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Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years and Artists' Coffeehouse

A free, public screening of the documentary Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984-1992 will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 6, in Alumni Recitation Hall, Room 102.

The film focuses on Audre Lorde’s relation to the German Black Diaspora as well as her literary and political influence. It is a unique visual document about the times the author spent in Germany.

Audre Lorde tells about the development of an Afro-German movement and the origins of the anti-racist movement before and after the German reunification. It describes the beginnings of these political debates and facilitates a historical analysis and an understanding of present debates on identity and racism in Germany.

For the first time, Dagmar Schultz’s archival video and audio recordings and footage has been made available to a wide public. The film represents an important addition to the documentary A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde by Ada Gray Griffin and Michelle Parkerson, which was screened at the 45th Berlin Film Festival in 1995.

Following the film, students are encouraged to share their poetry, short stories, and other talents with the group in an Artists' Coffeehouse Showcase to honor the legacy of Lorde and her work.

Light refreshments will be served.

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

The screening and coffeehouse are sponsored by the Cultural Films Committee, Intercultural Affairs, and the German, American Studies, and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies departments.

Writers@Grinnell: Stephanie Ford

Stephanie Ford '95 is next in Writers@Grinnell series.

Stephanie Ford will read from her work and discuss writing on Thursday, March 3 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 Faulconer Gallery in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.

Stephanie_Ford image

In addition, Ford will lead a roundtable discussion, which is free and open to the public, at  4:15 p.m., March 3 in the Joe Rosenfield '25 Center Room 209.

Stephanie Ford is the author of All Pilgrim (Four Way Books, 2015). Her poems have appeared in many journals, including Tin House, Boston Review, Harvard Review, and The Iowa Review. She holds a bachelor's degree in studio art from Grinnell and a masters in fine arts in creative writing from the University of Michigan; her honors include the Hopwood Award as well as fellowships from Vermont Studio Center and the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Originally from Boulder, Colorado, she now lives in Los Angeles, where she has worked as a high school creative writing teacher and, most recently, as a freelance museum editor.

Grinnell a Peace Corps ‘Top School’

Grinnell College has once again earned a spot on the Peace Corps’ annual Top Volunteer-Producing Colleges and Universities list, coming in at No. 23 among small universities. Currently, eight Grinnell graduates are making a difference around the world as volunteers.

For the past four consecutive years, Grinnell has made it onto the annual list. Since the agency was created in 1961, 375 Grinnell alums have served overseas.

"The Peace Corps is a unique opportunity for college graduates to put their education into practice and become agents of change in communities around the world," Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. "Today’s graduates understand the importance of intercultural understanding and are raising their hands in record numbers to take on the challenge of international service."

Grinnellian Justin Miller ’12 is making a difference as a Peace Corps volunteer. Miller has been serving in Burkina Faso as an education volunteer since August 2014. Miller works primarily as a high school math and English teacher at local schools. Additionally, Miller is working on recording public service announcements on nutrition and sexual education topics, and will distribute the recordings to his community through Bluetooth.

For Miller, the best part about serving as an education volunteer is getting to know his students personally and teaching them American games. Looking back, it was his passion for service and trying new things that led him to Peace Corps.

"Professor Terri Geller at Grinnell once told me, ‘If you aren't doing anything to help, you're saying that you're OK with how things are.’ There’s a lot of injustice in the U.S. and the world as a whole," said Miller, who graduated with a B.A. in mathematics. "The school's strong social justice environment pushed me to try to help people."

This year’s rankings follow a 40-year high in applications for the Peace Corps in 2015.  This record-breaking number comes after the first full year that the agency implemented historic reforms allowing applicants to choose the countries and assignments they'd like to be considered for. Graduating college students are encouraged to browse open programs and apply by April 1 for assignments departing fall 2016.

Iowa-based Peace Corps recruiter Ryan Cairns, a returned volunteer who served in Bulgaria, advises Grinnell candidates.  Students who are interested in post-graduate service are encouraged to meet with Keira Wilson, assistant director of service and social innovation, in the Center for Careers, Life, and Service. Visit Peace Corp Events to learn of in-person and online opportunities to chat with a recruiter.

About the Peace Corps

The Peace Corps sends the best and brightest Americans abroad on behalf of the United States to address the most pressing needs of people around the world. Volunteers work with their community members at the grassroots level to develop sustainable solutions to challenges in education, health, economic development, agriculture, environment and youth development.

Through their service, volunteers gain a unique cultural understanding and a life-long commitment to service that positions them to succeed in today’s global economy.

Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 220,000 Americans of all ages have served in 141 countries worldwide.

The Wish Specialist

The power of making a wish is no small thing; it gives us hope and allows us to envision something better. However, not many of us expect those wishes to be granted — that would be just a little too Disney. While there may not be any fairy godmother waiting to swoop in and make our dreams come true, Sally Webster ’08 has found a way to bring a little magic into the lives of seniors across the country by literally granting wishes for a living.

Success and Satisfaction with Non-Profit Work

Webster developed an interest in nonprofit work when she participated in a ReNew Orleans trip while at Grinnell. After the trip, she took a semester off and stayed in New Orleans for 6 months helping to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. After graduating, she continued to work with nonprofits through AmeriCorps NCCC, which solidified her interest in the nonprofit sector. Moving to Denver, she discovered Wish of a Lifetime, an organization that resonated with Webster due to her own close relationship with her grandmother.

Wish of a Lifetime is a Colorado-based organization that grants wishes to seniors who are experiencing isolation from friends, family, or the activities they once loved.

 “We try to grant really life-enriching, meaningful wishes,” says Webster. “They’re always connected to this vast personal history, to their passions and important people in their lives.”

She started working at the organization in 2010 as a wish coordinator, helping interview seniors and plan the logistics of making their wishes come true. Webster is the director of community outreach, managing external communications, social media, and the organization’s volunteers and interns.  

“It’s been really fulfilling working here,” Webster says. “Some of the wishes are just incredible. We reunited two Holocaust survivors this past summer in Israel, a man and his cousin. And to hear about his perspective on life after the unimaginable things he’s been through — it was amazing.”

Wish Fulfillment for the Elderly

The organization recently fulfilled the wish of one of Grinnell’s oldest alumni, Louise Goodwin McKlveen ’35, who dreamed of throwing the first pitch for the Minnesota Twins. In the weeks before her wish was granted, she excitedly did exercises to increase her arm strength in preparation for the big occasion.

“We have a lot of anecdotal evidence that isolated seniors become more involved in their communities after having a lifelong wish granted,” Webster says. They often begin volunteering, joining social clubs and re-engaging with past passions, and learning to view the last decades of their lives as “productive, involved, and exciting.” But the organization has an even larger goal in mind.

“The intention is really to change the way people view and value seniors in their everyday lives,” says Webster. “There is going to be a huge demographic shift over the next couple of decades and there will be a large elderly population. Getting people to engage with seniors and getting seniors to engage in their communities is the difference between a dependent population and one that is still contributing to society.” From their humble beginnings fulfilling only a handful of wishes annually, Wish of a Lifetime now grants more than 200 wishes each year.

Webster can vouch for the personal value of interacting with seniors and learning from their life experiences. “After working here for 5 years, I have a lot more perspective on the personal challenges in my life,” she says. “I’ve listened to the incredible obstacles these people have faced. They’ve overcome so much that my problems seem manageable in comparison!”

For more information or to nominate a senior citizen in your community, visit Wish of a Lifetime.

 

Charity Made Easy

If you use social media, chances are you’ve heard of “slacktivism.” It’s social media activism, such as when someone signs an online petition or participates in something like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness. These actions require little effort and can help make people aware of issues in the world, but these slacktivists are often criticized for not actually doing anything to help the cause they are touting.

Tab for a Cause, co-founded by Kevin Jennison ’12, takes advantage of the ease of slacktivism while ensuring that users’ actions actually make a difference. By installing a program on your browser so that every new tab you open donates money to charity, Tab for a Cause allows users to raise money for causes they care about simply by going about their normal Internet-browsing activities. Since its inception, Tab for a Cause has raised over $175,000 for various charities.

Tab for a Cause sponsors several nonprofit organizations. Users get the opportunity to learn about organizations they may never have heard of before and to choose where their money goes — all with just the click of a button.

“The idea materialized when YouTube first started showing advertisements,” says Jennison. “I realized how massive the Internet advertising market is. In founding Tab for a Cause, we sought to redirect a fraction of the money in online advertising toward a good cause.”

Rising to the Challenge

At Grinnell, Jennison was a biology major, but learning the ins and outs of software engineering and marketing has “been a blast” for him. “More than anything, Grinnell encouraged me to be unafraid to learn new things,” he says. “I took to jumping into projects that were initially intimidating, and eventually starting this business was one of those projects.”

Tab for a Cause launched during Jennison’s senior year at Grinnell. To help the product take off, he messaged friends on Facebook, hung posters in the College bathrooms, and emailed family members. Soon, he and his partner took to the Internet to spread the word. Communities like Nerdfighteria and crowdfunding sites like Project for Awesome took Tab for a Cause from a few thousand members to tens of thousands over the course of just 18 months.

“The biggest challenge,” Jennison says, “has been learning to steady what can be an emotional roller coaster ride. I’ve learned to celebrate small victories and confront difficulties, but to take both with a grain of salt.”

Looking to the Future

To continue the organization’s growth and popularity, Jennison and his partner encourage sharing among friends and classmates by “holding competitions to see which colleges or high schools can raise the most for charity in a certain period of time.”

Through the development of Tab for a Cause, Jennison has learned the importance of sharing ideas with the people around him. “Early on, every time we talked to someone about Tab for a Cause we came away with a plethora of new ideas,” he says. “This feedback guided our product before we even built it and saved us from tragic mistakes.”

Moving forward, the team at Tab for a Cause is working more and more closely with charity partners in order to give users a personal connection with the projects they donate to. They have also recently launched Goodblock, a free Chrome adblocker that shows users beautiful ads that earn money for charity every time they are viewed.

Jennison’s final word of advice for Grinnellians with big ideas: “Do it. Dive in and get your hands dirty. At worst, you’ll learn a ton, and at best, you’ll succeed in realizing your idea.”

Coding for a Cause

As all Grinnellians know, it’s important to use what you learn to make a difference in your community. In Grinnell’s computer science department, the students in the Team Software Development for Community Organizations class are using what they learn in class to benefit local nonprofits.

“We think our students should understand the ways in which their computing skills can make a positive difference in the world,” says Samuel A. Rebelsky, professor of computer science. “At the same time, it’s important for students to learn how to work with clients who know what they want done, but not how it can be done.”

Helping the Local Food Pantry

Students choose a project at the beginning of the semester, such as creating a website that shows the current needs of the Mid-Iowa Community Action (MICA) food pantry so people know what to donate. Another project the students have worked on is making an online resource portal to help MICA’s clients quickly find the support they need for food, housing, and jobs.

Zoe Wolter ’16, who worked on the MICA resource portal project, says that the class was a great way to get a feel for what she can do with the skills she’s developed at Grinnell. “Getting to actually apply what we’ve learned in class to a real project really expanded my knowledge of what opportunities are out there,” she says. “It really opened my mind to possibilities that I hadn’t thought of before.”

Developing Marketable Skills

Albert Owusu-Asare ’16, in his work on MICA’s resource portal, developed vital skills for communicating with clients who aren’t fluent in computer science language. “I found that it’s best to have them draw pictures and diagrams of what they want so that we can see what we need to do and there’s no confusion,” says Owusu-Asare. “That’s something I couldn’t have learned just sitting in class.”

Having worked on a large project with actual clients has also been useful for students seeking jobs in the tech industry. John Brady ’16, who developed the food bank site for MICA, found that his experience with that project came in handy for interviews. “Having a project that you can talk about that shows some actual real world experience working for clients was fantastic, because projects just for school just don’t have the same weight,” Brady says. He recently accepted a job offer from Amazon.

Receiving Support from Alumni Mentors

Cassie Schmitz talking with students in the courseIn addition to in-class learning, students also get support from alumni mentors who are now working in fields where they do the same kind of work the students are doing. Mentors come to campus once a semester to meet with students and Skype with them every few weeks to support them and answer questions.

“It’s just nice to have someone who went through the computer science department and is now working in the field,” says Owusu-Asare. “You see that they’re doing all these cool things, and it makes me excited for what I’ll do in the future.” Owusu-Asare plans to work as a software developer for Goldman-Sachs after graduating.

The class also supports the College’s commitment to staying connected to the greater Grinnell community. “In a lot of other college towns there’s a big divide between the town and the college, but Grinnell is really committed to bridging that gap,” says Cassie Schmitz ’05, who has been a mentor for the class for the past two years. “Students are encouraged to really engage meaningfully with the community, and this class is an important part of that engagement.”

Albert Owusu-Asare ’16 is a computer science and physics double major from Kumasi, Ghana.

John Brady ’16 is from Rosco, Ill., and is a double major in computer science and mathematics.

Zoe Wolter ’16 is a computer science and theatre double major from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Tutorial in Context

The First-Year Tutorial is the only requirement for all majors and a big part of the individually advised curriculum at Grinnell. Why is the tutorial so important? And what can students expect to get out of it?

Below, Jermaine Stewart-Webb ’16 and Tyler Roberts, professor of religious studies, discuss the impact of Roberts’ tutorial, “Do You Wanna Dance? From Rock to Hip-Hop.”

In his tutorial, Roberts asked students to explore the origins of popular musical styles and the influence of music on individuals and society. Stewart-Webb was one of 12 first-year students in the course.

Here’s what they had to say:

A Fresh Perspective

Roberts: How did [the tutorial] change the way you look at the music in terms of history and in terms of its social/political aspects?

Stewart-Webb: The course gave me a perspective that I’d never really had before. In high school I didn’t really have that much of a critical lens with which to write about any kind of subject matter.

It gave me a larger frame of mind with which to critique music and to talk about it on a more interpersonal level. Part of it might have been coming to realize that I was challenged to not just blindly “like” music without explaining the implications of it.

In terms of the origins of music, I learned that everything has a lineage that leads up to its current moment. I think we, as students, have to learn to openly accept that knowledge, because sometimes I feel like we come in with this idea that we already know all of the good music that’s current.

Digging Deep

Roberts: Does [looking at music in this new way] detract from the simple pleasure of enjoying it?

Stewart-Webb: (laughs) A little bit, because I’m constantly thinking, “Where did this song come from?” or “Did it have origins in a social/political movement?” But overall I can still enjoy music without having to critically think about it all the time.

I remember one specific assignment where we had to really dig deep and think about the vocabulary we used to describe a song we really liked. My presentation was on “Take on Me” by A-ha, one of my favorite songs ever … 

Roberts: Something I’d never heard before …

Stewart-Webb: I was talking about how it was ’80s-esque, and I remember you positing the question, “What do you mean by ’80s-esque?” and saying, “You have to unpack this and explain exactly what that word means.” It made me think about the weight behind the words that I use and not to blindly use words without putting them in proper context.

Roberts: I wanted to have students write not just in a critical academic way about music but also in an appreciative way. It’s also really important to be able to express yourself to an audience about what is meaningful for you and why it enriches your life.

Stewart-Webb: Right. My oral presentation was on the anti-folk movement that took place in Greenwich Village [New York]. I remember being struck by how that movement emerged. I realized that music is not produced in a vacuum, but it comes from all of these artists who collaborate with one another and fight for the validity of what their music stands for. It really helped me understand that genre.

A Richer Advising Relationship

Stewart-Webb: The tutorial in general helped me understand how I fit in the grander scheme of academe as it relates to other forms of study. I was straightforward about not being really good at math and science, so it was good to be pushed to take classes outside of the humanities and social sciences. Having a tutorial adviser who understood the discomforts that I had about specific subject matter allowed me to establish a relationship before jumping in to declare a major.

Roberts: I get a much better sense of my advisees from being in class with them twice a week than I would otherwise. I can develop a rapport in the classroom that translates to the advising sessions. It’s a much richer relationship.

Stewart-Webb: I think I move about the world in a very different way now. It’s as if I can’t “unsee” things at this point in my life, and I have to pay close attention to everything I come in contact with. I’m constantly asking myself why I think the way I do about certain things and probing my peers about why they see things the way they do. So, I enjoyed the tutorial experience for that reason … but it also has been, like, a slight curse (laughs). 

Roberts: It’s called critical thinking.

Stewart-Webb: It’s a good frame of mind to have. It definitely prepared me to take on the arduous demands of the courses I’m currently in as a senior.

Jermaine Stewart-Webb ’16 is an English and French double major from Los Angeles, California.

Acclimated to Success

Born in Ambato, Ecuador, Alfredo Colina ’17 emigrated from his homeland to Washington, D.C., when he was 10 years old. Coming to Grinnell as a D.C. Posse Foundation scholar marked his first real experience outside of a big city.

“Being in a rural area surrounded by farms and corn was a change, definitely,” Colina says. “It wasn’t so much a culture shock as much as just a very distinct environment that I was placed in. I was, like, ‘This is new, but doable.’”

Arriving on campus for the first time with 9 other Posse cohorts seemed strange initially, but Colina says he adjusted very quickly. “Once you’re here,” Colina says, “you’re open to the great opportunities Grinnell has, and the Grinnell Science Project (GSP) was one of them.”

Settling Into College

A weeklong pre-orientation program, the GSP aims to develop the talents of first-year students interested in science and math, especially those from groups underrepresented in the sciences. To familiarize students with college life, they are invited to participate in mentoring opportunities and sample classes.

“[In the GSP] you are able to work with professors from Grinnell and other students who are potential science majors,” Colina says. “It helped before orientation to settle down and realize ‘You’re in Grinnell, it’s different, and it’s not the city.’ I really liked that I was able to go through that opportunity.”

Eye-Opening Experience

Alfredo Colina ’17 conducting resesarch in corn fieldNow a biology major, Colina worked last summer with associate professor Shannon Hinsa-Leasure on a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) focused on bacteria and antibiotic resistance in agricultural settings. In November, he made an oral presentation at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) in Seattle.  

“It was super cool,” Colina says “I was feeling a little bit nervous because I was a student trying to explain what I did to all these major professionals that are big in the field of microbiology.”

Colina says he became more comfortable as he realized that his research — and his presentation style — stood out as distinct.

“A lot of students who presented were trying to explain the mechanisms of various genes,” Colina says. “I kind of took a macro approach to explain a microbiological problem and tried to make it accessible for everyone to understand even if you weren’t a science major.

“It was eye-opening to have people come up afterward and say, ‘Your research is really interesting; I would like you to potentially work for my lab for a summer.’” Colina says. “It was a really great networking opportunity.”

Redefining His Goals

Colina says his research experiences at Grinnell have reshaped his academic and career aspirations. Previously, he had been aiming for an M.D. program. His current plans are to apply for research opportunities next summer and eventually pursue an M.D./Ph.D. program.

“I have a strong connection to research now. Before I thought research was boring, and I didn’t want to be in a lab from 8 to 5, but I fell in love with it last summer,” Colina says. “I want to do microbiology research, dealing with bacteria and antibiotic resistance or some pathway that might lead to prevention of antibiotic resistance.

“I really like microbiology. I don’t see myself doing any other kind of research,” Colina says. “It’s interesting because people might not perceive that bacteria are all over the place, and not all bacteria are bad.

“Learning about what kind of bacteria help, making those distinctions, and making an addition to a scientific field that might have bigger applications in the future is super important.”

Alfredo S. Colina ’17 is a biology major and Posse scholar from Washington, D.C.

Exploring History Through Dance

Taylor Watts ’16 had never danced before taking a salsa lesson during her New Student Orientation. She discovered she loved dance.

Her passion for French goes back a little further, to her sophomore year in high school. Watts is combining both passions in a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP), “A Choreographic Exploration of the ‘commerce triangulaire,’” under the direction of Celeste Miller, assistant professor of theatre and dance.

Watts had the idea for this MAP after several powerful academic experiences. One was a summer MAP in Atlanta, also directed by Miller, working with theatre and dance companies whose work addresses social justice issues.

Another was a semester abroad in Nantes, France. While there she learned about the history of France’s largest slave port in the 18th century in a course taught by a black Frenchman. “Why is it so much easier to study [slavery and race] in a different culture’s history? I was very interested in the class, but I wasn’t going to do anything with it,” Watts says.

When she returned to campus the next semester, Watts took a class on Caribbean authors from Haiti, Guadalupe, and Martinique with Gwenola Caradec, assistant professor of French. The impact of slavery on the Caribbean was a topic that spoke to Watts.

Taylor Watts performanceShe says, “I really questioned doing it because I’m not French or from the Caribbean. Do I have the right to write about this? So I chose words directly from the text. Dance adds another layer of emotionality.”

“Taylor’s ‘Choreographic Exploration’ is a rich example of how dance, because of the undeniability of the body, can be a powerful and visceral use of the arts to examine complex and difficult topics,” Miller says. ”It is a choreographed embodiment drawn from research into both her topic and the aesthetic of the art form of dance.”

“Because of the emphasis spoken French places on connecting each word so that a sentence flows together, just listening to French I can visualize movement,” Watts says.

Watts was already planning the MAP when she heard about the France on Campus Award competition. She had just watched the film The Royal Tenenbaums, written and directed by Wes Anderson, one of the France on Campus Award patrons. The timing seemed auspicious. She won second place.

Watts will perform her work at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 3, in Flanagan Studio Theatre in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. As part of her award, she also will receive mentoring from the French Embassy and from Kickstarter to raise funds that will enable her to perform the work on other U.S. college campuses. 

Taylor Watts ’16 is a French and anthropology double major from Sacramento, Calif.