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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.

10 Community Service Opportunities at Grinnell

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

Author: Liting Cong '11

Social responsibility is one of the College’s core values. Hundreds of students, faculty, and staff are involved in dozens of community service programs. Here are 10 that hint at the variety of opportunities available.

Liberal Arts in Prison Program. A great combination of Grinnell’s emphasis on social justice and its innovative scholarship, the fully-accredited program enables Grinnell students to teach classes of their own design, to tutor ESL or math, even to direct a choir in one of two nearby prisons. Last semester, the program featured 18 student-taught academic courses, four tutoring programs, and one student-directed choir. Recently The Chronicle of Higher Education featured our prison program, praising Grinnell’s dedication to both the liberal arts and social responsibility.

College Buddies. This is a program within Big Brothers Big Sisters that matches Grinnell students with children, kindergarten through fourth grade, from three nearby elementary schools. Every week, College students spend an hour or more with their buddies and participate in large-group gatherings throughout the year.

Alternative Break. Through a rigorous application process, the entirely student- run program selects students to complete fully-funded service trips during the one-week fall break and two-week spring break each year. These trips to U.S. cities and international sites focus on alleviating problems related to poverty, the environment, and health.

Renew. Begun in the fall of 2006 as ReNew Orleans, a response to Hurricane Katrina, ReNew has since supported nearly 100 student and alumni volunteers as they help to rebuild New Orleans.

Stonewall Resource Center (SRC). Named to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969, the center opened at Grinnell in 1986. The SRC, in the basement of Younker Residence Hall, serves as a safe space for LGBTQ students and allies. The center supports nine student groups and contains a library of more than 1,500 books and 150 movies.

Feminist Action Coalition. This student-led organization aims to raise awareness of feminist issues in both the College and town. It is open to all students, faculty, staff, and town residents who are interested in issues of gender and women’s rights.

English as a Second Language Tutoring. Grinnell students may volunteer as ESL tutors at a bilingual elementary school on Thursday afternoons and help organize group activities on Saturday mornings. It is a great opportunity for tutors and tutees to learn from one another.

Student Services Committee. Part of the Student Government Association and open to all students, this group organizes all-campus service activities and allocates funding for student service groups. Committee responsibilities include a used book sale and a poster sale for students, and a blood drive and Halloween carnival that benefits the wider community. The committee also organizes Fogfast, which distributes student-donated meals each semester to designated groups in need.

Friday Fun Night. Student volunteers work with children in a low-income neighborhood in Des Moines every Friday. The program serves 20–40 children ranging from 5 to 13 years old, providing themed activities such as science and art projects, performance opportunities, and cultural nights. Ni Ka na Meskwaki Buddy Program.

“Ni Ka Na” Means “Friend” in Meskwaki. It’s also the name of a mentoring program at the Meskwaki Settlement School in Tama, Iowa. Each student volunteer is paired with one Meskwaki student as a partner and mentor in learning. Student volunteers visit weekly to help Meskwaki students with homework and also organize activities with guest speakers, artists, musicians, and craftspeople. This program serves as a mutual learning opportunity for Grinnell and Meskwaki students.

Liting Cong '11 is a Sociology Major from Shanghai, P.R. China.

A Day in Ben's Life

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

Ben Offenberg, a 6’5’’ senior biochemistry major and current president of the Student Government Association (SGA), shares a typical day.

8 a.m. After six hours of sound sleep, skip breakfast (not a recommended practice). Begin day in the SGA office in Joe Rosenfield Center. Sitting on a gigantic soccer ball chair, spend a couple hours replying to e-mails and completing office work.

10:30 a.m. Meet with Raynard S. Kington, M.D., Ph.D., the new president of the College and the former deputy director of the National Institutes of Health. Gossip about campus life.

11 a.m. Attend Intermediate Arabic, taught by Professor Mervat Youssef. The class practices Arabic by describing their dream spouses and drawing them on the blackboard. Say that dream spouse would be an Iowa girl originally from England, with red hair, and named Brooke. Royalty is optional, but preferred.

Noon Grab a pumpkin ziti out-take from The Spencer Grill and head to a noon meeting with human resources to discuss student input on staff reviews.

1 p.m. Meet with Advanced Genetics professor.

1:30 p.m. Meet with Advanced Genetics lab group in Noyce Science Center. Must grow genetically mutagenized yeast for a class.

2 p.m. Visit academic adviser to discuss course schedule for next semester and postgraduation plans.

2:30 p.m. Return to the SGA offices for scheduled office hours so that students can discuss their concerns and ideas with their SGA president.

4:30 p.m. Work on constitutional law homework about civil rights cases.

6 p.m. Off to the dining hall for dinner with the girlfriend. Nacho bar!

7 p.m. Back to the office. Gossip with Liz, administrative coordinator and officemate. Browse through some YouTube videos.

8 p.m. SGA executive meeting with the vice-presidents of academic and student affairs and the SGA advisers. Brainstorm ideas and discuss plans.

9:30 p.m. Group meeting in Stonewall Resource Center, which is run by students and is a safe space for LGBTQ students and their allies.

10:30 p.m. Back to the lab with the rest of the group to grow more yeast. Genetic mutation is the key here.

11:30 p.m. More homework, for Arabic this time. Excited about tomorrow’s class, which will feature a guest speaker from Egypt.

3 a.m. Projected time for sleeping, although others are discouraged from practicing similar habits.

Liting Cong '11 is a Policy Stuies Concentrator from Shanghai, P.R. China.

A Different Freshman 15

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

When I was awarded a spot in Seventeen Magazine’s Freshman 15 (a group 15 girls chosen from around the country to document their college experiences), I was ecstatic — but unsure how my participation would be received on campus. After all, I thought, Grinnell College students read The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Mother Earth News, not Seventeen. For Seventeen, I produce weekly written and video blogs, answer reader questions, and occasionally get featured in the magazine. When I first saw my name on the glossy pages, I figured no one would care. I was wrong. Classmates and even strangers tell me it’s “so cool!” to see me in the magazine. They are eager to hear more about my job, and they enthusiastically pose for pictures ... when I beg them to. Writing for Seventeen is hard work, but it’s never a chore because I’m never at a loss for an amazing story to tell about Grinnell.

Off the record, the Freshman 15 have a Facebook thread where we share personal stories about our lives at college. Many are having the “typical” college experience. They go to fraternity parties. They enroll in lectures they can easily skip because professors don’t know their names. They cheer for their schools in arenas packed with thousands of fans. But the truth is, they aren’t all happy. I, on the other hand, have climbed through a friendly stranger’s room to the rooftop to see the beautiful Iowa moon; I’ve discussed Frankenstein over Chinese takeout in my professor’s living room; and I’ve picnicked under the oak tree on Mac Field with my roommate, sharing my pretzels and my dreams. That’s my college experience, and I wouldn’t trade places with anyone.

Samantha Schwartz '14 is a future Psychology Major from Lawrence, KS.

Top 10 Things to Do When It Snows

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:24 | By Anonymous (not verified)
If it’s been snowing for days and the thermometer hits negative degrees, there really is nothing better than just going to sleep and dreaming of tropical places.
Go cross-country skiing
There aren’t too many places to downhill ski, but there is definitely enough snow for cross-country skiing.
Write in the snow with food dye
It’s creative, looks pretty, and is a lot more fun than complaining about all the white stuff.
Go sledding
You don’t even need an actual sled. Borrowing a tray from the dining hall or using a garbage bag works just as well. Hamburger Hill, behind the baseball diamond, is a popular sledding spot on campus.
Drink hot cocoa
While hot tea or coffee might be as efficient at keeping you warm, hot cocoa definitely tastes better.
Camp out in the Joe Rosenfield Center
Take all of your stuff for the day when you leave your room in the morning and camp out in the campus center until you go to bed, minimizing your exposure to the Iowa winter.
Watch a movie
Hijack a random room in Noyce Science Center or a lounge in any residence hall to watch a movie with your friends. Pick something without snow in it!
Launch a snowball fight
With nothing other than snow required, this is the ideal study break for any time of day. Mac Field between North Campus and East Campus and Loose Beach on South Campus provide all the material you need for a snowy skirmish.
Wear shorts or dresses
Ignore the snow, dress like it’s summer. It’s only as cold as you make it out to be. Sort of.
Bond with your floor over lots and lots of homemade food
While this might be something particularly fitting around Thanksgiving break, there is no reason not to do it at any other snow-infested time. Just get everyone on your floor to cook or bake something for a giant dinner.

Carolin Scholz '13 is a Psychology Major from Hamburg, Germany.

If You Can't Visit...

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


You can learn a lot about a college by reading its brochures, web pages, and magazines, but these resources cannot fully convey everything that makes Grinnell College such a wonderful place. You almost have to experience it to believe it. But if you aren’t able to visit, here’s a list of a few of Grinnell’s most incredible qualities:

Small, discussion-based classes. Classes at Grinnell are small and are never taught by a teaching assistant. Professors rarely lecture; instead they involve as many students as possible in lively, intense discussions. In fact, my Spanish professor has yet to give a single lecture this semester! Instead, we come to class each day and interact closely with each other and the material. These discussions foster an open dialogue and allow us to learn from each other’s views and experiences. This opportunity to learn from my peers as well as my course materials has been one of the most enriching and educational experiences of my college career.

The great residence-hall community. First-year students — in fact 90 percent of all Grinnell students — live in the residence halls. Every floor has a student adviser who serves as a resource to help residents with anything they may be going through. Advisers throw several study breaks per year and encourage floor-mates to get to know each other. As a result, a very special floor community exists, allowing students of all years to become close friends. Many of my best friends are people I met in my residence hall. We even made floor T-shirts to prove it!

 Amazing professors. In addition to being wonderful teachers, Grinnell professors care deeply about their students. During a typical class period, professors will ask their students how they are doing (and wait for individual responses!), share a story or two, and encourage students to visit them in their offices. I have spent as much time in my advisers’ offices talking about our pets, my family, and what I want to do with my life as I have talking about academics. Profs at Grinnell are our biggest supporters, and they care about our academic and personal success.

Exciting extracurriculars. In addition to all the studying you can do here, there’s an extracurricular activity (or two or 10) for everyone. No matter your area of interest, from dancing to debating, from the environment to social justice, there is a group or organization that fits it. Do you love to sew or cross-stitch? Join Sewing Circle! (Really, join! My friend started the group and it’s awesome!) Are you passionate about the consumption and production of local foods? Join Local Foods Co-op. Are you interested in politics? Join the Campus Democrats or the Campus Republicans. Do you know, or want to learn, how to juggle? Join the Juggler’s Union of Grinnell! Life at Grinnell is spiced up by more exciting extracurricular activities than you can imagine!

Grinnell offers one of the best liberal-arts educations in the country, but what truly makes Grinnell special is the environment that exists in academic buildings, professors’ offices, and the residence halls. If you haven’t had a chance to visit, I hope that this list gives you some sense of the wonderful place that is Grinnell.

Kate Munday '13 is a Psychology Major from Kansas City, MO.

Your Friendly, Local, Brazilian Dance Fighting Club

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


Issue:  Winter 2011
Author: Kenji Yoshino '11

Is it a game? A martial art? Or a dance?

Capoeira is all of those things! It originated as a fusion of the cultures of the indigenous Brazilians and enslaved Africans in colonial Brazil.Their newly synthesized culture helped them resist the oppression of their Portuguese slave masters and develop a sense of identity and community. The movements of this martial art are fluid and performed to music. For these reasons capoeira has often been wrongly interpreted as only a dance.

Our club was hatched the day I heard the familiar buzzes and chings of the berimbau, the iconic steel-strung instrument of capoeira, in the JRC. It’s like the horn of Gondor; play a berimbau and any capoeiristas within earshot magically appear. Charlie Kessner ’12 was playing the instrument in the Spencer Grill when I followed the familiar sound. Excited to find other capoiera enthusiasts, Charlie, Tessa Cheek ’12 and I decided to form a club and teach others. A week later we were a registered club.

Since then, our group has grown. Dozens of students show up at our classes each week. Classes consist of warm-ups, review of old techniques, some new material, and sometimes a music lesson from Charlie. We learn how to play various percussion instruments, such as the berimbau, and to sing traditional capoeira songs in Portuguese. At the end of the class we always have a roda. You don’t fight in the roda, you play, because the object of capoeira is not to do harm to your opponent. The object is to play chess with your body; you use kicks and sweeps to guide and trap your opponents into positions in which you set them up for a takedown. At Grinnell, we practice capoeira because it is fun and an excellent workout and because we have developed a community through the art. 

We are in the process of connecting with capoeira clubs at other colleges and universities. We hope to purchase our own instruments and travel to capoeira schools for professional instruction.

Kenji Yoshino '11 is a Chemistry Major from Hamilton, NY.