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Writers@Grinnell: Jeffrey Harrison

Jeffrey Harrison Award-winning poet Jeffrey Harrison will read from his work and discuss writing on Thursday, Nov. 19, as part of the Writers@Grinnell series at Grinnell College. The event, which is free and open to the public, will start at 8 p.m. in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.

In addition, Harrison will lead a roundtable discussion, which is free and open to the public, at 4:15 p.m. Nov. 19 in Rosenfield Center, Room 209.

Harrison is the author of five full-length books of poetry, including The Singing Underneath, selected by James Merrill for the National Poetry Series and Into Daylight, winner of the 2014 Dorset Prize. His poetry also has been featured in popular publications, such as The New Republic, The New Yorker, and The Nation.

Harrison's poetic narratives tackle challenging themes such as intimacy and loss with nuance, clarity and dark humor. His many honors include the Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Amy Lowell Traveling Poetry Scholarship, two Pushcart Prizes, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. 

Harrison has taught at George Washington University, Phillips Academy, the University of Southern Maine and Framingham State University. He lives in Massachusetts with his family.

Writers@Grinnell: Richard Russo

Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist Richard Russo, the upcoming author in Writers@Grinnell, will be on campus for two events on Thursday, November 12:

  • Reading at 8 p.m. in Rosenfield Center, Room 101Richard Russo
  • Roundtable at 4:15 p.m. in Rosenfield Center, Room 209

Russo received the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction in 2002 for his novel "Empire Falls," which was later made into an HBO mini-series starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. Russo co-authored the script for the miniseries and was nominated for the 2005 Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries.

Russo also co-authored the screen adaption of his acclaimed novel, "Nobody's Fool," starring Paul Newman, with Academy Award-winning screenplay writer Robert Benton. Russo has written several other acclaimed books and screenplays, including "Mohawk," "Straight Man" and his memoir, "Elsewhere."

Russo has received many honors and fellowships throughout his career, including the 1990 Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts and 2002 Ambassador Book Award for Fiction. A gifted teacher, Russo is retired from Colby College and the Warren Wilson Master of Fine Arts Program for Writers. He lives with his wife in coastal Maine.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Accommodation requests may be made to the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.

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.

Parents of Armando Alters Montaño ’12 Establish Fund in his Name

The Armando Alters Montaño ’12 Writers@Grinnell Endowment Fund has been established by the parents of the Grinnell graduate who died in June 2012 while working as an intern with the Associated Press in Mexico City.

Diane Alters ’71 and Mario Montaño have created the fund through a bequest to Grinnell College. The fund will support the Writers@Grinnell program in memory of their son’s dedication to nonfiction and fiction writing, journalism, and the creative process.

“Diane and Mario’s generous gift honors and recognizes Armando’s creative talents, his courage, and his dedication to his craft,” says College President Raynard S. Kington. “Appropriately, it will help other Grinnell students connect their education to their real-life aspirations as effectively and enthusiastically as he did.”

The Armando Alters Montaño ’12 Writers@Grinnell Endowment Fund encourages other students to follow in Montaño’s footsteps as budding writers and journalists. It will support Grinnell students in the following ways:

  • The Mando Montaño ’12 Memorial Reading will be presented by a leading nonfiction writer as an annual feature of Writers@Grinnell.
  • The Mando Montaño ’12 Scarlet & Black Student Newspaper Memorial Fund will provide S&B students with opportunities for alumni mentoring and connections, enriching the learning and professional development of Grinnell’s student journalists.
  • The fund will provide support for student internships in areas related to creative writing, publishing, television, film, and other media.

Armando MontanoIn establishing the fund and its purpose, Montaño’s parents wrote, “His passion, his ability to understand and learn, and his drive to write and report are what we celebrate with this fund.”

“Mando thrived at Grinnell,” Alters says. “He admired and befriended many professors who guided him to think critically, write, and make his way in the world with confidence and compassion. His many friends recalled his intensity, his physical beauty, his smile, his laughter, and his ability to listen carefully to those around him.”

Montaño graduated as a Spanish major with a concentration in Latin American studies. During his time at Grinnell, he wrote and edited for the Scarlet & Black, interned at several newspapers, and took part in The New York Times Student Journalism Institute. His essay about cooking with his father, titled “The Unexpected Lessons of Mexican Food,” was published on Salon.com and in The Norton Field Guide to Writing.

Montaño wrote the short story “Snow Angels” — about his struggles to understand grief and loss — in a fiction seminar taught by Dean Bakopoulos, English department writer-in-residence at Grinnell. Bakopoulos later provided the forward for the story and helped with publication.

“Mando possessed two distinctive gifts essential in the best writers and journalists: thoughtfulness and sensitivity, coupled with a dynamic personality that loved to make connections and ask big questions,” Bakopoulos says.

“How wonderfully fitting it is that a fund bearing his name will focus on connecting Grinnell’s aspiring writers with the literary professionals that will inspire, encourage, and mentor them in the very craft and trade Mando loved so much.”

Shane Jacobson, vice president for development and alumni relations, says, “Armando raised the bar for what students can achieve in an inquiry-led liberal arts environment where students learn to truly link their education with their life goals. We are fortunate to call Armando a Grinnellian, and we are grateful that this gift will help carry forward his love of teaching and learning.”

Montaño grew up in Colorado Springs, Colo. His father is associate professor of anthropology at Colorado College in Colorado Springs; Alters is a lecturer in journalism there.

If you are interested in engaging with the College by making a designated gift to Writers@Grinnell, please use the online form and specify Writers@Grinnell.

Writers@Grinnell - Antonya Nelson

Antonya Nelson, the upcoming author in Writers@Grinnell will be on campus for two eventsAntonya Nelson on Thursday, October 29:

  • Reading at 8 p.m. in Rosenfield Center, Room 101
  • Roundtable at 4:15 p.m. in Rosenfield Center, Room 209

Antonya Nelson is the author of nine books of fiction (three novels and six collections of stories). Nelson's work has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, Harper's, Redbook, and in many other magazines, as well as in anthologies such as Prize Stories, the O. Henry Awards, and Best American Short Stories.

Her books have been New York Times Notable Books of 1992, 1996, 1998, and 2000; in 2000 Nelson was also named by The New Yorker as one of the "twenty young fiction writers for the new millennium." She is the recipient of the Rea Award for Short Fiction, a 2000-2001 NEA Grant, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Nelson also teaches creative writing in the Warren Wilson MFA program.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Rosenfield Center has accessible parking in the lot to the east. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations.

Writers@Grinnell: Edward Hirsch

Celebrated poet Edward Hirsch ’72 will join Professor of English Ralph Savarese in a conversation about poetry and parenting at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8, in the Faulconer Gallery.

 “‘If the Music is Too Loud You’re Too Old:’ A Conversation with Edward Hirsch ’72 about Poetry, Parenting, Disability, and Grief” will use Hirsch’s most recent publication, “Gabriel,” to open discussion. “Gabriel” is a book-length elegy for Hirsch’s late son. This free public event, which is part of the Writers@Grinnell series, will be streamed live.

Hirsch also will lead an informal roundtable discussion about “Reading as Relationship” at 4:15 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8, in the Joe Rosenfield ‘25 Center Room 209. This event also is open to the public at no charge.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations.

About the Participants

Edward Hirsch

President of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation since 2003, Hirsch has been honored with numerous awards including a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award, a Pablo Neruda Presidential Medal of Honor, the Prix de Rome and an Academy of Arts and Letters Award. He was also elected chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2008.

Hirsch is the author of nine collections of poetry, including a Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award winner, a Lavan Younger Poets Award winner and a National Book Critics Award winner. He has also published five books of prose, including the national bestseller “How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry.”

Ralph Savarese

Savarese, who co-directs the Writers @Grinnell series, is the author of Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption and co-editor of Papa PhD: Essays on Fatherhood by Men in the Academy.

About Writers @Grinnell

Writers@Grinnell logoWriters@Grinnell brings to campus authors of all kinds: poets, novelists, memoirists, essayists, radio essayists, columnists, graphic memoirists, playwrights, and short story writers.

Believing language to be a dynamic and communal medium, we give its crafted versions the attention they deserve, and we take seriously the importance of diverse perspectives. Through the generous support of an anonymous donor, the program hosts an annual distinguished author reading. Such authors have included Alison Bechdel, Tracy K. Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Edward P. Jones, Adrienne Rich, Marilynne Robinson, and W.S. Merwin. In addition to readings and roundtables, the program funds two six-week short courses taught by writers from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop, and it helps students to find internships in writing-related professions.

Writers@Grinnell: Jami Attenberg

Jami AttenbergJami Attenberg, the next author in Writers@Grinnell will be on campus for two events on Tuesday, Sept. 22:

  • Reading at 8 p.m. in Rosenfield Center, Room 101
  • Roundtable at 4:15 p.m. in Rosenfield Center, Room 209

Attenberg has written about sex, technology, design, books, television, and urban life for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Salon, Print, The Hairpin, Vogue, New York, Elle, Real Simple, The Rumpus, and others. She has contributed to numerous anthologies and also wrote Wicked: The Musical: A Pop-up Compendium.

Attenberg believes in the power and importance of independent publishing and self-publication, whether online or in print. She has been published by a number of zines, and her chapbook, Deli Life, was published by Austin upstart So New Media in 2003. She also published a zine series, Instant Love. Her blog, whatever-whenever.net, has been in existence in various forms since 1998.

Her debut collection of stories, Instant Love, was published by Crown/Shaye Areheart Books in 2006. She is also the author of two novels, The Kept Man  and The Melting Season, both published by Riverhead Books. Her third novel, The Middlesteins, was published in October 2012 by Grand Central Publishing. It appeared on The New York Times bestseller list, and was published in England, Taiwan, Russia, Italy, France, Turkey, The Netherlands, Germany, and Israel in 2013. It was also a finalist for both the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction and the St. Francis College Literary Prize. A fifth book, Saint Mazie, was published in 2015 in the U.S., the UK, Italy, France and Germany. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, where she fights crime in her spare time.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Rosenfield Center has accessible parking in the lot to the east. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations.

Writers@Grinnell: Kiese Laymon

Kiese LaymonKiese Laymon, the second author in this year’s Writers @Grinnell series, will present two events on Thursday, Sept. 17:

  • Roundtable at 4:15 p.m. in Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 209
  • Reading at 8 p.m. in Rosenfield Center, Room 101

Laymon is an African-American southern writer, born and raised in Jackson, Miss.

His novel Long Division was named one of the Best Books of 2013 by a number of publications — including Buzzfeed, The Believer, Salon, Guernica, Mosaic Magazine, Chicago Tribune, The Morning News, MSNBC, Library Journal, Contemporary Literature, and the Crunk Feminist Collective — and is currently a finalist for Stanford’s Saroyan international writing award.

Long Division and his collection of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, are finalists for the Mississippi Award for Arts and Letters in the fiction and nonfiction categories.

Laymon, an associate professor of English at Vassar College, has written essays and stories for numerous publications including Esquire, ESPN, Colorlines, NPR, Gawker, Truthout, Longman’s Hip Hop Reader, The Best American Non-required Reading, Guernica, Mythium, and Politics and Culture. He is working on a new novel, And So On, and a memoir, 309: A Fat Black Memoir.

Both the roundtable and reading are free and open to the public. Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations.

Writers @Grinnell

Writers @Grinnell, the English department’s reading series, brings to campus writers of all kinds: poets, novelists, memoirists, essayists, radio essayists, columnists, graphic memoirists, playwrights, and short story writers. Recent visitors include African-American and Latino writers, international writers, LGBT writers, blind and deaf writers, bi-polar writers, and writers with mobility impairments. An anonymous donor enables the series to host an annual distinguished author reading and an interdisciplinary creative writing event.

Statistics and Society

Undergraduate research tends to evoke images of either a library or a laboratory. The Data Analysis and Social Inquiry Lab (DASIL) offers students in social studies and the humanities something different. The lab has computers with statistical analysis programs that can help students and faculty understand trends in data and visually represent data in charts and graphs and on maps.

Grinnellians Helping Grinnellians

DASIL helps students and faculty analyze and visualize data on an individual basis and brings data analysis into the classroom. It also provides experiential learning for student tutors. “We do the students a disservice unless we make sure they have some level of technological understanding,” says Kathy Kamp, professor of anthropology and Earl D. Strong Professor of Social Studies. DASIL is a unique program in that it is staffed by undergraduates.

“When we’re not helping students,” says Beau Bressler ’16, a DASIL staffer, “we’re working on projects for faculty — usually gathering or organizing data.”

Last year, DASIL launched an independent website that hosts a number of data visualizations. Most of the visualizations make use of publicly available — usually government-collected — information.

One of the projects DASIL is taking on is an interactive map tracking land-holding, using historical records, in three Iowa townships in Poweshiek and Jasper counties.

An earlier major project DASIL was involved in was English professor James Lee’s Global Renaissance, an analysis of 25,000 texts from 1470 to 1700 using data mining techniques to visualize the specific language Shakespeare's England employed to describe different races and places across the globe before colonialism.

Learning by Teaching

Bressler has worked at DASIL for more than a year. During his time there, he has assisted students and professors and has done his own research for a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP). As an economics major, he works primarily on econometrics problems. The students who work with DASIL are fairly specialized, says Julia Bauder, social studies and data services librarian. “We try to have a student fluent in geographical information systems, an economics major who has taken econometrics, a mathematics major, and at least one person doing qualitative research and able to use NVivo qualitative analysis software.”

“Sometimes people come and they know what they want to research and what they’re trying to do, but they don’t know the software or don’t know what variables to use,” says Bressler. “I plan on going into research, so being exposed to other students’ research prepares me to do a broader array of research.” In the spring semester, Bressler helped Ope Awe ’15 analyze data for a MAP to determine what factors in a developing country influence entrepreneurship.

“DASIL is a place you can come and learn to work with data,” says Bressler. “Working with people — especially when they’re other students who know how to work with data — can make statistics easier to understand.”

Beau Bressler ’16 is an economics major from San Diego, Calif.

KGB and the Soviet Surveillance State

Cohn EdwardEdward Cohn, assistant professor of history, has won two grants that will support his archival and oral history research on KGB tactics to manage threats to political stability in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia from the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. 

He has been awarded a summer stipend from the National Endowment for the Humanities and a Franklin Research Grant from the American Philosophical Society.

Cohn says “My work analyzes how the KGB and its victims defined anti-Soviet activity, highlighting the ways that 20th-century surveillance states sought to prevent crime by collecting information on their citizens, who were forced to adapt to an intrusive and ever-vigilant state."

In recent years, half of all Grinnell applications received NEH funding, compared to 8 percent nationally. Previous winners include Shanna Benjamin, Tammy Nyden, Dan Reynolds, and Ralph Savarese.

About Edward Cohn’s Research

Cohn's research deals with the KGB's efforts to fight political unrest in the Soviet Union's three Baltic republics, which were part of the USSR from 1940 to 1991 and became the center of strong anti-Soviet independence movements. In particular, he focuses on the KGB's efforts to prevent dissent by summoning low-level offenders to supposedly informal meetings with secret police officers, who warned them to change their ways.

Cohn will spend about two months doing research in Vilnius, Lithuania, and Tallinn, Estonia. "KGB archives are almost entirely closed in Russia, but are far more open in the Baltic states," he says.  Cohn will also spend time completing oral history interviews.