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From Ciné-Liberté (1936) to Film Maudit (1949): Fever, Contagion, and Caution in the Avant-Garde

Thursday, February 18, 2016 - 7:30pm
Joe Rosenfield '25 Center Room 101
Dudley Andrew
Professor of Film and Comparative Literature, Yale University

 

Dudley Andrew is Professor of Film and Comparative Literature at Yale. Biographer of André Bazin, he extends Bazin’s thought in What Cinema Is! (2011) in the edited volume, Opening Bazin (2012), and in his translaton of a new collection, André Bazin’ New Media. Working in aesthetics, hermeneutics and cultural history, he published Film in the Aura of Art in 1984, then turned to French film with Mists of Regret (1995) and Popular Front Paris. He co-edited The Companion to Francois Truffaut (2013). For these publications, he was named Officier de l’ordre des arts et des lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.

Driven by DATA, Connected by Grinnell

Originally published in The Grinnell Magazine, Winter 2015 issue.
by Cindy Deppe

It was all in the DATA for the fall break tour, Oct. 19-24, that connected 20 students seeking career insights with alumni who work in tech startups and at giga-giant Google, in the financial services industry, and in research at a renowned cancer center.

The New York City tour, sponsored by the Donald L. Wilson ’25 Program in Enterprise and Leadership, the Center for Careers, Life and Service, and the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, was nicknamed DATA for its emphasis on data analysis, technology, and applications. 

But it wasn’t all stats and spreadsheets as Grinnellians, old and new, learned from each other about the prospects for data-based careers.

For Emily Zabor ’03, a research biostatistician at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the satisfaction of sharing career insights with students came from being reminded that “as an undergraduate, I had never heard of biostatistics or considered the field of public health. So I was excited to share my experiences and opportunities in this way.” 

 Zabor and co-worker Anne Eaton ’08 collaborate with doctors to design studies about new cancer drugs, for example, and use data to determine how many patients are needed for a valid study, plan the study design, develop hypotheses, and analyze results. 

“My field is specialized but could be very appealing to Grinnellians because it’s cutting edge research and public service,” Zabor said.

Biology major Jarren Santos ’17 called the Sloan Kettering visit “pivotal” in his career exploration. 

“The DATA tour helped me explore how research and data is applied to a company setting.  These individuals were working with data in upcoming health innovations while collaborating with public health experts to determine the impact of new surgeries or the decrease in survivorship of a certain disease.  I could totally imagine myself doing this.”

The impetus for the DATA tour grew from student interest and faculty recognition of the pervasiveness of data in today’s workplace.  Earl D. Strong Professor of Social Studies Kathy Kamp accompanied the tour in her work as director of the College’s Data Analysis and Social Inquiry Lab (DASIL).

“With the centrality of data in the modern world, we are doing students a service to engage with data and to visualize how data can be used in creative ways,” Kamp said. “The range of work environments and agendas was fascinating, as well as the diversity of majors among alumni who are now involved in the field.”

Grinnell Trustee Michael Kahn ’74 was a music major at Grinnell and is now an executive in corporate strategy and development for TIAA-CREF, a non-profit corporation. He has hosted a stream of interns the past 15 years and enthusiastically agreed to be on the short-term DATA tour schedule. 

TIAA-CREF employees Chris Lee ’15, Derek Farnham ’13, Christina Cutlip ’83, traveled to New York to join Kahn in hosting the tour, as did employee Hans Erickson, son of professor emeritus Luther Erickson and Forum director emerita Jenny Erickson.

“There is great potential for TIAA-CREF to be a landing place for Grinnell students. What we do with data is diverse and impactful in a meaningful way. Deep analysis and modeling drives superior investments; it’s about getting better outcomes for the people we serve.”

Hilary Mason ’00, founder and CEO of Fast Forward Labs, gave students a peek into her 18-month-old machine intelligence research business, which reviews research papers, engineering systems, and products that demonstrate machine learning capabilities, then writes about the evolving technology for a general audience.

“All of the technical prototypes we demonstrated for the students use capabilities that only became possible in the last couple of years,” Mason says. The main point of our tour presentation was not so much the specific projects that we work on, but the idea that technology is always evolving, and if you want to succeed in this industry, it helps to be excited by that.” 

Ajuna Kyaruzi ’17, a computer science major from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, has followed Mason’s varied and ambitious career path.

“I was very excited to get the chance to talk to Hilary Mason,” Kyaruzi says. “Her career was one I have been following for awhile, so speaking to her and learning more about her experiences post-Grinnell was a real opportunity. This past summer I interned at Twitter and got a glimpse of how data drives decisions that a technical company makes, so I was curious to see how other fields use and analyze their data.” 

The DATA tour also included visits to Bloomberg with Kate Macey ’00, Tony Mitzak ’86, Joan Johnson ’92; to Lieberman Research Worldwide with Kasia Piekarz ’01; at Google with Peter Likarish ’04; at Makeover Solutions with Steve Elkes ’83; at CredSpark with Lev Kaye ’92; and at Edge Ed Tech with Ashantha Kaluarachchi ’05

“Diversity of majors and experience was the primary takeaway from meeting alumni,” Santos says.  “You do not have to major in a business-related field to partake in business and finance or major in a mathematical field to do research in biostatistics. The alumni really emphasized the fact that their diversity was a key component in their career success.”

Observing the interactions and connections among current and former students was especially rewarding for Monty Roper, Donald Wilson Professor of Enterprise and Leadership and Wilson Program faculty director. 

“What I most appreciated hearing from alumni is that they gained the ability to do things ‘they had no right doing’ because they didn’t question that they couldn’t. That’s the value of the liberal arts,” Roper says. 

Kahn urges fellow alumni to consider reaching out to students, saying, “If you feel your success is what you took away from Grinnell, you are reaffirming the impact of Grinnell on the world by connecting with a student. It’s a very powerful connection.”

Alumni interested in sharing their workplace experiences with students on future break tours may contact Nate Dobbels, assistant director of alumni relations for career programs, 641-269-3204.

New Exhibitions Feature Feminist, Siberian Art

Beverly Semmes, RC 2014

Beverly Semmes, "RC" 2014. Velvet, 119 x 35 in. Faulconer Gallery, Grinnell College Art Collection.

Building on its last exhibition theme of asking questions, Grinnell College's Faulconer Gallery will be showing a variety of feminist works alongside a collection of historic Russian photographs.

These exhibitions provoke inquiry from artists and viewers alike, including questions such as "Are feminists supposed to support open depictions of sexuality?" and "What can photographs of rural Siberia teach us about Russian society and history?"

The simultaneous exhibitions, "Beverly Semmes: FRP" and "Siberia: In the Eyes of Russian Photographers," open Friday, Jan. 29, with a reception from 4 to 5 p.m. at Faulconer Gallery in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. The exhibitions and opening reception, which includes refreshments, are free and open to the public.

"Both exhibitions present critiques of contemporary assumptions about gender politics, landscape, history, and everyday life," said Lesley Wright, director of the Faulconer Gallery.

In her Feminist Responsibility Project (FRP), Semmes simultaneously conceals, reveals, and otherwise colorfully intervenes in pornographic scenes from vintage Hustler and Penthouse magazines. The exhibition also features Semmes’s striking work in other media: glass, ceramic, and video, as well as three of her signature dress pieces, including one acquired by the Faulconer Gallery in 2014. This exhibition is co-organized with the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College.

"Siberia: In the Eyes of Russian Photographers" is a geographical portrait that has the potential to alter stereotypes about a famously remote region. The photographs, taken by Siberians, span more than 130 years, from the late 19th century to the present. The images include rural and urban scenes, landscapes, native peoples, agriculture, and industry, Russian frontier settlements, the Gulag, religion, and everyday life, and offer an insider’s view of unique and often isolated places.

The project is timely as Siberia's role grows on a world stage. The region's military, political, and economic possibilities have intrigued individuals and nations for centuries. They do so now with renewed vigor as Siberia's energy and mineral resources and strategic location draw global attention.

Leah Bendavid-Val curated the traveling exhibition, organized by Foundation for International Arts & Education (FIAE) and presented in honor of Greg Guroff, (1941-2012), who held a doctorate in history, founded FIAE, and also taught Russian history at Grinnell College from 1968 to 1977.

Programs and Events

The exhibitions, which continue through March 20, include a variety of free public programs and events, all in Faulconer Gallery unless otherwise noted. For the complete listing, visit Faulconer Gallery. Highlights include:

Gallery Talk: "The Political Construction of Siberia: Geography, Industry, and Identity in Post-Soviet Russia"
By Assistant Professor of Political Science Danielle Lussier.
Feb. 4, 4 p.m.
20 Minutes @ 11: "Doing it right? Feminist approaches to sex, censorship, and pornography"
By Assistant Professor of Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies, Leah Allen,
Feb. 16 at 11 a.m.
Special Event: "Russia and the West: Conflict, Diplomacy and the Future"
By retired U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle and Eric Green ’85, Director of Russian Affairs, U.S. Department of State.
Beyrle and Green will discuss Russia's evolving and complicated relations with the West during a dialogue moderated by Associate Professor of History Ed Cohn.
Feb. 24, 4 p.m.
Bad Feminists/Bad Critics: A Sex Wars Debate
Featuring Grinnell students from two sections of Allen's senior seminar in gender, women's and sexuality studies, who will explore pro- and anti-censorship feminism.
March 1, 4 p.m.
Slavic Coffeehouse and Maslenitsa Celebration
Hosted by the Russian Department with sweet and savory ethnic foods prepared by faculty and students available for purchase at a nominal cost in the Bucksbaum Center.
Attendees will celebrate Maslenitsa, which marks the end of winter and the beginning of Lent, by eating blini (Russian crepes) that represent the sun and burning a chuchelo (scarecrow), a symbol of winter.
Outside the Bucksbaum Center, March 5, 5:30-7 p.m.
Gallery Talk: Beverly Semmes on her Feminist Responsibility Project
A chance to hear from the artist herself about her career as a feminist artist.
March 8, 4 p.m.

Both exhibitions will be on view through March 20. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week, and admission is free.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Bucksbaum Center for the Arts has accessible parking in the lot behind the building north of Sixth Avenue. You can request accommodations from the Faulconer Gallery or Conference Operations and Events.

Lilianna Bagnoli ’15 Earns Clinton Fellowship in India

Lilianna Bagnoli ’15 is one of 35 young professionals from India and the United States to receive the American India Foundation William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service in 2015.

The fellowship matches participants with leading nongovernmental organizations and social enterprises in India for 10 months to accelerate impact and create effective projects that promote civil society, development, and social justice. To help build a lasting bridge between the United States and India, the Clinton Fellowship has expanded to incorporate young professional Indians to work side by side with fellows from the United States.

Bagnoli works in New Delhi with Social Cops, a social enterprise that collects and analyzes data to highlight critical issues in India such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure. She then collaborates with other NGOs and representatives from government to organize and execute development initiatives to address issues highlighted by the data collected.

Bagnoli's enthusiasm for the role of research to inform social initiatives in the developing world stems from the international immersion experiences she had in Ghana and India while a student at Grinnell. In the summer of 2013 she interned with Challenging Heights in Winneba, Ghana. The anti-child trafficking organization received a $100,000 Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize in 2011.

She devoted much of 2014 to pursuing academic coursework and Hindi language instruction in India. She also interned with the Akanksha Foundation, conducting a policy review of the school's educational methodology.

Bagnoli received a Wilson Grant from Grinnell College for an internship with Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services Ltd. in Mumbai, where she served on the corporate social responsibility team.

After returning to Grinnell College, Bagnoli furthered her interests in corporate social responsibility and the informal economy through independent studies. She used Geographic Information Systems to visually illustrate her analysis of informal labor activity, presenting her research at the Central States Anthropology Society Conference and the spring 2015 Grinnell College Student Research Symposium.

A native of Berea, Kentucky, Bagnoli graduated in 2015 from Grinnell College, where she received honors in International Development Studies. She also founded Students for Equality in Education and served as senior gift class chair and philanthropy chair of the Student Alumni Council.

After completing the Clinton Fellowship, Bagnoli hopes to work in South Asia and continue to use data to inform development efforts, especially those related to the informal economy and economic development.

Life-Changing Discoveries

Toby Baratta ’17 arrived at Grinnell intending to focus mainly on Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies, and political science.

“Then I took computer science,” Baratta says. “It totally changed my life.”

Since her introductory class in functional problem-solving, Baratta has immersed herself in research projects. She has done a Mentored Independent Project (MIP) in computer science, and a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) in the math and statistics department analyzing trends in data used for mapping student success.

Baratta’s second MAP, which builds on the MIP she did in the summer after her first year, has her working with Jerod Weinman, associate professor of computer science, on historical map processing.

Weinman and fellow researchers recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation to help fund the project, aimed at unlocking the stories of “politics, people, and progress” that reside in the historical and print map collections of libraries and museums.

Publishing readable, searchable, and properly linked digital content from hard documents is a matter for intrepid computer scientists. Baratta is pinning down data related to locations and names of rivers and lakes from 19th-century maps.

Boon to Researchers

“A computer can’t read a map itself; it just gets an image and doesn’t know what any of the data is,” Baratta says. “So first you have to get the computer to find and read the text.”

The next step, she says, is to “use it with historical information regarding geographical name changes to map it onto the actual geographical existence of today.”

Teaching the computer to see that chronological progression and to make the information searchable via the Web would open new vistas of research for scientists and policymakers. “A biological or environmental scientist could see how a lake or river has shifted or completely disappeared over time,” Baratta says.

“From an anthropological or sociological point of view,” she explains, “you could look at how people have moved, how a community has moved, and whether there are patterns of how society is moving away from rivers now that we have different technological advances.”

Skills in Demand

When not in classes and doing research, Baratta works for Information Technology Services as technology consultant administrator and is Web manager for the Data Analysis and Social Inquiry Lab (DASIL). She also mentors math and computer science classes.

Baratta spent last summer at Google, where she was invited to intern after presenting research at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. She has already accepted an internship next summer at Microsoft.

Even if an attractive job offer in industry comes her way, she says she’ll opt for grad school. “I like research. I want to get a Ph.D. in machine learning, specifically,” Baratta says, adding, “I don’t know enough yet for what I really want to do.”

Finding Her Passion

Her goal is to work in an organization using data science research and computer science methods to stop human trafficking and other crimes. “There’s a lot of research in computer science that’s really exciting and could be applied to solving these things educationally or through tracking and response,” she says.

In addition to everything else she does, Baratta is a responder with Grinnell Advocates, and she manages the Stonewall Resource Center that supports LGBTQ communities. Her schedule demands good time management. “I go to bed at 10:30 every night and get up at 8:00,” Baratta says. “I know where I’m going to be and what the plan is.

“I wasn’t like this in high school,” she says, “but I mean, once you find something you’re passionate about, it’s kind of easy to have energy behind it.”

 

Toby Baratta ’17, from Boca Raton, Fla., is a double major in computer science and political science with a concentration in statistics.

 

Fighting Social Injustice

Paula Cousins ’17 and Anesu Gamanya ’17 led a renovation project funded by the Davis Projects for Peace program that dramatically transformed a small Jamaican primary school 2,000 miles from Grinnell.

 “This experience reinforced why I came to Grinnell — social justice,” Gamanya says. “Growing up in Zimbabwe, I witnessed social injustice everywhere and sometimes experienced it, and I thought I did not have the power to fight it. This project gave me an opportunity to help alleviate the social injustice in another community.”

The third-year economics majors share a strong desire to help others.

When Cousins heard about the dire conditions of the Bottom Halse Hall Basic School in Clarendon, Jamaica, it nagged at her. She wondered how the serious sanitation problems, cracked floors, broken toilets, and cramped classrooms affected the educational experiences of the school’s 60 children who range in ages from 2 to 5.

“I did not think it was a suitable learning environment,” says Cousins, who grew up in the nearby Hayes community. “It was not conducive to learning.”

Other problems dogged the school, which is in an economically disadvantaged area. It had limited storage, outdated technology and equipment, and other issues.

So Cousins and Gamanya, who spent winter break 2014–15 together in Jamaica, developed a proposal to help the school and received a $10,000 award from the Davis Projects for Peace. The program invites undergraduates at American colleges and universities in the Davis United World College Scholars Program to develop grass-roots projects students implement during the summer.

Cousins’ parents and others in the small community rallied around the summer renovation plans.

“I don’t think you can quantify how much it helped the children to have a better learning environment,” says Cousins, who also has a concentration in global development studies.

Children in a classroom at Bottom Halse Hall Basic School in Clarendon, JamaicaRenovating a school is hard work, the duo found. The crews—some paid workers, others volunteers—worked on weekends and after school. Despite some minor building setbacks, they saw the 10-week project through, installing new  

  • floors
  • a water tank
  • toilets
  • community resource room with computers and the Internet
  • shelves and desks
  • a sick bay
  • blackboards

 “The floors were really impressive,” Cousins says. “I’m really, really, proud. I’ve very grateful to the people in the community.”

The project earned praise from school employees and the community. Cousins says the renovation work could eventually make the school eligible for government aid.

She hopes more Grinnell students apply for the Davis program and really think about how their projects could benefit others.

“Find a project you’re invested in,” Cousins says. “Try to do something that will affect the most people in the most meaningful way.”

Working on the project changed Gamanya.

"I also learned that not only can I learn to identify social injustice, I can find ways to address it,” she says.

 

Paula Cousins ’17 is from Hayes, Clarendon, Jamaica. She is an economics major, with a concentration in global development studies. Anesu Gamanya ’17 is from Harare, Zimbabwe. She is an economics major.



 

Freedom to Explore

Josie Bircher ’16 came to Grinnell undecided about what field she was going to pursue. That has turned to inspired certainty, and she credits Grinnell’s individually advised curriculum with helping her chart her course.

A First-Year Tutorial is the only required class at Grinnell. With no general education requirements, students and their advisers have greater flexibility in building majors that serve students’ career and life goals. 

“Initially I just continued math because I was pretty good at it in high school and I found it challenging, so I wanted to keep that going,” Bircher says. “The open curriculum gave me the opportunity to explore different fields and individualize my coursework to make me more prepared for the field I want to go into.”

Confirmed Direction

Bircher’s first Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) in computational chemistry “confirmed that I like theoretical, quantitative sort of approaches,” she says. “Chemistry was on a little too small of a scale for me, so it helped to determine where I went next, which was more biochem — lots of chemical interactions combining into one. “

Her current MAP — using mathematical modeling to predict receptor activity in the brain — has further inspired her to look toward graduate school and a career in research.

Integration and Flexibility

“I’m drawing from my work in biochem, as well as the skills I learned in one of my applied math courses and in my probability and statistics course, too,” Bircher says. “That’s been sort of a theme in my coursework, to integrate all of the different things I take into one type of work.”

Bircher also appreciates flexibility in scheduling other activities. She is on Grinnell’s swim team and plays violin in the Grinnell Symphony Orchestra.

“In my first meeting with the swim coach I asked her if it was feasible to do both orchestra and swimming,” Bircher recalls. “She made it clear that she would be able to be in communication with the orchestra director, and that it would be easy for me to do everything I wanted to do in terms of my extracurricular activities.  

“Grinnell really seemed like the place where I could do everything I wanted to do,” Bircher says.

Grinnell Clicked

In deciding where to attend college, Queenster Nartey ’16 applied and was admitted to several major research universities in the Midwest.

“After visiting all those schools, Grinnell is the only one that clicked,” Nartey says.

The individually advised curriculum was a major incentive for Nartey. “Knowing that there is only one required class, the tutorial, I could basically shape my education however I wanted to,” she says.

Personalized Interests

“Yes, there are requirements for the major, but not every biochemistry major takes the exact same classes,” Nartey explains. “It’s very personalized. It’s appealing to me to basically wrap my major around things that I’m interested in.”

Nartey had intended to double in Spanish with a concentration in neuroscience, but dropped the idea. “I was pre-med, I wanted to study abroad, and as time went on I realized I didn’t want to spread myself too thin,” she says. “I wanted to focus on one thing and do it really well.”

Ultimately, she was able to take a Spanish class, and she combined her study abroad and neuroscience through the Danish Institute for Study Abroad program. Clinical experience in Copenhagen, along with research opportunities she capitalized on during her first two years, expanded both her medical and research horizons. “I didn’t have to give anything up at all,” she says.

Set Her Apart

Queenster Nartey ’16 testing copper surfaces for bacterial growth at a local hospitalNartey’s current MAP is focused on testing copper surfaces for bacterial growth in hospital environments. Her poster presentation on that study earned her accolades at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Seattle last November.

“From the copper study, we wrote a paper that’s going to be published very soon, Nartey says. “As an undergraduate, having a published paper sets you apart from the crowd. It’s very exciting, and something I can highlight as a result of doing a MAP.”

Nartey says the experience will help her in applying for a National Institutes of Health postbaccalaureate fellowship and eventually for an M.D./Ph.D. program.

“Grinnell opened all these doors,” Nartey says. “Having the freedom to design my major and go abroad, having the encouragement from professors and other students and staff in a collaborative environment, is wonderful.

“I feel very good and very confident as a scientist, and it’s because of this individualized curriculum. It all comes down to that.”

 

Josie Bircher ’16 is a biological chemistry and mathematics double major from Omaha, Neb. Queenster Nartey ’16, a biological chemistry major, is from Chicago.

 

Multidimensional

“I never had just one thing that I was pursuing. I wanted to keep exploring and keep doing what I was naturally interested in doing. Every opportunity I’ve had just combined all those passions.”

These words of wisdom reveal the key to Adam Kempenaar ’97’s success. In a world where many limit themselves to the pursuit of just one interest, Kempenaar has proved that it is truly possible to have it all.

As one of the founders and hosts of the popular movie review podcast Filmspotting, Kempenaar understands what it’s like to revive a dream dusty from lack of use. Although he was busy with a family and a full-time career, Kempenaar and his friend, Sam Hallgren, decided to resuscitate their old love of discussing movies by starting a podcast in which they would review and critique films in 30-minute segments.

Within just months of launching the show in 2005, Filmspotting’s audience had climbed from 1,000 listeners to over 10,000. Now, 10 years and 550 episodes later, Filmspotting has continued to thrill and excite both its viewers and its hosts.

Spawning a Radio Show

The success of Filmspotting led to a monthly radio show on WBEZ Chicago Public Radio, echoing Kempenaar’s fascination with radio during his time at Grinnell, where he ran two radio shows on KDIC campus radio.

Filmspotting attracted the attention of the head of the film program at a continuing education school. Before Kempenaar knew it, yet another dream was coming to fruition — a chance to teach film classes at the University of Chicago’s Graham School.

“At Grinnell, I was an English major and I always wanted to teach. I realized that I wasn’t cut out to be an English professor, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t teach in some capacity. This was something I really wanted to do and it seemed like a dream opportunity.”

The Regular Job

Added to the lengthy list of Kempenaar’s occupations is his full-time career as senior director of new media and creative services for the Chicago Blackhawks. “I had a friend at Grinnell who would always come to our dorm room and play hockey video games. All the time it was hockey, hockey, hockey,” says Kempenaar. “And now he sees pictures of me on Facebook holding the Stanley Cup! It’s crazy that, 20 years later, here I am doing that for a living.”

Kempenaar has achieved what many college graduates have come to view as a foolish ideal — the aspiration to live all your passions, and make a living while doing it. By choosing to follow all the threads that tugged at his curiosity, Kempenaar has woven a web of interconnected triumphs, fueled by his persistent desire to always keep learning. By not fixating on a single goal, he has been able to expand his ability to wear many hats.

“Whether it’s podcasting or whether it’s the Blackhawks, I have always been prepared to do what I want to do simply because I’ve followed whatever I’ve been interested in,” Kempenaar says.

“I’m really lucky that I get to mix all my passions. I love sports, I love film, I love teaching, and I do all of them!”

 

Unexpected Opportunities

When Rebecca Dworkin ’06 graduated from Grinnell as a religious studies major, she didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do with her life. She was interested in women’s health and reproductive rights, but how did she want to approach the issue? Through law? Advocacy? Social work? With so many options, Dworkin wasn’t sure which path was right for her.

Exploring the Options

To gain some exposure to women’s health in practice, Dworkin took a position with AmeriCorps, where she worked in a busy clinic as a doula, a birth coach. Today, she believes this experience was the single most influential choice she made after graduating.

“It’s very clear looking back that that program was what really got me interested in working in health care,” Dworkin says. “But the program got canceled abruptly 8 months in. It was like getting the rug pulled out from under you!”

After being laid off, Dworkin still wasn’t sure what career path she wanted to take. She decided to hit the road and travel the country doing seasonal work and “visiting other people’s lives.” This experience allowed her to meet many different kinds of people and also gave her the time to clear her head and discover what she really wanted to do.

Choosing a Path

Before long, Dworkin was in an accelerated nursing program at Georgetown University, after which she received her master’s and became a certified nurse-midwife. She got the first job she applied to at the University of Iowa, where she currently works as a clinical assistant professor in obstetrics and gynecology. Dworkin was glad that she attended Grinnell before getting this career-driven education.

“I don’t think that I would have wanted to do that sort of education in my initial college years, because I wouldn’t want that career focus to come at the expense of the intellectual development I got at Grinnell,” she says. “It’s absolutely worthwhile to spend some time engaging in some sort of intellectual passion. It exercises your mind and can add a whole new layer of depth to whatever you decide to do.”

The Value of the Liberal Arts

For Dworkin, her interdisciplinary studies about women in subjects such as religious studies, gender studies, and sociology allow her to connect with her work on a deeper level than clinical practice alone.

“The most rewarding part of this job is that you are in a position to be with people during really critical moments of their lives,” says Dworkin. “I can really empower women through their reproductive choices and help them to take ownership of their bodies and their birth experiences.”

Reflecting on her experiences, Dworkin can see how her liberal arts education, along with her 6 months of “drifting” on the road, prepared her for the path she took.

“I really do feel like the liberal arts can prepare you to do basically whatever you want. If you can read critically, communicate well, and write well, that will serve you well no matter what field you go into,” Dworkin says. “I felt prepared to go down many paths, because the liberal arts opens doors rather than pigeonholing you into one way of thinking.”

Dworkin also stresses that students and recent graduates should be willing to have faith in themselves and not be afraid to do a little “drifting.” Her experience with AmeriCorps sparked her interest in health care, and she met many healthcare professionals during her time on the road who helped her determine the path that was right for her.

“Even if you don’t know what you want to do right away, just go somewhere you want to be! If you’re out in the world, you’re gonna meet people who may turn into an opportunity you never considered,” Dworkin says. “The opportunities will come to you, if you’re open to them. So don’t worry so much! If you graduate from Grinnell, you’re truly prepared for anything.”