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Distinctiveness

Global Grinnell

"Grinnell put us together. This is the meeting place," says Serbian Kristina Duric '13. She and Californian Cynthia Amezcua '14 talk about international friendships, the global Grinnell family, and living abroad.

Meet Grinnell in a minute and a half, then go deeper with our latest videos (below) about the diverse facets of the Grinnell experience:

 

With Photosphere, You are (Almost) There

Have cellphone, will travel: that’s the mantra in today’s device-driven world. Now, with a smartphone camera and a special app, a new project is providing virtual tours of archaeological sites in northern Arizona.

The Kaibab National Forest’s website now displays amazing 360-degree views of actual pueblos and rock art sites, old cabins and fire lookouts, and historic railroads, trails, and roads.

Using Google Camera on a phone, archaeologist Neil Weintraub [’86] snaps a picture at a site — or actually 41 images stitched together, to form a collage called a “photosphere.” On screen, users can rotate the view and gain a sense of the entire surrounding landscape. When that image is downloaded into the Tiny Planets app, a compressed and more artistic rendering can be created.

Neil feels this technique will provide an unusual perception on archaeological and historical sites.  It provides for him additional clues as to why people built pueblos where they did many years ago.  Also the near three-dimensional pictures show how significant the sky and landscape was to people who resided in the region many years ago.

While it is not the same as being there in person, Weintraub is confident that this method will provide people a preview, so that when or if they do visit it in person, they will see it from a new perspective.

Originally appeared in KNAU Earth Notes. Republished with permission.

Coding for a Cause

As all Grinnellians know, it’s important to use what you learn to make a difference in your community. In Grinnell’s computer science department, the students in the Team Software Development for Community Organizations class are using what they learn in class to benefit local nonprofits.

“We think our students should understand the ways in which their computing skills can make a positive difference in the world,” says Samuel A. Rebelsky, professor of computer science. “At the same time, it’s important for students to learn how to work with clients who know what they want done, but not how it can be done.”

Helping the Local Food Pantry

Students choose a project at the beginning of the semester, such as creating a website that shows the current needs of the Mid-Iowa Community Action (MICA) food pantry so people know what to donate. Another project the students have worked on is making an online resource portal to help MICA’s clients quickly find the support they need for food, housing, and jobs.

Zoe Wolter ’16, who worked on the MICA resource portal project, says that the class was a great way to get a feel for what she can do with the skills she’s developed at Grinnell. “Getting to actually apply what we’ve learned in class to a real project really expanded my knowledge of what opportunities are out there,” she says. “It really opened my mind to possibilities that I hadn’t thought of before.”

Developing Marketable Skills

Albert Owusu-Asare ’16, in his work on MICA’s resource portal, developed vital skills for communicating with clients who aren’t fluent in computer science language. “I found that it’s best to have them draw pictures and diagrams of what they want so that we can see what we need to do and there’s no confusion,” says Owusu-Asare. “That’s something I couldn’t have learned just sitting in class.”

Having worked on a large project with actual clients has also been useful for students seeking jobs in the tech industry. John Brady ’16, who developed the food bank site for MICA, found that his experience with that project came in handy for interviews. “Having a project that you can talk about that shows some actual real world experience working for clients was fantastic, because projects just for school just don’t have the same weight,” Brady says. He recently accepted a job offer from Amazon.

Receiving Support from Alumni Mentors

Cassie Schmitz talking with students in the courseIn addition to in-class learning, students also get support from alumni mentors who are now working in fields where they do the same kind of work the students are doing. Mentors come to campus once a semester to meet with students and Skype with them every few weeks to support them and answer questions.

“It’s just nice to have someone who went through the computer science department and is now working in the field,” says Owusu-Asare. “You see that they’re doing all these cool things, and it makes me excited for what I’ll do in the future.” Owusu-Asare plans to work as a software developer for Goldman-Sachs after graduating.

The class also supports the College’s commitment to staying connected to the greater Grinnell community. “In a lot of other college towns there’s a big divide between the town and the college, but Grinnell is really committed to bridging that gap,” says Cassie Schmitz ’05, who has been a mentor for the class for the past two years. “Students are encouraged to really engage meaningfully with the community, and this class is an important part of that engagement.”

Albert Owusu-Asare ’16 is a computer science and physics double major from Kumasi, Ghana.

John Brady ’16 is from Rosco, Ill., and is a double major in computer science and mathematics.

Zoe Wolter ’16 is a computer science and theatre double major from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Grinnell Supports Scholarly Open-Access Publishing

Grinnell College is among nearly 40 liberal arts colleges joining forces with Amherst College Press and the University of Michigan Library to create Lever Press, a new collaborative peer-reviewed, open-access scholarly publishing enterprise.

Grinnell College and Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, are the only Iowa colleges currently supporting Lever Press. Both are members of the Oberlin Group, a consortium of libraries in America’s top liberal arts colleges. Also backing Lever Press are Allegheny College and Ursinus College, which do not belong to the Oberlin Group.

As part of its dedication to complete open access, Lever Press will first make all works freely available to readers on the Internet. The works also will appear in print form wherever possible.

Lever Press is unusual because it will require neither authors nor readers to pay for publication costs. This is made possible by the participating colleges committed to contributing a total of more than $1 million to the work of Lever Press over the next five years. Supported by these pledges, Lever Press aims to acquire, develop, produce and disseminate a total of 60 new open-access titles by the end of 2020.

Grinnell’s Libraries and the Dean’s office will share the cost of contributing $8,000 a year to Lever Press for five years for a total of $40,000.

Investing in Lever Press provides a great opportunity for Grinnell faculty and students, and for the wider world, said Julia Bauder, interim librarian of the College and social studies and data services librarian.

“For faculty,” Bauder said, “it provides an opportunity to publish peer-reviewed, digital books that incorporate media and data in ways that are not possible with printed books, opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the digital liberal arts. For students, my hope is that initiatives such as Lever Press will help to reduce textbook costs by making scholarly books of the sort that Grinnell faculty often assign freely available to them.

“And even after they graduate, Grinnell students and others who are interested in reading great research in the social sciences and humanities will be able to read these books, no matter where they live, what kind of job they have, or by what libraries they are served. Lever Press is truly a win for everyone involved.”

Lever Press is launching as an imprint of Michigan Publishing, a division of the University of Michigan Library. Michigan Publishing will focus on distribution, the publishing platform, and other technical matters, while Amherst College Press will take the lead on the editorial side.

In addition to its novel approach to open access, Lever Press is distinguished by its editorial alignment with the mission and ethos of liberal arts colleges, as well as its digitally native production processes designed to support innovative projects that go “beyond the book.”

“This is an exciting initiative because of the benefit to pioneering humanities and digital humanities work which comes with the space and scale that online formats provide,” said Matthew Johnson, assistant professor of history at Grinnell.

“In the past,” he added, “if you wanted to publish a book that was rich in images, for example, you needed a companion website, as my co-editors and I did with our volume Visualizing Modern China. Given that many small liberal arts colleges are ahead of the curve in terms of adoption of digital resources for teaching and research, Grinnell and other consortium faculty will benefit from being able to integrate similar approaches more seamlessly into their publication strategies, while connecting their work with a far larger audience than has been the case previously.”

Being a Grinnell Student During the Iowa Caucuses

As a native Iowan, I will proudly tell you that caucusing is an energizing, authentic exercise of democracy. I was in eighth grade when I observed my first caucus, and this caucus will be the first I attend as an eligible voter. Most Grinnell students are temporary Iowans, so participating in the 2016 caucus is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Not only do we students get to hear the candidates themselves, we set the tone of the discussion when we ask these candidates for the highest office about the issues that matter most to us.

Caucus season or not, discussing politics and policy issues of importance is a key part of the Grinnell experience. Grinnellians are always thinking critically about the happenings in communities both local and global. From chatting in the dining hall with my friend Malachi Wickman ’16 about her MAP research investigating novel anti-malarial pharmaceuticals to talking with Professor David Cook-Martin about his findings that more people are leaving the United States for Mexico, Grinnellians are constantly evaluating the world around them and working towards making their own socially-just impact.

So when Grinnellians have the opportunity to frame the national political landscape, we eagerly accept the challenge and make our voices heard.

On caucus night, Feb. 1, I will gather with my Grinnell peers and neighbors to declare my support for my preferred presidential candidate. But how do I decide which candidate that is? By seeing, listening, and speaking with activists, politicos, and the presidential candidates themselves.

I will see Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, and Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood and a Hillary Clinton surrogate, on campus in the span of one week prior to the caucus. Not to mention, all three candidates and a few of their high-profile surrogates had already visited campus in the fall of 2015. Republican candidates Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum also visited the town of Grinnell in 2015­–16.

These events are pivotal in students forming understandings of the candidates. Not only do we students get to hear the candidates themselves, we set the tone of the discussion when we ask these candidates for the highest office about the issues that matter most to us.

In addition to elected officials, we engage with key journalists and political scholars. On Jan. 28, E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post columnist and Brookings Institute senior fellow, and David Shribman, Pittsburgh-Post Gazette executive editor, will hold “A Conversation about the Iowa Caucuses.”

We Grinnellians do not only attend events and ask hard questions, though. Students — even those who are not majoring in political science — are involved in grassroots political organizing. Students dedicate hours each week to volunteer for their candidate, making thousands of phone calls and walking door to door to convince Iowans to caucus for their candidate. Others work the spin room of a nationally televised debate or dedicate an entire summer working for their state party.

On Feb. 1, 2016, Grinnellians will not be caucusing based on sound bites, super PAC ads, or secondhand news. Grinnellians will be voting based on their personal interactions with the presidential candidates.

 

Emma Lange ’16 is a political science major, with a concentration in technology studies, from Carroll, Iowa.

A Community of Care

If you talk to Grinnell students about their experiences on campus, it’s likely that the term “self-governance” will be mentioned more than once. The concept of “self-gov” is integral to the Grinnell experience, but what does it really mean?

When Dixon Romeo ’16 arrived on campus in 2012, he could see that not everyone agreed about what self-governance meant. Was it about being a responsible member of the community, or did it have to do with individual student rights? After nearly four years at Grinnell, Romeo has developed a clearer idea of what self-governance really is.

We Versus Me

“I think the longer you’re at Grinnell, the more you tend to lean toward the idea of community governance and away from the idea that self-gov means you can do whatever you want,” says Romeo.

For him, the “me-first” mentality is a big misunderstanding of the importance of self-gov on campus. Creating a culture of respect in which individuals look out for each other and think about how their actions might affect the community as a whole is an integral part of the learning that takes place during college. Offering a study break to a friend who looks stressed, sitting with someone who’s alone in the dining hall, or helping to solve a conflict on your dorm floor — all of these are ways that Grinnell students enact self-gov and create a community of care and respect.

In addition to these daily examples of self-gov, working in the Student Government Association (SGA) helped Romeo develop an even deeper understanding of self-gov. As SGA vice president, Romeo interacts with many different students, staff, and faculty and has realized the importance of self-governance on such a diverse campus.

“While you’re here in this community, you need to have an opportunity to learn, both by making mistakes and by doing great things,” Romeo says. “But you can’t do that if it’s everyone for themselves. We have these self-governing tenets in order to make this a safe space in which everyone can learn and develop into the kind of person they want to be.”

Self-Gov at Parties

One example — many campus parties and events are watched over by student security.

“The idea that we, as students, become responsible for one another, go through training and sacrifice our Friday and Saturday nights so that the rest of the community can have a fun time in a safe way, that’s pretty amazing,” Romeo says. “If something goes wrong or there’s a conflict or someone needs help, I think it’s really important that you’re able to turn to your peers for help, because it’s about responsibility rather than authority.”

Evolving Definitions of Self-Gov

Romeo also acknowledges that the nature of self-governance will be different for each generation of Grinnellians. The issues that were important for the community during the 1970s are not the same concerns of the current student body, and the way self-gov is manifested reflects that change.

“Issues of identity are at the forefront of our current culture,” Romeo explains. “Ten, or even 15 years ago, no one would stand up in a crowd and announce whether they prefer female, male, or any other pronouns, because that wasn’t a part of the conversation.”

Another misconception: Self-governance only applies to situations outside of the classroom. Romeo feels that students need to extend that thinking to their academic activities as well.

“Learning how to state your case, disagree respectfully, and struggle to really understand other people’s opinions in the classroom is a big part of self-gov and of the liberal arts as a whole,” Romeo says.

Dixon Romeo ’16 is an economics major from Chicago.

 

Clark Lindgren, Iowa Professor of the Year

Clark Lindgren, Patricia A. Johnson Professor of Neuroscience and professor of biology, has been selected as the 2015 Iowa Professor of the Year.

The U.S. Professors of the Year Awards Program honors excellence in undergraduate instruction, recognizing professors who profoundly influence the lives and careers of their students. Lindgren is one of 35 state winners from across the nation.

A member of Grinnell's faculty since 1992, Lindgren has strived, as both a professor and an adviser, to help students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences overcome external challenges and find success in scientific fields. He served as an early faculty director of The Grinnell Science Project, which is designed to increase retention and success of science students from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM fields.

Clark Lindgren talking with Yang Chen '17The former students who wrote letters of recommendation for Lindgren have been successful despite external challenges they faced because of their background. Lindgren said, "For each student I try to be appropriately demanding and yet encouraging at the same time, and that to me is really the essence of what good teaching is about – finding that balance."

Lindgren has continued to advise these students past graduation. One former student and nominator, who described herself as "woefully unprepared" to meet the expectations of the biology department when she arrived at Grinnell, said she owes much of her success to Lindgren. By graduation, she had been selected as a Rhodes Scholar, which she applied for at the encouragement of Lindgren, and later went on to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Johns Hopkins Sydney Kimmel Cancer Center.

"I have achieved more, reached further, and contributed that which I would not have been able to otherwise because of Professor Lindgren's investment in me as a teacher and as a mentor," she wrote. "I would not be the learner, the teacher, or the cancer doctor I am today, were it not for him."

In addition to helping students pursue their goals in and out of the classroom, Lindgren is a pioneer of engaging, authentic, and interdisciplinary biology teaching methods. He was a co-architect of the upside-down biology curriculum, in which students are immersed in research from their first biology course. Now emulated across the country, the biology 150 course is, according to a colleague and nominator, "an important transition from faculty-centered teaching to student-centered learning."

Lindgren also helped create Grinnell's neuroscience concentration, now one of the largest concentrations on campus. The neuroscience concentration's curriculum, which attracts students from all majors and divisions, is interdisciplinary, including courses from biology, psychology, social sciences, and the humanities.

A celebrated professor and adviser, Lindgren is also being recognized for his scholarship. For the past three decades, he has been working to understand the remarkable ability of chemical synapses, the nexus between individual neurons, to change their behavior in response to the activity they experience. He has authored articles in 16 peer-reviewed publications.

Lindgren includes students in his research. Since arriving at Grinnell, he has worked closely with 64 undergraduate students researchers, almost 70 percent of whom have gone on to graduate school in neuroscience or a related field.

An engaged member of the Grinnell faculty, Lindgren has served as the chair of the biology department twice, the chair of the science division, and on various college-wide committees, such as the Personnel Committee and Executive Council, a faculty advisory committee to the president and dean.

For Lindgren, this award is a testament to the outstanding students and colleagues he works with each day at Grinnell.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education launched the U.S. Professors of the Year Awards Program in 1981. That same year, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching began hosting the final round of judging, and in 1982, became the primary sponsor.

The program awards four national winners and one winner from each state every year.

Professors are judged on four criteria:

  • impact on and involvement with undergraduate students;
  • scholarly approach to teaching and learning;
  • contribution to undergraduate education in the institution, community, and profession; and
  • support from colleagues and former undergraduate students.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center that supports needed transformations in American education through tighter connections between teaching practice, evidence of student learning, the communication and use of this evidence, and structured opportunities to build knowledge.

Old Maps, New Technology

Old maps are rich sources of historical information, but manually cataloging the information on them is time-consuming and costly.

Jerod Weinman, associate professor of computer science, and his co-researchers have plans to make them “searchable the way scanned books have become accessible to web search.”

With a National Science Foundation grant, he and Erik Learned-Miller, University of Massachusetts Amherst, have set themselves and their students a lofty goal — helping others search and analyze historical maps by automatically recognizing place names and other text, and aligning them with modern geography.

The National Science Foundation awarded the computer science professors nearly half a million dollars in a three-year grant for their project, Adaptive Integration of Textual and Geospatial Information for Mining Massive Map Collections.

Grinnell’s share will support up to 14 student researchers who’ll work with Weinman on the project.

Drawing Information From Old Maps

“Libraries and archives are digitizing historical maps for widespread online access. Without technology for searching them, large map collections relevant to a given problem or question may remain obscure even in online archives,” Weinman and Learned-Miller say. “If all of the text in a map can be read automatically by computer, a wealth of information becomes quickly available — location names, geographic features, and often statistics.”

The group is developing techniques that will — working back and forth between old maps and a world atlas — make text and geographical information available to researchers.

This information can help in a variety of ways. For example, scientists and policymakers can establish changes in land usage, waterways, or borders over time.

“Right now we’re targeting pre-digital era 19th century maps because they represent geography with reasonable accuracy while still being typeset by hand or handwritten,” Weinman says.

Why at Grinnell?

The hands-on research experience, say the professors, will “train a diverse group of graduate and undergraduate students in constructing, learning, and making predictions with adaptive models.”

Many of the Grinnell students working on the project will be doing so through Mentored Advanced Projects (MAP). Weinman’s approach to mentored projects emphasizes “not only scientific methodology, but also the philosophy of computing as a science.”

He and fellow researchers — including David Lopatto, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Teaching, Learning and Assessment, and David Jensen, director of Knowledge Discovery Laboratory at University of Massachusetts Amherst —  have shown that computer science students report more benefits from their research experiences using this method than they would with methods that are more traditional.

The researchers will share their findings through journals and conferences in the computer vision, artificial intelligence, and GIS communities.

Start by Asking Questions

Asking questions is fundamental to the collecting and understanding of art, particularly contemporary art. That's why the Faulconer Gallery titled its fall opening exhibition "Start by Asking Questions: Contemporary Art from the Faulconer and Rachofsky Collections, Dallas."

With works by Janine Antoni, Eric Fischl, Mark Grotjahn, William Kentridge, Sigmar Polke, Yinka Shonibare, Kara Walker and others, "Start by Asking Questions" excites the mind and the senses with many provocative questions, says Lesley Wright, curator of the exhibition and director of the Faulconer Gallery.

"Some of the questions we expect our visitors to ask are:

  • How do I approach this object that doesn't fit my expectation of what art looks like?
  • What do I do with difficult feelings raised by the subject of this piece?
  • Why are these two or four objects in the same space?
  • Where do I even start?

Through our programming, our tours, and our educational materials, we hope people will ask these questions (and more) and begin to shape some answers."

The exhibition, which opens Friday, Sept. 18, brings 46 works to Grinnell College from two couples who are considered among the most adventurous collectors in the contemporary art world.

Vernon E. (’61) and Amy Hamamoto (’59) Faulconer have long supported the Faulconer Gallery, and their friends Howard and Cindy Rachofsky were named one of the top 200 art collectors in the summer issue of Artnews magazine.

Their art fills their homes and The Warehouse, a private collection space in Dallas, Texas, committed to exhibiting 20th- and 21st-century art, and to educating a diverse audience of students, teachers, and arts enthusiasts by encouraging them to deepen their engagement by asking questions of the art.

Although Vernon Faulconer, a life trustee of Grinnell College, died unexpectedly in Dallas on Aug. 7, his family decided to go ahead with the exhibition.

Amy Hamamoto Faulconer and Howard Rachofsky will attend the opening reception from 5–6:30 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Faulconer Gallery.

Preceding the reception from 4 to 5 p.m. will be a discussion titled "Collecting Art with Vernon: A Remembrance." Rachofsky and Wright will talk about Vernon Faulconer as an art patron and explore the world of art collecting and the role of private contemporary art spaces.

The "Collecting Art with Vernon" event and the opening reception are free and open to the public, as is the exhibition, which runs through Dec. 13. The Faulconer Gallery, closed for installation, reopens Sept. 18. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except for Thanksgiving, when the gallery is closed.

Programs and Events

The exhibition includes a variety of public programs and events, including musical performances. Faulconer Gallery has a complete list of events. Highlights include:

Gallery Talk, Sept. 21, 8 p.m.

(originally scheduled for 4 p.m.)

Artist John Gerrard will talk about his research into petroleum, the Dust Bowl and nitrogen in conjunction with his art created between 2007 and 2014. His piece, "Grow Finish Unit," is featured in "Start by Asking Questions." 

Gerrard works with virtual reality, creating astonishingly real but entirely and meticulously time-based images, fabricated by the artist and his studio based on documentation of the agri-industrial landscapes of the American Great Plains. Co-sponsored by Artists@Grinnell.

Writers @Grinnell, Oct. 8, 8 p.m.

"If the Music is Too Loud You are Too Old — A Conversation with Grinnell College graduate Edward Hirsch about Poetry, Parenting, Disability and Grief." Hirsch (’75), whose poem "Gabriel," a long elegy for his son, was published in The New Yorker magazine and featured on NPR, is president of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and author of eight books of poems and five books of prose. Co-sponsored by Writers@Grinnell

Roundtable: A Conversation on "Emancipation Approximation," Nov. 17, 4 p.m.

Kara Walker's "Emancipation Approximation" (27 prints) explores the disconnect between the ideals of the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) and the people it was meant to serve, with ongoing implications in our current society.

Walker's art provides the catalyst for a conversation about political and social change. Panelists include:

  • Shanna Benjamin, associate professor of English;
  • Lakesia Johnson, associate dean, chief diversity officer and associate professor of gender, women's and sexuality studies;
  • Sarah Purcell, professor of history; and
  • Leslie Turner, assistant dean of students and director of intercultural affairs.

Gallery Talk: The Public/Private Museum, Nov. 24, 4 p.m.

Gilbert Vicario, former senior curator at the Des Moines Art Center, will explore how collecting by public institutions and private individuals has changed the way we experience contemporary art.

Community Day, Dec. 5, 1:30-3 p.m.

Community members of all ages are invited to visit the Faulconer Gallery for a fun afternoon of art and hands-on activities, plus a tour of "Start by Asking Questions." Funding provided by Shane and Lauren Jacobson.