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Scholarship Enables Grinnell Senior to Study Indonesian

Mari HolmesMari Holmes ’17 has received a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship, enabling her to participate in a fully funded summer language immersion program in Malang, Indonesia.

Holmes, a gender, women's and sexuality studies major from Beaumont, Texas, is one of approximately 560 U.S. undergraduate and graduate students selected for this honor in 2016. The Critical Language Scholarship is a highly competitive, government-sponsored language immersion program designed to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering languages critical to the U.S. Department of State.

Recipients are spending seven to 10 weeks in intensive language institutions this summer in one of 13 countries to study Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Indonesian, Japanese, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, or Urdu.

The Critical Language Scholarship gives Holmes an opportunity to go back to Indonesia, where she was born and raised.

"Because I haven't been back in more than a decade, I have lost the ability to communicate in my native tongue," Holmes said. "Thus, I am grateful that the CLS is providing me with the opportunity to reconnect with my cultural roots and formally relearn the language in my hometown of Malang. I hope that my studies in Indonesian will enable me to engage more with my research now as a Mellon Mays fellow and as a prospective anthropologist and scholar of Indonesian studies."

As a Mellon Mays fellow at Grinnell College, Holmes has studied the relationship between Indonesian nationalism and masculine memory after the 1965 massacres. She hopes to continue this research abroad. She is also the leader of the Asian-American Association on campus.

Holmes, who plans to graduate in May 2017, is the second Grinnell College student in two years to receive a Critical Language Scholarship.

Tracy PaLast year Tracy Pa ’15 accepted a Critical Language Scholarship that allowed her to participate in a fully funded language immersion program in Japan last summer.

Pa, who majored in sociology with a concentration in East Asian studies, studied Japanese in Hikone, Japan, a small city on the shore of Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake.

"This scholarship challenged me to fully immerse myself in Japanese language and culture," Pa said. "I gained more confidence in my language ability and have test-proven results that I improved during this program."

Like Holmes, Pa was a Mellon Mays fellow during her time at Grinnell. Pa conducted research on the representation of the atomic bomb in American and Japanese children's literature as part of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program.

A former resident of San Francisco, Pa now serves as an assistant language teacher with the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program in Tokyo. The program promotes grassroots international exchange between Japan and other nations. She plans to pursue a doctoral degree in Japanese language and literature with a focus on modern Japanese literature.

The Critical Language Scholarship, a program of the U.S. Department of State, is a prestigious and highly competitive award that corroborates the strength of Grinnell's language instructors, off-campus study officers and scholarship staff—in addition to the talents of the awardees themselves.

Learn more about CLS and other exchange programs at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Alumni in the Classroom

For students in Grinnell’s Introduction to Sociology class, the central question they must ask themselves is this: “How do my own personal struggles fit into a wider public issue, and how can I use sociology to solve that problem?”

“For example, if students are struggling with debt, they need to explore how that is reflective of a larger trend or problem in society,” says Patrick Inglis, assistant professor of sociology. “This semester, I wanted to bring someone in who really exemplifies that ability to make that connection and find solutions to those big problems. And I immediately thought of Damon.”

Casually dressed, Damon Williams and students talking over pizza in a casual environmentDamon Williams ’14, who was a sociology and economics double major, is currently a member of BYP100 and the Let Us Breathe Collective, both of which are Chicago-based black liberation movements. Williams worked in a variety of other movements after graduating from Grinnell, including raising money to send gas masks to Ferguson during the 2014 conflict and teaching financial literacy classes to young black men to help alleviate poverty through investment.

“I graduated from Grinnell having studied social media, feminism, black power movements, and other social movements around the world,” says Williams. “When I left, I knew I wanted to be a game changer.”

Inglis was able to bring Williams back to campus to share his experience with current students in sociology and philosophy classes. Williams also met with the student group Concerned Black Students about social media and black liberation, and held jam-packed office hours in the Spencer Grille. His presentation and workshop entitled “Bigger than the Cops: Racialized State Violence and the Movement for Black Lives” was standing room only.

“It was incredibly inspiring to learn from someone directly involved in the struggle against racism on a community level,” says Rosie O’Brien ’16. “His perspective gave me hope for the future of Chicago and the future of global economics more generally, and I learned a lot about the power of community-based movements.”

According to Inglis, bringing alumni back into the classroom is an important way to connect students’ learning to the work they can do after they leave Grinnell. “Alumni are already familiar with Grinnell, and that helps them make a more personal connection with the students,” Inglis says. “They know the real world and the Grinnell world and they can help students bridge those worlds in a way that professors aren’t always able to do.”

Rosie O’Brien is a political science and studio art major from Lawrence, Kansas.

7 Great Reasons to Study Off Campus

Given that over 60 percent of Grinnell’s students participate in study-abroad programs, it’s no wonder Grinnell has a reputation for being globally focused. Not only is off-campus study an awesome opportunity to expand your international education, it’s also an unforgettable life experience. Third-year Grinnellians share their favorite parts of the study-abroad experience:

  1. Your perspective will broaden like you wouldn’t believe.

Joseph Galaske ’17 says his home-stay in rural South Africa has changed his outlook: “It was one of the most incredibly enlightening experiences of my life. There were definitely experiences that pushed my boundaries, like the living conditions.” Experiencing daily life in such a vastly different culture opened Galaske’s mind to a whole new way of living.

  1. You’ll finally lose that feeling of panic when speaking another language.

For Jinna Kim ’17, a sociology and Spanish major, studying abroad in Argentina has been an awesome way to improve her skills in Spanish. “I never felt entirely comfortable speaking Spanish, despite having taken many classes, and always broke out in a cold sweat when I had to speak it,” says Kim. “I can already feel myself becoming more confident, and I’m more eager to jump into conversations!”

  1. You can travel with your program for a one-of-a-kind research experience.

Emily Adam ’17 enrolled in a public health course while studying in Denmark and got to visit public health organizations and clinics in Denmark, Estonia, and Finland as part of her class. “Getting an inside look at how public health policies work in other countries has been really valuable,” Adam says. “There are differences in culture that I wouldn’t have expected, and it’s been interesting to learn about the challenges of their systems.”

  1. International foods will become your bread and butter.

“Sometimes my friends and I just walk around and find random restaurants,” says Trang Nguyen ’17, an international student from Vietnam who is currently studying in South Korea. “What’s special about my daily experience in Korea is eating ramen at the convenience store, ordering street food while listening to the live music that’s everywhere … We haven’t had a bad experience yet!”

  1. Your confidence will soar.

“Adaptability, confidence, intuition…I feel as if living abroad is like a workout for your intangible traits,” says Jonathan Sundby ’17, who is studying in India this spring.

  1. You can experiment with new habits.

“A new experience gives you a chance to try some different lifestyles,” says Nguyen, who was always very organized and plan-oriented in the United States. “Planning like I used to doesn’t really work in Korea, so I had to change the way I operate. I feel more relaxed and outgoing here. I really enjoy the change!”

  1. You’ll do things you never imagined (or maybe things you always dreamed of).

“I recently visited Iguazu Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world,” says Kim. “The amount of water and the size of the waterfalls are indescribable. My friends and I even hiked a mini-trail to a smaller waterfall, where we jumped in and swam just like the people in GoPro videos!”

Joseph Galaske ’17 is a biology major from Moberly, Mo.

Jinna Kim ’17 is a sociology and Spanish double major from Bellevue, Wash.

Emily Adam ’17 is a biology major from Harper, Iowa.

Trang Nguyen ’17 is a mathematics major from Hanoi, Vietnam.

Jonathan Sundby ’17 is a political science major from Stillwater, Minn.

Film Screening: Called to Walls

Dave Loewenstein ’88 is returning to campus — along with co-directors Nick Ward and Amber Hansen — for a panel discussion and film screening of Called to Walls. The free, public event will begin at 7 p.m. Friday, May 6, in ARH Auditorium, Room 302.

Called to Walls is "part road-movie, part inspirational small town drama, and part art documentary" that chronicles the making of giant murals in the city cores of places like Newton and Joplin, Mo.

For Loewenstein, there’s more to creating a mural than just painting the side of a building. He designs political activism prints and specializes in community-based collaborative public art projects. He’s worked on murals all over the United States, including Grinnell, as well as in Korea, Northern Ireland, and Brazil. In his experience, making a piece of public art has encouraged conversations (and offers of help) from passers-by, resulting in what he calls an “improvised gathering space.”

The events are sponsored by Alumni in the Classroom and Artists@Grinnell.

Dave Loewenstein ’88

Dave LoewensteinDave Loewenstein is a muralist, writer, and printmaker based in Lawrence, Kansas. In addition to his more than twenty public works in Kansas, examples of his dynamic and richly colored community-based murals can be found across the United States in Missouri, Oklahoma, Arizona, Arkansas, Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Iowa, Chicago, New Orleans, and New York City, and in Northern Ireland and South Korea.

Loewenstein’s prints, which focus on current social and political issues, are exhibited nationally and are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Yale University,  and the Center for the Study of Political Graphics in Los Angeles. He is the co-author of Kansas Murals: A Traveler’s Guide, a 2007 Kansas Notable Book Award Winner, published by the University Press of Kansas; and the co-director of the documentary film Creating Counterparts which won Best Documentary at the 2003 Kansas Filmmakers Jubilee.

Loewenstein has been recognized widely for his work, including the 2001 Lighton Prize for Arts Educator of the Year from Kansas City Young Audiences, the 2004 Tom and Anne Moore Peace and Justice Award given by the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice, a 2006 Phoenix Award from the Lawrence Arts Commission, a 2007 Kansas Press Association 1st Place Columnist Award for his column “Blank Canvas,” and in 2014 he was named one of the founding Cultural Agents for the new U.S. Department of Arts and Culture. His most recent studio project is Give Take Give, funded by the Rocket Grants program.

Racialized State Violence and the Movement for Black Lives

In a free, public event, Damon Williams ’14 will present “Bigger Than the Cops: Racialized State Violence and the Movement for Black Lives” at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 28, in ARH Auditorium, Room 302.

After a brief presentation, Williams will join in a one-on-one conversation with Shanna Benjamin, associate professor of English. Alexandra Odom ’17 will introduce participants and set the stage for the discussion.

At 5 p.m., there will be a break for refreshments. Attendees will return at 5:15 p.m. for a workshop with Williams and Kesho Scott, associate professor of American studies and sociology.

Event sponsors include Alumni in the Classroom Program, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Center for the Humanities, Peace and Conflict Studies, the Departments of Sociology, American Studies, and Economics, and the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. You can request accommodations through Conference Operations and Events.

About Damon Williams ’14

After a brief presentation, Williams will join in a one-on-one conversation with Shanna Benjamin, associate professor of English at Grinnell College. Senior Alexandra Odom will introduce participants and set the stage for the discussion.

At 5 p.m., there will be a break for refreshments. Attendees will return at 5:15 p.m. for a workshop with Williams and Kesho Scott, associate professor of American studies and sociology at Grinnell.

Williams is a community producer, organizer, radio host, hip-hop performance artist, actor, teacher and public speaker from the south side of Chicago. He has performed across the country with his sister, Kristiana Colón, as the poetic duo April Fools. He also co-hosts "AirGo Radio," a weekly show on WHPK, Chicago Community Radio.

In addition, Williams co-chairs the Chicago chapter of Black Youth Project 100, a national political organization comprised of black youth ages 18-35. He co-edits the #LetUsBreathe Collective, an artistic activist organization that serves underprivileged people and creatively disrupts the anti-black racist status quo.

Committed to addressing economic inequality, Williams also serves as the co-director of the Ujamaa Jr. Investment Club, which promotes financial literacy and investment strategies.

Tribute to Ragnar Thorisson ’11

Ragnar Thorisson ’11 passed away Feb. 12, 2016, in his home in Seattle. In 2003, Ragnar was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a rare form of blood cancer. After several years in remission, the cancer returned in 2014. Throughout his illness, Ragnar maintained an outstanding sense of humor and compassion and inspired many people with an online journal of his experiences and insights. He is survived by his partner, Alyssa Penner ’10.

While on campus, Ragnar was an active, thoughtful, and respectful leader in the Grinnell community. He exemplified Grinnell’s ideals of passionate activism and respectful dialogue, demonstrating a deep commitment to building a just and equitable society free from hate and bigotry. In addition to completing an internship with the Gay-Straight Alliance, Ragnar served as the programming coordinator for the Stonewall Resource Center and was a student leader in campus organizations such as A Just Grinnell and the Stonewall Coalition. He was instrumental in the writing and passing of the Hate Crimes and Bias Motivated Incidents Response and Protocols.

Ragnar was also actively committed to serving the larger Grinnell community, undertaking two internships with Mid-Iowa Community Action for which he received their Outstanding Volunteer Award. He traveled to New Orleans over spring break three years in a row through ReNew Orleans to rebuild houses devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Ragnar was the recipient of the Judith Louise McKim Sociology Award and the President’s Medal.

Ragnar is remembered as a brilliant, caring, and sophisticated scholar and as an inspiring activist. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions, which can be made in Ragnar’s name, to support the Department of Sociology at Grinnell College or the Social Justice Fund Northwest. 

Read more about Ragnar’s story and his memorial services.

Make donations to Grinnell College Sociology Department
c/o Office of Development & Alumni Relations
733 Broad Street, Grinnell, Iowa 50112
Or donate online.

Peace and Conflict Studies Student Conference

A keynote address by a genocide studies scholar, an invited alumni address, and presentations of student papers and faculty-led discussions will highlight Grinnell College's fourth biennial Peace and Conflict Studies Student Conference on March 11-12.

All events are free and open to the public, and will take place in the Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, 1115 Eighth Ave., Grinnell.

The conference is sponsored by Grinnell College's Peace and Conflict Studies Program.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities.  You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.

Conference Speakers

Ernesto Verdeja

Keynote address: "Can We Predict Genocide and Mass Killings"

7:30 p.m. Friday, March 11, Rosenfield Center, Room 101

Verdeja is assistant professor of political science and peace studies at the University of Notre Dame and executive director of the Institute for the Study of Genocide.

Verdeja, who received his doctorate from the New School for Social Research in New York City and directs undergraduate peace studies at Notre Dame. His research focuses on large-scale political violence, transitional justice, political reconciliation, war crimes trials, truth commissions, and reparations.

Leonard Merrill Kurz ’75

Alumni address: "A Grinnellian's Journey for Peace"

11:45 a.m. Saturday, March 12, Rosenfield Center, Room 101

Leonard Merrill Kurz ’75 is president of Forest Creatures Entertainment, a motion picture, television, and new media production. Kurz holds a master's degree in film and television production from Stanford University. He has written, produced, and directed several documentaries, including Free the Children.

Lunch will be provided.

Student Panels

This year, 19 students from Grinnell, Macalester, Skidmore, and Antioch colleges will present papers during the conference. The papers address a range of topics about peace and conflict from the social sciences, humanities, and sciences, reflecting the vibrant interdisciplinary variety of the field.

Papers are organized into themed panels, each moderated by a faculty member who has reviewed panel papers. After the 15-minute student presentations, faculty moderators will respond and facilitate a discussion session.

The following panels will occur throughout the two-day conference.

"The Body, Objectification, and Social Suffering"
4:15 p.m. March 11, Rosenfield Center, Room 225
Papers by: Vincent Benlloch ’18, Grinnell; Clara Moser, Skidmore College; and Jesus Villalobos ’17, Grinnell.
Faculty moderator: Abram Lewis, assistant professor of gender, women’s, and sexuality studies at Grinnell.
"Leaders, Parties and Their Alternatives: Political Violence and Social Transformation"
8:30 a.m. March 12, Rosenfield Center, Room 225
Papers by: Suha Gillani ’16, Michael Cummings ’18, Max Pilcher ’18 and Maxwell Fenton ’19, Grinnell.
Faculty moderator: Keynote speaker Verdeja.
"Communities, Identities and Conflicts"
10:15 a.m., March 12, Rosenfield Center, Room 225
Papers by: Keegan Smith-Nichols, Antioch College; and Stuart Hoegh ’17 and Karol Sadkowski ’16, Grinnell.
Faculty moderator: Todd Armstrong, professor of Russian at Grinnell.
"Troubling Childhood: Violence and Rights"
10:15 a.m. March 12, Rosenfield Center, Room 226
Papers by: Betty Varland ’18 and Mari Holmes ’17, Grinnell; and Jolena Zabel, Macalester College.
Faculty moderator: Tess Kulstad, assistant professor of anthropology at Grinnell.
"Sexual Violence in War and Peace"
1:30 p.m. March 12, Rosenfield Center, Room 225
Papers by: Emily Ricker ’18 and Hannah Boggess ’18, Grinnell; and Will Stolarski, Macalester College.
Faculty moderator: Patrick Inglis, assistant professor of sociology at Grinnell.
"National Politics of Exclusion and Their Consequences"
1:30 p.m. March 12, Rosenfield Center, Room 226
Papers by Nirabh Koirala ’17 and Lucia Tonachel ’18, Grinnell; Zoe Bowman, Macalester College.
Faculty moderator: Gemma Sala, assistant professor of political science at Grinnell.