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Bakopoulos Receives 2016 Creative Writing Fellowship

Dean BakopoulosIn the first grant announcement of its 50th anniversary year, the National Endowment for the Arts has awarded individual creative writing fellowships of $25,000 each to 37 fiction and creative nonfiction writers including Dean Bakopoulos, writer-in-residence at Grinnell College.  

Since its establishment in 1965, the NEA has awarded more than $5 billion in grants in every state and U.S. jurisdiction, the only arts funder in the nation to do so.

The NEA selected Bakopoulos from among 1,763 eligible applicants evaluated by 23 readers and panelists. This is his second NEA fellowship, a rare accomplishment.

Through its creative writing fellowships program, the NEA gives writers the time and space to create, revise, conduct research, and connect with readers. Fellows must wait 10 years before applying for a second fellowship. Bakopoulos won an award for fiction in 2006; the 2016 award is for creative nonfiction.

"Since its inception, the creative writing fellowship program has awarded more than $45 million to a diverse group of more than 3,000 writers, many of them emerging writers at the start of their careers," said NEA Director of Literature Amy Stolls. "These 37 extraordinary new fellows, including Dean Bakopoulos, provide more evidence of the NEA’s track record of discovering and supporting excellent writers."

"I’m so grateful to the NEA for recognizing my work for a second time," Bakopoulos said. "This is an important boost for me on many levels, not just financially, but also emotionally. I’m finishing a difficult and somewhat perplexing book, and this fellowship has given me the courage to keep working, to finish the manuscript I was very close to throwing away.

"The nonfiction manuscript, titled 'Undoings,' is a book-length meditation on the way things fall apart, and how we, as individuals, as families, as artists, often become undone by our own obsessions and our own pasts. I wrestle with many demons and blessings in that book: marriage, divorce and parenthood; my own family's history as war refugees and the long shadows cast by war trauma; as well as everything from country music to fast food to the role of religion in clinical depression. Right now, it's a mess of a book, and this fellowship gives me the time to give it the focus it needs." 

Bakopoulos, who teaches fiction and creative nonfiction courses at Grinnell, is the author of three novels — Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon, My American Unhappiness, and Summerlong. The film version of his first novel, co-written by Bakopoulos, wraps shooting this month and stars James Franco, Rashida Jones, and Jeffrey Wahlberg. The film version of Summerlong, also adapted by Bakopoulos, is in the works. In addition to his two NEA awards, Bakopoulos is the recipient of a 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship.

The NEA’s creative writing fellowships program is arguably the most egalitarian grant program in its field. Applications are free and open to the public; fellows are selected through an anonymous review process in which the sole criterion is artistic excellence. The judging panel varies year to year and is always diverse with regard to geography, ethnicity, gender, age, and life experience.

Since 1990, 81 of the 138 American recipients of the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and Fiction were previous NEA creative writing fellows.

To join the Twitter conversation about this announcement, please use #NEAFall15.

History in the Making

During Grinnell’s week-long fall break, 11 students in the Opera, Politics, and Society in Modern Europe course went to San Francisco with Kelly Maynard, assistant professor of history, to get an up-close look at how politics and culture influence the development of modern opera. Thanks to the generosity and enthusiasm of trustee Craig Henderson ’63, who opened his home and opera connections to the class, students spoke with opera singers, saw orchestral rehearsals, met with opera critics, and got exclusive backstage glimpses into set design and media suites.

“It really helped me put everything that we learned in class into perspective,” says Austin Schilling ’17. “You can read about how people used to make sets or how people designed opera houses 200 years ago, but you can’t get a real feel for it without seeing how everything operates with your own eyes.”

Students saw two live opera productions, The Magic Flute and Lucia di Lammermoor, at the San Francisco Conservatory and the San Francisco Opera House. Some were surprised at how different it was from watching operas on-screen. “Seeing an opera live in front of you and getting to analyze it on the spot with your classmates gives you a completely new perspective,” says Sam Hengst ’18.

What students didn’t expect was the opportunity to meet with the director of the San Francisco Opera, David Gockley, who made time to meet with them during one of their tours. With half a semester of in-class study and a rigorous week of immersion in the world of opera under their belts, students were prepared to ask Gockley questions that helped them to discover the modern parallels to what they learned in class.

Students taking a close look at a wig in a room full of other wigs“We got to see firsthand that the history we’re studying in class is alive and functioning today and is still as rich and complex as it was 200 years ago,” says Elizabeth Allen ’16.

“I think my biggest take-away from this experience is that you need to look at things from many different angles,” says Hengst. “When we do readings, we’re so used to just thinking about things in one way, but on this trip we saw that the world of opera is complex, from the actors and singers to set design and the use of technology. It’s a network, and we couldn’t have gotten such a great understanding of that from just reading about it.”

Through learning about the many complicated components that go into an opera production, these students discovered aspects of opera that they had never expected to be interested in. Allen even discovered an area that may turn into a topic of future research — the way globalization and art collide in modern opera.

“Thinking about The Magic Flute, which is an 18th-century Viennese opera, translated into English in the 21st century by David Gockley, using set design that includes the aesthetics of contemporary Japanese ceramics … it’s something global and contemporary, but still rooted in the past,” Allen says. “Seeing that was a really pivotal experience for me, and I realized that that’s the way I want to look at things in the future.”

For Allen and the other students in the class, learning about the many factors that contribute to opera opened their eyes to viewing things differently and looking beneath the surface of a finished product, a skill that will benefit them no matter what field they go into.

Austin Schilling '17 is a mathematics and German double major from Evanston, Ill.

Sam Hengst '18 is a German major from Madison, Wis.

Elizabeth Allen '16 is from Santa Fe, N.M., and is an art history major.

Renaissance Compline Concert

Jennifer Williams BrownThe Grinnell College Collegium Musicum will perform a 30-minute candlelit concert, featuring English and Latin chants interspersed with vocal and instrumental pieces by English Renaissance composers Thomas Tallis and William Byrd. The compline concert, based on evening prayers, is free and open to the public. It starts at 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13, in St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 1026 State St., Grinnell.

The Collegium Musicum is an ensemble that studies and performs Early Music, including pieces from the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical periods of Western European music history. Including both vocalists and instrumentalists, the ensemble gives students a unique opportunity for hands-on learning about early Western music. Instrumentalists learn and perform on Grinnell College's first-class collection of replica period instruments under the direction of director Jennifer Williams Brown.

Brown is an associate professor of music. She specializes in the history and performance of Baroque music, especially 17th century Italian opera. An acclaimed scholar, Brown was awarded the American Musicological Society Claude V. Palisca Award for the best scholarly edition or translation in the field of musicology in 2008. She also has received numerous fellowships and grants for her work. She has been published in several journals, including The Cambridge Opera Journal, The New Grove Dictionary of Music, and The Journal of Musicological Research.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. St. Paul's Episcopal Church has an entrance through the office door for people with disabilities. Parking is available on the street and in the parking lot of the First Presbyterian Church across the street at 1025 Fifth Ave.

Our Microbial Neighbors

Adina HoweCome join in an interactive discussion of microbiology and how novel technologies have created opportunities to access and learn about our microbial neighbors and how they influence our lives.

Adina Howe, Iowa State University assistant professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, will present the free, public biology seminar "Our Microbial Neighbors" at 11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, in Robert N. Noyce ’49 Science Center, Room 2022. 

She will lead participants to explore how our gut microbes change with our diets, the importance and challenges of soil microbiology, and how microbes can help us monitor and understand water quality in Iowa lakes.

Howe is an expert in microbial ecology, soil health, water quality, big data, and metagenomics. She has had broad, interdisciplinary training, including microbiology, sustainable development, and engineering, and has been a staff scientist at Argonne National Laboratory where she continued studying microbial communities in environments such as the soil and gut.

Art Collecting, Inventory, and Criminality in Ming Imperial China (1368-1644)

Huiping PangHuiping Pang, professor of art history at the University of Iowa, will give a talk using Chinese art as historical documents to investigate the legal history and imperial violence of the Ming imperial era. The free, public lecture starts at 4 p.m. Nov. 20, in Alumni Recitation Hall, Room 120.

Titled "Art Collecting, Inventory, and Criminality in Ming Imperial China (1368-1644)," this lecture will explore the darker side of the art collecting culture of the Ming imperial dynasty. Pang will look at 201 canonical Chinese artworks, focusing on the imperial half-seals and half-codes marked on the art. These marks show how Ming emperors abused their prime ministers, took their art collections, and put inventory half-marks on the stolen art to make their actions legally justifiable. 

An accomplished art historian, Pang holds two Ph.D. degrees in the history of Chinese art, one from Stanford University and the other from Beijing University. She received her postdoctoral fellowship from the Smithsonian Institution. Her scholarship focuses on a diverse range of topics, including 10th-17th century Chinese institutional and court history, climate change, politics, art-collecting culture and horse paintings. Pang has published 20 articles in leading English and Chinese peer-reviewed journals.

A Level Playing Field?

Sociology professor Matthew Hughey Matthew Hughey of the University of Connecticut will deliver a lecture on Monday, Nov. 30, about how media coverage of athletics perpetuates the myth of "black brawn vs. white brains."

The free, public lecture, titled "A Level Playing Field? Zombie Theories of Athletics, Genetics and Race in Media," starts at 7:30 p.m. in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.

Black and white image of Jesse Owens racingHughey will discuss the role the news media play in perpetuating the myth of "black brawn vs. white brains" – that blacks have an inherent biological disposition toward athletic excellence. Despite biological and sociological evidence that debunks this theory, Hughey contends that many still believe in a link between black athleticism and biological determinism. He will argue that while empirically impossible, this thesis is a zombie theory – an idea that just won't die.

The author of several books, Hughey has written extensively about race, including The White Savior Film: Content, Critics and Consumption and  White Bound: Nationalists, Antiracists and the Shared Meanings of Race. He also serves as co-editor of The Obamas and a (Post) Racial America?

National media outlets such as NPR, ABC and CBS frequently call upon Hughey for his sociological expertise. He also is a contributing writer to The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and the Huffington Post, among others.

Hughey has received numerous honors throughout his career, such as the Distinguished Early Career Award from the American Sociological Association's Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities. Hughey is a member of both the Africana Studies and American Studies departments at the University of Connecticut.

Assistant Professor Casey Oberlin, sociology, is organizing the event. Co-sponsors are the Office of Diversity and Inclusion; the Center for Humanities; the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights; the Instructional Support Committee; the Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies Department; the Department of Sociology; and the Department of Anthropology.

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.

Sharing Neuroscience Research with the World

Grinnell students, faculty, and alumni joined more than 30,000 colleagues from more than 80 countries at 2015 Society for Neuroscience (SfN) Annual Meeting.

Faculty joined the students as they presented their Mentored Advanced Projects (MAP) research at the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience poster session, and met with alumni at an event sponsored by the College.

The Society for Neuroscience is the world’s largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system, and the annual meeting is billed as the premier venue for neuroscientists to present emerging science, learn from experts, forge collaborations with peers, explore new tools and technologies, and advance careers.

Students and professor in front of poster titled Effect of High-fat Diet-induced Obesity on Spatial and Declarative MemoryGrinnellians at the conference included professors Mark Levandoski (chemistry, biological chemistry, and neuroscience), Clark Lindgren (biology and neuroscience), Nancy Rempel-Clower (psychology and neuroscience), and Andrea Tracy ’99 (psychology and neuroscience).

Their MAP students included Tom Earnest '16, Mike Fitzpatrick '16, Anthony Mack '16, Takahiro Omura '17, Marissa Yetter '16, and Jacob Ziontz ’16.

At least 14 alumni also attended, ranging from the classes of ’00 to ’15.

The SfN meeting is one of many professional events where Grinnell students have had the opportunity to share their research and meet others with similar interests.

Photos courtesy of Takahiro Omura '17.

Our School: Film Screening and Panel Discussion

Watch a free public screening of Our School, followed by a panel discussion, at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22, in the Community Room of the Drake Community Library, 930 Park St., Grinnell, Iowa.

This award-winning documentary follows the lives of three Roma (“Gypsy”) children who participate in a project to desegregate the local school in their Transylvanian town in Romania. With parallels to the Little Rock Nine and the history of desegregation in the U.S., this film uncovers an abhorrent civil rights issue in Europe but also provokes recognition of similar, ongoing racial inequities in U.S. education. Shot over four years, this poignant story captures how racism, poverty, language differences, and special education labels work to disenfranchise Roma children from equitable schooling. It is a captivating, human story wrought with humor, beauty, and tragedy.

Snacks will be provided. Film time is 94 minutes, followed by discussion.

The event is sponsored by Grinnell College's Cultural Films Committee and the Department of Education.

 

 

Scholars' Convo: Cosmic Secrets

Asif SiddiqiFordham University Professor of History Asif Siddiqi will discuss the history of the Soviet space program during the free, public Scholars' Convocation at 11 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.

Much of Siddiqi's interests are focused on the history of science and technology, postcolonial science, and its intersections with popular culture. He is a recent winner of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, has held an endowed visiting chair at the Smithsonian Institution, and is a leading expert in the history of modern science and technology.

A prolific writer and speaker on Soviet history, Siddiqi serves on the National Research Council Committee on the Future of Human Spaceflight, and is a contributing editor of the journal Technology and Culture. He has written several books, including The Rockets' Red Glare: Spaceflight and the Soviet Imagination, 1857–1957," Sputnik and the Soviet Space Challenge, and The Soviet Space Race with Apollo. His upcoming book from Oxford University Press is titled Soviet Science and the Gulag.

Siddiqi also has been quoted by numerous national media outlets about topics ranging from accidents in space to engineering disasters to the Russian Space Program. He holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and a master's degree in economics from Texas A&M University, as well as an M.B.A from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a Ph.D. in history from Carnegie Mellon University.

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.

The Folklore of the Freeway: Connectivity, Creativity and Conflict in the Age of Highway Construction

Eric AvilaEric Avila, professor of history, Chicano studies, and urban planning at UCLA, will present "The Folklore of the Freeway: Connectivity, Creativity and Conflict in the Age of Highway Construction" at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 11 in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center Room 101.

Avila currently serves as associate dean for equity, diversity and inclusion for the Division of Social Sciences. As an urban cultural historian of Los Angeles and the United States in the twentieth century, Avila is author of Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight: Fear and Fantasy in Suburban Los Angeles and The Folklore of the Freeway: Race and Revolt in the Modernist City.  Currently, he is writing American Cultural History: A Very Short Introduction for Oxford University Press.

He studies the intersections of racial identity, urban space, and cultural representation in twentieth century America. Anyone with an interest in American history, urban studies, race relations, or the relationship between communities and development will be interested in his talk.

For the Center for the Humanities series on “Sites of Creativity: Streets, Salons, Studios, and Schools", he will talk about communities of color and their resistance to the building of highways in this way mapping the creative strategies devised by urban communities to document and protest the damage that highways wrought.