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Five Grinnell Graduates Honored with Fulbright Awards

Four 2015 Grinnell College graduates and a 2011 graduate have been awarded prestigious Fulbright grants to support travel, teaching and research internationally.

The Fulbright Program, the flagship international education exchange program of the U.S. Department of State, provides recent graduates the opportunity to travel abroad to study, conduct research and teach English. Since its inception in 1946, more than 44,000 students have benefited from the Fulbright experience.

Grinnell has consistently produced a high number of Fulbright recipients. Earlier this year, Grinnell was once again named to the U.S. Department of State's list of colleges and universities that produced the most Fulbright students. Grinnell has been named to this list every year since it was first issued in 2004.

"Grinnellians have always been excellent fits for the Fulbright program," says Steve Gump, director of global fellowships and awards and administrator of the Fulbright program at Grinnell. "Students come to Grinnell to learn about themselves and their potentials for making a difference in the world. They are keen to continue this learning as cultural ambassadors abroad, so the Fulbright goal of increasing mutual understanding through international exchange is a natural extension of their Grinnell experiences."

The 2015 graduates who have received Fulbright awards are:

Aaron MardisAaron Mardis, a mathematics major from Keokuk, Iowa, has received an English teaching assistantship in Montenegro, a small Balkan country once part of the former Yugoslavia that became independent in 2006.

After his Fulbright year, Mardis hopes to continue teaching mathematics in the United States, incorporating both the teaching practices and cultural inclusivity that he experiences while teaching abroad.

Jordan MeyersJordan Meyers, an English major from McMinnville, Oregon, has received a Fulbright research grant to travel to China to conduct medical science research.

After his Fulbright year, Meyers plans to work in the healthcare field before enrolling in medical school.

Lena Parkhurst, a Spanish and English double major from Batavia, Illinois, has received a Fulbright English teaching assistantship in Brazil. She is excited to work in Brazil’s university setting, where she will be instructing future English teachers.

After her Fulbright year, Parkhurst plans to continue exploring her interests in education and international relations.

Sarah WeitekampSarah Weitekamp, a Russian and history double major from Raymond, Illinois, has received a Fulbright English teaching assistantship in Russia.

After her Fulbright year, Weitekamp plans to attend law school.  

A 2011 Grinnell graduate also received a Fulbright award:

Christopher WilsonChristopher Wilson, an English major from Minneapolis, Minnesota, was awarded an English teaching assistantship in Spain. Since his graduation from Grinnell in 2011, Wilson has worked extensively in law and education. Following his Fulbright year, Wilson will continue working in K–12 education, with plans to complete a graduate degree in education policy or leadership within the next five years.


Striking a Balance

In their first year at Grinnell, twins Vrishali Sinha ’19 and Vidushi Sihna ’19 led women’s golf to its third consecutive conference title. For added emphasis, they finished one-two individually at the Midwest Conference tournament in October.

The Sinhas’ games were “on” from the start of the season. In their very first competitive rounds for Grinnell, Vrishali and Vidushi shot the second and third best scores in program history at 74 and 76, respectively. Grinnell team scoring records fell three times in the first three tournaments.

The twins’ first-year success was not entirely unexpected. Both Sinhas have practically lived on the links since they were 10. As teens they were among the best women players in the Indian Golf Union, the governing body for amateur golf in all of India.

Vrishali and Vidushi had always planned to attend college together, but some were surprised that they would opt for Division III golf at Grinnell. The choice initially stunned their lifelong golf coach in India.

“Our coach wanted us to go Division I,” Vrishali says.

“When he found out Grinnell was Division III, he was like, ‘Why?’” Vidushi says.

Wanted a Balance

The Sinhas’ father fielded the incoming appeals from Division I programs, but Vrishali says, “I have a lot of friends who went to Division I and they did not have a really good experience. We were always certain that we wanted to go Division III so we didn’t even consider the Division I and II offers.”

“We are really uncertain whether we want to turn professional or not,” Vidushi adds. “You sacrifice your academics if you go Division I.” 

So, does that mean academics were always their first consideration in choosing a college?

“I wouldn’t say first,” they say in unison, laughing at the common occurrence in their conversation.

“… but we wanted a balance,” Vidushi finishes.

Coaches Influential

One of the Sinha sisters sets up a shot while the other watchesGrinnell golf coaches David Arseneault and Jennie Jackson can attest to the importance of tools like Skype and FaceTime in communicating with student-athletes, especially when prospective students live more than 8,000 miles away.

“We were in contact with a few coaches, and out of all of them we liked Coach A. and Jenny the most,” Vrishali says. “I think that influenced our decision to come to Grinnell a lot.”

The Sinhas also talked with teammate-to-be Lauren Yi ’18 to find out about life at Grinnell from a student perspective, Vidushi says.

“For me, golf and academics are at par, but at a Division I, academics become secondary,” Vrishali says. “People who I know (in Division I) have to choose an easier major so that they can balance out the study and travel.”

“Also, there is just the one tutorial requirement here,” Vidushi says. “I want to do a double major, and I think it’s much better that way.”

Liberal Arts Options

The Sinhas are a year away from declaring majors, and when asked what they might presently choose, they answer together: “Econ.”  

“I want to double major in studio art and econ,” Vidushi says. “There are a lot of artists in our family. My mom’s an artist, my brother paints, I paint.”

“Oh, no,” Vrishali says about the possibility of two majors. “I’m fine with one.”

Both sisters say they’ll probably return to India after college, but for now they are comfortable keeping long-term plans open-ended.

“That is also why we came to a liberal arts college,” Vrishali says, “because you have so many options here. I’m taking an intro to psych course and that’s pretty interesting, so I might do something related to psychology, or stick with econ, I’m not sure.”

Responding to Change

The Sinhas seem relatively undaunted by all they’ve experienced in a few short months, including the differences in American golf courses, the stateside approach to team play, and an academic system that requires a new way of doing things.

“Academics here are tough, definitely,” Vidushi says. “The education system in India is a lot different from what it is here. Out there we just have …”

 “One exam…” Vrishali says.

“…twice a year,” Vidushi finishes.

“You have to do well on your exams because that is 100% of your grade,” Vrishali explains.

Dad Likes Decision

The biggest adjustment of all, however, was coming to a place the size of Grinnell from one of the largest population centers in the world.

“Delhi is huge,” Vrishali says. “It’s a lot colder in the interaction between people, which is more formal, like, just when it’s required or necessary. Out here the people are a lot more friendly.”

While their coach back home now has come around to approving of the twins’ decision to come to Grinnell, their father was never in doubt.

“Oh, he’s happy,” Vidushi says.

“My dad is so happy,” Vrishali says.

Vrishali Sinha ’19 and Vidushi Sinha ’19 attended The Shri Ram School in Gurgaon, Haryana, India. 


A Community of Care

If you talk to Grinnell students about their experiences on campus, it’s likely that the term “self-governance” will be mentioned more than once. The concept of “self-gov” is integral to the Grinnell experience, but what does it really mean?

When Dixon Romeo ’16 arrived on campus in 2012, he could see that not everyone agreed about what self-governance meant. Was it about being a responsible member of the community, or did it have to do with individual student rights? After nearly four years at Grinnell, Romeo has developed a clearer idea of what self-governance really is.

We Versus Me

“I think the longer you’re at Grinnell, the more you tend to lean toward the idea of community governance and away from the idea that self-gov means you can do whatever you want,” says Romeo.

For him, the “me-first” mentality is a big misunderstanding of the importance of self-gov on campus. Creating a culture of respect in which individuals look out for each other and think about how their actions might affect the community as a whole is an integral part of the learning that takes place during college. Offering a study break to a friend who looks stressed, sitting with someone who’s alone in the dining hall, or helping to solve a conflict on your dorm floor — all of these are ways that Grinnell students enact self-gov and create a community of care and respect.

In addition to these daily examples of self-gov, working in the Student Government Association (SGA) helped Romeo develop an even deeper understanding of self-gov. As SGA vice president, Romeo interacts with many different students, staff, and faculty and has realized the importance of self-governance on such a diverse campus.

“While you’re here in this community, you need to have an opportunity to learn, both by making mistakes and by doing great things,” Romeo says. “But you can’t do that if it’s everyone for themselves. We have these self-governing tenets in order to make this a safe space in which everyone can learn and develop into the kind of person they want to be.”

Self-Gov at Parties

One example — many campus parties and events are watched over by student security.

“The idea that we, as students, become responsible for one another, go through training and sacrifice our Friday and Saturday nights so that the rest of the community can have a fun time in a safe way, that’s pretty amazing,” Romeo says. “If something goes wrong or there’s a conflict or someone needs help, I think it’s really important that you’re able to turn to your peers for help, because it’s about responsibility rather than authority.”

Evolving Definitions of Self-Gov

Romeo also acknowledges that the nature of self-governance will be different for each generation of Grinnellians. The issues that were important for the community during the 1970s are not the same concerns of the current student body, and the way self-gov is manifested reflects that change.

“Issues of identity are at the forefront of our current culture,” Romeo explains. “Ten, or even 15 years ago, no one would stand up in a crowd and announce whether they prefer female, male, or any other pronouns, because that wasn’t a part of the conversation.”

Another misconception: Self-governance only applies to situations outside of the classroom. Romeo feels that students need to extend that thinking to their academic activities as well.

“Learning how to state your case, disagree respectfully, and struggle to really understand other people’s opinions in the classroom is a big part of self-gov and of the liberal arts as a whole,” Romeo says.

Dixon Romeo ’16 is an economics major from Chicago.


History in the Making

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swimming the Channel

Delia Salomon in red and black jacket with Honor G logo on the upper left.

Delia Salomon ’14 wears Grinnell colors as she prepares to start her swim from Shakespeare Beach in Dover, England. Salomon swam the 500- and 1650-meter freestyle at Grinnell. She lettered all four years and earned academic all-conference honors three times.

Delia Salomon ’14 started her attempt to swim the English Channel from Dover, England, in the dark of night. In the daylight of hour 10, she was “quite shocked” to have France already in sight.

“I tried not to be looking toward France too much because that can play tricks on your mind,” Salomon says. “Once I realized how close I was, it was really exciting.

“The finish line was very stressful because the wind picked up,” she says. “I was trying to land on a rocky beach and not get completely smashed.”

A month after completing the most famous long-distance swim in the world, Salomon recalls her landing at Cap Gris Nez Sept. 7, 2015. “I felt a huge sense of relief,” she says. “And also disbelief.

“It still feels like a dream,” she says.

Salomon made the 21-mile crossing in 10 hours and 33 minutes — on the fast side of recorded times (from 6:55 to 28:55) and faster than she had anticipated, thanks to favorable currents and winds, she says.

Wanted a Rematch

It was her second try. She’d made an attempt in 2008 when she was 16 years old, but it was called off by bad weather after 11 hours.

“I’d read the book Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox when I was 15 and decided I wanted to do it,” Salomon says. “I guess I am just really stubborn, so once I was thwarted by the weather I wanted a rematch. I knew I had to finish it.”

Open-water swimming appeals to Salomon because there are many ways of defining success. “Sure, there are some who have the records for the fastest or the most or the first of some crossing,” she says, “but it can also be more than that. I just wanted to get across. I didn’t care how long it would take.”

Rules and Precautions

Salomon enlisted her own boat pilot to guide her crossing. Typically boat pilots are fishermen who are familiar with the channel and are in complete charge. The pilot chooses the day of the crossing and has final say on all safety matters: he has the authority to end the attempt.

“The days leading up to the swim are nerve-racking because you are on call and don't know exactly when you will be swimming,” Salomon says. “You have to be ready to go whenever your pilot says.”

An observer from the Channel Swimming Association made sure that official rules were followed. Salomon was not allowed contact with anyone in the boat during her timeouts. At 30-minute intervals she stopped to drink a “carb-protein-electrolyte mixture” of her own concoction. She managed to avoid two big challenges to channel swimmers — jellyfish and tanker ships. 

Physically and Mentally Challenging

Delia Salomon in celebratory tshirt

Salomon’s yearlong training for the crossing included help with open-water technique from Tim Hammond, Grinnell assistant swimming and diving coach. “Tim has always been super supportive of my open-water swimming,” she says.

Needing to be mentally and emotionally fit for the challenge, Salomon stayed motivated with the strong support of family, friends, and coaches. “I have been working for many years to learn how to deal with negative thoughts,” Salomon says. “I really struggled with it in college because I was so hard on myself after not finishing my first channel swim.”

Salomon credits Erin Hurley, head swimming and diving coach, for giving her perspective when she was a student. “She told me that I needed to start talking to myself the way I would talk to a friend,” Salomon says.

“During the swim there were actually very few times when I was feeling down or negative,” she says. “I really felt like I was focused and in the moment. It's great to actually see what I had been visualizing for so long finally come to fruition.”

Sense of Accomplishment

The second day after her crossing, Salomon swam. “It was hard, but I think it helped my muscles,” she says.  After three days, she felt “pretty normal” except for being “very scratched up” from the rocks.

“Before this I never thought that highly of my capabilities to accomplish things that are difficult,” Salomon says. “I learned that I do have some grit and that I can fight through tough situations whether those may be in my head or part of the outside world.

“I don't know that I would say that I did this to prove to myself that I could,” Salomon says, “but in the end I was like, yeah OK, you can do stuff like this if you want to.”          

Photo credits: The Salomon family

Help support reading at Grinnell High School by shopping at Pioneer Bookshop

Shoppers can help promote a love of reading among Grinnell High School students by making purchases at Grinnell College's Pioneer Bookshop during December, when 10 percent of all sales will be donated to the GHS library. 

"The Pioneer Bookshop wants to support reading by contributing to the Grinnell High School library through our Partners in Education program," said Cassie Wherry, manager of the College Bookstore and Pioneer Bookshop.  

Local shoppers raised $1,706 for the GHS library by making purchases at the Pioneer Bookshop in December 2014.  

 GHS Librarian Chelsey Kolpin said those funds enabled the library to buy books of high interest to students and to add and expand popular series collections. In addition, the donations helped the library launch an audiobook collection and expand its ebook collection. 

"Grinnell High School students and staff are pleased that the Pioneer Bookstore and Grinnell College have been so generous to donate funds to our library," Kolpin said. "In the past, these funds have greatly benefited our library and our students." 

Kolpin added that funds generated by bookshop sales this December will be used to expand the library's collection, including biographies and autobiographies, as well books featuring projects students can create in the library's makerspace area.  

Located in the historic downtown Grinnell at 823 Fourth Ave, the Pioneer Bookshop has books for all ages and interests, featuring children’s books and current best sellers. The staff specializes in recommending books for gifts and can quickly special order books not in stock. The Pioneer Bookshop also carries a special selection of toys as well as local team sportswear, stationery and cards. 

The Pioneer Bookshop is open:

  • Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and
  • Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Starting Monday, Dec. 14, the bookshop will have the following extended holiday hours: 

  • Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.,
  • Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and
  • Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. 

On Christmas Eve, the store will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.   


Wanted: Applicants for new part-time positions with AmeriCorps

New Grinnell AmeriCorps Partnership team members will start in late January.

In response to community input, the Grinnell AmeriCorps Partnership is offering four new part-time positions. Applications will be accepted through Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016.

"Since we launched our AmeriCorps member recruitment efforts earlier this fall, we have received positive feedback from community members who have expressed interest in serving as AmeriCorps team members," said Monica Chavez-Silva, assistant vice president of community enhancement and engagement.

"Many of these community members are interested in part-time options, so we have changed some full-time positions to part-time positions to better align with community interest and needs. We are now seeking four part-time members who will start in late January. Details will be available later this spring about additional summer positions to support summer learning."

Applicants for part-time positions should be interested in education and community, have demonstrated an ability to bring people together in order to get something done, and interact well with people, especially youth, from diverse backgrounds. Before beginning their service term, the four part-time AmeriCorps members will go through training to learn about the program's mission, priorities and individual member obligations.

AmeriCorps members will serve at community host-sites to support the advancement of community education priorities in the areas of school attendance and readiness, family and community engagement, and volunteer resources. The successful applicants will receive an AmeriCorps living allowance and an AmeriCorps education award (upon successful completion of service).

Individuals selected for the four part-time positions will serve at the following host sites:

  • Fairview Elementary School — One part-time member will address school attendance while the other will focus on students' readiness for school as part of the Voluntary Preschool Program
  • Grinnell Chamber of Commerce — One part-time member will concentrate on family and community engagement
  • Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation — One part-time member will work on volunteer Infrastructure

The application packet includes detailed service descriptions, benefits, qualifications and the application form.

Completed applications, which are due Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, can be emailed or mailed to Community Enhancement and Engagement at 733 Broad St., Grinnell, Iowa 50112.

For more information about the Grinnell AmeriCorps Member Service positions, email Community Enhancement and Engagement or call 641-269-3900.

Renaissance Compline Concert

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

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

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

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

Hallelujah! Sing/Play Along

Celebrate the last day of classes and the holiday season by joining the 11th annual read-through of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah in Bucksbaum Center for the Arts' Rotunda.

Singers and instrumentalists are invited to participate; non-musicians are invited to listen. John Rommereim, Blanche Johnson Professor of Music, will conduct. The free, public event will last about 15 minutes.

Music will be provided for singers and instrumentalists, and all instruments are welcome. Instrumentalists, please email Jennifer Brown, associate professor of music, in advance to make sure there is a part that works for your instrument. Please bring your own instrument; chairs and stands will be provided.

Joy, Joy, Joy: An Organ Reflection

Grinnell College Organist Linda Bryant will present "Joy, Joy, Joy: An Organ Reflection" at 11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 10, in Herrick Chapel. The performance is free and open to the public. 

Most of the program will be carol-based music, reflective of the quiet and exuberant moods of the holiday season. Bryant will be playing the 59 rank Aeolian-Skinner organ installed in 1949 and completely restored in 2009. 

"Take a break from whatever you are doing," Bryant says, "and enjoy 45 minutes of respite during this busy holiday season."

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations and Events.