Home » Faculty

Faculty

Coming Out as a Republican

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

 

Prior to my arrival at Grinnell, I was brought up on the basic principles of conservatism — I’m from a “Republican” family. For those of you who can (secretly) relate, Grinnell College can seem quite intimidating, right? After all, it is the college where more than 80 percent of students voted against Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, a candidate who repeatedly wins elections with at least 70 percent of the vote. Grinnell is a liberal bubble in the middle of the moderate political landscape of Iowa.

That’s why when I came here, I decided to keep my political affiliations to myself. I figured there was no sense in starting an argument where I would end up being completely outnumbered. The last thing I wanted to do was make enemies for myself. And I wasn’t really sure what I believed. Sure, my dad listened to Rush Limbaugh and watched Fox News, but what did I know about world politics and how much my beliefs were tied to those of my father and mother?

Less than five minutes after I unpacked my last box on move-in day of my first year here, another first-year from down the hall “outed” me as a Republican. We were introducing ourselves and saying where we were from when she, from out of nowhere, looks at me and says, “You — Bush or Kerry?” I just stood there. I had no intention of lying to anyone about my political affiliations, but I wasn’t expecting them to come up so soon. I went ahead and answered, “Bush?” and then subconsciously expected everyone to attack me and rip out my insides. But as you can see, I am still here, and many of the people who first heard me say “Bush” are still some of my closest friends today.

My initial plan to be discreet about my politics had been shot out the window. The result, however, has been anything but disastrous. After taking an active role in the Campus Republicans group, I’ve realized there are many others at this college who share some of my ideologies (including my roommate), but they thought they were the only ones as well. Grinnell prides itself on being an open-minded and accepting campus, and it is, for the most part. However, I do believe at times people forget that diversity of thought should also fit in here. Sometimes it is still a bit intimidating to speak your mind about politics when students and professors alike make it the norm to speak out against Republicanism.

However, I have found a haven in the Campus Republicans. Our members don’t really focus on endorsing candidates in local, state, and national elections. In reality, it would probably do the candidates more harm than good if we did, seeing as how Kerry carried more than 90 percent of the vote on campus. Instead, our primary goal is to create an environment where non-liberals can discuss politics and not feel threatened or silenced by the majority.

Looking back, I’m glad I have been open about my values and beliefs, since it has forced me to challenge them and make sure they are what I truly believe. And for the most part, Grinnell has been open to me and other conservatives on campus — except for the occasional liberal spy at our meetings and that shoe mark on my car where my Bush-Cheney bumper sticker once was.

Derek Bates '08 is an English major from Montezuma, Iowa.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Being a Student Adviser

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

 

Twelve first-years. Twelve! While staff training week taught me how to handle pretty much every conceivable conflict I might encounter as a student adviser, or S.A., it left out that little part about any potential pandemonium that could arise when 12 nervous first-years begin their Grinnell experience on Read Second. Suddenly, my self-doubt about being an S.A. rose. My welcoming presence would play a key role in getting the college career of my first-years off to an acceptable start and convincing parents that leaving their kids in Iowa wasn’t such a bad idea.

Thus, I decided the success of move-in day would depend primarily on whether I could keep myself from looking like a complete idiot. It began awkwardly. Rolling out of bed at 9:30 a.m. for my 10 a.m. shift, I half-heartedly grabbed a towel and walked shirtless across the hall toward the bathroom, only to be eyed uncomfortably by a parent and sarcastically asked by more-awake staff members already on duty, “Hey Mark, have you met any of your first-years yet?” I was off to a stellar start.

Looking vaguely respectable, I began greeting first-years and unloading SUVs. Being self-conscious, I found this both exciting and potentially dangerous. One must establish an initial friendship and learn cool things about the other person, even though periods of Facebook stalking have already revealed many of the desired answers.

Besides, appearing and acting friendly meant people might not pass judgment at my moderately creepy door decorations. While a lot of S.A.s play it safe by putting stupid laws or Samuel L. Jackson movie posters by their first years’ names, I went all out with phallic buildings as my floor theme. Because nothing reassures nervous students and parents more than pictures of buildings that look like private parts affixed to every door in the hall. Well, maybe just the students were reassured.

I still needed something to convince myself that I could actually succeed at this S.A. job. Everyone seemed nice, but were they having fun? Did they like me? I finally got an indication during that afternoon’s floor meeting, with the help of one of my better ideas in recent memory. My vehement disdain for icebreakers of any sort forced me to rack my brain for something fun that could be done within the confines of the Read Second hallway. My solution? Wheelie chair races.

With Europe’s “Final Countdown” blaring from my room and boxes scattered across the floor as obstacles, I divided my first-years into teams of four, forced them to learn the names of everyone on their team, and began the extravaganza. Much to my relief, they seemed to be having fun. Apparently, crashing into one’s fellow floormates in a wheelie chair is just as enjoyable as I thought.

After that, any nerves about floor difficulty subsided. All 12 of them went to dinner together, and ended up hanging out on the floor for much of the night. The next day, group volleyball again brought everyone together.

There, I received one final indication that I wasn’t going to fail miserably as an S.A. when I got smacked in the face by a particularly powerful spike. It was embarrassing, but reassuring nonetheless. The subsequent laughter and my failed quest for revenge made me realize that maybe 12 first-years wouldn’t create the chaotic scenes I had envisioned, and that my S.A. experience wouldn’t be so nerve-racking after all.

Mark Japinga '09 is undeclared and from Holland, Michigan.

Caucus Season

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

 

Issue: 

 Spring 2008

Author: 

 Smita Elena Sharma '08

The Iowa caucuses came a few weeks early this time around, on a chilly evening three days into the new year. College was out, and winter break was on for another three weeks. There was no reason for us students to be around town. None, that is, but for the excitement of participating, whether watching or voting, in the first part of a yearlong process that will determine the next president of the United States of America.

But this article is not about the specific procedures of the Iowa caucuses. That may be of interest to the political science major, but for me personally, it’s more interesting to watch the coming together of a community. Perhaps for the first time ever, I was able to see democracy in action. And not just any democracy, but a specifically Iowan democracy that emphasizes acting as a community.

My friend Vicki and I headed to Harris Concert Hall after a pre-caucus dinner at my downtown apartment. We were feeling all grown-up and excited, and still quite unsure about our support for Barack Obama. Along the way, we met another friend, Abby, who announced her intention to vote for John Edwards. In trying to argue Obama’s case, I think we did a better job convincing ourselves than we did her. Of course, my “vote” would have been academic, that is to say, moot. I am not a citizen of this country, let alone a registered Democrat. Thus I could only talk to others and watch the process itself.

We got to a very crowded Harris Center and joined the queue to register. As an independent observer, I had to sit on the stage apart from the registered Democrats. Some 500 people were in the auditorium. The mass slowly assembled into distinct groups, each bearing a banner proclaiming their candidate for president of the U.S.A. Each, that is, except for the six adults gathered in support of Dennis Kucinich and the lone woman who was supporting an alsoran whose name I forget. Obama and Edwards polled the biggest numbers — about 240 and 170 respectively. Perhaps more surprisingly, Clinton’s contingent was small: she had about 40 supporters, while 72 were required to attain viability (or in plain speak, to gain a delegate). Only one student caucused for her, perhaps in retaliation for her fudging on the issue of whether “out-of-town” students should rightfully be allowed to vote here. Don Smith, a retired history professor known for his genteel Southern charm, presided over the proceedings.

And so I sat onstage and watched. I saw people trying to make up their own minds about which candidate to support and trying to persuade others to agree with them. I heard people talk to each other about politics and about the weather and about travel plans. I exchanged greetings with faculty members, college staff, students, and the few parents of my friends who came down to see Iowa’s famous caucuses for themselves.

A couple in their 50s sat next to me, and we started talking. They turned out to be the parents of a friend who graduated last year. Talking to them, I realized why Grinnell appeals to me so much. Whether in politics or in ordinary conversations with almost-strangers, Grinnellians are polite, warm, and firmly invested in the everyday activities in which they engage. The Iowa caucuses are an important political mechanism, but more than that, they are also a manifestation of community at its best: all these people together in one room, trying to make a difference in the world.

Smita Elena Sharma '08 is a Philosophy major from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

 

Religion in the Cornfields

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

 

I’ve been a Unitarian Universalist all my life. I’m used to people asking me “What’s UU?” all the time, so by now, I’ve got the speech down. But what I didn’t know was that by coming to Grinnell, I’d have to ask myself the question in a whole new way.

I’ve had to (and chosen to) sort through new issues arising from contact with new experiences and different people: UUs, Christians, Pagans, Jews, agnostics, and others. Tons of different religious groups exist on campus, but even beyond the groups, people always have something to say or ask about religion. And being around all these new people makes you think about where you stand, and why others choose to stand differently. So all those late night talks/really-anytime-you’re-interested talks really do happen because we’re a curious, open, and opinionated bunch.

I joined the UU group right away when I came to Grinnell and started co-leading it my second semester. This year, I still lead, and I’m a part of the worship team we’ve created. We gather over Thursday night dinner every week. We share news about our weeks, light the chalice (our religious symbol), sing some songs, and discuss issues that are important to us. We have a small and lively group and we’ve even made puppy chow (a college staple containing Chex cereal, chocolate, peanut butter, and powdered sugar).

I’m also a member of other religious groups on campus. I attend the Grinnell College Christian Fellowship events, and I’ve gone to some of Chalutzim’s (the Jewish student organization) Friday night services. I am part of the Religious Life Council, which includes a representative from each religious student group on campus. We host events throughout the year to promote interfaith dialogue at Grinnell. I am also in the pre-seminary group, because I plan to become a minister at midlife. I’ve consistently found many venues to explore religion here. The groups are both intentional and open, meaning people consciously gather to reflect and act on their beliefs, and at the same time they’re welcoming to others who see things differently.

You may have heard that Grinnell is a pretty liberal school. And that’s true, but it certainly doesn’t mean that people here don’t believe in anything or don’t have values or don’t like to talk about religion. We tend to engage each other about what we believe and why, on religious issues and non-religious issues alike. We aren’t afraid to be challenged or vulnerable, and we are also committed to avoiding ignorance. So we ask questions and seek out dialogues in order to understand.

People always tell you that you learn both in and out of the classroom, and since being at Grinnell, I’ve realized it’s true because we make it so. Learning certainly does go beyond the classroom, and even beyond the student groups, because we engage each other in ways that are both purposeful and comfortable. So we keep on asking not just “What is UU?” (fill in the religion of choice), but also “Why do you choose to be one and how does that impact the way you act in the world?” Then we all keep on learning.

Amen to that!

Ariel Herman '09 is an Independent major from Oak Park, Illinois.

Opening up with Grinnell Monologues

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

 

I am not a theatre person by any stretch of the imagination. I have terrible stage fright, I cannot memorize lines whatsoever, and once, I even threw up while giving a presentation in front of my high school class. So when my friend begged me to go to the kickoff meeting of Grinnell Monologues during my second year, I thought, “Okay, I’ll go to make her feel more comfortable about being there, but no way am I going to have any part in this performance nonsense.”

Grinnell Monologues, or GMons, as it is also affectionately known, is a student-run group on campus that writes and performs its own original monologues centering on themes of sex, sexuality, gender, relationships, body image, and more. Given the intimate nature of the performance content coupled with the still fresh in my mind high school vomiting memory, one could see my hesitation about joining such a group. Little did I know how much this first meeting would alter my perspective.

The meeting began innocently enough. We sat around and answered the basic questions: what’s your name, what year are you, and so on and so forth. But then we got a little closer to each other when the group leader asked everyone at the table, “What was your most embarrassing moment from a Grinnell hookup?” Excuse me, I thought, is that something you should even be asking? I didn’t think so. But to my surprise, everyone answered with very truthful and earnest answers, and I really admired everyone’s openness and acceptance of what others had to say. When it came to my turn, I shocked myself by answering with an embarrassing story of my own. So much for keeping my guard up. But I no longer felt it was necessary to do so. And I showed up for the second meeting.

The point of starting our practices with personal questions was to get the creative juices flowing. Hearing a response from one member of GMons might spark an idea in another member, and poof! A monologue is born! By the end of the semester, we all had come up with great ideas and were ready to perform. Some monologues were comical, others were serious, and some were emotional, but all of the performances were honest, insightful looks into topics that hardly ever get talked about in the open. Sharing a story about how uncomfortable a woman is with her large breasts, or how a man hates to be identified as a heterosexual alpha male, all in front of an audience, is not easy to do. However, stories such as these open doors to dialogue about body image and gender, doors I think deserve to be opened and dialogue that needs to be heard. I believe that everyone who walked away from watching that performance had an altered view about something discussed in the show.

It is probably hard to believe, but even after all my resistance to performing and getting up on stage, I became so enamored with Grinnell Monologues that I served as co-leader of the group the following year. Working with these students was incredibly rewarding because I got to listen to their stories and encourage them to be as truthful and sincere about their own stories as the leaders from the previous year had done with me. And the applause at the end of the performance? That was the best part.

Stephanie Rosenbaum '08 is a Spanish major from Glencoe, Illinois.

One Enchanted Evening

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

 

I spent spring break of my third year in a car, driving across the country. Dan, a student at Williams College, and Sara, a theatre major at the University of Washington, met me in Grinnell. We got stuck in some snow in Nebraska, took a stunning route through Sedona, Ariz., ordered Chinese food from a beach outside of San Francisco, and got Sara back to Seattle just in time for classes.

Dan and I booked it on the drive back to Grinnell. Needless to say, we were exhausted when we finally pulled up outside of Russian House. We weren’t excited to find the kitchen overflowing with students who coerced us into joining them for rice and curry. I excused myself as soon as I could, going up to my room and leaving Dan to fend for himself.

The next day was no different — activity filled the house from dawn to dusk. Dan and I wanted to make a nice dinner, so we invited everyone to join us, planned the menu, and went grocery shopping. However, when 7 p.m. rolled around, my housemate Suyog and his friend Aashish had taken over the stove. They seemed confused when we reminded them of our dinner plans. Frustrated, Dan and I spent the evening wandering around town.

After all of our wandering, we didn’t get dinner started until nearly 10:30 p.m. But then the whole evening took a turn. Everyone congregated in the kitchen once again as Dan and I started the pasta. A group of students played cards at the table. Three friends of mine, all from Nepal, began tossing bottle tops into a can at the other end of the room, fluidly interchanging English and Nepalese. Avram, another housemate, unexpectedly walked in, giddy after a week in Las Vegas.

By the time we finished cooking, the dynamic seemed like something out of a Woody Allen film — people sitting around with wine glasses, eating fettuccini and roasted peppers, talking about spring break adventures and Bob Dylan. After dinner, someone suggested I play my saxophone. I couldn’t see why not, so I went upstairs to get it. When I came back down, the living room was lit by candles. I improvised jazz standards for nearly an hour while people talked and mingled.

The evening ended just as unexpectedly as it began. Suddenly someone realized how late it had gotten and stood up to go. Within minutes, Russian House was quiet again. I didn’t get to bed until nearly 4:30 in the morning.

I’ll always remember that night as one of the strangest and most unexpectedly beautiful evenings that I’ve spent in Grinnell.

Catherine Wagley '07 is an Art major from Spokane, Washington.

Community

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

 

It was like trying to believe in Santa Claus. Was it really true? Would she remember? Would she really get up early on a Tuesday, walk from her cozy off-campus house all the way over to Rose Hall, in the cold, and cook breakfast — just so I could have a little extra time to sleep? I knew I had found a community in the Grinnell College Christian Fellowship (GCCF) — a community that cared about me like none I had known before — but really, nobody expects anyone else to walk half a dozen blocks in a winter sunrise just to fry up a few eggs for one stressed-out first-year. It’s not reasonable.

Nor, it turns out, are a lot of Grinnellians. Because when I crept downstairs to the little dorm kitchen, there she was with a breakfast all for me, a book for her, and a cheerful smile, all to my astonishment.

Everyone needs a community. One of GCCF’s goals is to be a caring, active community open to the whole campus (not just Christians). My first year, four GCCF guys lived in a mini-co-op (an apartment-like room in a regular dorm); they decided to use their extra space to foster community. They left their door open and invited anyone and everyone to come borrow their stuff, use their kitchen, eat their food, and socialize in their space. I was one of many who felt exceptionally welcome and at home there, and as a result, I now live there myself. My roommates and I are happily continuing the tradition of the co-op as a space where life is shared and good community happens.

A good community is dynamic. Students at Grinnell are willing to discuss their experiences and beliefs with each other and don’t duck challenging questions. The first time I went to a GCCF Bible Study, I was nervous because the study wasn’t based on a prepared lesson, but on participants’ on-the-spot questions. What if people asked difficult questions? Well, they did, and I learned that when a group of people is willing to tackle tough questions together, what results is not an ugly argument, but a healthy and thoughtful discussion. I’ve listened to people talk about everything from how Jesus might be like a ninja, to whether salvation is a single decision or a lifetime process, to how the biblical story of creation might be interpreted so as not to interfere with scientific theories — the list goes on.

GCCF in the context of Grinnell has done a lot to broaden and deepen my ideas about what community is and what it means to love people. I’ve learned that love is more than hugs and happy notes, more than anonymously shoveling parked cars out of the snow, more than cooking masses of pancakes at 3 a.m. Loving people — building a real community — is getting to know people, going beyond simply tolerating people to really appreciating them for who they are. It’s listening to their stories. It’s knowing we all make mistakes and dumb decisions, and yet we can respect others (and ourselves) regardless. It requires a little risk, a lot of trust, a real desire to learn, and a faith in something bigger than yourself, be it God, humanity, or reason.

Or Santa Claus.

Sara Woolery '11 is an English major from Malerva, Iowa.

Bubble What?

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

 

I had been studying for my chemistry final for three days straight. I was sick from the winter cold, and had lost the notebook with all my notes. I was so stressed and over-caffeinated, I realized that if I didn’t take a break, I’d go crazy.

Cue Grinnell’s notorious creativity. I needed to de-stress, even if only for an hour, so I decided to go to one of our many study breaks. There are more study breaks held in the week of finals than in the entire semester combined. They range from mini-snack breaks to mini-smoothie breaks, from spontaneous choir singalongs to mini tie-dye and candle-making breaks. I attended many study breaks last year, but the best one hands down had to be the bubble one.

My bubble journey began by running into a sea of bubble wrap extending from one end of the hall to the other. It was so relieving to just drop myself onto the floor and roll around while I felt and heard every little bubble break. Inevitably people got very excited, and everyone started rolling around without any type of systematic order. As you might expect, this led to many Grinnellian-to-Grinnellian crashes, tumbles, flips, wrong turns, and Grinnellian- to-wall collisions. We’re not exactly known for our coordination here.

When I got to the center of the hallway (you’d be surprised how long that actually took!) I arrived at a table with all the bubble mix and magic wands you would ever want in an entire lifetime. The wands came in all shapes, sizes, and colors. I immediately pounced on the butterfly-shaped wand. It was destiny. Using my magic wand, I blew bubbles into a makeshift dartboard. We had still not gotten over the flurry of giggles from the bubble wrap, and it was surprisingly difficult to blow a bubble with a straight face. (You try blowing bubbles while you’re laughing! It’s not that easy!)

From the dartboard, people rolled along the ground again, popping the bubble wrap as they went (again, this took a good 20 minutes!) to the other end of the hallway where the bubble tea awaited. I tasted the mango and strawberry mix, which I must say was delicious! I had only tasted the milk-based teas, so having the splash of fruit flavor was a whole different experience. Eventually we tasted all the flavors, including pineapple, lemon, coconut, and kiwi. Personally, my favorite part of the whole tea was the tapioca balls.

I can honestly say it was the best hour I spent that week. Not only did it reduce my tension, but I also laughed like a maniac seeing everyone stumble on the bubble wrap and try all the different bubble tea flavors. Laughter truly is the best medicine! Even though I was having a stressful week, I knew that night that I had made the right choice to come to Grinnell.

Sandra Torres '12 is undeclared and from Chicago, Illinois.

Extracurriculars

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

 

One of the things I was most amazed at when I began my first semester here at Grinnell was the vast diversity in the student clubs and organizations. There were so many choices at the Organizations Fair during New Student Orientation, I felt overwhelmed. Unable to choose, I signed up for everything I found remotely new or interesting.

I signed up for almost 85 percent of the organizations at the fair. I hadn’t given much thought to just how I was going to fit everything in, but I resigned myself to the fact that I’d figure that part out later. A year later, I have indeed figured it out. Each semester I pick and choose so I can do a variety of things in my time at Grinnell. While it can be overwhelming to be involved in many student organizations, it’s too hard to pass up.

Grinnell has more than 100 student organizations — something for every interest. From politics, to sports, to academics, to religion, to dance, to social issues, to games, to just-for-fun — there are so many types of student organizations that it’s hard not to sample a little here and a little there.

It’s not uncommon to find student organizations collaborating on events and festivities on campus. We strongly believe in “the more the merrier” philosophy to organization. Collaboration isn’t just emphasized inside the classroom; you have to find some way to apply everything you’re learning! It’s also a more pleasant experience planning and executing the event when you have several points of view and several ways of thinking all in one group. You’d probably expect chaos to ensue, but the way we do things here … we make it work. With a very large success rate, might I add? I’m glad I came to a school where I can dance salsa one day, connect with alumni the next day, and round out the week by helping decorate for a Latin American Festival … and then change it all up for the next semester!

Sandra Torres '11 is a Biology major from Chicago, Illinois.

I Take Fake Newspapers Seriously

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

When I first visited Grinnell, I was looking for ways to differentiate the College from other schools I had already been to. What was it about Grinnell that everyone said was so different and progressive?

For me, the answer was the school has a fake newspaper.

I visited Grinnell in the fall, and the issue for September had just come out. I was speechless. I couldn’t believe that a) a college as small as Grinnell had a newspaper devoted to things like the College president having a pretty cool Facebook profile, and b) once I got to campus, it was within the realm of possibility that I could write for this paper, this“B&S” (not to be confused with the somewhat more traditional and fact-based real campus newspaper, the S&B).

Now, three years later, I’m editor-in-chief and really starting to enjoy watching the effect the B&S has on unsuspecting readers. Recently, it was Family Weekend here on campus, and I couldn’t help but smile as I watched parents eagerly grab a copy of the campus newspaper before realizing there were two, and one of them was reporting on Grinnell becoming a “conservative arts college.” While we actually didn’t plan for our first issue to coincide with Family Weekend, it seemed to be a good move, if for no other reason than to let the maximum amount of people know such a paper exists and doesn’t care too much about journalistic integrity.

Except … not quite. Even for a newspaper where jokes, not leads or sources, are the primary indicators of promising articles, one can definitely learn a thing or two about what it takes to write effectively. My writing skills have undoubtedly improved since then, and that’s one of the great things about the B&S: anyone can say or write something that is funny to them, but to contribute something the majority of the staff finds acceptable is a much greater achievement. Each month, we run a finished product containing what many different people have helped determine to be the most important, groundbreaking, and hilarious bits of news you can hold in your hand.

Whether we do that every month is debatable, since coming up with consistent articles month after month about the same subjects — Grinnell, college, and Grinnell College — without repeating ourselves is certainly not easy. But it is extremely fun, and that’s no B&S.

Ross Preston '10 is an Economics majof from Ponta Vedra Beach, Florida.