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Exploring History Through Dance

Taylor Watts ’16 had never danced before taking a salsa lesson during her New Student Orientation. She discovered she loved dance.

Her passion for French goes back a little further, to her sophomore year in high school. Watts is combining both passions in a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP), “A Choreographic Exploration of the ‘commerce triangulaire,’” under the direction of Celeste Miller, assistant professor of theatre and dance.

Watts had the idea for this MAP after several powerful academic experiences. One was a summer MAP in Atlanta, also directed by Miller, working with theatre and dance companies whose work addresses social justice issues.

Another was a semester abroad in Nantes, France. While there she learned about the history of France’s largest slave port in the 18th century in a course taught by a black Frenchman. “Why is it so much easier to study [slavery and race] in a different culture’s history? I was very interested in the class, but I wasn’t going to do anything with it,” Watts says.

When she returned to campus the next semester, Watts took a class on Caribbean authors from Haiti, Guadalupe, and Martinique with Gwenola Caradec, assistant professor of French. The impact of slavery on the Caribbean was a topic that spoke to Watts.

Taylor Watts performanceShe says, “I really questioned doing it because I’m not French or from the Caribbean. Do I have the right to write about this? So I chose words directly from the text. Dance adds another layer of emotionality.”

“Taylor’s ‘Choreographic Exploration’ is a rich example of how dance, because of the undeniability of the body, can be a powerful and visceral use of the arts to examine complex and difficult topics,” Miller says. ”It is a choreographed embodiment drawn from research into both her topic and the aesthetic of the art form of dance.”

“Because of the emphasis spoken French places on connecting each word so that a sentence flows together, just listening to French I can visualize movement,” Watts says.

Watts was already planning the MAP when she heard about the France on Campus Award competition. She had just watched the film The Royal Tenenbaums, written and directed by Wes Anderson, one of the France on Campus Award patrons. The timing seemed auspicious. She won second place.

Watts will perform her work at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 3, in Flanagan Studio Theatre in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. As part of her award, she also will receive mentoring from the French Embassy and from Kickstarter to raise funds that will enable her to perform the work on other U.S. college campuses. 

Taylor Watts ’16 is a French and anthropology double major from Sacramento, Calif.

National Scholarships Support Study Abroad

Six Grinnell College students in the class of 2017 have received federally funded Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarships to support their study abroad during the 2015 fall semester or the 2016 spring semester. Winners were chosen from a group of approximately 1,600 American undergraduates from 355 colleges and universities across the United States.

Two of Grinnell's scholars, Lizzie Eason ’17 and Lily Galloway ’17, studied abroad during the fall semester, and four are studying abroad this spring.  

Mathematics Meets Migration

Lizzie Eason '07 in front of Vajdahunyad Castle

Eason at Budapest's Vajdahunyad Castle

Eason, a mathematics major from Lamoni, Iowa, was in Budapest, Hungary. There, she studied with world-renowned professors of mathematics and witnessed first-hand the refugee crisis in Europe.

"I returned to my home college, Grinnell, with a broader perspective both on mathematics and foreign policy," Eason said. She noted that her school was only two blocks away from Keleti Pályaudvar, the train station shut down by police to stop migrants from the Middle East from traveling through the European Union.

"On the day Keleti shut down, it was more crowded than I had ever seen it," Eason recalled. "There were narrow paths on the ground with no blankets where people could walk, but every other space on the floor was taken up by blankets on which refugee adults and children were begging for money and food."

Language Expands Archeological Options

Galloway, an anthropology major from Westchester, Illinois, spent her fall semester in Tanzania. There, she planned and executed with other undergraduates an archeological excavation of a 700,000-year-old elephant carcass. She also studied Kiswahili, one of the most spoken languages in Tanzania. She plans to pursue a career in archaeology.

"With this background and continued study of Kiswahili as part of Grinnell's Alternate Language Study Option program, I'll be able to promote dialogue between English-speaking archaeologists and Kiswahili speakers," Galloway said. "This will help improve communication about heritage preservation and lead to more collaborative scientific work on human origins in East Africa."

From Chile to the Czech Republic

Four of our Gilman scholars are studying abroad this semester:

  • Jinna Kim ’17, a sociology and Spanish major from Bellevue, Washington, is in Argentina.
  • Hankyeol Song ’17, a media and cultural praxis (independent) major from Bettendorf, Iowa, is in the Czech Republic.
  • Aniqa Rahman ’17, a biological chemistry and French major from Hillsboro, Missouri, is in Morocco.
  • Robin Crotteau ’17, a political science major from Boise, Idaho, is in Chile.

About the Scholarship

Funded by the U.S. Department of State, Gilman Scholars receive up to $5,000 to apply toward their study abroad or internship program costs. The program aims to diversify the kinds of students who study abroad and the countries and regions in which they study by supporting undergraduates who might otherwise not participate due to financial constraints. 

Students receiving a Federal Pell Grant from two- and four-year institutions who will be studying abroad or participating in a career-oriented international internship for academic credit are eligible to apply.

Students can apply now on the Gilman website for funding for study abroad during the 2016 fall semester or the 2016–17 academic year. Applications are due March 1.

Manon Lescaut, Live in HD

Grinnell College will stream the Metropolitan Opera's production of Giacomo Puccini's Manon Lescaut at noon on Saturday, March 5, at the Harris Center Cinema.

A scene from Giacomo Puccini's Manon Lescaut at the Met. Jennifer Brown, associate professor of music, will present the opera talk at 11:30 a.m. at Harris Center.

This will be the third opera of the spring season in which the Met is celebrating its 10th anniversary of "Live-in-HD" movie theater transmissions. 

Manon Lescaut tells the story of desperate love, starring soprano Kristine Opolais as a country girl who transforms herself into a Parisian seductress, and tenor Roberto Alagna as the student who tries to win her love. Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi conducts this production, which is set in Nazi-occupied France.

The three upcoming spring semester operas are:

  • Puccini's Madam Butterfly at noon Saturday, April 2. Mariko Schimmel, associate professor of Japanese, will present the opera talk at 11:30 a.m.
  • Gaetano Donizetti's Roberto Devereux at noon Saturday, April 16. There will be no opera talk before this HD broadcast.
  • Richard Strauss's Elektra at noon Saturday, April 30. Angelo Mercado, assistant professor of classics, will present the opera talk.

Refreshments will be available for sale in the lobby of the cinema before each opera and during intermission.

Opera tickets are available at the Pioneer Bookshop, the Grinnell College Bookstore and at the door on the day of the show. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students, children, and Met Opera members.

The Office of the President has generously funded tickets for Grinnell College faculty, staff and students, and tickets are available for free at all locations. Family members not employed by the college are required to purchase tickets.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Visitor and accessible parking is available in the lot to the east of the Harris Center. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.

The Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality

Michael Saler headshotMichael Saler, professor of history at the University of California, Davis, will discuss the prehistory of imaginary worlds in fantasy and science fiction as a source of modern enchantment when he speaks at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 2, in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.

Saler's free, public lecture is titled "The Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality: Modern Imaginary Worlds as Sites of Creativity."

"Professor Saler will speak about imaginary worlds as sites of creativity that encourage both escapism and social engagement. His talk will be of broad interest to historians and students of culture, fantasy and modernity," said Shuchi Kapila, professor of English and director of the Center for the Humanities.

"In our contemporary world," she added, "millions of people of all ages inhabit imaginary worlds, as we can see from the popularity of books and movies about Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes, as well as The Lord of the Rings fantasy novel and film trilogy. Prof. Saler will discuss why this interest in fantasy is more than mere escape."

The College’s Center for the Humanities — which is engaged in a year-long exploration of the theme of Sites of Creativity: Streets, Salons, Studios, and Schools — is sponsoring Saler’s talk.

Saler is an accomplished scholar of modern European intellectual history and the author of The Avant-Garde in Interwar England: 'Medieval Modernism' and the London Underground and As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality. He also writes for The Times Literary Supplement, The Nation, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Rosenfield Center has accessible parking in the lot to the east. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system.  You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.

Religious Diversity in the Heart of Iowa

Timothy KnepperTimothy Knepper, professor of philosophy at Drake University, will discuss religious diversity in Iowa at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 23, in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.

The free, public lecture, titled "Religious Diversity in the Heart of Iowa," will explore dialogues between Christianity and other religions practiced in Des Moines.

Knepper is a part of the Religions of Des Moines Initiative, which seeks to develop and practice a philosophy of religion that is diverse. The initiative explores, documents and places Christianity in dialogue with other religions practiced in Des Moines, such as Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Jainism, and Sikhism.

Chair of the department of philosophy and religion at Drake, Knepper also directs The Comparison Project, a public program in comparative philosophy of religion. His scholarship centers on the philosophy of religion, comparative religion, late ancient Neoplatonism and mystical discourse.

Knepper has written several books on the future of the philosophy of religion, including The Ends of Philosophy of Religion. He is working on a textbook about the global philosophy of religion and a photo-illustrated book on the religions of Des Moines.

The Center for Prairie Studies and Department of Religious Studies are co-sponsoring Knepper's lecture.


Six Appeal, World-class A Cappella

Six Appeal, an award-winning, six-member young men's vocal ensemble that performs with the energy of a rock band, but without instruments, will give a free, public concert on at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 8, in Herrick Chapel.

The versatile vocal band from Minnesota is one of the most popular touring a cappella groups in the nation. In fact, Six Appeal achieved the title of National Champion at the 2012 National Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival in San Rafael, California.

6 Appeal members hamming it upThe six members of the ensemble — Jordan Roll, Michael Brookens, Trey Jones, Nathan Hickey, Reuben Hushagen, and Andrew Berkowitz — met at Concordia College in Minnesota. Performing together since 2006, the group became a professional ensemble in 2010. The band has released two records, including covers, original songs, and holiday music.

The Grinnell concert will span decades of music, featuring classic oldies, current chart toppers, and catchy original tunes.

Although the March 8 concert is free and open to the public, tickets are required for admission. They will be available starting March 2 in the box office in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Accessible parking is available in front of the chapel. You can request accommodations through Conference Operations and Events.

The Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality: Modern Imaginary Worlds as Sites of Creativity

Wednesday, March 2, 2016 - 7:30pm
Joe Rosenfield '25 Center Room 101
Michael Saler
Professor of History, University of California, Davis

Today, millions of people throughout the world literally “inhabit" imaginary worlds, often in the company of others, for extended periods of time. But are fans of Sherlock Holmes, the Lord of the Rings, or Worlds of Warcraft merely escaping from reality, or are they learning to see that reality itself is partly an open-ended fiction amenable to revision? This talk will examine the history of imaginary worlds as a source of modern enchantment, encouraging both entertaining escapism and social engagement.

Michael Saler is Professor of History at the University of California, Davis, where he teaches Modern European Intellectual History. He is the author of The Avant-Garde in Interwar England: ‘Medieval Modernism’ and the London Underground (Oxford UP, 1999) and As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality (Oxford, 2012). With Joshua Landy, he co-edited The Re-Enchantment of the World: Secular Magic in a Rational Age (Stanford UP, 2009), and he is the editor of The Fin-de-Siècle World (Routledge, 2014). He writes for the Times Literary Supplement, The Nation, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, and is currently working on a history of the modern imagination and its relation to contemporary fantasy and science fiction.

Creating a Life that Matters

Wes MooreWes Moore, a New York Times bestselling author, Army combat veteran, youth advocate and CEO of BridgeEDU, will speak at Grinnell College on Monday, Feb. 29.

His speech, titled “Wes Moore: Creating a Life that Matters,” will explore why work filled with meaning and purpose can create lasting and transformative personal and societal change. 

The talk, which is free and open to the public, will start at 7 p.m. in Sebring Lewis-Hall in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. A reception in the rotunda will follow the lecture.

Moore is an accomplished author, writing two New York Times bestsellers. His first book, The Other Wes Moore is a story of the importance of individual decisions as well as community support. It investigates the vastly different lives of two children — both named Wes Moore — growing up in inner Baltimore.

The author grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, White House Fellow, and business leader, whereas the other Wes Moore is serving a life sentence for killing a police officer during an armed robbery. The Work, Moore’s other bestseller, chronicles his journey to discover meaning in his work and how he found that meaning in service.

Moore’s work as a youth advocate started when he was a student at Johns Hopkins University. He founded STAND! — an organization that works with Baltimore youth in criminal justice system. He also founded and serves as CEO of BridgeEDU, an innovative college platform that addresses the college completion and job placement crisis by reinventing a student’s first year in college and providing more support throughout college.

A gifted speaker, Moore has been featured in USA Today, People magazine, “Meet the Press,” “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “The View,” “MSNBC,” and NPR, among many other national media sources. He also hosts “Beyond Belief” on the Oprah Winfrey Network and also serves as executive producer and host of “Coming Back with Wes Moore” on PBS.

Moore’s talk is sponsored by the Finkelman Deanship in the Center for Careers, Life, and Service and the Careers in Education Professions Program.

#Charlestonsyllabus Display in Burling Library

On June 17, 2015, nine people were shot to death at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  The shooting was a racially motivated hate crime against black lives perpetrated by a young white man, Dylann Roof.  In response to the news of the horrific event, historians, scholars, and non-academic readers alike took to Twitter under the hashtag #Charlestonsyllabus to amass a list of resources any person could turn to in order to educate themselves about the history of race and racial violence in America.

Dr. Keisha N. Blain, the co-founder of the #Charlestonsyllabus movement, keeper of the online syllabus, and author of the forthcoming book, Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism, and Racial Violence, visited Grinnell College to speak to the community in the college’s 2016 celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Dr. Blain discussed the bridging of scholarship and activism and the immediate connections made possible by social media.

In response to Dr. Blain’s visit, Grinnell College Libraries has documented the locations and availability of the resources suggested in the #Charlestonsyllabus. The libraries have 228 of the 296 books and films listed on the #Charlestonsyllabus. The #Charlestonsyllabus is listed here in its entirety, with links to the catalog for the materials that our library currently owns.  Many other resources are available through Interlibrary Loan.

The resources don’t end here, either. Look around in the stacks at the books surrounding the ones on this list, or think about additions you would make to it.  The #Charlestonsyllabus was a community effort, one that required a deeper engagement than just consumption (although in a list of over 300 materials, consumption is a good place to start). Share your thoughts and opinions on the list and the readings with those around you and/or online.

And be sure to visit the #Charlestonsyllabus display, located between the Latino Collection and the jungle gym in the southwest corner of Burling Library.

#Charlestonsyllabus is found on the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS) webpage.

Optima Typewriter Owned by David Lustbader ‘65

Just before winter recess, Special Collections and Archives received a very exciting new acquisition — an Optima portable typewriter! We don’t have a large collection of artifacts, but once we heard the story behind this typewriter we knew we had to have it for our collection. This particular typewriter was owned by alum David Lustbader ’65 during his time here at Grinnell College and in his years at law school.

The summer before his first year at Grinnell, Lustbader and his father visited a typewriter shop in Newark, New Jersey.  There were two portable models available, the popular Olivetti and an Optima. According to Lustbader, the Olivetti was thin and light weight, while the Optima keyboard was not as flat. Lustbader preferred the Optima, which was manufactured in West Germany. His father, however, was very reluctant to purchase anything from Germany.

Lustbader’s father had good reason for not wanting to support German manufacturing. During WWII, he had worked in the shipyards in Kearney, New Jersey, building Liberty Ships. Additionally, several of his father’s close friends, including the best man at his wedding, had served in the army during the war. However, he relented when he saw how much his son liked the Optima. In a fun twist to the story, during his second year at Grinnell, Lustbader became good friends with a German exchange student named Wolf Grabendorff. The two remain good friends to this day.

According to Lustbader, all of his school papers and correspondence during undergrad and law school were written using his Optima typewriter. The Optima owned by Lustbader is an Optima Elite, which was manufactured between 1955 and 1961. Amazingly, the original owner’s manual and cleaning brushes are still inside the case. The manual details helpful tips such as how to type capital letters and change the ribbon, and explains the movement of the carriage. The typewriter and its accompanying case are in beautiful condition, showing how much care they were given during their years of use.

We encourage anyone with an interest to drop by Special Collections and examine this typewriter in person.  Special Collections and Archives is open to the public 1:30–5 p.m. Monday through Friday and mornings by appointment.