator and writing tutor for the program for three years, who took a course in criminology because of her experiences in the program.

Rewarding Experiences

“I love interacting with the juveniles,” Banach says. “They have a refreshing perspective on life and are always enthusiastic to learn.”

Being able to participate in the program early on in her academic career is allowing Banach to learn about the juvenile justice system from the inside and make a difference in the lives of incarcerated students while still a student herself.  

“It’s extremely rewarding when a tutee gets a problem right or figures out a concept he did not think he could calculate,” she says. “They often surprise themselves which is inspiring.”

Grinnell’s Liberal Arts in Prison program also offers other volunteer programs, like serving as tutors and teaching not-for-credit classes at an adult prison facility. Approximately 50 students per semester volunteer through the program.

Sydney Banach ’18, undeclared, is from Mechanicsburg, Pa. Cody Combs ’15, a Chinese major, is from Bozeman, Mont. Emma Morrissey ’15, an English major, is from Chatham, N.J.

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.


Lunar New Year

The annual lunar new year celebration took place in Harris Concert Hall at Grinnell College on February 21, 2015, Saturday, from 5:30-8 p.m. Over 300 students, faculty, staff, and family members attended. They enjoyed a Chinese buffet dinner catered by China Sea, watched a variety show performance by students, and had a great time generally.

Kudos to the student groups who organized this event, including Chinese Students' Association (CSA), Asian and Asian American Students' Association (AAA), the Vietnamese Students' Organization, and the Student Education Policy Committee (SEPC) of the Department of Chinese and Japanese.

We also thank SGA, Michael Sims (Director of Campus Center Operations), and the department of Chinese and Japanese for funding this event.

Sharing the Stage

Two different productions of Eugene O’Neill’s 1921 play Anna Christie will be performed Oct. 9–12, offering an opportunity to juxtapose the musical and theatrical traditions of China and the United States.

The award-winning Ningbo Yong Opera Troupe from Ningbo, China, will visit the College to perform Andi. Andi is a Chinese operatic adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s play about an estranged daughter with a dark past. Grinnell student actors will also present an English-language production; Sandy Moffett, professor emeritus of theatre and dance, directs the English production.

Both productions of Anna Christie will share the same set in Roberts Theatre in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. “It will be fascinating to compare and contrast these two productions of the same drama in different languages and art forms, as both versions are performed in alteration,” Moffett says. “The style of traditional Chinese opera and dance is quite different from the Western style, and should interest anyone interested in the history of opera, dance or China.” The Chinese troupe consists of nine actors and about 15 musicians who play traditional Chinese instruments. Grinnell music students will join them, playing Western string instruments required by the score.

About the Production

With a wide repertoire featuring traditional Chinese opera and interpretations of modern works, the Ningbo Yong Opera Troupe of the Ningbo Performance and Arts Group has performed in France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, and the United States, among other countries. The group’s recent performance of The Red Dress at New York City’s Lincoln Center won the 11th National Spiritual Civilization Five Top Project Prize and the Excellent Repertoire Award of the Seventh China Dance Lotus Award. Playing the lead role of the daughter will be Wang Jinwen, who received the top national award for a Chinese opera performer in 2012 for her performance in the opera Wife in Pawn.

Members of the Chinese troupe will conduct an open workshop with Grinnell students interested in music and theatre. The weekend also will feature a lecture by a Chinese literary scholar about Eugene O’Neill in China.

The troupe’s visit is made possible by Grinnell’s Center for International Studies and the Department of Theatre and Dance.

Schedule of Performances

Unless otherwise noted, all events are held in Roberts Theatre, Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. All events, with the exception of The Ningbo Yong Opera Troupe’s Saturday evening performance are open to the public at no charge, although tickets are required.

Tickets may be obtained at the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts box office beginning at noon Monday, Oct. 6. A limited number of tickets also will be available at the Pioneer Bookshop in downtown Grinnell. For more information about tickets, call the box office at 641-269-4444.

Thursday, Oct. 9

4:15 p.m. – Haiping Liu, professor of foreign language at Nanjing University, and Sandy Moffett, professor emeritus of theatre and dance at Grinnell College, will give a lecture titled “A Strange Combination: Eugene O’Neill in China.” Room 152, Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. No tickets are required for this event.

7:30 p.m. – Grinnell College Department of Theatre and Dance presents Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie in its original form.

Friday, Oct. 10

7:30 p.m. – Ningbo Yong Opera Troupe presents Andi. Performed in Mandarin; English supertitles available.

Saturday, Oct. 11

2 p.m. – Ningbo Yong Opera Troupe presents Andi. Performed in Mandarin; English supertitles available.

7:30 p.m. – Grinnell College Department of Theatre and Dance presents Anna Christie.

7:30 p.m. – Ningbo Yong Opera Troupe presents a selection of Chinese songs and scenes in the Loft Theatre of the Grinnell Area Arts Center, 926 Broad St. Tickets cost $5 and are available by calling the Grinnell Area Arts Council Box Office at 641-236-3203.

Sunday, Oct. 12

2 p.m. – Grinnell College Department of Theatre and Dance presents Anna Christie.

Mid-Autumn Moon Festival

Things to eat presentationThe annual Mid-Autumn (Moon) Festival celebration took place on September 5, 2014, in Harris Concert Hall.

Over 300 guests, including students, faculty, staff, and host families attended. The audience enjoyed Chinese food, moon cakes, and a wonderful program put together by Grinnell students.

Organizers and sponsors included: Student Government Association (SGA), Chinese Student Association (CSA), Asian and Asian American Association (AAA), and the Chinese and Japanese Department Student Educational Policy Committee (SEPC).