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When Prospies Enroll

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


It never seems to occur to prospies how much students pay attention to them. Surprise! We are a lot more curious and fascinated by you than we like to let on. My automatic response to being asked to write about my relationship with prospective students was to dig around my various fetid stacks of random information and give you a nice, steaming pile of overly factual/historical anecdotes. Statistics can be boring, but it’s just my natural Grinnellian desire to impress prospies with whatever I have to offer. Oddly enough, though, my job as a tour guide has often been a nice antidote to my affinity for facts and figures.

After hearing myself talk all day in lists and factual accounts (although I admit I still remain impressed with each item), I always relish the opportunity to be casual and personal. There’s usually one “leader” in each tour group, whether it’s a parent or the prospective student, and occasionally there will be a friend or younger sibling who gets excited about Dag, the foam sword fighting group, or the Grinnell Carnivore Society.

Most often the parent takes on the leadership role, leaving their child, the prospective student, mortally embarrassed. These are the sort of parents who get intensely excited about the giant “jungle gym” carpeted playhouse-style study rooms in the library (like my mom did when I prospied), or by the wide range of quality or bizarre extracurricular activities.

I spend an hour and a half with each family (occasionally longer if I get a theatre person and spend too long trying to get him or her into backstage areas). I’ve managed to enjoy each of these outings thus far, though I must admit that the enthusa-moms or enthusa-dads stand out. I tend to be an enthusiastic person, particularly when it comes to my college, and if you’ve had a tour with me you probably know how I can get even more bubbly at parental units who are equally entertained by the various anecdotes that seep out during those 90 minutes.

One of my other favorite things about being a tour guide—besides the captivated parents, the opportunity to learn more about our incoming classes, the cool people I work with, and feeling like hot stuff for getting lots of special keys for opening locked rooms—is the constant reminder of my own prospie days and how it puts my current student status into perspective.

I remember my first visit to Grinnell when my dad and I went to a free dance performance that made me realize that interpretive dance is not for the weak of heart (I had had a negative perception of it until I was completely blown away by this performance).

I remember being let up to the suspension grid in Bucksbaum and bouncing on wire mesh 30 feet above the black box theatre floor and daydreaming about all the clubs, sports, and activities I could participate in if I ended up at this place.

I also remember thinking my tour guide was one of the most amazing individuals I’d ever encountered. After all, my guide was in a place where he could not only join student government, religious groups, or sports teams, but also start a crochet/knitting club or whatever else struck his fancy.

Now I’m here. I teach tango (and have even gotten funding from the school to do so). I weld and took up harp. I’m involved in multicultural groups, student publications, and several (mostly theatrical) productions per semester. I have strong connections and friendships with several faculty and staff members, I hold various campus jobs, I’ve built houses in New Orleans with classmates, and I’ve joined in on the midnight Nerf wars in the science building.

I realize that I may have just made myself sound like the most pretentious liberal arts student out there, but the best part is that here, this sort of campus involvement is not considered impressive, but the norm. That’s the one big thing I try to show to my prospies on each tour: the diversity of opportunity.

Whatever level of participation you desire—from only being on the e-mail list, to filling an initiator or leadership role—Grinnell has it. And no matter your interest, whether it is athletic or academic, culinary or cultural—I’ve found that it’s possible to achieve it here. And at the risk of sounding cheesier (yep, it’s possible—sorry), the best part about the wealth of participation opportunities Grinnell offers is the strong community it creates. But regardless of my cheesiness, if you’ve had a tour with me or if you will later on, I hope I succeed(ed) in showing you our tight-knit community, at least on some level. Best of luck with the college decision!

Cait Scherr '09 is a Sociology major from Portland, Oregon.

Love in the Time of Dengue

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


Before going abroad, Grinnell students must attend an informational session about all the terrible things that can happen to you (but probably won’t) in order to prepare you to deal with the worst-case scenarios you will most likely never face (but then again, you might). So long before setting foot on an airplane, I listened to Richard Bright, the director of off-campus study, lecture on the dangers of rape, AIDS, armed robberies, kidnappings, murders, freak accidents, natural disasters, and potentially fatal tropical diseases. By the end of the presentation, my head overflowed with so many “what-ifs,” I began to wonder if I really wanted to spend a semester in Costa Rica and Nicaragua at all. After all, Iowa has corn. Central America has malaria.

Luckily, I got over my initial anxieties about crossing U.S. borders, because I ended up having one of those clichéd, amazing-life-changing-I-now-see-the-world-in-a-new-light-and-will-never-be-the-same-again experiences. Last spring I spent a month studying Spanish and globalization in San José, Costa Rica, and while there, I mastered the fine art of crossing the street without getting plowed down by towering buses and aggressive taxis (pedestrians do not have the right of way).

Then it was on to Chagüitillo, Nicaragua, where I volunteered for two wonderful months with a nonprofit community development organization. I spent my days teaching at the local high school and preschool, working in a museum, and learning lots of risque Nica slang words. My nights were spent with my incredible host family, talking, dancing, and rocking chair-ing. And it was in Nicaragua, amidst all the rice-and-beans-eating and sunset-appreciating, when I unexpectedly came face to face with one of Richard Bright’s “what-ifs.”

I got sick.

I woke up one morning with an upset stomach, and assumed I was being punished for drinking a soda chilled with ice made with unfiltered water. I figured the discomfort would fade as the day passed, and went through with my plans to travel with other students in my program to a beautiful organic farm situated way up in the mountains, several miles from paved roads.

As it turns out, I had more than food poisoning.

After a night in the hospital, a shot in the bum, an IV, two blood tests, having to poop and pee into separate cups, and explaining all of my symptoms to Dr. Rosado in my Gringo-accented Spanish, I was diagnosed with dengue fever—a pesky mosquito-borne illness with malaria- like symptoms that make the seemingly impossible expression “constipated diarrhea” possible — as well as a rockin’ intestinal infection.


But I’m pretty stoked to know that one day I’ll be able to tell my future grandkids about the time Grandma Erin fell violently ill while visiting an isolated organic farm in Nicaragua and then had to hike three miles through the mountains in 90 degree weather with all of her travel gear to get to the nearest bus station, and then spend another two hours using a combination of public transportation and hitchhiking to get to the nearest health clinic.

Even though my travel guidebook claims that contracting dengue fever “will put a stop to your fun in Central America like a baseball bat to the head,” getting sick didn’t detract from my time abroad — it enhanced it. True, I was bedridden for quite some time, I got terrible headaches behind my eyes, and my bowels were doing some pretty freaky things I didn’t know they could do. But my, oh, my. What an experience. So many stories to tell! And isn’t that what it’s all about?

Overall, Grinnell has been good to me. I’m appreciative of my five semesters here, and of the two remaining. But my advice to the young ’uns (and the advice that more than 50 percent of all Grinnell students follow) is this: go abroad. Some experiences just can’t be had in Grinnell. Iowa does have corn. And Nicaragua, along with its gorgeous lakes and volcanoes, has dengue. And I’m grateful that in my stint as an undergrad, I’ve had both.

Erin Sindewald '08 is an English major from Orland Park, Illinois.

The Midnight Flight of the Mattress Riders

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


Beneath Grinnell’s academic veneer, there lies a secret world. In this world, shadowy figures converge by a signal known only to them, unleash weeks of pent-up glee, and vanish in the haze. It is a world we hear of in legend and rumor, a world that keeps its secrets.

Mischief is always best kept secret.

Many tales are told of revels conducted in the dark of night: roller chair races, steam tunnel spelunking, naked kite-flying. Among these, only one brings the giddy thrill of downhill motion to the academic sanctum of the Alumni Recitation Hall: mattress sledding.

The story goes as follows: when the stars align and the wind is right, and when the scent of 10-page papers lies on campus like a slab of rancid butter, a band of rogues assembles. With bravado as their only armor, they leave the dorms with a mattress hefted over their heads. They send out a silent call. In ARH, the fun begins. Moments later, young students chancing to leave the computer lab will be invited to experience delight in its purest form. They will be offered a seat at the top of the stairs, on a mattress going down.

The mattress descends only half a flight, but oh, what a flight it is. Alone or in tightly embracing knots of friends, silent or whooping with joy, the riders dive like falcons down the stairs and glide to a gentle stop in the hall below. The moment a rider dismounts, waiting arms grab the mattress and haul it again to the top, where the next rider will step on.

As with any legend, the revelation opens the door to deeper mystery. Who are these midnight riders? Do they not have homework? Are they the same who run naked in the fields, who roll in chairs down the tile halls of Noyce? Why a mattress, and not a sled or plastic tray? Can more than four safely ride? Perhaps one day the revels will be observed and recorded, and we will know for certain. But certainty brings control, and if the legends are true, the revels thrive on freedom. Perhaps it is best, then, that they remain cloaked in shadow, a mystery to be explored and explored again by each coming generation.

Adam Barrett '08 is an English major from Norman, Oklahoma.

Graduating On Time: A Brief Overview Of Regulations

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


Graduating On Time: A Brief Overview of Regulations

Making "normal progress" toward graduation: See the Student Handbook. The usual number of credits required is 16 per semester, but one 12 credit semester still allows for graduation on time. For example: 7 semesters of 16 credits plus 1 semester of 12 credits = (7 x 16) + (1 x 12) = 124 credits. Graduation requirements: Requirements for tutorial, total credits, major field, and residence can be found in the Student Handbook. Rules to watch:

  • Practicum credits - not more than 8 credits in all
  • Performance credits - not more than 16 credits allowed
  • Independent study - a maximum of 12 credits (plus-2, 297, 299, 397, 399 and 499) in one department may count toward graduation
  • Internship Study - maximum of 8 credits
  • Departmental limit - not more than 48 credits in one department
  • Divisional limit - not more than 92 credits in one division

A student with a well-balanced program in the first two years should have no difficulty with these limits."Plus-2s" and other independent work: First-year students may enroll only after they successfully complete the tutorial. First- and second-year students may take only one "plus-2" per semester.  

My Mad Love for Photocopying

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

Most mornings, I work at Carnegie Hall, copying, smiling, and helping my work supervisors and professors with clerical work. I really appreciate the job because it has helped me to get to know a really cool individual I like to call Mr. Copy Machine. My job has also helped me develop a genuine appreciation for photocopying.

I love photocopying. It might sound strange, but having so much association with this impressive machine creates a special bond of friendship and understanding that is for the most part incomprehensible to the average human. Mr. Copy Machine speaks to me. He whines when you feed him paper incorrectly and gives a deep sigh of pride at the end of each copy job.

He knows he is my buddy, and as such I treat him with a great deal of respect. When punching in department codes, I try to do so with the greatest degree of accuracy so he doesn’t get angry. If you accidentally key in inaccurate information, he rejects it instantly. He has no patience for sloppy individuals and values his time quite highly. Thus, if you don’t have your data right, you had best correct it before you start wasting his time. If you know you want your copy job double-sided, sorted, and stapled, you had best not key in double-sided and stapled, because no such job exists for him.

When there is a paper jam, it means you have been irresponsible and have either tugged at copied work before it has fully made its way to the paper tray or have fed in crumpled, unacceptable paper. Mr. Copy Machine is extremely high maintenance. He is, however, very forgiving and at least gives you the opportunity to learn from your mistakes by clearly indicating on his screen where the sheet of paper (or sheets as the case may be) got stuck.

After he alerts you about the paper jam, he then leaves you to your intellectual devices to figure out exactly where you went wrong. Usually, this is such a painful experience that most people try extremely hard not to feed in crumpled paper that does not meet his standards. In the end, it works out quite well for both parties, as Mr. Copy Machine’s users end up being efficient in their use of his offerings and Mr. Copy Machine continues to deliver quality, top-rate photocopies for their use.

I really like Mr. Copy Machine on a personal level because of his kind and understanding nature. After we established a connection, we became so close, we began to understand each other’s moods and energy levels.

For instance, one morning, I got to work extremely tired because I had pulled an all-nighter the night before. I had an urgent copy job from a professor to do and I had to get it done with a near-zero percent energy level. I dragged my weary self to Mr. Copy Machine and hit the start button sloppily. He could tell I was tired. I punched in the department code, copied the first page, and fell asleep, right in front of Mr. Copy Machine. He probably felt sorry for me, as he did everything else himself, all 50 of the copies.

Until today, I don’t know how my copy buddy got that job done, but somehow he finished and gave his signature satisfactory beep. I woke up and smiled. I inspected his work. It was as perfect as he is.

I am really grateful to the Carnegie Academic Support Office for granting me the unique opportunity to develop such a beautiful friendship with Mr. Copy Machine. I encourage every prospective Grinnellian to try to develop a meaningful relationship with the nearest copy machine they find available on campus. Hopefully, they will be able to experience the beauty of his humanity as a machine with values of efficiency, mutual respect, and professionalism.

Nmachi Jidenma ’09 is an Economics major from Lagos, Nigeria.

Hot Fun in the Summertime

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


I am the queen of playing things by ear. Plan ahead? No, thank you — I’d rather not. Of course, at times it’s necessary, but in most cases, I believe life is more enjoyable if I take each moment as it comes instead of worrying about the future.

However, I should be honest. It would be deceitful to claim that I play things by ear in a sheer effort to live in the present. Confession time — I often lack the ability to commit because I suffer from indecision. So, I offer this disclaimer: the following episode is rather common and not as painful as I may suggest. And so, we begin …

I can wait no longer. I have to make a decision. “It’s only three months,” I reassure myself. Yet I am not reassured. My mind and heart fight a fierce battle over a simple question: “Where will I spend the summer?”

Having returned from Argentina only days before, I am uncertain whether I can muster the strength to leave again so soon. But I can’t spend the summer at home. So I ponder my options and narrow my potential destinations to two. I can relocate to nearby Boulder, Colo., or settle back into the middle of somewhere — Grinnell, Iowa.

The next obvious step in the decision-making process seems straightforward, something I can handle even after my sabbatical from academia. However, as I begin methodically listing pros and cons, my mind quickly strays, and I slip into daydreams, indulging in memories of last June, July, and August …

After an unsuccessful job hunt in Colorado last May, I resigned myself to the fact that I was not destined to remain there. Disappointed, I looked outside the window of possibilities to which I’d originally confined myself. It was there I discovered an opportunity to venture into deeper waters, or in this case, into a sea of beautiful, rolling fields.

I called various restaurants in the Grinnell community, hastily packed my bags, and prepared myself for the 11-hour journey. Two days later I departed, grinning and wide-eyed. I felt childish, giddy, and a tidbit anxious. One might expect that after hours and hours driving through Eastern Colorado, across Nebraska, and into Iowa, my excitement would wane; however, on the contrary, my anticipation only grew as I approached my home away from home.

I had heard about “Grinnell summers,” but I wondered whether the tales could be true. Ice cream socials every Friday (perhaps heaven on earth for this ice cream fiend)? Community meals every Tuesday? Spontaneous dance parties anytime, anyplace? Biweekly vegan-coop potlucks? No overwhelming, burdensome stress weighing upon our shoulders, but rather a pleasant balance between work and play? This would indeed be a dramatic change from the Grinnell lifestyle I knew. I was skeptical.

I arrived in early evening, hesitating only a moment to take a deep breath before jumping out of the car and hurrying into Saints Rest. Rich aromas greeted me as I strolled into the quaint coffee shop, and knowingly, my sister, an employee there, glanced up and met my eyes. I had returned home. Welcoming smiles painted the streets, and I encountered friends and acquaintances everywhere I walked. I was starting to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the “Grinnell summer.”

As I settled in, slipping gently into summer, I found pleasant surprises everywhere. Tension and anxiety were practically nonexistent, people slept more regularly, and as a result, they seemed healthier and happier. Regardless of whether a student was doing research or working outside academia, he or she undoubtedly enjoyed more free time. So even though we were dispersed throughout town, we didn’t mind making a trek to visit a friend. On bike or on foot, any destination was accessible. Friends and acquaintances had more energy to sit and enjoy one another’s company, to throw together a delectable dinner, to discuss new ideas, and to reflect upon the last year. I delighted in picking raspberries, cooling off with a tasty Dari Barn treat at the end of a sweltering day, riding my bike on a warm, starry evening, running along firefly-lit fields, and watching the crops mature, gradually reaching up up up into the expansive blue sky. I discovered beauty everywhere I looked, in the landscape as well as in the interactions I shared with others.

My mind and heart are quiet, and a large smile replaces the furrow that earlier creased my brow. Hmmm. I inhale and exhale a deep breath. The sweet Colorado air lingers upon my lips, but the debate is over. I imagine the wind frolicking through the Iowa fields, calling me home with promises of another lovely Grinnell summer …

Meredith Groves '08 is an Anthropology major from Commerce, Colorado.

Campus Wellness

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


Freedom From Smoking
If you are interested in smoking cessation, please contact Jen Jacobsen, Wellness Coordinator at jacobsen[at]grinnell[dot]edu or ext. 3704. Freedom From Smoking, the American Lung Association smoking cessation program, may be made available on campus if there is enough interest. Date/time/location set to fit interested employees.

Live Healthy Grinnell
There are nine college teams with 56 participants. All together they have logged almost 6000 miles! Sixteen days left in the competition. The season finale celebration will be held Tuesday April 27 from 4-7pm in JRC 101. Everyone welcome to come cheer the top teams as well as get summer community wellness program information, such as Bike and Hike to Work. Sponsored by the Grinnell Wellness Coalition.

Wellness Listserv
Interested in staying on top of wellness events on campus and in the community? Want some ideas to help you choose wellness in your life? Subscribe to the wellness listserv by sending an e-mail to join-wellness[at]lyris.grinnell[dot]edu You will get an update on the first of each month plus notice of special promotions or events.

Changing Advisers

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

Normally, a student's tutorial professor serves as the student's adviser until the student declares a major (by pre-registration in the fourth semester). Transfer students not in tutorials are assigned advisers in the department in which they have indicated an interest. However, if either the student or the adviser feels that the advising relationship is incompatible, he or she may contact the Dean for Student Success and Academic Advising about making a change. When faculty members go on leave they make arrangements for their advisees to be advised by another faculty member. Major advisees may be assigned to another member of the department. (The Registrar's Office has a "Change of Major Adviser" form.) Undeclared advisees should be guided in selecting an interim adviser; because these students will know few faculty at this point, they should be coached through this process. In both cases the faculty member notifies the Academic Advising Office of these changes.

Once Upon a Time

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


As soon as I learned to read, I was never without a book. Often the characters were just as real to me as my siblings. When my father took me and my cousins out on forced-march hikes to some middle-of-nowhere place in rural South Dakota, I invented elaborate families, lives, and conversations for these characters. Due to my wild imagination, my cousins dubbed me “that kid.”

Aside from my own imaginary stories, I remember sitting around the oak kitchen table at my home, listening to my father tell the story (for the 15th time) of how he climbed the Matterhorn in Switzerland as a 20-year-old college kid. His guide drank an entire bottle of wine on the way up. I can still hear my mother tell me about the boy she beat the tar out of in elementary school because he stole her jacks. Bedtime at my house was usually enforced — except when my Aunt Marge was over yakking about the latest drama at her vet clinic, or when my older brother Frank was home from his most recent crazy endeavor in the Marine Corps. When there were stories to be swapped, I was allowed to stay up as long as I wanted, listening.

Having been saturated with storytelling as a child, an English major seemed a logical choice for me at Grinnell. It would allow me to read and discuss stories while I did my homework. But I was happy to discover that stories weren’t relegated only to the academic sphere. Nowadays, I hear less about my father’s ability to blow smoke out his eyes and more about the friends I have made in the larger Grinnell community.

I met most of these people at a wonderful event called Community Meal, which takes place every Tuesday at Davis Elementary School. Sponsored by the chaplain’s office, along with community and student groups, the Community Meal brings people together to cook a free meal available to anyone who wants to come. Usually, about 100 people show up. Last week’s menu consisted of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, grilled cheese, assorted cookies, lemonade, and milk.

I would never call the skills I’ve acquired at Community Meal “culinary.” For while I am now able to chop many, many onions, open numerous cans of fruit cocktail, and make 12 boxes of Betty Crocker brownie mix, I spend most of the meal talking and listening to the stories people tell me about their lives. While we sit at folding lunch tables under bad fluorescent lighting, surrounded by colorful crayon artwork, I tell community members about the French exam I have on Friday and how I don’t think I will ever truly understand the subjunctive tense. In exchange, Dave will tell me stories about his time in Germany during World War II. Later, I will move to a different table and sit in on Erlene and Rose-Marie’s reoccurring and rather heated discussion about George Bush and Wal-Mart. Moving yet again, I will sit down next to a 95-year-old retired minister who sings me songs and tells me about his long-ago trips to Israel and Palestine.

As a result of these conversations, when I am sitting on the park bench in front of Wells Fargo or getting tea at Saints Rest, I feel less like a student from out of town and more like a part of the community at large. Grinnell, the school, is intense in many wonderful ways, and there is no point in denying that it can be stressful. That is the way of college. But it has been crucial to my perspective and my sanity to remember that a five- to seven-page paper pales in importance to a good story about someone’s life.

Sarah Boyer '08 is an English major from Rapid City, South Dakota.

Simplicity Gets a Bad Rap

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


Half an hour ago, as I walked back to my dorm after class, a pair of gorgeous monarch butterflies flitted across my path. Now, I have seen butterflies at home in Oregon — the white-winged kind that are actually just a prettier species of moth — but these were not Oregon butterflies. Dancing in front of me was a pair of true, orange-and-black, fluttery-winged monarchs looking for all the world like two butterflies in love.

I smiled and kept walking, but movement on a nearby tree caught my eye. I stopped and stared as two dozen more monarchs, which I had mistaken for orange leaves, took flight. They paired up as well, dipping and diving. Orange and black wings flashed and fluttered all around me as I stood breathless under the tree’s dappled sunlight, my eyes wide and my mouth agape.

I had flashbacks to the reactions of my high school teachers and friends when I told them I was going to Iowa for school. “Iowa? Why are you going there?” I’d shrug and tell them, “Because Grinnell is there,” as though that were the be-all and end-all of Grinnell.

But tell that to my roommate from China, who stood in the middle of Mac Field and looked up at the sky for 20 minutes because she had never seen stars before. “That’s the Big Dipper,” she squealed. “There’s Scorpio!” And I nodded, looking up at the sky with new eyes.

Tell that to a friend of mine who woke up in the middle of a particularly loud thunderstorm and couldn’t get back to sleep, not because she was afraid, but because she was fascinated by the unmistakable feeling of energy in the air, by the pregnant pause that came between eerily silent flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder, by the soothing sound of the rain.

And tell that to the classmate standing next to me in the cloud of monarch butterflies, trying futilely to take a picture with her cell phone.

There is so much more to the town of Grinnell than a college. It’s an adorable and caring community of 2 a.m. bakeries, ice cream cones as big as your forearm, farmers’ markets, hardware stores, and cafes ready to welcome a group of college students who just want to get off campus and play a loud game of cards. In fact, when it comes right down to it, everything you could ever want or need you can find in town, whether it’s a knitting store or a professional photography studio.

Most importantly, however, Grinnell is a place where it’s easy to take the time to have fun. It’s not uncommon to be walking around on campus and see students happily climbing trees, reading on the grass, or even trying (and failing) to hang up a tire swing. Grinnellians know how to work hard, but they know how to relax just as hard and to make their own fun by just appreciating the little things in life … like a cloud of dancing butterflies.

Debora Berk '12 is undeclared and from Clackamas, Oregon.