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Alumni in the Classroom

For students in Grinnell’s Introduction to Sociology class, the central question they must ask themselves is this: “How do my own personal struggles fit into a wider public issue, and how can I use sociology to solve that problem?”

“For example, if students are struggling with debt, they need to explore how that is reflective of a larger trend or problem in society,” says Patrick Inglis, assistant professor of sociology. “This semester, I wanted to bring someone in who really exemplifies that ability to make that connection and find solutions to those big problems. And I immediately thought of Damon.”

Casually dressed, Damon Williams and students talking over pizza in a casual environmentDamon Williams ’14, who was a sociology and economics double major, is currently a member of BYP100 and the Let Us Breathe Collective, both of which are Chicago-based black liberation movements. Williams worked in a variety of other movements after graduating from Grinnell, including raising money to send gas masks to Ferguson during the 2014 conflict and teaching financial literacy classes to young black men to help alleviate poverty through investment.

“I graduated from Grinnell having studied social media, feminism, black power movements, and other social movements around the world,” says Williams. “When I left, I knew I wanted to be a game changer.”

Inglis was able to bring Williams back to campus to share his experience with current students in sociology and philosophy classes. Williams also met with the student group Concerned Black Students about social media and black liberation, and held jam-packed office hours in the Spencer Grille. His presentation and workshop entitled “Bigger than the Cops: Racialized State Violence and the Movement for Black Lives” was standing room only.

“It was incredibly inspiring to learn from someone directly involved in the struggle against racism on a community level,” says Rosie O’Brien ’16. “His perspective gave me hope for the future of Chicago and the future of global economics more generally, and I learned a lot about the power of community-based movements.”

According to Inglis, bringing alumni back into the classroom is an important way to connect students’ learning to the work they can do after they leave Grinnell. “Alumni are already familiar with Grinnell, and that helps them make a more personal connection with the students,” Inglis says. “They know the real world and the Grinnell world and they can help students bridge those worlds in a way that professors aren’t always able to do.”

Rosie O’Brien is a political science and studio art major from Lawrence, Kansas.

Grinnellian Trains for the Olympics

Joshua Tibatemwa in Grinnell Honor G swimcapGrinnell College swimmer Joshua Tibatemwa ’19 will be making a splash on the international scene in August.

Tibatemwa, 19, will be representing his native Uganda in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is the first Pioneer in the modern era to earn a spot in the Olympics while still a student at Grinnell.

As Uganda’s overall fastest male swimmer, Tibatemwa was named to that country’s Olympic swim team by the Ugandan Swimming Federation.

Last August, at the International Swimming Federation World Championships in Kazan, Russia, Tibatemwa set two national records for Uganda and achieved his personal best in the 50 freestyle (25.54 seconds) and 50 breaststroke (33.00 seconds). When he swims in the Olympics, he’ll compete only in the 50 free.

Swimming is a relatively new sport in Uganda, and the level of competition pales to the international champion threshold — the overall men’s world record in the 50 free is 20.26; 25.25 in the 50 breaststroke. Tibatemwa is aware of the gulf.

“I am part of the second generation of competitive swimmers in Uganda,” he says. “In 10 to 20 years, I hope we will see Uganda swimming on a par with USA swimming.”

He strives to close the gap with hard work. Under the guidance of Grinnell swim coaches Tim Hammond and Erin Hurley, Tibatemwa, who swims on Grinnell’s varsity, practices in the water one to two hours per day, Monday through Saturday. He also does up to an hour of daily strength training.

“It’s the best training I have ever gotten,” Tibatemwa says. “It is very structured and will help me if I get to the Olympics.

Several seniors on the swim team often practice with Tibatemwa, so he can gauge his speed against other swimmers. “I find it easier to train while competing against them rather than competing just with the time on the clock,” he says.

Tibatemwa has thoroughly impressed his coaches with his drive.

“It seems just his nature to want to be better,” Hammond says. ”He is eager to understand technique and accept critique day after day.”

Hammond notes that Tibatemwa has good technique to excel on the world stage, with great reach in the front end of his stroke and a good hold on the water. ”Once he has that hold, he can apply the incredible strength he has to it, and this produces an incredible distance per stroke,” says the coach, who is focusing on increasing Tibatemwa’s stroke rate.

Because Tibatemwa was training outside the regular college swim season, which ended in March, Hammond and Hurley couldn’t coach Tibatemwa until they received a waiver from the NCAA. Until then they could only supply him with written workouts. 

“It took us a few weeks to get the appropriate information from the NCAA and Uganda to put it all together,” recalls Hammond, who provides the Ugandan federation with weekly updates. The federation also named Hammond and Hurley Ugandan National Swimming Coaches.  

When they were able to work with Tibatemwa, they were more than pleased.

“Joshua is an absolute joy to coach,” Hammond says. ”He is perpetually positive and does his best to accomplish each task at hand. Most everyone sees Joshua as a shy, kind person. And he is, but when you spend enough time with Joshua in a competitive endeavor, you can start to peak at the competitive monster inside of him that one would never see without knowing him well enough.” 

Tibatemwa began swimming at age 6 in his hometown, Kampala, the Ugandan capital. “At first I didn’t want to compete,” he says. But by the time he was 13, he started to enjoy the sport. “With swimming,” he says, “you have time to yourself as compared to other sports. You don’t have to shout to pass the ball. You can be alone in your head.”

On the advice of two of his mentors in school and in the Dolphins Swim Club Kampala — brothers Tefiro ’15 and Ham ’16 Serunjogi — Tibatemwa came to Grinnell last fall. He was looking for a school that had both good academics and swimming training. “Tefiro and Ham recommended Grinnell,” he says of the duo, who each swam on the men’s varsity while earning their degrees. “So I trusted them and followed them here.”

Though he calls the cold winter of east-central Iowa the biggest adjustment he’s had to make, “The college is great, and I like being in a comfortable small town,” he says. Referring to his hometown, with a population of 1.3 million, he adds, “It’s nice to have a break from the big city.”

When the spring semester ended on May 20, Tibatemwa, who plans to major in computer science, returned to Kampala to continue his training and start an internship with Kiira Motors, the first manufacturer of solar-powered vehicles in East Africa. 

“I will train in the mornings and evenings, and do my work as an intern during the middle of the day,” he says. “I’m hoping to develop software and gain experience in tackling real-world problems.”

“It has been a silent goal of mine to get to the Olympics,” Tibatemwa says. “Every swimmer harbors it. I would love to have the opportunity to be among the world’s best athletes, doing what they’ve been training to do for many years.”

Free Summer Merchant Matinee Movies

Free tickets for the summer merchant matinee series are available at the Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement and the Pioneer Bookshop. Watch a free movie at noon and 2:30 p.m. every Tuesday and Wednesday,  July 5–Aug. 10, at the Strand Theatre.

 Admission is by ticket only and seating is limited. 

Here is the schedule:

  • July 12 and July 13  — Kung Fu Panda 2
  • July 19 and July 20 — Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Road Chip
  • July 26 and July 27 — Hotel Transylvania 2
  • Aug. 2 and Aug. 3 — Norm of The North
  • Aug. 9 and Aug. 10 — Goosebumps

 

The Grinnell AmeriCorps Partnership receives second year of funding

Grinnell College Iowa AmeriCorps logoGrinnell College has received a second year of AmeriCorps funding to support the Grinnell AmeriCorps Partnership's education initiatives, according to a recent announcement by the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service.

Similar to the first year, the grant of $141,474 will provide for up to eight AmeriCorps service members to convene community-based education partnerships and another 38 AmeriCorps service members to help with summer learning programs. Grinnell College will contribute staff support for grant administration.

The new AmeriCorps members will have the opportunity to strengthen community coalitions to help ensure that Grinnell’s children get off to a strong start so they can succeed in school in the early years, and that older students end with a strong finish so they’re prepared to do well after graduation.

Grinnell College was the lead applicant on the grant and is one of 19 organizations across Iowa receiving funding through the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service.

“This is a terrific vote of confidence in our community’s work and a recognition of the tremendous support the community offered in this first year,” said Monica Chavez-Silva, assistant vice president of community enhancement and engagement at Grinnell College.

“The AmeriCorps grant was a critical catalyst for the first year of the program activating 29 AmeriCorps members who brought new energy and creativity to a host of community education initiatives," she added. "But none of it would have been possible without the support of individuals and organizations across the community.”

Some of that local support included generous donations of $10,000 each from Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance and the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation, and an additional $15,000 in grants generated by the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation. Additional support came from the daily participation by host site supervisors throughout Grinnell and the creative energy of more than 165 volunteers serving on community taskforce groups. 

“It’s great news that Grinnell was awarded this grant,” said Karen Neal, youth services director at Drake Community Library and host site supervisor for the Summer Learning initiative. “We’re really doing something tangibly different. We’re helping right where we need it and we’re doing it together. As a whole community, we’re helping kids.” 

Laura Manatt, executive director of Poweshiek Iowa Development, also expressed appreciation for the second year of grant funding. "This grant will help us continue the strategic work we have begun connecting local employers, community schools and Iowa Valley Community College to address current skills gap concerns and ensure there is a sustainable, skilled workforce in the future.”

First-Year Projects

Projects made possible in the first year of the Grinnell AmeriCorps Partnership include:

Summer Learning:
Tripling enrollment in summer school programming for K-3 summer school students with a new afternoon enrichment offering, and a month-long daily expansion of Drake Library’s “In Your Neighborhood” outreach program with transportation to Grinnell High School for the free lunch program.
School Readiness
#Read Everyday Grinnell far exceeded its goal of having students from pre-kindergarten through third grade read for 100,000 minutes. Total minutes read reached 1 million. Students also gained readiness for school through the expansion of the Early Learning Extravaganza and a kindergarten-readiness summer camp.
Volunteer Infrastructure:
Identifying and piloting a community-wide volunteer database that can be used by volunteers and organizations throughout the community.
Family and Community Engagement:
Web and newsletter outreach, community meal outreach, videography, and taskforce reporting.
Attendance:
Attendance Week publicity, summer-school family outreach, and family peer support for those who struggle to attend school regularly.
Healthy Readers:
“Wellness Wednesdays” at the elementary schools, “Wellness at the Market” at Farmer’s Market, and new volunteers for expanded Mileage Club activities at the elementary schools.
Skills Gap:
A new high school internship program at Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company that included “soft skill” training and college credit and a “career pathway” audit to better connect graduates with local employment opportunities.
Afterschool Enrichment:
Integration of district learning goals into fun, after-school activities at the Grinnell Area Arts Center and Grinnell Community Daycare and Preschool.

2015–16 AmeriCorps Members and Host Sites

The 2015-16 AmeriCorps members and host sites were: 

  • Beth Crow (Summer Learning-Drake Community Library),
  • Doug Cameron (Attendance-Fairview School),
  • Jess Kite (School Readiness-Grinnell Voluntary Preschool Program),
  • Melissa Berman (Healthy Readers-Grinnell Regional Medical Center),
  • Deloris Cowan (Skills Gap-Poweshiek Iowa Development),
  • Jacob Washington (Family and Community Engagement-Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce),
  • Lee Smith (Volunteer Infrastructure-Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation), and
  • Mary Zheng (Afterschool Enrichment-Grinnell Area Arts Council).
  • 2016 Summer Learning Corps members serving with Fairview School and Drake Community Library were Avery Brennan, Isabel Brydolf, Reba Brooks, Josephine Chaet, Anna Cunningham, Simone Downs, Hanna Drennan, Lica Ishida, Erin Johnson, Regan Kasprak, Jon Lof, Olivia Maharry, Felicity Meads, Rita Mertens, Charlotte Moisan, Roland Roger, Jackson Schulte, Regan Sharp, Jaidenn Sheridan, Molly Skouson and Tanner Tokle.

About AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that engages more than 5 million Americans in service through AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, the Social Innovation Fund, and the Volunteer Generation Fund, and leads the President's national call to service initiative, United We Serve.

George Washington Cook Correspondence

In the fall of 2015, Special Collections and Archives was thrilled to receive a new acquisition, the George Washington Cook Correspondence. These letters were written between 1857 and 1860 by George W. Cook and his first wife, Electa, from Grinnell to their family in Meriden, Connecticut. The letters are addressed to George’s siblings, Sarah, Collins, and Henry.

A large part of what makes the Cook correspondence of particular interest is that they were written in the early years of the town of Grinnell’s existence. The town was founded in 1854, so the Cook letters provide a great deal of insight into land sales and everyday life. Also of great significance to the Grinnell community is the fact that George Cook briefly writes about the decision of Iowa College to move from Davenport to Grinnell. This can be found in the April 28, 1857, letter.

The first letter in the collection, dated April 27, 1857, suggests that George and Electa likely traveled west from Connecticut to Iowa in the early spring of 1857. They took the train at least as far as Chicago, and most likely traveled by train to Iowa as well. The letter does specify that they traveled from Iowa City to Grinnell by hiring a team of horses, which cost them $72.80. One particularly interesting aspect of the first letter is George’s description of a railway accident that happened to a train on its way to Chicago that was traveling ahead of the train the Cooks were on.  

Although she doesn’t express unhappiness, Electa writes mostly about how she misses everyone back East and reminisces on times spent with family. She also asks for dress patterns. Frequent topics in George’s letters include land sales, how land is used, crop prices, and the building of the railway across Iowa. Unfortunately, none of the letters written from the Connecticut family members to George and Electa have survived.

Digitized scans of the Cook Correspondence, as well as transcriptions of each letter, has recently been added to Digital Grinnell.

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

The New Pioneer Bookshop Is Open

The Grinnell College Bookstore and the Pioneer Bookshop have been combined into a new location at 933 Main Street in Grinnell, Iowa.

After two weeks of moving and setting up, the Pioneer Bookshop is now open for business.

The hours are:

  • Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.–6 p.m.
  • Thursday night until 7 p.m. and
  • Saturday 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

Save the date of September 16 for the Pioneer Bookshop Grand Opening.

Enriching the Lives of Zoo Animals

It was straight out of Wild Kingdom.

Misha, an Amur tiger at Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, approached the horned zebra, batted it with her front paws, then knocked down the prey, which clattered onto a pile of rocks. Resuming her attack, Misha tore off pieces with her powerful teeth, before slashing off the gold unicorn horn and then the entire head.

students constructing zebra-unicorn for tigerBut no live animals were harmed in the making of this production. The zebra, which indeed sported a gold unicorn horn, was constructed by Grinnell College students from animal-safe papier-mâché, paint, and cardboard.

The activity stemmed from Grinnell's Community Service Work-Study program and the Grinnell Science Project, a pre-orientation program for first-year students designed to increase representation from groups underrepresented in the sciences.

Group carries the painted zebra through the zoo“Creation and destruction — together that's our purpose with this project,” says Sunny Zhao ’18, a biology major from Naperville, Ill. “It would have been sad if the tiger hadn’t played with the zebra and destroyed it.”

“It was really satisfying to see the tiger tear the zebra apart,” adds Mackenzie “Max” Semba ’19, an undeclared major from Portland, Maine.

It helped that the zebra’s hollow stomach received a helping of meat before a zookeeper placed it inside the tiger exhibit.

Grinnell students have collaborated with the zoo for four years to make new and exciting enrichment items: giant bowling pins for rhinos and puzzles made from twine, milk cartons, raw pasta noodles, and origami cardboard for monkeys and birds.

Spectators watch though a window as Misha, the tiger, demolishes the zebra-unicornThose items help keep zoo animals active, says Megan Wright Walker, area supervisor for animal health at the zoo. “Here in the zoo we provide food for the animals,” she says. “They don’t have to hunt for a mate. They don’t have to hunt for somewhere to sleep. Enrichment items help to mentally stimulate the animals by giving them a challenge.” 

Sunny Zhao ’18 is a biology major from Naperville, Ill. Mackenzie “Max” Semba ’19 is an undeclared major from Portland, Maine.

Get on Your Bikes and Study!

Try the Libraries’ newest feature — two bike desks located inside Burling’s south end, overlooking Sixth Avenue.  These desks may be just what you need to combine academics and exercise.  

The bikes are completely silent and use little electricity, making them library- and eco-friendly.  You’ll be able to set goals and easily track your progress as the desk console is integrated directly in the armrest showing readouts for workout time, pedal revolutions, distance, calories, and speed. 

Download the Active Trac app from the app store and track your progress. Simply hover your smartphone over the bike desk console to upload your data. That’s it. The data syncs effortlessly. Plus, this feature is free for everyone.

A few other bike desk details:

  • Electric height adjustment from 40” to 53”
  • 2 desktop options — 38” or 48” wide
  •  Integrated padded armrest
  • Apple Health and Google Fit enabled
  • Social media integration via Facebook and Twitter

Enjoy — and happy studying and peddling!

7 Great Reasons to Study Off Campus

Given that over 60 percent of Grinnell’s students participate in study-abroad programs, it’s no wonder Grinnell has a reputation for being globally focused. Not only is off-campus study an awesome opportunity to expand your international education, it’s also an unforgettable life experience. Third-year Grinnellians share their favorite parts of the study-abroad experience:

  1. Your perspective will broaden like you wouldn’t believe.

Joseph Galaske ’17 says his home-stay in rural South Africa has changed his outlook: “It was one of the most incredibly enlightening experiences of my life. There were definitely experiences that pushed my boundaries, like the living conditions.” Experiencing daily life in such a vastly different culture opened Galaske’s mind to a whole new way of living.

  1. You’ll finally lose that feeling of panic when speaking another language.

For Jinna Kim ’17, a sociology and Spanish major, studying abroad in Argentina has been an awesome way to improve her skills in Spanish. “I never felt entirely comfortable speaking Spanish, despite having taken many classes, and always broke out in a cold sweat when I had to speak it,” says Kim. “I can already feel myself becoming more confident, and I’m more eager to jump into conversations!”

  1. You can travel with your program for a one-of-a-kind research experience.

Emily Adam ’17 enrolled in a public health course while studying in Denmark and got to visit public health organizations and clinics in Denmark, Estonia, and Finland as part of her class. “Getting an inside look at how public health policies work in other countries has been really valuable,” Adam says. “There are differences in culture that I wouldn’t have expected, and it’s been interesting to learn about the challenges of their systems.”

  1. International foods will become your bread and butter.

“Sometimes my friends and I just walk around and find random restaurants,” says Trang Nguyen ’17, an international student from Vietnam who is currently studying in South Korea. “What’s special about my daily experience in Korea is eating ramen at the convenience store, ordering street food while listening to the live music that’s everywhere … We haven’t had a bad experience yet!”

  1. Your confidence will soar.

“Adaptability, confidence, intuition…I feel as if living abroad is like a workout for your intangible traits,” says Jonathan Sundby ’17, who is studying in India this spring.

  1. You can experiment with new habits.

“A new experience gives you a chance to try some different lifestyles,” says Nguyen, who was always very organized and plan-oriented in the United States. “Planning like I used to doesn’t really work in Korea, so I had to change the way I operate. I feel more relaxed and outgoing here. I really enjoy the change!”

  1. You’ll do things you never imagined (or maybe things you always dreamed of).

“I recently visited Iguazu Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world,” says Kim. “The amount of water and the size of the waterfalls are indescribable. My friends and I even hiked a mini-trail to a smaller waterfall, where we jumped in and swam just like the people in GoPro videos!”

Joseph Galaske ’17 is a biology major from Moberly, Mo.

Jinna Kim ’17 is a sociology and Spanish double major from Bellevue, Wash.

Emily Adam ’17 is a biology major from Harper, Iowa.

Trang Nguyen ’17 is a mathematics major from Hanoi, Vietnam.

Jonathan Sundby ’17 is a political science major from Stillwater, Minn.

Artistic Collaborations Online

Sasha Middeldorp ’18 and Arch Williams ’18, both members of Grinnell Singers, are helping launch a new project called the Grinnell Virtual Choir. In the project's most recent video, 25 singers used the technology to perform a movement from Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil.

In a virtual choir, each participant records one or more individual singing parts of a particular song, and the videos are then synchronized and combined into a group performance.

In the current video, Middeldorp and Williams are among the singers testing virtual choir technology and demonstrating how it works. It’s the first step in introducing both a testing tool for better choir singing and a new opportunity for musical interaction among alumni and current students.

User Friendly

Middledorp says she found her initial singing experience to be “simple and straightforward” from a technological standpoint. “I only had to practice once or twice to figure out some of the logistics,” Middeldorp says. “I was in a practice room, and I just recorded it on whatever video recorder is built in on the computer and watched John [Rommereim] conduct on the same device.”

Williams did the same “after finding a quiet spot in my house where I could sing,” he says. “I did a couple of takes before submitting my video. I adjusted based on the recordings of my own voice and as I got a better handle on the music.”

Taking Ownership

One of the goals of the virtual choir project is to develop innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Using videos to record individual parts may provide a better way to test and evaluate the contribution of singers and improve their accountability in the chorus.

“Often in choir you think you know your lines but you’re just relying on the person next to you,” Middeldorp says. “When it’s just you singing alone you really take ownership over the music. One of the great benefits of this is that you know if you’re truly solid on your part independently.”

The Grinnell Singers have already begun putting virtual choir technology to the test as a rehearsal tool. They are using it to practice Duruflé’s Requiem for a combined concert with the Grinnell Oratorio Society later this spring.

“I think that using virtual choir capabilities will be an exciting experience and will help us learn the music in a new, cool, and different way then we normally do in class,” Williams says.

Learning the Technology

Austin Morris ’15, a mathematics major and Grinnell Singers alumnus, is the talent behind the scenes. He says learning to synchronize audio and video files from various devices has been challenging but worthwhile. Innovation Fund support for the project helped secure dedicated equipment for his work.

“Once we get the videos from all the people that we contact, it’s my job to put them all together in the final project,” Morris says. “My goal is to make it look as good and complete as possible.”

Fun and Inspiring

“The main goal of the Grinnell Virtual Choir is to create an online platform that facilitates choral performances that are connected virtually,” says John Rommereim, Blanche Johnson Professor of Music. “It’s a way to engage alumni in an artistic way so they can collaborate with current students and with each other.”

Current singers and alumni are invited to contribute additional vocal parts on All-Night Vigil and other works via the website. In addition to instructions for accessing the score and conducting video, the site offers musical and technical tips for getting a workable recording.

Essentially, singers can make it as simple as putting on earbuds and singing into their phones or laptops.

“We want it to be fun and a little inspiring,” Rommereim says. “We’re hoping it will blossom into a significant artistic endeavor.” 

Sasha Middeldorp ’18 is an anthropology major from Northfield, Minn. Arch Williams ’18 is a chemistry and political science double major from Minneapolis.