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Teaching and Learning

Student Activism and the Role of Student Newspapers

“Student Activism and the Role of Student Newspapers, 1967-1970” is now on display in Burling Gallery on the lower level.

Using newspapers and photos from the Special Collections and Archives, this exhibit looks at the alternative and underground newspapers printed by Grinnell students between 1967 and 1970. The changing, and often tumultuous, cultural and political landscape of the 1960s and 1970s lent itself particularly well to the creation of alternative newspapers.

Alternative newspapers at Grinnell created a space to stage dialogues and demonstrations, and connect students to larger movements outside of Grinnell that related to both local and national issues.

These student publications also pushed the boundaries of the purpose of newspapers in fascinating ways. Among the newspapers included are the Pterodactyl, the High and Mighty, the Brotherhood, and a variety of single-issue publications.

Any items in the display and mentioned in the brochure are available for library patrons to examine at Special Collections, also located on the lower level of Burling.

This exhibit was curated by Hana Lord ’18, with poster design by Han Trinh ’17.

Alternative Universities as Sites of Creativity

Artists from the Bruce High Quality Foundation University (BHQFU) and Vincent Katz, a professor of art at Yale University, will give talks on alternative universities as sites of creativity on Wednesday, April 20, at Grinnell College.

The free and public talks will take place at 7:30 p.m. Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101.

Earlier that day, the founders of BHQFU will hold a workshop, “B.Y.O.U.: Build Your Own University,” in the Masonic Temple downtown, 928 Main St., Grinnell. The workshop on teaching and learning will take place from 1-3 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

The founders of BHQFU will “How to Die an Artist: Resistance and Futility.” BHQFU, founded in 2009, is New York’s Freest Art School. It provides tuition-free classes, residencies, workshops, exhibitions and public programs to a community of thousands of New Yorkers. The school is an alternative to contemporary art schools that emphasize professionalization.

A professor at the Yale University of Art, Katz will discuss “Black Mountain College: Finding the Center in the Remote.” His lecture will cover the pedagogy of Black Mountain College in terms of its location and locus, especially as related to the college’s later years. He also will discuss Black Mountain’s relevance today, as a model, and also consider parallels to modern, remotely-operated web-based experience of culture.

Katz is a celebrated poet, critic, translator, editor and curator. His criticism has been published in numerous books, catalogs, and journals, including in Apollo, Art in America, ARTnews and Art on Paper, among others. He is also the author of The Complete Elegies Of Sextus Propertius, winner of the National Translation Award in 2005.  

He has curated several celebrated exhibitions, including an exhibition on Black Mountain College for the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid, and Street Dance: The New York Photographs of Rudy Burckhardt for the Museum of the City of New York.

The Center for Humanities is sponsoring these events as part of this year's theme: Sites of Creativity: Streets, Salons, Studios, and Schools.

Chemistry Research Presented at National Meeting

Every spring, chemistry and biological chemistry students and faculty from Grinnell College present research discoveries at the American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting. This spring the meeting was in San Diego.

Eighteen students and six faculty participated in the poster session and many other events. For students, the meeting also provides an opportunity to network with alumni who have chosen careers in chemistry. 

Mortal Tongues, Immortal Stories

Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company will present Mortal Tongues, Immortal Stories is a multimedia dance project that bears witness and celebrates the lives of poets and artists lost to AIDS. Based on the anthology "Persistent Voices: Poetry by Writers Lost to AIDS", this evening-length performance brings together spoken word, artists, dancers, and stunning visual designs in short vignettes that create an imaginary world inspired by the poems.

The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9, 2016, in Flanagan Theatre, Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. Tickets are required for this free event and are available at the Campus Box Office begin April 4.

The day before their performance, three members of Dakshina — Chris August, Daniel Phoenix Singh, and Gowri Koneswaran — will speak on the interdisciplinary nature of Dakshina’s work and how art can address social issues within the context of their upcoming performance of Mortal Tongues, Immortal Stories. The entire company of 11 will be present to contribute to the discussion and answer questions.

The event begins at noon, Friday, April 8, in Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Room 152, and lunch provided.

Grinnell College's Artists@GrinnellDepartment of Theatre & Dance, Center for International Studies, and Center for Humanities are sponsoring the free, public events.

About Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company

Dakshina/Daniel Phoenix Singh Dance Company is an emerging dance company based in Washington D.C. They perform and present Indian dance forms, such as Bharata Natyam, and modern dance, mirroring the multiple identities of second generation South Asians. The group combines the arts with social justice issues by incorporating the themes into their work and partnering with local community centers and schools.

Adding Value to Internship

Toby Baratta ’17, a computer science and political science double major, is in the second semester of her current Mentored Advanced Project (MAP). She’s applying her computer science skills to associate professor Jerod Weinman’s massive historical mapping project, which aims to make historical and geographical data in archived map collections searchable on the Web.

Baratta’s research presentation at the Grace Hopper Women in Computing Conference netted her an invitation to intern at Google last summer. She says her presentation experience plus Grinnell’s emphasis on writing combined to make a substantive difference in the quality of her internship:

“Doing research with Professor Weinman, I was writing a paper every week,” Baratta says. “Writing is emphasized in every class. You learn how to write really well and convey your understanding of material in a way that most people who have engineering degrees can’t. Some people who have English degrees can’t make metaphors regarding biological differences, but at Grinnell they can. They’ve taken those courses, and they took them because they enjoyed it.

“At Google every week I would meet with my team and say, ‘This is what we’ve done, this is what we’re going to continue doing, these are the things that we’re hung up on, and these are questions we have that aren’t implementation questions.’ I’m not a code monkey; I don’t just sit there and type. I have to think about what my assumptions imply about what I’m doing.

“When you’re in industry you have to convey why what you’re doing is important, and why the company should be spending money on it. And you need to be able to say it in a way that doesn’t sound like X equals Y equals Z. I mean, people don’t need to know the technical details of every little thing. Being able to convey what I am doing in a way that’s understandable to people who aren’t computer science majors is so important.”

For the Global Good

Grinnellians are well-known for their commitment to social justice, but not everyone knows that the College has a formal program for studying individual and global conflicts. In Grinnell’s Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) program, students combine what they learn from fields as diverse as psychology, political science, anthropology, biology, and environmental studies to better understand the major struggles of the world.

“More than simply looking at the nature and causes of conflict and violence, we try to identify the best ways to prevent or transform conflict to create lasting peace,” says Simone Sidwell, PACS program coordinator.

Examining Conflict and Combat

Emily Ricker ’18 began her PACS research when she took a class entitled Anthropology, Violence, and Human Rights. In class she learned that sexual violence was often used strategically by the military during the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan. “I wanted to see if that was the case in other situations of conflict and combat,” says Ricker. “In my paper, I focus on the cases of Partition, the Rwandan genocide, and the Holocaust.”

By learning multiple techniques from different disciplines, PACS students are able to combine many perspectives and skills to target a problem from different angles rather than just limiting themselves to one economic, political, or sociocultural model. Students graduate with experience analyzing problems comprehensively to make the most effective solutions possible.

Sharing Research, Developing Skills

PACS holds an undergraduate conference every other year in which students from Grinnell and other schools come together to share their work and draw inspiration from each other. This year, Ricker presented her paper “Sexual Violence as a Tool of Combat” alongside three other Grinnellians in the panel session “Sexual Violence in War and Peace." Twenty students in total presented at the conference, including students from Macalester, Skidmore, and Antioch College.

Ricker also serves on the PACS committee, helping to bring speakers to campus and to edit the Peace and Conflict Studies Journal. Students who present at the conference have the opportunity to publish their papers in the journal, a chance at scholarly recognition that many college students don’t have until graduate school.

“The entire process of submitting abstracts, presenting their papers, and engaging in a peer review of their papers to get them published gives them an excellent experience,” Sidwell says. “The Peace and Conflict Studies program really empowers students to do well and to ‘do good’ after graduation, to pursue careers or postgraduate studies that help make the world a better place.”

Spanning Disciplines

As the study of peace and conflict spans so many disciplines, the PACS program coordinates with established departments, offering short courses and building PACS-specific classes into the existing curriculum. Students also have the opportunity to enroll in the new pilot course, Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies, which is co-taught by Grinnell faculty and an outside expert in the field. The PACS program hopes to establish itself as a concentration in the future.

Emily Ricker is from Marblehead, Mass., and intends to declare a political science major.

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.
 

Tutorial in Context

The First-Year Tutorial is the only requirement for all majors and a big part of the individually advised curriculum at Grinnell. Why is the tutorial so important? And what can students expect to get out of it?

Below, Jermaine Stewart-Webb ’16 and Tyler Roberts, professor of religious studies, discuss the impact of Roberts’ tutorial, “Do You Wanna Dance? From Rock to Hip-Hop.”

In his tutorial, Roberts asked students to explore the origins of popular musical styles and the influence of music on individuals and society. Stewart-Webb was one of 12 first-year students in the course.

Here’s what they had to say:

A Fresh Perspective

Roberts: How did [the tutorial] change the way you look at the music in terms of history and in terms of its social/political aspects?

Stewart-Webb: The course gave me a perspective that I’d never really had before. In high school I didn’t really have that much of a critical lens with which to write about any kind of subject matter.

It gave me a larger frame of mind with which to critique music and to talk about it on a more interpersonal level. Part of it might have been coming to realize that I was challenged to not just blindly “like” music without explaining the implications of it.

In terms of the origins of music, I learned that everything has a lineage that leads up to its current moment. I think we, as students, have to learn to openly accept that knowledge, because sometimes I feel like we come in with this idea that we already know all of the good music that’s current.

Digging Deep

Roberts: Does [looking at music in this new way] detract from the simple pleasure of enjoying it?

Stewart-Webb: (laughs) A little bit, because I’m constantly thinking, “Where did this song come from?” or “Did it have origins in a social/political movement?” But overall I can still enjoy music without having to critically think about it all the time.

I remember one specific assignment where we had to really dig deep and think about the vocabulary we used to describe a song we really liked. My presentation was on “Take on Me” by A-ha, one of my favorite songs ever … 

Roberts: Something I’d never heard before …

Stewart-Webb: I was talking about how it was ’80s-esque, and I remember you positing the question, “What do you mean by ’80s-esque?” and saying, “You have to unpack this and explain exactly what that word means.” It made me think about the weight behind the words that I use and not to blindly use words without putting them in proper context.

Roberts: I wanted to have students write not just in a critical academic way about music but also in an appreciative way. It’s also really important to be able to express yourself to an audience about what is meaningful for you and why it enriches your life.

Stewart-Webb: Right. My oral presentation was on the anti-folk movement that took place in Greenwich Village [New York]. I remember being struck by how that movement emerged. I realized that music is not produced in a vacuum, but it comes from all of these artists who collaborate with one another and fight for the validity of what their music stands for. It really helped me understand that genre.

A Richer Advising Relationship

Stewart-Webb: The tutorial in general helped me understand how I fit in the grander scheme of academe as it relates to other forms of study. I was straightforward about not being really good at math and science, so it was good to be pushed to take classes outside of the humanities and social sciences. Having a tutorial adviser who understood the discomforts that I had about specific subject matter allowed me to establish a relationship before jumping in to declare a major.

Roberts: I get a much better sense of my advisees from being in class with them twice a week than I would otherwise. I can develop a rapport in the classroom that translates to the advising sessions. It’s a much richer relationship.

Stewart-Webb: I think I move about the world in a very different way now. It’s as if I can’t “unsee” things at this point in my life, and I have to pay close attention to everything I come in contact with. I’m constantly asking myself why I think the way I do about certain things and probing my peers about why they see things the way they do. So, I enjoyed the tutorial experience for that reason … but it also has been, like, a slight curse (laughs). 

Roberts: It’s called critical thinking.

Stewart-Webb: It’s a good frame of mind to have. It definitely prepared me to take on the arduous demands of the courses I’m currently in as a senior.

Jermaine Stewart-Webb ’16 is an English and French double major from Los Angeles, California.

Acclimated to Success

Born in Ambato, Ecuador, Alfredo Colina ’17 emigrated from his homeland to Washington, D.C., when he was 10 years old. Coming to Grinnell as a D.C. Posse Foundation scholar marked his first real experience outside of a big city.

“Being in a rural area surrounded by farms and corn was a change, definitely,” Colina says. “It wasn’t so much a culture shock as much as just a very distinct environment that I was placed in. I was, like, ‘This is new, but doable.’”

Arriving on campus for the first time with 9 other Posse cohorts seemed strange initially, but Colina says he adjusted very quickly. “Once you’re here,” Colina says, “you’re open to the great opportunities Grinnell has, and the Grinnell Science Project (GSP) was one of them.”

Settling Into College

A weeklong pre-orientation program, the GSP aims to develop the talents of first-year students interested in science and math, especially those from groups underrepresented in the sciences. To familiarize students with college life, they are invited to participate in mentoring opportunities and sample classes.

“[In the GSP] you are able to work with professors from Grinnell and other students who are potential science majors,” Colina says. “It helped before orientation to settle down and realize ‘You’re in Grinnell, it’s different, and it’s not the city.’ I really liked that I was able to go through that opportunity.”

Eye-Opening Experience

Alfredo Colina ’17 conducting resesarch in corn fieldNow a biology major, Colina worked last summer with associate professor Shannon Hinsa-Leasure on a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) focused on bacteria and antibiotic resistance in agricultural settings. In November, he made an oral presentation at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) in Seattle.  

“It was super cool,” Colina says “I was feeling a little bit nervous because I was a student trying to explain what I did to all these major professionals that are big in the field of microbiology.”

Colina says he became more comfortable as he realized that his research — and his presentation style — stood out as distinct.

“A lot of students who presented were trying to explain the mechanisms of various genes,” Colina says. “I kind of took a macro approach to explain a microbiological problem and tried to make it accessible for everyone to understand even if you weren’t a science major.

“It was eye-opening to have people come up afterward and say, ‘Your research is really interesting; I would like you to potentially work for my lab for a summer.’” Colina says. “It was a really great networking opportunity.”

Redefining His Goals

Colina says his research experiences at Grinnell have reshaped his academic and career aspirations. Previously, he had been aiming for an M.D. program. His current plans are to apply for research opportunities next summer and eventually pursue an M.D./Ph.D. program.

“I have a strong connection to research now. Before I thought research was boring, and I didn’t want to be in a lab from 8 to 5, but I fell in love with it last summer,” Colina says. “I want to do microbiology research, dealing with bacteria and antibiotic resistance or some pathway that might lead to prevention of antibiotic resistance.

“I really like microbiology. I don’t see myself doing any other kind of research,” Colina says. “It’s interesting because people might not perceive that bacteria are all over the place, and not all bacteria are bad.

“Learning about what kind of bacteria help, making those distinctions, and making an addition to a scientific field that might have bigger applications in the future is super important.”

Alfredo S. Colina ’17 is a biology major and Posse scholar from Washington, D.C.