Home » Teaching and Learning

Teaching and Learning

Women and the Regenerative Agriculture of the Future

It is difficult to know what Iowa agriculture will look like in the future, but almost certainly it will not look like today’s agriculture. It cannot. There are too many things about current farming and food production methods that increasing numbers of people are questioning and that more and more observers consider unsustainable. We need an agriculture that regenerates and restores — the land, community, and human welfare — while providing us with healthy food.

How do we attract young people into agriculture? How can young farmers gain access to land? What role can and will women farmers play in the agriculture of the future?

Denise O’Brien is uniquely positioned to address these and other questions based on her long career as a farmer and farm activist and will do so in two events on Tuesday, Sept. 15.

  • 4 p.m. Panel Discussion: Wisdom of the Elders: Mentoring Beginning Farmers
  • 7:30 p.m. Public Talk: A Long Time Farm Activist Looks to the Future

Both events will be held in Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101. Refreshments will be served at these free public events.

In the afternoon panel O’Brien will be joined by Susan Jutz, another long-time Iowa farmer, and two young women who are learning the ropes from them, Ash Bruxvoort and Carmen Black.

In the evening presentation O’Brien will provide a retrospective on changes in agriculture and offer her thoughts on the direction agriculture needs to move in the future.

About the Participants

Denise O'Brien

O'Brien is a farmer and community organizer from Atlantic, Iowa. She has farmed with her husband, Larry Harris, for 39 years. She maintains sixteen acres of organic fruit and vegetable production incorporating high tunnel production. O’Brien also raises turkeys and chickens for meat and egg production.

O’Brien has worked within the agricultural community on policy development at the state, national, and international levels and is involved in the community of women in agriculture, organic production, local food systems, and conservation issues.

O’Brien founded the Women Food and Agriculture Network, and has organized the Women's Task Force of the Iowa Farm Unity Coalition, directed the Rural Women's Leadership Development Project of PrairieFire Rural Action, Inc. and served as president of the National Family Farm Coalition. She was a Food and Society Fellow for a W.K. Kellogg-funded program 2001–03. She currently serves on the board of the Pest Action Network and the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust. In 2012, O’Brien completed a year assignment with the United States Department of Agriculture as an agriculture adviser in Afghanistan.

O’Brien has received many awards including the Practical Farmers of Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Iowa Farmer's Union. O'Brien was inducted into Iowa's Women's Hall of Fame in 2000. In January, O’Brien was named one of 45 inspiring women by Country Woman Magazine.

Over the years O'Brien has written and spoken across the United States and the world on women in agriculture, organic and sustainable farming and local food systems. O'Brien has been quoted in national publications from the Nation to Ms. Magazine.

Carmen Black

Black grew up outside of Solon, Iowa, participating in 4H with many agricultural projects, but adamantly didn't want to be a farmer until moving away to attend Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. It was there while studying peace and global studies that she realized that many of the difficult issues facing her communities were directly related to industrial agriculture, and also recognized how much she loved growing food.

For the past four years, she has been a regional organizer with Real Food Challenge, a national student organization working to shift college and university dining purchasing to more just and sustainable sources. This is her first season as a full-time farmer back in Solon.

Ash Bruxvoort

Bruxvoort is a freelance writer, marketer, and beginning farmer in Mitchellville, Iowa. She blogs about marketing for small farms and nonprofits. She’s worked with many nonprofit organizations, including WFAN, the Iowa Food Coop, and The Nature Conservancy in Iowa.

Her work has appeared in Edible Omaha, Modern Farmer, Seedstock, and Precision Ag Magazine.

Susan Jutz

Jutz owns and operates ZJ Farm, an 80-acre diversified vegetable and sheep farm located between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. Before moving to Iowa in 1994 she earned a Masters of Social Work degree from the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

In 1996, she co-founded Local Harvest CSA, a three-season community-supported agriculture program. It was one of the first CSAs in Iowa and helped pave the way for this model of community-centered farming to take root and flourish in the state.

Jutz has been a principal partner and vegetable grower for the CSA, which now supplies more than 200 families with a wide variety of fresh vegetables and herbs grown using organic and sustainable practices.

Her commitment to sustainable agriculture and healthy food dates back to her childhood growing up on her family’s dairy farm near Gibbon, Minnesota. Her parents cared deeply about the land and their animals, limited their use of chemicals, and always talked about the family’s responsibility to those who came after and to the land, animals and community. In 2014, Jutz was awarded the Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award by the organization Practical Farmers of Iowa.

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.

Writers@Grinnell: Kiese Laymon

Kiese LaymonKiese Laymon, the second author in this year’s Writers @Grinnell series, will present two events on Thursday, Sept. 17:

  • Roundtable at 4:15 p.m. in Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 209
  • Reading at 8 p.m. in Rosenfield Center, Room 101

Laymon is an African-American southern writer, born and raised in Jackson, Miss.

His novel Long Division was named one of the Best Books of 2013 by a number of publications — including Buzzfeed, The Believer, Salon, Guernica, Mosaic Magazine, Chicago Tribune, The Morning News, MSNBC, Library Journal, Contemporary Literature, and the Crunk Feminist Collective — and is currently a finalist for Stanford’s Saroyan international writing award.

Long Division and his collection of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, are finalists for the Mississippi Award for Arts and Letters in the fiction and nonfiction categories.

Laymon, an associate professor of English at Vassar College, has written essays and stories for numerous publications including Esquire, ESPN, Colorlines, NPR, Gawker, Truthout, Longman’s Hip Hop Reader, The Best American Non-required Reading, Guernica, Mythium, and Politics and Culture. He is working on a new novel, And So On, and a memoir, 309: A Fat Black Memoir.

Both the roundtable and reading are free and open to the public. Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations.

Writers @Grinnell

Writers @Grinnell, the English department’s reading series, brings to campus writers of all kinds: poets, novelists, memoirists, essayists, radio essayists, columnists, graphic memoirists, playwrights, and short story writers. Recent visitors include African-American and Latino writers, international writers, LGBT writers, blind and deaf writers, bi-polar writers, and writers with mobility impairments. An anonymous donor enables the series to host an annual distinguished author reading and an interdisciplinary creative writing event.

Constitution Day Reading Discussion Group

Join the Rosenfield Program to celebrate Constitution Day by discussing excerpts from the new book The Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of Our Constitutional Republic by Yale Law professor Akhil Reed Amar.

With Professor Sarah Purcell leading the discussion, we'll discuss chapters 5 and 6 on Kansas and Iowa — plus anything else that interests you.

Meet with the reading group over lunch, from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 209.

The book is available for sale in the Grinnell College Bookstore (students can charge the cost to the Rosenfield Program if cost is prohibitive), and an electronic copy can be accessed through the Library catalog.

Akhil Reed Amar will be speaking at Grinnell on September 23.

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

Current Styles in African Illustration

"Current Styles in African Illustration" highlights a diverse selection of some of the best talents in children's illustration in Africa.

The Burling Gallery exhibition, on display Oct. 26 through Dec. 18, showcases current and distinctive styles coming from various regions on the continent. The illustrations are submissions to the inaugural Golden Baobab Prize for African Illustrators. Golden Baobab founder Deborah Ahenkorah is a recipient of the 2015 Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize.

The exhibition is located on the lower level of Burling Library and is sponsored by the Faulconer Gallery.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Burling Gallery is wheelchair accessible. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations.

A Season at Sea

Grinnell College student Conard Lee ’16, a biology major, was one of 24 undergraduates from top colleges and universities nationwide and abroad who sailed the high seas this spring to tackle one of the most prominent scientific challenges of their generation: global climate change. Through SEA Semester: Oceans & Climate, a distinctive study abroad program offered by Sea Education Association (SEA), these students carryed out independent research on climate interactions in a less-studied region of the remote Pacific Ocean — all from the deck of a tall ship sailing research vessel.   

After a highly selective application process, the students first spent six weeks taking courses on shore at SEA Semester’s campus in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Guided by SEA faculty and local science and policy experts, they addressed and tackled some of the prickliest ecological problems facing Oceania’s waters and port cities — from coral reef damage in French Polynesia to freshwater scarcity in Samoa; from fisheries threats in New Zealand to rising sea level impacts on communities in Kiribati.

The class set sail on the SSV Robert C. Seamans, SEA’s 134-foot brigantine, from a port near Christchurch, New Zealand. During the next six weeks, the students sailed 3,000 nautical miles from New Zealand to Tahiti, exploring port stops in the Chatham Islands and Tubuai as they continued their place-based study of the South Pacific region.

You can read more about Lee's voyage and other current and past voyages on the SEA Currents blog.

As full, working members of the scientific team and sailing crew, the students had unique opportunity to study diverse and dynamic marine ecosystems in a remote and rarely studied region of the southwest Pacific Ocean. Students implemented their experimental designs, analyzed collected data, and presented their findings in peer-reviewed poster sessions upon completion of the sea component.

“Our student-designed research efforts will provide the latest of only a handful of scientific assessments of ecological conditions and climate processes in this area, establishing a baseline for future SEA cruises along the same track as well as other interested investigators,” said Dr. Deb Goodwin, SEA Assistant Professor of Oceanography and Chief Scientist for the voyage.

SEA Semester: Oceans & Climate in fall 2015 is a transatlantic voyage from the Canary Islands to St. Croix.  

About Sea Education Association/SEA Semester®

SEA is an internationally recognized leader in undergraduate ocean education. For nearly 45 years and more than one million nautical miles sailed, SEA has educated students about the world’s oceans through its Boston University accredited study abroad program, SEA Semester. SEA/SEA Semester is based on Cape Cod in the oceanographic research community of Woods Hole, Massachusetts and has two research vessels: the SSV Corwith Cramer, operating in the Atlantic Ocean, and the SSV Robert C. Seamans, operating in the Pacific.

Asking Thoughtful Questions

Since Anna-Lisa Bowans ’12 graduated from Grinnell, she:

  • spent a year in Bangalore, India, on a social enterprise fellowship
  • worked for a for-profit, social enterprise company in Berkeley, Calif., and
  • recently moved into the tech industry

“The biggest skills that I got out of going to Grinnell were communication skills — verbal and written — and being able to ask really intelligent and thoughtful questions,” Bowans says. She now works for Localytics, a Boston-based company that helps developers of mobile and web apps.

Bowans’ role is to work with start-up and growth customers in a position that did not exist prior to her hiring. She’s excited to be working in an app-focused company that is “on the cutting edge, and very much a thought leader in the space,” she says.

“Every assignment I had at Grinnell was about critical thinking and asking questions,” Bowans says. “That has been key for me in my job. The skills that I got from Grinnell were not necessarily ones I recognized as skills when I graduated. But the longer I spend in the workforce, the more I realize that the training and development I got at Grinnell were invaluable.”

Bowans also credits some of her extracurricular opportunities for her career success, including initiating a Hindi language program and her internship with a local non-profit, the Ahrens Foundation.

“Leadership opportunities at Grinnell gave me confidence and experience in public speaking,” she says, “and in speaking with people of different backgrounds to accomplish my goals. I also learned to prioritize and balance competing demands, and this has been key for being effective in a start-up environment.”

Eventually, Bowans envisions a future that weaves in her different experiences. “I would love to move into social enterprise that works in mobile or in big data,” she says. “That is on the horizon for me.”

Anna-Lisa Bowans ’12 majored in economics with a concentration in global development studies. She works as an account manager for Localytics in its San Francisco office.

Culling the Masses

David Cook-Martin, SociologyCulling the Masses: The Democratic Origins of Racist Immigration Policy in the Americas, co-authored by Associate Professor of Sociology David Cook-Martín, has won several national awards. Cook-Martín wrote the book with David FitzGerald, associate professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego.

“Grinnell College and its students have played an important role in the development of this book,” Cook-Martín said, citing institutional support and undergraduate research participation funded by the National Science Foundation. In addition, he noted that at least eight students participated through Mentored Advanced Projects, other students served as research assistants, and still others critiqued drafts used in the classroom.

The Book

Culling the Masses explores how governments in the Americas have deliberately chosen their populations by ethnically selective immigration and nationality laws. The book, published by Harvard University Press, challenges the widely held belief that democracies “naturally tend toward welcoming policies of equality and anti-racism.”

“Today, the idea of choosing individuals based on perceived race is repugnant to our ideals of equality and fairness,” Cook-Martín added. “Generations of scholars have argued that racism was an aberration that democracies eventually worked out of their laws.

Culling the Masses challenges this assumption by showing how governments in the Americas have deliberately chosen their populations by ethnically selective immigration and nationality laws. In fact, the governments that were most inclusive, whether democratic or populist, were most likely to select by race. The biggest exemplar of liberal democracy was the United States, which had the longest period of uninterrupted racial exclusions (between 1790 and 1965).”

The Honors

The book has received the following honors:

  • The 2015 Best Scholarly Contribution Book Award from the American Sociological Association’s Political Sociology Section;
  • The Thomas & Znaniecki Best Book on International Migration Award from the American Sociological Association; (Cook-Martín’s other book — The Scramble for Citizens — received this same prize in 2014;
  • The 2015 Best Book Prize for Books on Migration and Citizenship from the American Political Science Association; and
  • Honorable mention for the 2015 Theodore Saloutos Book Prize from the Immigration and Ethnic History Society, for best book about U.S. immigration history published in 2014.

Statistics and Society

Undergraduate research tends to evoke images of either a library or a laboratory. The Data Analysis and Social Inquiry Lab (DASIL) offers students in social studies and the humanities something different. The lab has computers with statistical analysis programs that can help students and faculty understand trends in data and visually represent data in charts and graphs and on maps.

Grinnellians Helping Grinnellians

DASIL helps students and faculty analyze and visualize data on an individual basis and brings data analysis into the classroom. It also provides experiential learning for student tutors. “We do the students a disservice unless we make sure they have some level of technological understanding,” says Kathy Kamp, professor of anthropology and Earl D. Strong Professor of Social Studies. DASIL is a unique program in that it is staffed by undergraduates.

“When we’re not helping students,” says Beau Bressler ’16, a DASIL staffer, “we’re working on projects for faculty — usually gathering or organizing data.”

Last year, DASIL launched an independent website that hosts a number of data visualizations. Most of the visualizations make use of publicly available — usually government-collected — information.

One of the projects DASIL is taking on is an interactive map tracking land-holding, using historical records, in three Iowa townships in Poweshiek and Jasper counties.

An earlier major project DASIL was involved in was English professor James Lee’s Global Renaissance, an analysis of 25,000 texts from 1470 to 1700 using data mining techniques to visualize the specific language Shakespeare's England employed to describe different races and places across the globe before colonialism.

Learning by Teaching

Bressler has worked at DASIL for more than a year. During his time there, he has assisted students and professors and has done his own research for a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP). As an economics major, he works primarily on econometrics problems. The students who work with DASIL are fairly specialized, says Julia Bauder, social studies and data services librarian. “We try to have a student fluent in geographical information systems, an economics major who has taken econometrics, a mathematics major, and at least one person doing qualitative research and able to use NVivo qualitative analysis software.”

“Sometimes people come and they know what they want to research and what they’re trying to do, but they don’t know the software or don’t know what variables to use,” says Bressler. “I plan on going into research, so being exposed to other students’ research prepares me to do a broader array of research.” In the spring semester, Bressler helped Ope Awe ’15 analyze data for a MAP to determine what factors in a developing country influence entrepreneurship.

“DASIL is a place you can come and learn to work with data,” says Bressler. “Working with people — especially when they’re other students who know how to work with data — can make statistics easier to understand.”

Beau Bressler ’16 is an economics major from San Diego, Calif.

Partnering with Harvard Business School

Grinnell College has entered into an agreement with HBX, the online arm of Harvard Business School, to provide additional benefits for Grinnell students taking Harvard’s online business fundamentals course, the Credential of Readiness (CORe) program.

The partnership expands access to CORe for Grinnell students by enabling HBX to provide increased levels of need-based financial aid for the program, guaranteeing space in CORe for Grinnell students and support for additional student-related services. HBX has entered into similar partnerships with Carleton College, Hamilton College, Wellesley College, and Williams College. These agreements are based on a similar arrangement for Harvard College students since summer 2014.

“We are delighted to partner with these five prominent colleges to create additional opportunities for their students to participate in the CORe program,” says Harvard Business School professor Bharat Anand, faculty chair of HBX.

“We, too, are excited about this partnership,” says Mark Peltz, the Daniel ’77 and Patricia Jipp Finkelman ’80 Dean in the Center for Careers, Life, and Service (CLS). “The HBX CORe program complements Grinnell’s rigorous liberal arts education with its focus on business analytics, economics for managers, and financial accounting. The case-study approach used at HBS requires participants to apply and develop these market-ready skills. Students from all academic backgrounds — with wide-ranging career aspirations — would benefit from this program.” Additional funding support for this new partnership is made possible by the Finkelman Deanship.


HBX CORe is an online program, consisting of approximately 150 hours of learning, for students and early career professionals to learn the fundamentals of business on a highly engaging and interactive platform designed by Harvard Business School faculty.

“The HBX CORe program has been designed to teach the fundamentals of business to college students, and to prepare them for the workplace,” Anand says. “We created our own course platform to allow students to learn using Harvard Business School’s signature inductive learning approach that leverages certain key aspects of the HBS learning environment: real-world problem solving, a highly interactive experience for participants, and the integration of social learning to allow participants to leverage the knowledge of their peers.”

CORe consists of three courses:

  • Business Analytics
  • Economics for Managers
  • Financial Accounting

CORe was first offered in summer 2014 and has since been offered to three more groups of learners.

CORe will next be offered in:

  • An 11-week format starting on June 3
  • An 8-week format starting on July 7
  • A 12-week format starting on September 9, 2015

To learn more about the CORe program and to apply for upcoming sessions, visit the HBX website.