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Writers@Grinnell: Chris Martin

Chris Martin imageAward-winning poet, Chris Martin, will read from his work and discuss writing on Thursday, September 15 as part of the Writers@Grinnell series at Grinnell College. The event, which is free and open to the public, will start at 8 p.m in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101.

In addition, Martin will lead a roundtable discussion, which is free and open to the public, at 4:15 p.m. September 15 in the Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 209.

Chris Martin is the author of three collections of poetry, The Falling Down Dance (Coffee House Press, 2015), Becoming Weather (Coffee House Press, 2011), and American Music (Copper Canyon Press, 2007), selected by C. D. Wright for the Hayden Carruth Award. He is also the author of several chapbooks, including HISTORY (Coffee House, 2014), enough (Ugly Duckling, 2012), and How to Write a Mistake-ist Poem (Brave Men, 2011). Recent work can be found now or soon in The Cultural Society, Fence, Paperbag, SPOKE TOO SOON, and The Brooklyn Rail. He is an editor at Futurepoem books and lives in Minneapolis with his wife, the poet Mary Austin Speaker, and their son Atticus. He teaches at The Loft and is a visiting assistant professor at Carleton College. He is also a co-founder and teaching-writer at Unrestricted Interest.

Middle and High School Students Learn Coding the Grinnell Way

Katrina Williams of Ames spent last week in Grinnell so that Vijay, her 13-year-old son, could participate in Grinnell College's first Coding for Social Good and Beyond summer day camp.

"When I learned that Vijay could spend a whole week learning coding at Grinnell, I seized the opportunity and signed him up," said Williams, an academic adviser in the aerospace engineering program at Iowa State University. "I'm just passionate about young people learning coding because coding is a way to put ideas into execution."

She and Vijay and his younger sister, who also wants to learn to code, stayed at the Carriage House to keep from traveling to Grinnell and back from Ames every day. Although Vijay wants to become a bestselling author instead of a computer scientist, he describes the camp as fun, adding that every day "You learn new stuff about computers and what you can do with them."

Filling a Gap in Iowa

Student holds up white t-shirt stitched with offset concentric circles and a 'tail'

Campers learned how to create an original digital design and then program a sewing machine to stitch it on a shirt. Carter Griego of Marshalltown proudly displays his shirt.

Iowa does not provide enough summer coding camp opportunities for students in middle schools, particularly for students underrepresented in computing careers, according to Narren Brown, associate director of Grinnell's Center for Teaching, Learning and Assessment.

Iowa's lack of camps for this age group is a concern at a time when the National Academy of Science has recommended that every American be "fluent in information technology" to be successful citizens.

To fill the gap, Professor of Computer Science Samuel A. Rebelsky and Brown proposed a summer coding camp as a three-year pilot project.

They applied for and secured $144,000 over three years to support the camp from the College's Innovation Fund. Some of the funds go to students from Grinnell College and area community colleges who developed the curriculum in collaboration with Grinnell faculty and Grinnell College's Center for Teaching, Learning and Assessment.

The camp received the 2016 Governor's STEM Advisory Council's Seal of Approval, which recognizes the program for increasing student interest and achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in Iowa.

The College's support brought the camp fee down to $25 and provided paychecks for the Grinnell and community college students who also served as counselors and advisers for the campers. Students could apply to have the fee waived so that cost was not a barrier to attending camp.

Elizabeth Zak ’18 was one of the college students serving as a counselor. Zak is from Memphis, Tennessee, and has a double major in computer science and gender, women's and sexuality studies.

"This camp was a success," she says. "The college students learned a lot for the future and we believe the kids did as well. I hope that the campers' main takeaways were that coding is for everyone, and that even if they don't go into a career in computer science, they should should still learn how to code."

Focusing on Middle School Students

"We are working primarily with middle school students because this is a set of skills that they can and should develop at this age," Rebelsky says. "It's also an age in which they are figuring out what they enjoy and what they are good at. Over the long term, we hope that starting in middle school will impact groups of students who are traditionally underrepresented in computing."

Rebelsky maintains that learning to code empowers students, builds their skills in problem solving and gives them the excitement of creation.

"We hope that students take both hard and soft skills from this week of camp," he adds. "For example, they learn strategies for solving different kinds of problems and how to read and adapt existing programs. We also have the students work in pairs to build skills in collaboration and ask them to present their solutions to the class."

The campers worked on a series of projects, using the Processing programming language, designed at MIT as a language for artists. They say they especially enjoyed the challenge of writing programs to create their own album covers.

Besides concentrating on computers, the campers delved into many screen-free activities, such as scavenger hunts and a tour of the Faulconer Gallery, where they talked about how art can help people think differently. By the end of the week, campers were working collaboratively to create computer-generated artworks designed to address issues in society.

Coding for Social Good

Students and counselor talking to someone out of the picture, with multiple computers in foreground.

Grinnell College student and camp counselor Elizabeth Zak of Memphis, Tennessee, assists Dante Williams, left, and Hans Larsson of Grinnell.

Mezekerta Tesfay, 15, of Grinnell, and Newton resident Emma Lopez-Garcia, 11, dedicated their final project to raising awareness of the plight of endangered animals. "We decided to focus on elephants being hunted for their ivory tusks after we saw a piece at the Faulconer Gallery that describes how the melting of ice is endangering polar bears," Tesfay says.

"We found an online photo of a herd of elephants and used Processing to make the photo fade out to show elephants disappearing. We also learned to use motion so that the elephants would move across the screen when you pressed a certain key."

Tesfay says she assumed before going to camp that coding and computer science would be extremely hard — something she couldn't do herself.

"The things I did at camp were fun-based, rather than hard work," she says, "but I learned that problem solving is the key to coding correctly to get the results you want. I definitely want to do more work with coding."

Lopez-Garcia, Tesfay's partner on the elephant project, started coding before arriving at camp because she wants to get a head start on a career in animation. "I like how they explain the process of coding at camp and challenge you to try new things with it instead of just telling you what it is and what to do," she says.

Discovering the Power of Coding

Other students are equally enthusiastic about their experiences at camp.

"It combines learning and having fun at the same time," says Jessica Haines, 13, of Brooklyn. "I want to become a mechanical engineer and design rockets for NASA, so it's nice to learn about coding when I'm young so that I'll know how when I'm older."

"This camp helps you get started in coding and inspires you to learn more," adds Hans Larsson, 15, of Grinnell. "Even if you don't become a computer scientist, you've learned how to use computers better."

Rebelsky, Brown, and the research students will evaluate the outcomes of the camp so that lessons learned can be applied to enhance the program when it becomes a residential camp serving more middle school and high school students next summer.

Group wearing tshirts with This is what a Grinnell computer scientist looks like

Camp founders Samuel A. Rebelsky and Narren Brown (back row, first and third from the left) pose for a photo with 11 Grinnell College and community college students who wrote the curriculum and served as counselors for Coding for Social Good and Beyond.

 

Scholarship Enables Grinnell Senior to Study Indonesian

Mari HolmesMari Holmes ’17 has received a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship, enabling her to participate in a fully funded summer language immersion program in Malang, Indonesia.

Holmes, a gender, women's and sexuality studies major from Beaumont, Texas, is one of approximately 560 U.S. undergraduate and graduate students selected for this honor in 2016. The Critical Language Scholarship is a highly competitive, government-sponsored language immersion program designed to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering languages critical to the U.S. Department of State.

Recipients are spending seven to 10 weeks in intensive language institutions this summer in one of 13 countries to study Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Indonesian, Japanese, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, or Urdu.

The Critical Language Scholarship gives Holmes an opportunity to go back to Indonesia, where she was born and raised.

"Because I haven't been back in more than a decade, I have lost the ability to communicate in my native tongue," Holmes said. "Thus, I am grateful that the CLS is providing me with the opportunity to reconnect with my cultural roots and formally relearn the language in my hometown of Malang. I hope that my studies in Indonesian will enable me to engage more with my research now as a Mellon Mays fellow and as a prospective anthropologist and scholar of Indonesian studies."

As a Mellon Mays fellow at Grinnell College, Holmes has studied the relationship between Indonesian nationalism and masculine memory after the 1965 massacres. She hopes to continue this research abroad. She is also the leader of the Asian-American Association on campus.

Holmes, who plans to graduate in May 2017, is the second Grinnell College student in two years to receive a Critical Language Scholarship.

Tracy PaLast year Tracy Pa ’15 accepted a Critical Language Scholarship that allowed her to participate in a fully funded language immersion program in Japan last summer.

Pa, who majored in sociology with a concentration in East Asian studies, studied Japanese in Hikone, Japan, a small city on the shore of Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake.

"This scholarship challenged me to fully immerse myself in Japanese language and culture," Pa said. "I gained more confidence in my language ability and have test-proven results that I improved during this program."

Like Holmes, Pa was a Mellon Mays fellow during her time at Grinnell. Pa conducted research on the representation of the atomic bomb in American and Japanese children's literature as part of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program.

A former resident of San Francisco, Pa now serves as an assistant language teacher with the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program in Tokyo. The program promotes grassroots international exchange between Japan and other nations. She plans to pursue a doctoral degree in Japanese language and literature with a focus on modern Japanese literature.

The Critical Language Scholarship, a program of the U.S. Department of State, is a prestigious and highly competitive award that corroborates the strength of Grinnell's language instructors, off-campus study officers and scholarship staff—in addition to the talents of the awardees themselves.

Learn more about CLS and other exchange programs at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Nature Photographer Ken Saunders II Exhibit Opens in Burling Gallery

Thursday, August 25, 2016 - 8:00am to Saturday, October 15, 2016 - 10:00pm
Burling Library

 

Exhibition: August 25 - October 15
Opening Reception: Friday, September 2, 4:00 p.m., Burling Gallery

“Nature photography is my passion,” says Ken Saunders II, who retired from a long career with the College’s Facilities Management in 2015.   Looking at his photographs, one is compelled to add that nature photography is also his forte.  Ken’s striking photographs show us nature at its most beautiful.  His favorite subjects are individual animals and plants, captured in their natural habitat at rest or in motion, with close-up or telephoto lens. 

All of the photographs in this exhibit, titled “Portraits of Nature in Iowa,” were taken within 40 miles of Grinnell.  It may surprise some viewers that this diversity of wildlife can be found so close to our community.   Ken could perhaps agree with Henry David Thoreau’s statement -- “What’s the need of visiting far-off mountains and bogs if a half-hour’s walk will carry me into such wildness and novelty?” -- though in fact he also photographs in other parts of the country, especially in the mountain west.

Ken recalls getting his first camera – a Kodak 104 Instamatic, which retailed for $15.95 – when he was about seven years old.  Many years later he advanced to a 35mm film single-lens reflex camera, a Pentax, and then in 2003 began experimenting with digital photography.  He got his first digital single-lens reflex camera in 2006, a Nikon D200, and has been working in this vein ever since.

The Center for Prairie Studies is pleased to co-sponsor this exhibit of Ken’s photography with Faulconer Gallery.  The exhibit is displayed in Burling Gallery and will run from August 25 to October 15.  An opening reception will take place at Burling Library Gallery (lower level) on Friday, September 2, at 4:00. 

Building Local Food Systems: Two Case Studies, California and Iowa

Wednesday, August 31, 2016 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm
Joe Rosenfield '25 Center Room 101

 

How do you create a local food system?  On August 31, in JRC 101, at 4:00 and 7:30 p.m., two speakers will share their experiences creating local food systems in two very different locations: the Bay Area of San Francisco and the Meskwaki Settlement in Tama County, Iowa. 

More and more people are interested in eating food raised near where they live.  It is fresher, tastes better, and is often more nutritious.  Because it is produced on a smaller scale, it is more likely to be raised using organic methods, which make it healthier.  Purchasing food grown near where you live also contributes more to the local economy than buying the same food from big retail grocers. 

But “buying local” can face challenges.  Is supply adequate to meet the demand?  How do consumers connect with farmers? Are the types of food being raised locally also the types that consumers want?  Is local food out of the price range of many consumers?  If locally raised food is normally available for only part of the year, can anything be done to lengthen the growing season or make the food available year-round?

Answers to many of these questions can be found through the creation of local food systems. Going beyond ad hoc relationships and even such worthy organizations as farmers markets, a local food system is a coordinated, self-consciously planned set of institutionalized relationships among farmers, consumers, businesses, and communities, structured in a way that maximizes the availability of affordable local food to members of a community. 

Jennifer Vazquez-Koster has been working on local food initiatives in Iowa for 10 years.  She is currently manager of the two-year old Meskwaki Food Sovereignty Initiative, an umbrella that encompasses three garden-farm operations at the Meskwaki Settlement in Tama County: a senior garden affiliated with the senior living center at the Settlement, a school garden, and Red Earth Gardens, a large-scale commercial organic operation that sells produce through a Tribally Supported Agriculture (TSA) program, a farm stand, and area grocery stores. The concept behind “food sovereignty” is for the Meskwaki to reclaim their food system from the national industrial food and agriculture system. 

Thomas Nelson ‘91 has been instrumental in advancing the local food system in the San Francisco Bay Area.  He launched a community-based social enterprise, Capay Valley Farm Shop, which connects 54 farms and ranches in the Capay Valley to Bay Area families and businesses, in the latter category focusing on tech companies, online grocery, and neighborhood businesses.  He is also a business advisor at Kitchen Table Advisors, a non-profit that works with beginning farmers to help them market their products.  He also serves on the board of California FarmLink, established in 1999, which has created a statewide program of economic development support for beginning, limited-resource, immigrant and other underserved farmers across the state.

Jennifer Vazquez-Koster will speak on “Beginning a Local Food System at the Meskwaki Settlement” at 4:00 p.m. and Thomas Nelson will speak on "Community-based Strategies to Scale Up Sustainable Food Systems" at 7:30 p.m.  Both presentations are in Joe Rosenfield Center ’25 101.  Refreshments will be served.  Sponsored by the Grinnell College Center for Prairie Studies.

Commencement 2016

It’s been a beautiful day for the 170th Commencement of Grinnell College, celebrating the class of 2016.

Commencement exercises began at 10 a.m. at the amphitheater on Central Campus, and are now complete.

The ceremony featured an address by internationally renowned novelist Zadie Smith and the awarding of honorary degrees.

Join us as we celebrate our newest graduates. You can:

  • See a copy of the live stream on YouTube. (Higher quality video will be available later.)
  • Follow and join the conversation on Twitter: @GrinnellCollege #Grinnell2016
  • Share your photos on Instagram: #GrinnellCollege or #Grinnell2016
  • Follow us on Facebook and YouTube for highlights from the day.
  • Check out the story on Snapchat: username grinnellcollege

About Zadie Smith

Zadie SmithNovelist Zadie Smith was born in North London in 1975 to an English father and a Jamaican mother. She read English at Cambridge, graduating in 1997. Her acclaimed first novel, White Teeth, is a vibrant portrait of contemporary multicultural London. The book won many honors, including the Guardian First Book Award, the Whitbread First Novel Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best First Book), and two BT Ethnic and Multicultural Media Awards (Best Book/Novel and Best Female Media Newcomer). Smith’s The Autograph Man, a story of loss, obsession, and the nature of celebrity, received the 2003 Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize for Fiction.

In 2003 and 2013 Smith was named by Granta magazine as one of 20 “Best of Young British Novelists.” Smith’s On Beauty won the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction. Her most recent novel, NW, was named as one of the “10 Best Books of 2012” by The New York Times. A tenured professor of creative writing at New York University, Smith writes regularly for The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books. She published one collection of essays, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, and is working on a book of essays titled Feel Free.

About Honorary Degree Recipients

Zadie Smith will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at Grinnell’s Commencement exercises.

Grinnell also will confer honorary degrees upon two alumni and a renowned educator.

Thomas Cole ’71 will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws. He is U.S. Representative for Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District, serving since 2002. Cole, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, is the fourth-ranking Republican leader in the House. He is currently one of only two Native American serving in Congress and was inducted into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame in 2004.

Fred Hersch ’77 will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. A pianist, composer, and one of the world’s foremost jazz artists, Hersch was described as “one of the small handful of brilliant musicians of his generation” by Downbeat magazine. His accomplishments include a 2003 Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship for composition and numerous Grammy nominations. He is a member of the Jazz Studies faculty at the New England Conservatory.

Claudia Swisher will receive an honorary Doctor of Social Studies. She was an English teacher for several decades at Norman North High School in Norman, Okla., where she was admired for going above and beyond in her efforts to connect with students. She saw education as something that should be formed around the children, and not that the children and their interests should be manipulated to conform to education.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Information on commencement ceremonies is available at Grinnell’s Commencement Web page. For any further information on commencement, please call 641-269-3178.

Photo of Zadie Smith by Dominique Nabokov

Another Banner Year for Grinnell Philanthropy

Fiscal year 2016 (FY16) continued Grinnell College’s philanthropic growth after the exceptional year of fiscal year 2015 (FY15). Total commitments in FY16 reached $26,973,773, an increase of more than $3.6 million, or 15.5%, in new gifts, new pledges, and new bequests over the previous year.

In all, 11,375 individuals — including alumni, friends of the College, parents of current and former students, faculty, students, and staff — were donors to the College in fiscal year 2016. Among these, the largest number of donors (7,711) made unrestricted contributions. This year 7,098 alumni made gifts to the College, an increase of 3.9% over last year. Of FY16’s alumni donors, 245 made their first-ever gifts to the College. Overall, Grinnell welcomed 1,407 first-time donors in FY16.

Total receipts for fiscal year 2016 — one-time gifts, payments on pledges, and realized bequests — reached $10.9 million.

“Grinnell’s culture of philanthropy supports our aspirations to provide students a world-class education that prepares them to successfully navigate their careers, life, and service,” says President Raynard S. Kington. “I am grateful for our many donors who so generously play a key partnership role in our future.”

Grinnell achieved a major milestone in FY16 when Carolyn “Kay” Bucksbaum ‘51 pledged $5 million toward the creation of a position to lead the College’s Global Grinnell initiatives and a programmatic fund focused on uplifting students and program development.

Additionally, the College set a record for one-day giving this fiscal year. Our second annual Scarlet & Give Back Day saw gifts from 3,376 donors on April 7, an increase of more than 75% over last year’s 1,922 donors.

Alumni and donor engagement take many forms at Grinnell. Here are some highlights from fiscal year 2016:

  • The second annual Global Day of Service, co-sponsored by the Alumni Council, engaged over 450 alumni, family, and friends who volunteered in 55 locations around the world to celebrate Founder's Day, Grinnell College, and our strong commitment to social justice.
  • GRASP volunteers conducted nearly 400 interviews with prospective students.
  • The alumni relations team, in partnership with more than 200 regional network volunteers, hosted more than 75 regional events to which we welcomed 3,652 alumni, parents, and friends.
  • More than 400 students participated in National Philanthropy Week.
  • The outgoing Class of 2016 achieved 54% in total gift participation toward the senior class gift.
  • With the partnership of over 150 class volunteers, the College welcomed 1,177 alumni and family members back for Reunion 2016 from 47 states, the District of Columbia, and 11 foreign nations.
  • The Class of 1966 raised over $4 million and had 67% participation, both of which are records for a 50th Reunion class.
  • Through the 2016 Grinnell externship program, 97 alumni volunteers provided experiences to 99 students, a 36% increase from last year.
  • More than 150 alumni returned to campus to share their time and talent with current students and fellow alumni. As alumni mentors and speakers in a variety of platforms, Grinnellians are consistently creating opportunities to give back through their professional expertise and talent.
  • The Council for Advancement and Support of Education honored the donor relations team with a Circle of Excellence Award for its fall 2015 Endowed Scholarship Fund Activity Reports. The annual giving team received awards from CASE for Best Practices in Fundraising (Scarlet & Give Back Day FY15) and Best Student Alumni Programming (Class Ambassadors).

“This marked the fourth consecutive year for increased fundraising at Grinnell,” says Shane Jacobson, vice president for development and alumni relations. “We thank each and every donor who helped make fiscal year 2016 an incredible year in philanthropy. Their generosity, alongside the many other ways the Grinnell community gives back, flows through the College to positively influence the lives of our students, faculty, and staff.”

For more information about giving to Grinnell College, please contact the Office of Development and Alumni Relations toll-free at 866-850-1846 or local at 641-269-1846 or send an email to alumni[at]grinnell[dot]edu.

David Cook-Martín Named Assistant Vice President for Global Education

David Cook-MartinDavid Cook-Martín, professor of sociology, has accepted the position of assistant vice president for Global Education and senior international officer. In this role, he will lead Grinnell's new Institute for Global Engagement and take on the responsibility to promote strategic planning for international education and external partnerships across the College. He will also join President Raynard Kington's senior staff.

This step flows from one of the foremost recommendations of the Global Grinnell Task Force: to create a stronger, more integrative structure to lead the College's international initiatives. Grinnell's high rates of participation in study abroad, large and diverse international student population, and outstanding curricular offerings are compelling strengths. Further collaboration across academic areas, engagement with the Center for Careers, Life, and Service, and the offices of Development and Alumni Relations, Admission, Student Affairs, and Off-Campus Study now promise to give Grinnell a distinctive position of leadership in global education as referenced in the Global Grinnell Task Force Report.

This initiative was also made possible by the great generosity of Carolyn "Kay" Bucksbaum '51, former board chair and now Life Trustee of the College. Her recent $5 million gift created two endowments, one to fund the creation of the senior international officer position and another to create a Global Distinctiveness Fund to support students and faculty through scholarships for global courses and language study, research initiatives, internships abroad, and international projects exploring global problems and challenges. 

David brings outstanding qualifications to his new role. An expert in the sociology, history, and politics of human migration, his teaching and research deeply engage with the transnational forces shaping the contemporary world. Most recently, he co-authored Culling the Masses: The Democratic Origins of Racist Immigration Policy in the Americas (Harvard University Press, 2014), a book that won major national awards from both the American Sociological Association and the American Political Science Association. He is also the author of The Scramble for Citizens: Dual Nationality and State Competition for Immigrants (Stanford University Press, 2013)—another award-winning book—and numerous scholarly articles and public commentaries. David's engagement with the American Council on Education, his role as director of Grinnell's Center for International Studies over the last three years, and his service as chair of the sociology department have given him valuable administrative experience as well.

The Institute for Global Engagement will provide Grinnell with a vital point for ongoing collaboration among departments and programs and across the divisions of the College. As the new institute takes up the responsibilities formerly held by the Center for International Studies, I am confident that under David's leadership it will make the most of the opportunities provided by Kay's generous gift, as well as the new Global Learning Program courses, which are a direct result of a $4 million gift provided by Trustee Susie McCurry '71 and the Roland and Ruby Holden Family Foundation. The new Humanities and Social Studies Complex will provide an ideal home for the institute alongside Off-Campus Study, the Office of International Student Affairs, and a new Language Resource Center.

In the coming weeks, David and Michael Latham, Vice President for Academic Affairs, will plan for a new faculty and staff steering committee to provide direction for the institute. They will also work with the Office of Development and Alumni Relations to engage trustees, alumni, and friends of the College in its continuing work.