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Ecological Initiatives

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:24 | By Anonymous (not verified)


In a series of meetings I have had last year with the larger Grinnell family — including open office hours, lunches with faculty and administrators, and conversations with students — the single most popular question has been some variation of “What is the College doing about environmental and sustainability issues?”

There are several reasons for such a high interest: Sustainability is consistent with the College’s long history of social responsibility. Environmental responsibility saves the College money. Sustainability is increasingly a subject of our inquiry-based curriculum.

Also, the College has been emphasizing sustainability for some time now; almost all campus buildings constructed since 2003 are or will be LEED-certified as resource-efficient. We now recycle or compost more than half our campus waste. We reduced our boiler plant’s water consumption by 40 percent in 2009 by installing a water filtration system. We have worked to serve more locally grown food in our dining hall. And we have a host of courses in the sciences and social sciences that address sustainability.

There have been many people on campus doing a lot of good work on sustainability, and we have plucked most of the low-hanging fruit — the big gains in resource efficiency. Now it is time to coordinate and expand these efforts and to take on some really big initiatives.

Here is where we are headed:

I am signing the American College and University Presidents’Climate Commitment to achieve climate neutrality as soon as possible and to take immediate, specific steps toward doing so. I am very comfortable signing the presidents’ commitment because there is no question in my mind that this campus is committed to the goal — because it is good citizenship, it is consistent with our values, and because many of the activities we are committed to in this area may actually save the college money in the long run.

We are establishing a Climate Steering Committee that will coordinate the efforts of everyone involved in promoting sustainability on this campus. In my mind, this committee replaces and broadens the long-standing EcoCampus Committee of faculty, staff, and student representatives who meet to address campus environmental issues.

We have launched an environment and sustainability section on the College’s Web site to keep everyone informed of new sustainability developments and to act as a clearinghouse for links to the organizations, committees, and curricular developments related to sustainability.

We are planning to construct a three-turbine, 15.6 million kilowatt-hour wind farm north of campus that will cost about $10 million, generate 80 percent of the College’s electrical consumption, and reduce our carbon impact by half. This is the culmination of a wind-energy project begun by a student in 1996, and it will likely take another two years or more to complete. The details of property easements, financial models, and the relationship with our local utility company and the national power grid are currently being worked out, and they are complicated. But we have a vision and a plan that is well along. We are very excited about making it a reality.

The above points are only the current headlines in an ongoing sustainability effort that ultimately affects every aspect of our lives as a College family. We will be offering more courses and cocurricular learning opportunities in sustainability, creating new initiatives aimed at resource efficiency, and refining and expanding those that are already in place. I encourage you to take a look at our sustainability Web site, mentioned above, to stay current with all that we are doing, and to join me in thanking the many members of our community who have led and continue to lead us toward a sustainable future.

Why a bill proposed to sell Pollock's "Mural" is a bad idea

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:24 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Posted by:  Lesley Wright

State Rep. Scott Raecker, a Grinnell alumnus, has introduced a bill in the Iowa Legislature to sell a painting, Jackson Pollock's "Mural," owned by the University of Iowa Museum of Art in order to create a fund to pay for scholarships for art students.

Here is the letter I sent to Representative Raecker explaining why I think this is a terrible idea.

Dear Representative Raecker,

I am writing in response to your bill introduced in the Iowa House seeking to sell the Jackson Pollock masterpiece owned by the University of Iowa Museum of Art.  I am the director of the Faulconer Gallery at Grinnell College, and on the Advocacy Committee for the Iowa Museum Association.

While I applaud your desire to increase scholarships for the arts, I must protest your proposed method of funding. Selling off a painting that has been on view to countless generations of University of Iowa students, school children, visitors, and Iowa residents ever since it was given by Peggy Guggenheim would cut the heart out of the University of Iowa collection.  Collections are given by passionate donors—alumni and friends alike—but they are also shaped by the dedicated professional staff at the museum, who develop a strong core collection to best communicate with their audiences. The Jackson Pollock painting you seek to sell is part of the core art collection in Iowa.

Selling this painting to fund arts scholarships is akin to selling off a theatre building to support theatre students, selling playing fields to support athletic scholarships, or selling off science equipment to fund the science students.  It makes no sense and in fact sends a very mixed message:  major in the arts but expect no security for your school’s arts initiatives.

The University of Iowa  Museum of Art has a new director. From my meetings with him, I am impressed with his dedication to education, his vision, and his desire to spread art across the campus. He is also committed to working broadly with arts organizations across the state of Iowa.  Fighting to save the Pollock is a distraction and keeps him from doing the job he was hired to do.

The real value of Jackson Pollock’s Mural lies in the inspiration it provides to nourish creativity and to educate anyone who sees it. When my daughter was 4 years old, she learned to recognize Pollock’s work with this painting.  Grinnell students travel to Iowa City (and now Davenport) to see this masterpiece. A noted art historian visiting Grinnell from Morocco asked to visit the Pollock. It is that important and world-renowned, bringing distinction to our state.

 When our children live 250-300 miles from the nearest major metropolitan area, it behooves all of us at the state’s colleges and universities (as well as private museums) to expose our audiences to the very best art we can—be that from our regional artists, from national figures like Jackson Pollock, or from international artists. Iowa is integrally tied to the wide world, a fact we celebrate every day. I commend the University of Iowa for finding a way to keep the Pollock and other key works in their collection on view at the Figge Museum as a means of serving all the people of Iowa and who visit Iowa until such time as they can rebuild in Iowa City.

Finally, on a more practical note, a painting the size of Mural is difficult and expensive to transport and it endangers the work of art every time it is moved. Expecting owner to send the piece to Iowa every few years from wherever in the world it winds up is risky at best and almost impossible to enforce. It’s a well-intentioned condition of sale, but not a good one.

I am sure there are excellent ways to raise scholarship funds for students at our State universities. Selling Pollock’s Mural will have negative repercussions that far outweigh the cash benefits.  The value of art lies in the power of visual expression, the emotional response to a work, and to the stimulus to our imagination. The dollar value is paltry compared with the value of Pollock’s work to the human spirit. If we sell off the Pollock, we impoverish Iowa forever.


Lesley Wright, Director

Faulconer Gallery, Grinnell College  

Grasping the Explosive Growth of China

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:24 | By Anonymous (not verified)



In the U.S., we often hear about the scale of projects and economic growth in China, but from a distance and with only our own scale of reference, it's difficult to grasp.  Even here in central Nanjing, with new skyscrapers and shopping malls under construction in seemingly every block, the feeling is similar to that of redeveloping areas in Chicago, or New York, or L.A.  It's impressive, but woven into the fabric of the energy of a city at perhaps a hyper-level from what we have come to expect.

In the morning, we walk up the the magazine kiosk on Hankou Lu and purchase a copy of the English language China Daily. Though we are careful to parse the prose and assume there are facts and shadings that we are not being given, The Daily does provide an intriguing window onto the scale of China.  In yesterday's paper, we learned that 505,000 people visited the Shanghai expo on Saturday (half a million people in one place in a single day)!  Now that's an attendance figure.  We plan to attend the Expo on our last day in China, though we approach it with some trepidation.  A more interesting article for us as Iowans was a long piece about the changing face of farming.  It began with an overview of Xinfadi, the wholesale produce, meat, seafood and seed market in Beijing, open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  As many as 80,000 people buy and sell pork, cabbage, rice, shrimp and the rest every day.  Supplying Xinfadi and other markets like it across China are 300 million farmers.  Think about that.  There are as many farmers in China as there are people in the U.S. (roughly). Of course, this is largely because most farms are tiny, one to ten acres, and are farmed by hand.  But the fact that they have the infrastructure to move products from all those places to markets of the scale of Xinfadi is astounding.

On Saturday, Don and I took a ride on the brand new #2 Line of the Nanjing subway. The line opened the day before and provides a much faster link between the Gulou campus of Nanjing University and the "new campus" where most of the undergraduates study and reside, out in the suburbs. Aside from a few glitches, the ride was great, we made some new friends with a quartet of preteens intrigued by the foreigners and eager to try their English, and we were knocked out by the army of people in every station to assist new riders.

The new campus is impressive, a brand new university that has sprung out of the ground with a stunning library and campus center, beautiful athletic fields, striking classroom buildings, and 8 enormous dormitory buildings. The campus map was a little confusing until we realized that the buildings to our east, under construction, were already marked on the map.  We figured we toured about a quarter of the campus, maybe, which spread north at some distance, and will soon double to the east. Faculty colleagues tell us they are building 3000 faculty apartments there to handle housing needs for faculty on both campus, housing being a major expense and problem in China these days.

The subway ride to the new campus is above ground about half the way. All along the tracks we saw enormous housing complexes under construction or newly built, linked by broad new boulevards, new parks, and new shopping centers. These apartment blocks might be 10 stories high and extend for 2 or 3 city blocks! Everything was instantly landscaped, with mature trees moved in and planted by the hundreds.  The scale of everything was huge, but was punctuated by empty lots sprouting with gardens and small farms, with plenty of people out wielding hoes and shovels as they carved out a spot to grow vegetables.

This glimpse of China beyond the Nanjing city walls really drove home the scale of the economic engine of China. Nanjing is a medium sized city in China. Population estimates range from 7 to 10 million, and now I understand how the figure can be so high.  This medium sized city is as big, or bigger than New York City, than Chicago, and it shows no signs of stopping its growth anytime soon.


Why Blog?

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:24 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Posted by: Raynard S. Kington

I want to do everything I can to ensure good communication on campus. My first choice is always to meet and talk with you all in person, with time for some questions on your part and some listening on my part. But I realize 1) we can’t always do that, and 2) not everyone will be able to attend such events when we do. So from time to time I’ll share information I think you need to know and ideas I believe are worth thinking about. I welcome your comments — although I can’t respond to them individually, I will review them, and may respond to them generally in this ongoing, online conversation. My first few postings will catch me up from last semester.

We have lunch with Wu

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:24 | By Anonymous (not verified)


After days of hearing of all the accomplishments and accolades accorded to the esteemed Professor Wu, seeing his studio and examples of his work at Nanjing University, and anticipating the moment, we were invited to a luncheon on Friday with the man himself.  He had just returned from Hong Kong, where he received an honorary degree from Hong Kong University. Professor Wu is officially Don's host at Nanjing University, but his assistants, Mr. Chen and Mr. Qian (pronounced "chon") have being taking on the day-to-day tasks of working with Don on his course.  In fact, Mr. Chen is sitting in on the course, and Mr. Qian provides Don's translations.  Both Mr. Chen and Mr. Qian hold Professor Wu in the highest regard and tell us often of his awards and honors.

We were escorted through the studio and upstairs to Prof. Wu's private office, a lavish space filled with books, historical works of Chinese art, and photos and paintings of Prof. Wu.  We greeted Professor Wu, and met several other guests, including Deputy Director Dai Zhehua, who directs the Office of International Cooperation and Exchanges at Nanjing University, a visiting artist friend of Prof Wu's named Yishing, and Cong Cong, there to greet us but unable to stay for lunch.  We were served tea and exchanged gifts with Professor Wu.  There was a round of picture taking then we were off to lunch.

We surmise that Professor Wu is in his late 40s.  He was dressed all in an elegant black suit with a black shirt.  His hair is long and swept back and he carries himself with confidence, very much an artist at the peak of his profession and a consummate careerist.  He understands English but speaks it very little.  Mr. Dai and Mr. Qian did most of the translating at lunch.  Mr. Chen made sure the meal ran smoothly.  Professor Wu is now primarily based out of Beijing where he has been elevated from a professor to the director of the Institute for Arts and also to the head of the national sculpture academy.  He still serves Nanjing University but, as Mr. Dai noted, he's paid by Beijing!  In his national roles, he has a great deal of power to determine which artists and which sculptures are placed in cities all over China. 

This was our second banquet luncheon. Held in a private dining room, the guests sit around an elegantly set round table.  The courses--at least 10--are served individually one after another.  A plate of beautifully arranged hors d'oeuvres begins the meal (sliced beef, duck, mango, a tiny hard-boiled egg, shredded radish), followed by:  a soup of greens and rice noodles, another plate of sliced meat, a salad course, another soup, a dumpling, a fish dish in a yellow creamy sauce, a cabbage roll in a spicy chili sauce with a small stick of chocolate, a steak, another soup, and a dessert of watermelon, tomato and cucumber slices.  All the portions are small, but we have learned not to eat everything.  It's bad manners and we wouldn't make it to the end! 

Aside from conversation, the other main activity at the luncheon is rounds of toasting.  We had a frothy orange drink plus small glasses of a tasty but potent white liquor made from 5 grains.  There are both general toasts and periodic individual toasts.  I've made sure to offer at least one general toast each lunch.  Don thinks the individual toasts are offered whenever anyone wants to take another sip--no sipping without toasting! 

Professor Wu had to rush off at the end to give a speech to the local military academy.  We headed home in the rain, in need of a rest after lunch with Wu!

Campus Life as we see it

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:24 | By Anonymous (not verified)



Our lodging is at the far end of Nanjing University campus.  The campus is divided into the dormitory area for the students (and we live in this part of campus) and the academic and teaching area.  Hankou Road runs through the middle of campus and divides the two sections.  Several times a day we walk through the dorms and see the students going about their daily lives.

This campus of Nanjing University is for post-graduate study, so all the students have completed their undergraduate degrees.  There are a couple of very big dormitories--10 stories or more--but most are 3 or 4 stories high.  Cici tells us that she shares a room with 6 other girls.  The dorm is neither heated or air conditioned, and has only cold water.  If the students want hot water, they go to a central area (morning and evening) and collect a large thermos of hot water to take back to their room.  During the day, the thermoses sit along various walkways and walls,  like cheerful colored sentinals.  (I need to purchase a device to upload my pictures--stay tuned for visuals.) 

Today, the sun is shining for the first time since we arrived in China.  As a result, it is wash day.  Almost every window in the dorms is festooned with laundry, and the wash lines between the dorms are lined with quilts and blankets out to air.  I doubt there is a washing machine in any of the dorms, but there are a few establishments on and near campus that do washing.  Cici says most students launder by hand to save money.

The dorms also don't have showers, but there are shower houses on campus. In the evening we watch the students head to the bath house with their buckets of toiletries.  Afterwards, some of the girls head back to the dorms in their pajamas, and the others have on fresh clothes.  There is a barber and hair cutting place just next to the bath house and they also do a lively business in the evening.  We think about all the amenities our students have in the dorms and are amazed by the difference in this post-graduate student life from a Grinnell undergrad's experience.

Our usual path through campus takes us past the back loading dock for the cafeteria.  This morning they were unloading vegetables and fresh fish.  The fish was so fresh that many of them were flopping about in their tubs, and at one point a number of eels (or what looked like eels), made a break for it and were working their way down the steps.  Since the mighty Yangtze is miles away, I fear their cause was hopeless and they are likely all lunch by now.

We've noticed that Nanjing students dress quite conservatively.  Jeans are the dominant uniform, though more shorts and skirts have been in evidence with the return of the sun.  Skirts are usually worn with hose, and many young women wear a sweater or a jacket as a kind of professional attire, no matter how warm it gets.  Bare legs and shoulders are unusual, though as the temperatures start to climb, we'll see if that holds true. 

The campus is wonderfully green and leafy and very well policed.  There is little trash and we seeing groundskeepers trimming the hedges daily.  They do not, however, have the American fetish with lawn mowing and the grass is allowed to get quite long.  All the major pathways are fully shaded by sycamore trees (as are many of the boulevards in the city), and there are lots of little parks scattered about campus. Even though the campus is densely built and the buildings often look a little decrepit on the outside, the greenery makes it very appealing.

Our final impression is that the cleaning staff here loves to wash floors.  Just about every time we go to the lobby, someone is either sweeping or mopping the floor.  Streets are cleaned regularly, paths swept, and stairs kept free of debris.  With so many feet crossing surfaces all the time, we are glad of this dedication to surface scouring!

Thoughts on the Rankings Season

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:24 | By Anonymous (not verified)


Posted by:  Raynard S. Kington

Alas, the ranking season is upon us once again. Colleges and universities across the country are ranked on everything from food to politics, from sustainability to hipster-ness, from rigor to partying. Newspapers, magazines, online postings, and blogs follow each release noting which colleges rank where and which has gone up or down to the delight or horror or, rarely, the indifference of those of us with vested interests — administrators, board members, students, alumni — across the nation and, increasingly, around the world.

For many, U.S. News & World Report is ranked among the most important of the rankings. Over the 25 years of the U.S. News rankings, Grinnell has been as high as ninth and volleyed through the top 20 (14, 11, 18), along with many of our peer colleges that have also experienced fluctuations in the rankings — especially as data points such as alumni giving have risen and fallen with the economic times and as the methods for ranking have changed.

Many of you may have read the insightful article by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker last year, “What College Rankings Really Tell Us” about the use and misuse of college rankings. I encourage you to read it if you haven't. While I acknowledge that the rankings serve as one source of information for prospective students and families, Grinnell College does not make institutional, academic, or administrative decisions based on U.S. News or other rating agencies. In 2007, Grinnell President Russell Osgood and 18 other national college presidents signed a statement committing to make institutional data available on college websites, instead of relying on the rankings to distribute the comparative information. Grinnell continues to follow this practice by providing the Common Data Set on our website and welcoming inquiries at any time.

As many in the Grinnell community read and talk about the various rankings in this season of rankings, it is important to remind everyone that whether we go up or down on any list, the public rankings are not the standard by which Grinnell College judges itself. We judge ourselves against the best Grinnell College we can possibly be. Our goal should always be to provide the best possible Grinnell education to a diverse and talented group of students who are best suited to be transformed by that education. This means we must continually look for ways to improve our support of our faculty, enrich the learning experiences of our students, and provide the resources and opportunities that set our students up to succeed as active and contributing citizens of a global community.

The College is in the midst of a strategic planning process, seeking input and ideas from a broad range of stakeholders. This plan will guide Grinnell’s future while remaining true to our heritage and mission that values undergraduate teaching and research, diversity, and innovation in programs such as the First-Year Tutorial, study abroad, the Grinnell Science Project, and Writing Across the Curriculum.

We can all take the opportunity prompted by the release of ratings to think deeply about what we are as an institution and community and what we aspire to be. Most importantly, let us commit ourselves to engaging in a lively deliberation during the coming year that will lead to a concrete plan to become the best Grinnell College that we can be.


10 Classes to Take Before You Graduate

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:24 | By Anonymous (not verified)

If you come to Grinnell, there are some classes that current students recommend strongly. If you join our ranks, you’ll write your own top 10 classes list. Here, in no particular order, are mine:

Calculus i and ii. Calculus relates to everything that happens in the natural, physical world. I loved Calculus, and you can make it painless by doing five problems every day and keeping up with homework.

Applied statistics. Same as above, plus it’s useful for a ton of different majors, such as psychology, history, biology, and political science.

Neuroscience. Foundations, Future, and Fallacies: You’ll never take your brain for granted again!

ANY senior seminar. An excellent, challenging experience, seminars delve into what is actually going on in the field. Whether you want a course that mimics graduate school or just want to explore your field, you owe it to yourself to take a seminar. Though some departments mandate them, others leave it optional — but really, don’t let the opportunity pass.

Major Russian Writers. With no prerequisites and taught in English, this class focuses on Russian writers who helped shaped the past century. Anna Karenina, War and Peace, and Crime and Punishment are books that everyone should read. This is one of the best classes at Grinnell.

Psychology of Motivation. Suppose I place a bowl of red Starbursts in front of you. You’ll eat a certain number of them. Suppose I place a bowl of red and green Starbursts in front of you. You’ll eat more than if they had been just one color. Why? To learn the answer to this question and many more amazing facts about eating behavior, take this course when you have the prerequisites.

Craft of Fiction. Write fiction and get credit for it! The class is intense, but the workshops are helpful for budding writers — you, your peers, and your professor constructively critique (or “workshop”) the class’ stories.

Economic Development. An insightful class that will broaden your perspective about parts of the world that still struggle.

Macroeconomic Analysis. This is a great extension to Economic Development — challenging, theoretical, and extremely useful in understanding the economy as a whole.

Philosophy of science. Philosophy of Science offers a great perspective on what scientists do. Most importantly, the class shows that science is not infallible. Why? Because it is created by humans. Since humans make mistakes, science does too. Amar Sakar '12 is a Psychology Major from Gurgaon, Haryana, India.

10 Meals to Experience in the Dining Hall

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:24 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Author: Shelby Carroll '13

  1. Eggs-to-order Although waking up can be difficult, nothing can beat having fresh eggs made any way you like to ease that early morning struggle.
  2. Wing Night Not only are there four different types of chicken wings served on this legendary night, there is all the ranch sauce you could ever want.
  3. Chicken Fillet on a Bun Sometimes it is nice to have a giant chicken tender.
  4. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Basil Soup It’s a comforting classic.
  5. Margarita Pizza A delectable blend of salty cheese, fresh tomatoes, and chopped basil on dough made fresh every morning, this pizza is cooked to perfection in an authentic brick oven.
  6. Spicy Orange Chicken The golden mountain of glazed chicken on top of steamed rice is mouth-watering.
  7. Beef and Chicken Fajita Bar Salsa, sour cream, guacamole, shredded lettuce, churro beans, fiesta rice, cheddar cheese, and sautéed onions and peppers — who can say no?
  8. Chicken Spinach Tortellini Soup This transforms a classic pasta into a new irresistible favorite.
  9. Baked Ziti Tender pasta, heaping melted cheese, and sweet marinara sauce all are baked to tasty perfection.
  10. Stir-Fry Station Open most days, this station whips up made-to-order dishes filled with numerous vegetable options and your choice of chicken, pork, or beef, doused in stir-fry sauce or the sauce of the day.

Shelby Carroll '13 is a Psychology Major from Pasadena, CA.

Why Not Grinnell?

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:24 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Author:  Diane Meisles '12

When I applied to colleges, I did a lot of research and I concluded that a small, liberal arts college with a strong science program would be best for me.

My college counselor reviewed the list of schools that I was applying to. “Diane, why isn’t Grinnell on here?” she asked. Honestly, I did not know anything about Grinnell except that it was small, in the middle of Iowa — and that both of my parents went there. My parents were also biology majors and pre-med like me. My college counselor advised me to at least look into it.

I started looking through my college guidebooks and researching Grinnell online and finally decided that, since my parents went there, I should at least visit and give it a fair shot.

My visit to Grinnell College was amazing. Although Grinnell is a small school of 1,600 students, the large, beautiful campus really impressed me. I met several professors as I was walking around Noyce Hall (the science building), and they were all eager to talk with me about the science programs. I also met the cross country coach, who took me on a tour of the athletic facilities and soccer fields. One of the most impressive parts of my visit, however, was the students. Everyone was friendly and outgoing. It quickly became apparent that each Grinnell student has a passion about something, which is what makes Grinnell such a unique place. After my visit, I realized that Grinnell College was the right choice for me. Even though I had never previously considered going to my parent’s alma mater, it was the best decision I could have made.

Diane Meisles '12 is a Biology Major from Northfield, IL.