Home » Current Students

Current Students

My First Day

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


August 22, 2009. I will never, ever forget that date. That was — drum roll please — the day I became an official Grinnellian. At 3:45 a.m., I got out of my cozy, familiar bed in my parents’ home, brushed my teeth, and said goodbye to my sisters and cat. My parents and I loaded up the van, took a deep breath, and headed off to Iowa. After hitting a few different McDonald’s on the four-hour drive from Kansas City to Grinnell, we arrived.

I walked into the first-floor lounge of my dorm, trying not to pass out from nervousness. Never have I felt such a range of emotions. I was excited to be at Grinnell, worried that I knew no one, sad that I would leave my parents, eager to begin my college career, and petrified about everything else. I didn’t have time to dwell on any of these feelings, though. I was immediately greeted by our lovely residence life coordinator Katie and a New Student Orientation (NSO) leader. They gave me my NSO folder, told me where I had to be later that day, and welcomed me to Grinnell.

About then I realized just how much I had to do! Unpack the van, unpack the boxes, fill out forms, organize my room, run to Walmart, get my student card, and, oh yeah, say goodbye to my parents.

But first things first. We went outside to unload the van. Before I knew it, a swarm of women’s soccer players descended to help. They moved my entire carload of stuff in one trip. I beat my roommate to campus, so after a quick phone call to see which side of the room she wanted, we opened the boxes and got down to business.

We were almost done unpacking when my roommate arrived, accompanied by her dad and most of her stuff. All of my nervousness about not getting along with her disappeared as soon as we met.

That was one thing off my list of worries, so we moved on to the next task: eating lunch. I had been in the dining hall when I visited campus as a prospective student, but there’s something very different about eating the first meal as a new member of the Grinnell community. There was so much to take in and so many new faces, but every single person was kind and welcoming. After being on campus for only four hours, I could tell that I was home.

The rest of the day flew by. We played some icebreaker games, went to dinner with the students from my floor, and then all the first-years met in Herrick Chapel for a session on diversity. The fact that Grinnell cares enough about making people feel accepted to address the issue on our very first day was awesome.

I met with my First-Year Tutorial class afterward outside the chapel under a beautiful starry sky, and we had the opportunity to grill an upperclassman on life at Grinnell. It was reassuring to receive answers to my most pressing anxieties about adapting to college. His enthusiasm and love for Grinnell was contagious, and I could already feel my Pioneer pride building.

Before I knew it, it was midnight. As I curled up in my new bed after a long, draining day, I smiled to myself. I was finally a Grinnellian.

Kate Munday '13 is undeclared and from Kansas City, Missouri.

Religion at Grinnell

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


Religious? Me? Absolutely not. As far as I was concerned, religion was at the center of many of the world’s problems. In general, I held a particular dislike toward religion — too many shoulds and musts and rules and strictures.

As an Indian, such views are frowned upon, since large parts of my culture place a great deal of importance on religion. Coming to Grinnell, I had hoped I’d be able to leave that ridiculousness behind altogether.

When I arrived, though, it was slightly different — very different, actually. To my dismay, I realized that people here were interested in religion and enjoyed talking about it. And it wasn’t a few select people. It seemed that every time I was in a group of more than two people, someone would bring up the topic of religion, and that was that. My way of dealing with it? I’d leave the conversation.

Of course, this is fine at the beginning. But what happens when, in a week or so, you start making friends? When you’re with said friends and they start talking about something you don’t like, is it all right to get up and leave? I tried it, a few times. It resulted in a number of raised eyebrows and sideways glances. People started asking me why I left. Afraid I might say something offensive, I’d mumble a weak excuse about checking my mail.

So the next time someone brought up religion in a conversation, I sat there and listened.

It was then, for the first time in my life, when I learned that religion can be discussed just like anything else. People talk about the weather. People talk about psychology. People talk about politics. And people talk about religion. I suddenly realized you don’t have to be religious to talk about it. One of the members of that first conversation was Muslim. Another was Christian. Despite what I might have expected, they were talking freely without any sort of inhibition.

I kept my ears open and my mouth shut for the initial 15 minutes or so of that first talk. I learned that in both religions there’s more than just going to church or going to the mosque. There’s an entire culture behind each religion. Before it became what it is today, it was a way of life for people. It was how, centuries ago, people stayed connected to one another. After 15 minutes, I found myself talking as well, and that surprised me. I’ve shunned religion for most of my life, and yet I found I knew a great deal about the one I grew up in. But how? I see now, despite all the efforts I made to ignore religion, it’s so prevalent that in spite of my inattention, I was able to subconsciously observe and understand it.

Religion can be made ugly. But anything can be made ugly. It can also be made beautiful. I see now I had made it ugly for myself and ignored its beauty. Religion holds entire histories and cultures within it. So much of Indian architecture, literature, music, and dance forms stem from religion. And I was oblivious to it.

What do I plan to do with this sudden insight? I am planning to take a religious studies course next semester. Religious? Me? Absolutely not. But you don’t need to be religious to appreciate, understand, and learn from religion.

Amar Sarkar '12 is undeclared and from New Delhi, India.

Options at the Dining Hall

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


The dining hall is one of my favorite places on campus. I remember the first meal on the evening of my arrival at Grinnell. The sheer size of the hall, the large number of dishes on offer, and the bustling atmosphere overwhelmed me so much, I barely managed to get myself a bowl of noodles before rushing to sit with my newly-found first-year friends.

The food is the first thing you see when you enter. There are so many options: pizza, pasta, hamburgers, salad, vegan dishes, sandwiches, stir-fry, or even a waffle. Of course, the initial excitement of the food wears off with time, and now I regularly walk around the dining hall wondering why there’s nothing to eat. But there are also days when I can’t wait to get there because they’re serving my favorite salad or my favorite chicken dish.

Some of my best memories took place in the dining hall. My first campus job was washing dishes. I had never washed dishes on such a scale before, with hundreds and hundreds of dishes coming through on a conveyor belt. My fellow dish line workers and I would scramble to get a stray plate here, a glass there. The job helped me make two great friends with whom I would eat lunch before we all started our shifts. We still regularly eat meals together. The dining hall was also where I met my second-year roommate, when we happened to sit at the same table and got to talking, just by chance. The dining hall can actually be a great place to make new friends.

The dining hall is emblematic of the accepting culture of Grinnell. The ladies at the entrance swiping your P-card always give you a big smile and ask how your day is going. If you’re in a social mood, you can eat in the big front area. If you’re feeling a bit quiet and want to chat privately with a friend, there are the booths at the back. Or if you just want to eat alone, there are tiny tables perfect for a meal with that homework reading you have to catch up on. I often go to the dining hall even if I’m not very hungry, because it offers more than just food — it offers friends and acquaintances and all round, a really Grinnellian atmosphere.

Gayatri Jayal ’11 is an English major from New Delhi, India.

A Letter to Grinnell from a Grinnellian

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Dear Grinnell,

Could you explain to me how I became a college senior? I understand that classes were involved and the passage of time and a whole bunch of homework, but what happened? And now it’s my last year and in eight short months, I will be released into the world to unleash my liberal arts education on unsuspecting institutions. At Commencement when I walk across that stage, only one thought will go through my head. Well, two, actually. The first will be, “God, I hope there aren’t any huge boogers hanging out of my nose.” The second, however, will most definitely be, “Please don’t make me leave this place!”

Because, Grinnell, despite homework, I love you.

Who knows, maybe that love’s even with the homework. Maybe.

You’ve changed me, did you know? Changed me in ways I never thought I’d be changed. You got me to dance; you got me to reflect upon my beliefs, find context for the parts I wanted to keep, and a replacement for the parts I needed to replace; you got me to eat Indian food and to use semicolons.

I almost don’t recognize myself from the Molly who entered Grinnell three years ago. I like the new Molly. She’s cool, mature (on occasion), and refuses to be confined. She still loves children’s books, though, and dresses like a pirate or a punk rock star when she needs cheering up.

I found a community here. Not just a friends group, but an entire support system where so many people care and so many people want to help, be it my floor’s student adviser with comfort after a break-up or the director of the Center for International Studies with help and finances to create my dream project. And yes, I’ve had my heart broken once or twice. Even you and I, Grinnell, have had a few fights, but we came out better for it in the end.

You don’t understand how much I’ll miss you. Even I don’t think I fully comprehend it. I’ll miss the dorm’s smell of clean showers in the morning, the smell of fresh paint in the Rosenfield Center, and the smell of granola in my own room. I’ll miss walking only five minutes to get to my morning classes — especially in the winter.

Today, I spoke on the phone with a Grinnell alumna who graduated perhaps six years ago. I was looking forward to insightful advice on entering the publishing world. She was looking forward to hearing about how good old Grinnell had changed since she’d left. We talked for nearly an hour, and she laughed when she discovered I worked at Burling Library. Why, she’d worked there too! Was Brian still there? He was, he was. “I miss them all so much,” she said.

Even after graduation, you never leave us do you, Grinnell? That’s comforting to know. It really is. Because as terrified as it had been to apply for colleges and find a place to spend my next four years, I’m even more terrified to leave it.

Yours forever,


Molly Rideout '10 is a English major and Gender and Women's Studies concentrator from Madison, Wisconsin.

Burling Library

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


In high school, I was always one to come home after sports practice and go study in my quiet room — I concentrate more easily when it’s quiet. Before coming to Grinnell, I was nervous that it might be difficult to find a good space to study. However, this has not been a problem at all. I have found a plethora of places to study on campus, and Burling Library has become one of my favorites.

The library community is what makes Burling such a unique spot on campus. Although it’s mostly a quiet place to study, you still get the company of all your friends. I have been with company even on those late study nights when I have stayed until 1 a.m., and I know I can find somebody else to keep me company on the way back to our dorms.

Inside Burling, there are a million little nooks in which to study. One can study downstairs in the unique jungle gym desks, at larger group tables, or on couches, many of which are in front of huge windows. The second through fourth floors have individual study carrels, which are great when you want to get a lot done with few distractions. Almost everywhere in the library, you’ll find individual lamps you can adjust to position the light on your homework.

Another perk: the library provides free tea everyday and free cookies every Wednesday. One of my favorite things to do before class is to come to the library and drink tea as the sun shines through the huge windows covering the north and south sides of the building. The library also presents displays with different themes, sponsors open mic poetry readings, and brings in authors to read excerpts from their books. During finals week, the library throws great study breaks, including performances by the improvisation team and by a cappella groups.

In the basement of the library, the College archive has all the old Grinnell College yearbooks, as well as priceless copies of rare and ancient books. You can also check out CDs and DVDs for free from the listening room; oftentimes on the weekend I like to find movies to watch with friends for a relaxing night. The best part of the basement is the bathrooms, where student graffiti covers the walls, allowing them to vent a little and express their feelings. I smile every time I go downstairs and see the “body-prints” on the wall that some of my friends made as a celebration of self-expression.

From the feeling of community to the performances to the multitude of resources offered, the library is a great place on campus to study, and like me, most Grinnell students grow to love it.

Diane Meisles ’12 is undeclared and from Northfield, Illinois.


Scholars' Convocation

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


Scholars' Convocation


For over 30 years, the Scholars' Convocation series has created a common educational experience shared by the entire Grinnell College community. Established in the late 1970s in response to the College's move to an open curriculum, the accessible interdisciplinary nature of convocation offers an intellectual encounter that transcends disciplinary boundaries.

Scholars' Convocations are scheduled through a faculty committee. If you are planning or are interested in planning a Scholars' Convocation, please see Scholars' Convocation Proposals.

More information about this year's convocation series will be available at2012-2013 Schedule.

Fall 2012

  • September 5: Grinnell Social Justice Prize Announcement
  • September 12: Suzanne M. Wilson, as part of the Rosenfield Symposium on Education
  • October 3: Raynard Kington, President of Grinnell College
  • October 10: Mark Umbreit, Co-founder of the Prisoner and Community Together (PACT) Institute
  • November 14: Grinnell Social Justice Prize Symposium
  • November 28: Charles Hirschkind, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Berkeley

Spring 2013:

  • February 13: Rosenfield Symposium on Sustainability
  • March 6: Ingrid Daubechies, Professor of Applied Mathematics, Princeton University
  • April 10: Katha Pollitt, author and poet
  • April 17: Rosenfield Symposium on Human Trafficking
  • April 24: Phi Beta Kappa

Grinnellian Explores Climate Change on World Stage

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Most Americans watched events at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, unfold from afar. One Grinnell senior’s own initiative took him to Copenhagen last December to attend the conference in person. Nathan Pavlovic ’10 calls the experience “eye-opening” in many ways.

The conference was an ideal extension of his academic interests, Pavlovic says, which include sustainability relating to the relationship between developed countries and the developing world. At the conference, he rubbed elbows with influential people, including former Vice-President Al Gore. President Barack Obama was also at the conference. “I learned that world leaders are human, too,” Pavlovic explains. “I think that we all too often think of decision makers as larger-than-life people, so to see them talking in person helped me put them in perspective.”

He believes his Grinnell experience gave him an advantage as he analyzed events at the conference. “My time at Grinnell has helped me develop the critical viewpoint that empowered me to question the motives and ideas of speakers at the conference, speakers who were far more ‘important’ than me,” Pavlovic says. “It was reassuring to realize that I’ve learned enough about the issues and politics to question what our leaders are saying and why they’re saying it.”

Pavlovic says, however, that attending the conference was somewhat disillusioning. He calls the process of negotiation “often undemocratic,” and he observed that NGOs were sometimes excluded from events. Pavlovic also cites frustration over what he calls the unwillingness of developed nations to help developing countries, where climate change is likely to have devastating effects. Overall, though, he still found it valuable to gain a fresh perspective. “I've developed a more nuanced and complete understanding of climate change as a political issue rather than a scientific one,” he says.

Back in Grinnell, Pavlovic plans to reach beyond campus and work with the city to both inform individuals and motivate action. He will make a campus presentation and lead a discussion forum, and he also plans to initiate meetings with city leaders and local high school and college student groups. He believes it is critical for the next generation to be engaged in the politics of climate change, so he hopes his program at the high school will help build a significant interest in climate change policy.

Pavlovic was also featured on an episode of The Exchange on Iowa Public Radio in December. The host spoke to Pavlovic in Copenhagen via Skype. “I had expected to maybe have a few short sound bites, but instead they let me talk for 10 or 15 minutes,” he says. “I was pleased at how interested they were in my experiences.”

Pavlovic recognizes he faces a challenge. “Without the resolve of a definitive agreement from the Copenhagen Conference, it’s harder to move forward,” he says. Nevertheless, the conference taught him much about the value of local action, and he is excited to help build upon the commitment to confront climate change.

A Summer of Peace and Adventure

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

As a third-year student, I sincerely believe that Grinnell College is a place where the spirit of the liberal arts goes deep. During school days, as well as the summer breaks, Grinnell provides fascinating opportunities for adventures and explorations. From serious academic interactions to career exploration, we never run out of fun and meaningful stuff to do.

The past summer, I was nominated by Grinnell to receive $10,000 from the Davis Foundation to organize a peace project in Shanghai, China, with a student from Georgetown University. Called “100 Projects for Peace,” this annual program is funded by Kathryn W. Davis. Upon her 100th birthday, she decided to support 100 student-led grassroots projects around the globe on issues of conflict resolution, woman’s rights, social justice, poverty reduction, and so on. Among the 90 campuses that nominated one or two candidates, Grinnell nominated two students (one of whom was me) who each received $10,000 for a summer 2009 project.

I first came to know about 100 Projects for Peace when past winners presented on their experience during my second year. The room was packed with students, faculty, and staff members. Many people were forced to stand through the two-hour presentation, which they did without complaint, amazed by the ideas and experiences of the speakers. One student had set up an Arabic language and culture program in Israel. Another group of students managed a local food program in Iowa. I realized that I had the same opportunity to craft and organize a grassroots project that would make small but real changes for the society.

The peace project I designed closely related to my academic interests as a sociology major. With advice from professors and staff in Grinnell, my partner and I designed a project that invites law school students to help migrant workers in Shanghai, the biggest metropolitan area in mainland China. Because of China’s unique residency system, migrant workers from the countryside often face discrimination and exploitation in urban areas. Project LAMPS — Legal Aid Program for Migrant-workers in Shanghai — thus aimed to help the inner migrant workers protect their basic human rights from legal abuses.

Although we started planning before receiving the money, we still faced unexpected difficulties due to local policy and our limited knowledge. Despite the district government’s full support, we often found ourselves lost in a muddle of logistics and bureaucracy. For instance, the law schools, where we recruited 90 percent of our volunteers, banned our posters from their campus buildings in fear of political controversy; we had to secretly spread pamphlets in dormitories and classrooms.

Nevertheless, many civil servants, lawyers, law professors, and media personnel genuinely supported our project. Certainly, one summer is far from enough to change the lives of millions of rural migrants. But with our project’s help, about 35 law school students and lawyers provided free presentations and legal consultation to more than 1,000 migrant workers from all parts of China.

Through 100 Project for Peace, I learned my shortcomings and limited capacity as a student. And I also learned that there were always people out there who believe in social justice and are willing to help — it is just a matter of finding them. My summer adventure was just one example out of many priceless opportunities that Grinnell is able to provide. As long as we seek, there is always something Grinnell can offer in our interests.

Liting Cong '11 is a Sociology major and Policy Studies concentrator from Shanghai, China.

Give My Regards to Student Affairs

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)



 Spring 2009


 Deborah Berk '12

I’ve been a musical theatre kid my whole life. Though I never wanted to make it my career, most of the music on my iPod is musical soundtracks. While other middle school girls mooned over Justin Timberlake and Adam Brody, my computer desktop boasted Christian Borle and Norbert Leo Butz. An autographed photo of Bernadette Peters hung next to my mirror. I felt certain my interest in musical theatre would be compromised by moving to the cornfields of Grinnell, and I readied myself for four years of illegal bootlegs.

I realized how wrong I was early in my second semester at Grinnell, when I learned student affairs had extra tickets to the musical Spring Awakening on its off-Broadway tour in Des Moines. Did I want to go? I nearly fell out of my chair in my rush to get to the student affairs office. As I was giving my name and e-mail to the woman behind the desk, she asked me what my plans were for spring break and handed me a bright yellow flyer.

“We’re taking a group of students to New York City to see some shows, if you’re interested. I think it’s something around five or six shows over a four-day weekend. Sound like fun?”

I was in a state of pure euphoria. Half an hour ago, I had thought I’d be a grown-up before I could see live musicals again. Now I was hip-deep in them! After some mental calculations (about $450 bucks for the whole trip), I signed up then and there. Even discount Broadway tickets can cost anywhere between $50–150, not even taking into account hotel and travel costs. Sure, the trip wasn’t free, but it might as well have been. I, a girl from Oregon, was going to have a magical, wonderful weekend for easily a third of the normal cost. And Grinnell was helping me do it!

That weekend, the good deal got even better. The ticket I had purchased for Spring Awakening turned out to be one of a dozen seated onstage. I sat not five feet away from professional actors and actresses. I could feel their energy as they did what they loved. I left the theatre misty-eyed, and I suddenly realized I was wrong—even though I was passionate about musicals, I’d always thought I could live without them. But as I watched those people work, I realized I could not live without musical theatre.

I am now trying to figure out how to pursue a career in theatre production and management, and looking forward to my spring break more every day.

Deborah Berk '12 is undeclared and from Clackamas, Oregon.


Finally Feeling Fit

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


In my last day of Phys Ed in high school — I can recall the crisp December afternoon quite vividly — I gave a whoop of joy and did a cartwheel across the soccer field (and by “did a cartwheel” I mean I tumbled onto the ground without a care in the world). In short, I was never a fan of sports or physical exertion of any kind.

Now, as a rising second-year at Grinnell College, I’d like to tell you that I play two varsity sports, wake up every morning at the crack of dawn to go for a morning run, and am a health nut, but that would be too good to be true — and completely false. Although coming to Grinnell hasn’t made me an athletics freak, gung-ho about all things sports-related, it has opened my mind to a world more active than curling up on the couch on a sunny Friday afternoon. A variety of athletic possibilities within my range of abilities, and the wide range of options at my disposal, have most definitely helped me find a happy medium.

I should probably preface this with a note that the dreaded “freshman 15” (or perhaps I should say “first-year 15” here at Grinnell) did have a little something to do with my interest in figuring out how to become physically active on campus. After the initial few weeks of grumbling about aches and pains, the first-year 15 was last on my list of motivations. This past semester, I found a variety of ways to get myself (relatively) into shape. I took Beginning Weight Lifting as a onecredit course, discovered the wonders of the elliptical machine, and learned to love having easy access to the Grinnell gym. I joined the Grinnell Swing Society (a popular pastime among Ins&Outs writers, it turns out) and danced every Monday night this semester.

It was an almost Herculean feat in the dead of winter to get myself out of bed at 8 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday mornings to go to my weight training class. But I found as the semester progressed and I started to get into it (and as the weather improved), I was actually enjoying myself. In contrast, I never had to drag myself to attend swing-dancing lessons. In addition to learning how to gracefully triple-step my way around my room when my roommate wasn’t around, I found a whole new community of Grinnellians.

As for the more random athletic endeavors I partook in? As spring set in, my friends insisted on tree-climbing at every opportunity, though the first tree I’d ever set foot in was on East Campus only six months ago. I found myself scaling (relatively) high heights before long and to my pleasure, I had the tree-climbing scratches and scars to prove it. Grinnell is also a great place to walk around, and in my year here, I’ve probably been on more scenic walks than my last 18 years in a busy city.

Though it might not seem like much, this combination of formalized, social, and random athletic activities has made me a more energetic and, believe it or are on varsity sports teams, but we all manage to find our ways of releasing stress, getting our heart rates up, and building social circles through athletics. Whether it’s learning Javanese dance, a one-credit water aerobics class, DAG practice every week on Mac Field (running around jabbing foam swords at people truly is a workout!), intramural Frisbee tournaments, Nerf wars in Noyce Science Center, or bike-riding down country roads past the cornfields, Grinnell offers plenty of opportunities to stay healthy, fit, and have fun — even if you’re a couch potato at heart, like me.

Sunanda Vaidheesh '12 is undeclared and from Mumbai, India.