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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.

National Scholarships Support Study Abroad

Six Grinnell College students in the class of 2017 have received federally funded Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships to support their study abroad during the 2015 fall semester or the 2016 spring semester. Winners were chosen from a group of approximately 1,600 American undergraduates from 355 colleges and universities across the United States.

Two of Grinnell's scholars, Lizzie Eason ’17 and Lily Galloway ’17, studied abroad during the fall semester, and four are studying abroad this spring.  

Mathematics Meets Migration

Lizzie Eason '07 in front of Vajdahunyad Castle

Eason at Budapest's Vajdahunyad Castle

Eason, a mathematics major from Lamoni, Iowa, was in Budapest, Hungary. There, she studied with world-renowned professors of mathematics and witnessed first-hand the refugee crisis in Europe.

"I returned to my home college, Grinnell, with a broader perspective both on mathematics and foreign policy," Eason said. She noted that her school was only two blocks away from Keleti Pályaudvar, the train station shut down by police to stop migrants from the Middle East from traveling through the European Union.

"On the day Keleti shut down, it was more crowded than I had ever seen it," Eason recalled. "There were narrow paths on the ground with no blankets where people could walk, but every other space on the floor was taken up by blankets on which refugee adults and children were begging for money and food."

Language Expands Archeological Options

Galloway, an anthropology major from Westchester, Illinois, spent her fall semester in Tanzania. There, she planned and executed with other undergraduates an archeological excavation of a 700,000-year-old elephant carcass. She also studied Kiswahili, one of the most spoken languages in Tanzania. She plans to pursue a career in archaeology.

"With this background and continued study of Kiswahili as part of Grinnell's Alternate Language Study Option program, I'll be able to promote dialogue between English-speaking archaeologists and Kiswahili speakers," Galloway said. "This will help improve communication about heritage preservation and lead to more collaborative scientific work on human origins in East Africa."

From Chile to the Czech Republic

Four of our Gilman scholars are studying abroad this semester:

  • Jinna Kim ’17, a sociology and Spanish major from Bellevue, Washington, is in Argentina.
  • Hankyeol Song ’17, a media and cultural praxis (independent) major from Bettendorf, Iowa, is in the Czech Republic.
  • Aniqa Rahman ’17, a biological chemistry and French major from Hillsboro, Missouri, is in Morocco.
  • Robin Crotteau ’17, a political science major from Boise, Idaho, is in Chile.

About the Scholarship

Funded by the U.S. Department of State, Gilman Scholars receive up to $5,000 to apply toward their study abroad or internship program costs. The program aims to diversify the kinds of students who study abroad and the countries and regions in which they study by supporting undergraduates who might otherwise not participate due to financial constraints. 

Students receiving a Federal Pell Grant from two- and four-year institutions who will be studying abroad or participating in a career-oriented international internship for academic credit are eligible to apply.

Students can apply now on the Gilman website for funding for study abroad during the 2016 fall semester or the 2016–17 academic year. Applications are due March 1.

Scholars' Convocation: Hilary Mason ’00

Hilary Mason '00The Scholars' Convocation at 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 18, will feature Hilary Mason ’00. Mason is founder and CEO of Fast Forward Labs, a data science and machine learning firm, and the data scientist in residence at Accel Partners .

Mason's lecture, which is free and open to the public, is titled "Data, Machines, and People: Data Science, Products, and Society," and will take place in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.

Mason received her bachelor's degree in computer science from Grinnell and went on to study computer science at the graduate level at Brown University. When asked to describe herself, she says, "I make beautiful things with data."

Fast Forward Labs is a new kind of research company that helps recognize and develop new product and business opportunities through emerging technologies helps organizations accelerate their data science and machine intelligence capabilities. Every quarter the company profiles a different near future technology, producing a report on its development and a prototype demonstrating its application.

At Accel Partners, Mason advises Accel's portfolio companies and assists with evaluating new technologies and investment opportunities.

Mason, who previously served as chief scientist at bitly, also co-hosts DataGotham, a conference for New York's data community. In addition, she co-founded HackNY, a nonprofit that helps engineering students find opportunities in New York's creative technical economy. She is a member of Brooklyn hacker collective NYC Resistor and the Anita Borg Institute Board of Directors. She also advises numerous companies, including Sparkfun Electronics and Collective.

Grinnell College welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. 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 and Events.

VoiceThread Workshop

Tuesday, February 23, 2016 - 4:15pm to 5:00pm
Digital Liberal Arts Lab
Gina Donovan
Grinnell College


VoiceThread is a software that allows you and your students to record or post photos, videos, or audio. After something is recorded or posted, the media can be shared with you or with the larger class to facilitate discussion, share information or experiences, or allow for graded speaking assignments. Gina Donovan will lead a workshop with demonstrations of the VoiceThread software in Blackboard, adding media to a course, and sharing that media with classmates.

Light refreshments will be served.


International Faculty Development Opportunities

World Data Map

The Institute for the International Education of Students (IES Abroad) presents two international faculty development opportunities to teach or research abroad during the summer or fall of 2016.

Teach Abroad

IES Abroad invites academic deans and department chairs to nominate faculty members to teach at IES Abroad Centers during the summer or fall semester of 2016.

Faculty members with interests that align with those of IES Abroad can apply for one of these faculty development opportunities to teach in:

  • Barcelona,
  • Dublin,
  • Madrid,
  • Berlin,
  • the European Union Program,
  • Milan,
  • Rome,
  • Buenos Aires,
  • London,
  • Paris,
  • Vienna, or
  • Tokyo.

For faculty selected to teach through an IES Abroad program at any of these locations, IES will pay a stipend to teach one course, cover transportation, and the cost of housing, up to $2000 (summer) or $4000 (fall).

Research Abroad

Faculty members may also apply for a research associateship at any of the IES Abroad Centers for this summer or fall of 2016.

IES Abroad will cover the cost of transportation to the site and provides $1000 for housing. IES staff will also assist the associates with research and introduce them to faculty on site in areas of interest. IES typically arranges for associates to present a public presentation through a local university partner.

Deadlines and More Information

Deadline to apply for either opportunity is March 1, 2016.

Go to IES Abroad for more information on these international faculty development opportunities.

Campaign Finance Symposium

Grinnell College will hold a Campaign Finance Symposium on Feb. 9-11 to investigate the role of money in politics and propose potential solutions from different perspectives, including campaign finance scholars, journalists, professors, lawyers, and activists.

The symposium, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by Grinnell College’s Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights.

“In the aftermath of the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United case, the U.S. campaign finance system has changed rapidly with the rise of Super PACs and other new funding instruments,” said Sarah Purcell ’92, director of the Rosenfield Program. “Our symposium speakers will address the current finance system from many different points of view to help our community understand the current state of campaign finance to and debate the merits of several proposed reforms to the system.”

Key speakers will be Michael Malbin, professor, scholar and co-founder and executive director of the Campaign Finance Institute in Washington, D.C., and Michael Beckel, investigative reporter covering the influence of money on elections for the Center for Public Integrity.

Big Dollars, Small Dollars – What's Going On

Michael MalbinMalbin, a professor of political science at the State University of New York at Albany, will deliver the keynote address at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9, Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101. He has co-authored several books, including his most recent works, Independent Spending in Congressional Primaries and Citizen Funding for Elections: What do we know? What are the effects? What are the options?

His talk, titled "Big Dollars, Small Dollars – What's Going On," will focus on the differences between Ronald Reagan’s campaign in the 1980s, when he raised nearly half of his presidential campaign money from hundreds of thousands of donors in amounts of $200 or less, and the 2016 cycle, when half of the money raised in the first six months of the campaign came from 158 families.

Super PACs, ‘Dark Money’ and the 2016 White House Race

Michael BeckelBeckel will deliver his lecture “Super PACs, ‘Dark Money’ and the 2016 White House Race” at 11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, Rosenfield Center, Room 101. In addition to the symposium, this lecture is part of the Scholars’ Convocation series.

 As a reporter for the Center for Public Integrity, Beckel has covered Super PACs, politically active nonprofits, and the influence of money on elections for the past four years. His reports have taken him inside oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court for the landmark decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. His work has been published in numerous media outlets, including the Des Moines Register, Huffington Post, Politico Magazine, Slate, and Time.

Other Symposium Events

Other symposium events include:

  • Barry Anderson“Judicial Elections and Campaign Finance: The Unhappy Marriage” lecture by Barry Anderson, associate justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court, at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10, in Rosenfield Center, Room 101.
  • Nicole Austin“Money in Politics: The Next Civil Rights Agenda” lecture by Nicole Austin-Hillery, director and counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, at 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, in Rosenfield Center, Room 101.
  • Buffet dinner with symposium speakers, at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, Rosenfield Center, Room 101.

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 and Events.

Adulterous Woman to Be Eaten by Dogs

Professor Stephanie W. Jamison will present "Adulterous Woman to Be Eaten by Dogs: Women and Law in Ancient India" at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, in ARH Room 102.

Jamison will introduce the textual sources for women and law in ancient India and suggest some ways in which they can be used to produce a fuller picture of women’s roles in this period.

In particular, she says "we will examine the apparent paradox: that acknowledging more agency on the part of women is accompanied by a more and more misogynistic attitude towards them. The legal provisions about adultery, with their sometimes-colorful punishments, provide a useful focus for this investigation."

Jamison was trained as a historical and Indo-European linguist, but for many years has concentrated on Indo-Iranian, especially (Vedic) Sanskrit and Middle Indo-Aryan languages and textual materials. She works not only on language and linguistics, but also literature and poetics, religion and law, mythology and ritual, and gender studies in these languages, and she is interested in comparative mythology and poetics, especially with Greek materials.

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


Translating the Rig Veda

Published set of the Rig VedaThe Rig Veda, the oldest Sanskrit text, remains one of its most challenging and enigmatic. Consisting of over a thousand intricate praise hymns dedicated to a variety of divinities, it showcases the work of its many poets, who proudly display their skill and verbal trickery in service of their gods and mortal patrons.

These poets are inheritors of the Indo-Iranian and Indo-European poetic tradition, but they also are self-conscious innovators and manipulators of that tradition. The boast "I make new the song born of old" (RV III.31.19), one of many such statements in the text, encapsulates this dual focus.

Professor Stephanie W. Jamison will present a “Discussion on Translating the Rig Veda” at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15, in ARH Room 120.

Jamison was trained as a historical and Indo-European linguist, but for many years has concentrated on Indo-Iranian, especially (Vedic) Sanskrit and Middle Indo-Aryan languages and textual materials.

She works not only on language and linguistics, but also literature and poetics, religion and law, mythology and ritual, and gender studies in these languages, and she is also interested in comparative mythology and poetics, especially with Greek materials.

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

Lan-Chang Fellowship Opportunity

The purpose of the Lan-Chang Fellowship is to promote cultural understanding of China and award initiative, originality, and creative exploration. 

Two Grinnell College students shall be awarded support for the expenses of traveling to and from and living in China for six to eight weeks during the summer (each $3,500). Recipients will complete a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) or other independent research project focused on China with a strong experiential component, requiring interaction with a variety of Chinese individuals and sites.

Students of any major who have completed their second year with at least one remaining semester to be completed on the Grinnell College campus before graduation are eligible. Knowledge of Chinese language or culture is not required; in fact, those without such experience are encouraged to apply. 

2015 recipient, Rosie O'Brien ’16 shares her experience: 

“My inquiry into rural  anesthetics was informative, life-changing, and successful. There are many ways to say that a thing is beautiful, and many ways to achieve a particular kind of beauty, but 21st—century China’s rate of exchange from rural to urban apace is too quick for artists and viewers to settle on any one of them. ... Thanks to the Lan-Chang Fellowship, I was able to center myself in the confusing world of contemporary art and the capitalist rhetoric of development and growth.”

Learn more about the Lang-Chang Fellowship (login required). 

Driven by DATA, Connected by Grinnell

Originally published in The Grinnell Magazine, Winter 2015 issue.
by Cindy Deppe

It was all in the DATA for the fall break tour, Oct. 19-24, that connected 20 students seeking career insights with alumni who work in tech startups and at giga-giant Google, in the financial services industry, and in research at a renowned cancer center.

The New York City tour, sponsored by the Donald L. Wilson ’25 Program in Enterprise and Leadership, the Center for Careers, Life and Service, and the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, was nicknamed DATA for its emphasis on data analysis, technology, and applications. 

But it wasn’t all stats and spreadsheets as Grinnellians, old and new, learned from each other about the prospects for data-based careers.

For Emily Zabor ’03, a research biostatistician at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the satisfaction of sharing career insights with students came from being reminded that “as an undergraduate, I had never heard of biostatistics or considered the field of public health. So I was excited to share my experiences and opportunities in this way.” 

 Zabor and co-worker Anne Eaton ’08 collaborate with doctors to design studies about new cancer drugs, for example, and use data to determine how many patients are needed for a valid study, plan the study design, develop hypotheses, and analyze results. 

“My field is specialized but could be very appealing to Grinnellians because it’s cutting edge research and public service,” Zabor said.

Biology major Jarren Santos ’17 called the Sloan Kettering visit “pivotal” in his career exploration. 

“The DATA tour helped me explore how research and data is applied to a company setting.  These individuals were working with data in upcoming health innovations while collaborating with public health experts to determine the impact of new surgeries or the decrease in survivorship of a certain disease.  I could totally imagine myself doing this.”

The impetus for the DATA tour grew from student interest and faculty recognition of the pervasiveness of data in today’s workplace.  Earl D. Strong Professor of Social Studies Kathy Kamp accompanied the tour in her work as director of the College’s Data Analysis and Social Inquiry Lab (DASIL).

“With the centrality of data in the modern world, we are doing students a service to engage with data and to visualize how data can be used in creative ways,” Kamp said. “The range of work environments and agendas was fascinating, as well as the diversity of majors among alumni who are now involved in the field.”

Grinnell Trustee Michael Kahn ’74 was a music major at Grinnell and is now an executive in corporate strategy and development for TIAA-CREF, a non-profit corporation. He has hosted a stream of interns the past 15 years and enthusiastically agreed to be on the short-term DATA tour schedule. 

TIAA-CREF employees Chris Lee ’15, Derek Farnham ’13, Christina Cutlip ’83, traveled to New York to join Kahn in hosting the tour, as did employee Hans Erickson, son of professor emeritus Luther Erickson and Forum director emerita Jenny Erickson.

“There is great potential for TIAA-CREF to be a landing place for Grinnell students. What we do with data is diverse and impactful in a meaningful way. Deep analysis and modeling drives superior investments; it’s about getting better outcomes for the people we serve.”

Hilary Mason ’00, founder and CEO of Fast Forward Labs, gave students a peek into her 18-month-old machine intelligence research business, which reviews research papers, engineering systems, and products that demonstrate machine learning capabilities, then writes about the evolving technology for a general audience.

“All of the technical prototypes we demonstrated for the students use capabilities that only became possible in the last couple of years,” Mason says. The main point of our tour presentation was not so much the specific projects that we work on, but the idea that technology is always evolving, and if you want to succeed in this industry, it helps to be excited by that.” 

Ajuna Kyaruzi ’17, a computer science major from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, has followed Mason’s varied and ambitious career path.

“I was very excited to get the chance to talk to Hilary Mason,” Kyaruzi says. “Her career was one I have been following for awhile, so speaking to her and learning more about her experiences post-Grinnell was a real opportunity. This past summer I interned at Twitter and got a glimpse of how data drives decisions that a technical company makes, so I was curious to see how other fields use and analyze their data.” 

The DATA tour also included visits to Bloomberg with Kate Macey ’00, Tony Mitzak ’86, Joan Johnson ’92; to Lieberman Research Worldwide with Kasia Piekarz ’01; at Google with Peter Likarish ’04; at Makeover Solutions with Steve Elkes ’83; at CredSpark with Lev Kaye ’92; and at Edge Ed Tech with Ashantha Kaluarachchi ’05

“Diversity of majors and experience was the primary takeaway from meeting alumni,” Santos says.  “You do not have to major in a business-related field to partake in business and finance or major in a mathematical field to do research in biostatistics. The alumni really emphasized the fact that their diversity was a key component in their career success.”

Observing the interactions and connections among current and former students was especially rewarding for Monty Roper, Donald Wilson Professor of Enterprise and Leadership and Wilson Program faculty director. 

“What I most appreciated hearing from alumni is that they gained the ability to do things ‘they had no right doing’ because they didn’t question that they couldn’t. That’s the value of the liberal arts,” Roper says. 

Kahn urges fellow alumni to consider reaching out to students, saying, “If you feel your success is what you took away from Grinnell, you are reaffirming the impact of Grinnell on the world by connecting with a student. It’s a very powerful connection.”

Alumni interested in sharing their workplace experiences with students on future break tours may contact Nate Dobbels, assistant director of alumni relations for career programs, 641-269-3204.