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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.


Malcolm, Right?

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


Grinnell is a unique place. It’s one of the only colleges I know of where someone can play football and be involved in theatre at the same time. One of the things that makes this possible is the amazing

teaching staff at Grinnell. Professors are not only knowledgeable and respectful, they’re approachable too. They go out of their way to get to know students on a personal level. They care about your educational development, and they care about your development as a person as well.

I recently had an experience that illustrated to me just how true this is. I work at the local video store in town, and the other day my physics professor from first year came up to the counter to rent a few movies. I hadn’t seen this professor in about three years. I had also shaved off all my facial hair and lost 50 pounds since I had taken that physics course, so I was looking a little different than when he knew me.

He barely hesitated. “Malcolm, right?”

“Yeah, I had you for physics my first year.” “And you’re a ... senior now? Are you still doing theatre?” I was shocked that he remembered that small detail about me. But I guess I shouldn’t have been.

At Grinnell, you’re never just a face in the crowd.


 Malcolm Scott '11 is a Spanish Major from Washington, D.C.

Stargazing Amid the Cornfields

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

Author:  Kat Atcheson '12

Do you know what’s really cool? Seeing the stripes on Jupiter. The craters on the moon. The Andromeda Galaxy, which is approximately 2 million light years away.

I got to see all of them last semester when I took Professor Cadmus’ astronomy class, The Universe and Its Structure. The class is aimed mostly at nonscience majors who are still interested in astronomy, so if you only have basic math skills but an interest in space, it’s a good class to take. And, oh my gosh, I never knew there was so much going on in our solar system, let alone in the entire universe!

Each session started with picking up the day’s class outline on the front table, with lecture notes, homework deadlines, and observation sessions. Next, Professor Cadmus opened the class with “Show and Tell,” which was usually a brief little lesson about a physics concept, astronomy news, or another tidbit of interesting knowledge.

Then it was time to get down to business: galaxies, planets, stars, formations, deaths, light-years, gravity, and moon phases! Not in that particular order, of course. Most lectures involved video clips and slides to help us understand how the universe looks and how its laws behave. And don’t forget to ask lots of questions and take notes, because yes, it will be on the exam! Homework could end up being very hands on, involving things like astronomical calculations, predicting moon phases and positions, or observing various celestial phenomena on your own.

Thankfully, the astronomy class met during the day, even though the stars are only out at night. But the best parts of the whole course were undoubtedly the nighttime observation sessions throughout the semester. Grinnell has its own observatory, just beyond the track and about a 10-minute walk from the dorms.

Experiencing a session in the observatory might just have been the most awesome science-related thing I’ve done on campus. Bundled snugly in my favorite hoodie and holding my trusty flashlight, I would walk the path around 9 p.m. to meet my classmates at the observatory. A dozen or so of us stood around the telescope, listening to Professor Cadmus explain what we were about to view. Then each of us took our turn looking at the sky. This is not exaggeration — it was awe-inspiring. Seeing the moon’s craters up close, or a binary star, things I had only read about or seen pictures of in books, with my own eyes was incredibly humbling and inspiring at the same time.

I’m not really much of a science nut, but The Universe and Its Structure really did click with me. Maybe it was the fact that for the first time in my life, I could actually understand the laws of physics. Maybe it was the fact that astronomy appeals to my nocturnal tendencies. Maybe it was the resources Grinnell has to make a class like that not only possible, but also truly excellent. But really, I think it was simply that after taking the class I can look up at the heavens and think, “…You know, I kinda get that.”

Kat Atcheson '12 is an Anthropology Major from Overland Park, KS.


Fashionable Grinnell

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


Fashion at Grinnell is an extension of the freedom, social awareness, and acceptance reflected in college life here. After being at Grinnell for nearly a year, I appreciate not only the way Grinnell students express themselves through fashion, but also the way other students appreciate the message. I enjoy reading my fellow student’s shirts: “Peace please,” “Remember Virginia Tech,” “Eat locally!”

I can discover so much about my peers by noticing a friend is wearing earrings shaped like menorahs, or seeing that another friend is from Ohio because of his Buckeye T-shirts (to which I say, “Go Wolverines!”). My lovely roommate spends more than an hour and a half getting ready for the day; in contrast, it takes me 15 minutes. Neither of us hears any criticism or admiration for the way we look.

Grinnell’s fashion outlook adds an element of fun to getting dressed. It gives me the confidence to wear whatever I choose (for example, my tiedyed baseball hat) whenever I want. I can put on leather pants for a Friday night, because no one will care. It also makes dressing up for the numerous costume parties here interesting. Between using the absurd pieces of clothing we all own (whether we admit it or not) and borrowing items from others (“Hey, you know your platform boots you wore that one time? Yeah, can I borrow them for Disco?”), I find piecing together a great costume is easy and enjoyable.

Even though I didn’t come here to show off or improve my sense of fashion, I have borrowed ideas from fellow students. Plenty of people here enjoy looking good and sharing ideas.

Fashion at Grinnell is flexible, fun, and interesting. Expressing myself with a sequined shirt one day and with a 5K T-shirt the next is something I appreciate and am grateful for each day.

Elizabeth Pearce '13 is an undeclared major from East Lansing, MI.