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Unveiled and Queering the Fortress Europe

Katrin Sieg, professor of German and European Studies at Georgetown University, will screen Fremde Haut (Unveiled) at 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 4, in Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Room 152. She will hold a question and answer session after the screening.

At noon Tuesday, May 5, she will presents "Queering the Fortress Europe," in Burling Library Lounge. In the talk, Sieg will place the film in the larger context of asylum law and policy in Europe.

Fremde Haut tells the tale of a lesbian fleeing persecution in Iran. When she escapes to Germany she passes as a man to gain refugee status, and then falls in love with a German woman.

European asylum law and policy is increasingly coming under attack for its inability to protect those fleeing persecution, either for political reasons or for belonging to particular ethnic, racial or social group, including gay, lesbian, and transgendered people.

Sieg asks, "How has queer European cinema and visual culture of the past decade helped to conceptualize the enactment of queer desires and identities as a human right?  The enshrining of gay rights in EU law, and the celebration of queer icons at such popular events as the annual Eurovision Song Contest seemingly signal the unequivocal victory of gay rights as human rights.  What perverse impulse, then, drives some European filmmakers to call the discourse of a cosmopolitan, ethnically diverse and sexually tolerant Europe into question?"

Sieg’s visit is sponsored by Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies, the departments of History, Art and Art History, and the Cultural Films Committee.

All are welcome. Refreshments and a small snack will be provided.

KGB and the Soviet Surveillance State

Cohn EdwardEdward Cohn, assistant professor of history, has won two grants that will support his archival and oral history research on KGB tactics to manage threats to political stability in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia from the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. 

He has been awarded a summer stipend from the National Endowment for the Humanities and a Franklin Research Grant from the American Philosophical Society.

Cohn says “My work analyzes how the KGB and its victims defined anti-Soviet activity, highlighting the ways that 20th-century surveillance states sought to prevent crime by collecting information on their citizens, who were forced to adapt to an intrusive and ever-vigilant state."

In recent years, half of all Grinnell applications received NEH funding, compared to 8 percent nationally. Previous winners include Shanna Benjamin, Tammy Nyden, Dan Reynolds, and Ralph Savarese.

About Edward Cohn’s Research

Cohn's research deals with the KGB's efforts to fight political unrest in the Soviet Union's three Baltic republics, which were part of the USSR from 1940 to 1991 and became the center of strong anti-Soviet independence movements. In particular, he focuses on the KGB's efforts to prevent dissent by summoning low-level offenders to supposedly informal meetings with secret police officers, who warned them to change their ways.

Cohn will spend about two months doing research in Vilnius, Lithuania, and Tallinn, Estonia. "KGB archives are almost entirely closed in Russia, but are far more open in the Baltic states," he says.  Cohn will also spend time completing oral history interviews.

Professor's Fellowships Lead to Taiwan

Craig Quintero, associate professor of theatre and dance, has been named the Frank and Roberta Furbush Faculty Scholar for the 2015-16 academic year. Quintero has also received a Fulbright Scholar Award and an Academic Enterprise Leave grant, funded by a grant made to the College by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to support his research and creative work in Taiwan during his sabbatical year.

As a Frank and Roberta Furbush Faculty Scholar, Quintero will direct his new production Rice Dreams at the Avignon Off Festival in France this summer as well as his multi-media performance Dreaming David Lynch at Taiwan’s National Experimental Theatre in November. During the fall he will also teach a class on site-specific art at Taipei’s National University of the Arts as a Fulbright Scholar. In the spring, Quintero will study filmmaking with Taiwanese director Hung Ya-yen and produce his first short film.

Quintero has spent more than ten years in Asia and has worked to forge cultural exchanges between Grinnell College and Taiwan.

As the artistic director of Riverbed Theatre, he has staged his image-based productions in Germany, Taiwan, France, Macau, Singapore, and Japan. Last year, Quintero collaborated with Professor John Rommereim, music, and six Grinnell students in staging an adaptation of Richard Wagner’s opera Das Rheingold in Taipei. The production was nominated for Taiwan’s prestigious Taishin Arts Award.

The Frank and Roberta Furbush Faculty Scholarship was established in 2000 by the late Roberta Stanbery Furbush in appreciation for the influence of Grinnell College upon the lives of her and her husband, Frank. Both Frank and Roberta were highly active in the Des Moines community, and both enjoyed theatre, art, and music.

Broadening the Mind

Off-campus study (OCS) is a major part of the Grinnell experience, in part because so many students — nearly 60 percent — spend at least one semester away from campus. That was one of the reasons Florian Perret ’15 chose Grinnell. “I have this wanderlust,” he says. “I wanted to get out of the U.S. to expand my horizons and get out there.”

Exploring the World

“I wanted to go to Japan since I was a kid,” says Perret. He participated in an intensive Japanese language program at Nanzan University in Nagoya where he also took courses in culture and art, Japanese religion, calligraphy, and traditional woodblock printing. "That last one was my favorite class when I was there,” he says. “You get a block of wood and carve out the image; doing those for a semester was cathartic.”

He spent his time outside of class exploring the city and the surrounding area, playing Frisbee, and once climbing Mount Fuji and watching the dawn break from the summit. “My study abroad experience was life-changing,” he says. That’s one of the reasons he’s going back through the Japan Exchange & Teaching Program. He also wants to engage more with the culture. “I’m doing an independent study on the perception and understanding of nature in Japan,” he says. “I want to go back to both see the implications of and further the research I’ve done here.”

Changing Her Perceptions

Emily Stuchiner ’15’s perception of off-campus study changed drastically between her first year and when she participated in the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) program in South Africa. “When I thought of off-campus study, I thought of getting drunk in Europe. I didn’t anticipate how rigorous it would be.” Stuchiner wouldn’t trade her OCS experience for anything. “It was so intense,” she says, “and incredibly rewarding. This is one of the most hardcore ecology programs out there and gave me the opportunity to do so much field research.” The program took her all over South Africa, including the famed Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Africa. “You’re essentially surrounded by the iconic African megafauna there,” she says.

Finding Her Passion

Before her semester abroad, Stuchiner considered pursuing medical school. But after a summer internship doing cancer research made her “a horrible hypochondriac,” she was thrilled to immerse herself, that fall, in the world of biological field research. Her education extended far beyond mere academics. “That semester [in South Africa] taught me a lot about patience and going with it,” she says. “Because there are times that you’re in the field and it’s hot and things aren’t going right and you just want to stick your head in a termite mound.”

The same lesson applied to the living situation during her semester abroad. “It’s communal living,” she says. “You’re always going to be around the same people and you have to work out your issues.” She says her study abroad experience enhanced her ability to communicate effectively, cohabitate civilly, and not fly off the handle. She ended up as a member of a well-bonded crew that shared a unique OCS experience.

After graduation, Stuchiner will be a naturalist intern at the Walking Mountain Science Center in Vail, Colo. Long-term, she will be applying to graduate school to study plant ecology.

Without their off-campus study experiences, Perret and Stuchiner might not have realized the depths of their passions or attempted to pursue them. “If I had known five years ago where I would be headed this summer,” says Perret, “I’d be ecstatic.”

Florian Perret ’15 is an anthropology major from Katonah, N.Y. and Emily Stuchiner ’15 is a biology major with a concentration in environmental studies from New York, N.Y.

Novel Experience

Most students have to worry about finishing 20- or 30-page research papers or equally long essays in their final semester of college. Emily Mesev ’15 will hand in a 300-page novel.

Originally from Northern Ireland, Mesev considered attending a university in the United Kingdom but decided Grinnell would better accommodate her disparate interests in science and literature. She hadn’t thought of combining her interests until the idea she is fleshing out in her novel came to her.

The novel started as a short story in professor Dean Bakopoulos’ fiction seminar. Bakopoulos, a National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim Fellow, is the Department of English’s writer-in-residence. He has published two acclaimed novels and has a third, Summerlong, which has already received advance praise from Booklist and Publisher’s Weekly, coming from Ecco Books in June.

He asked the students to write three different one-page openings to short stories. Mesev had been taking a plant physiology course at the time and wrote one opening about a photosynthetic human from the future and the scientist studying it.

Mesev and two other students completed a novella-writing Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) with Bakopoulos in the fall. At the end of the semester, Mesev realized she could take the story she wrote and the world she had created — an institute for the study of post-historic organisms from thousands of years in the future — further. Bakopoulos agreed. “I took the novella and pulled it apart, adding more detail and making a larger story,” says Mesev.

During the first half of the spring semester, Mesev completed the 78,000-word draft. “I’ve been spending a lot of time working on structure because this size of manuscript is new to me,” she says. Bakopoulos has been encouraging her to give the story more urgency. “That’s one thing I struggle with in my short stories too,” Mesev says.

Mesev has had ample opportunities to learn from Bakopoulos over the last few years. She has taken two fiction-writing courses and a creative nonfiction-writing course in addition to the novella MAP and her current novel-writing MAP with him.

Bakopoulos generally takes on three or four MAP students a year, offering promising students a chance to deeply immerse themselves in a project that goes far beyond traditional creative writing coursework. “It’s a chance for students to experience the obsessive kind of discipline and focused creativity that goes into the work for any published author,” he says.

“I feel lucky to have this opportunity. It’s a really great experience,” she says. “It’s impressive that he can make time to work on this with me.” They have been meeting once a week this semester. “He can give me a critique and send me off to generate 100-150 pages during spring break,” she says. “That helps me as well, so I have to discipline myself on top of getting feedback from him. That’s one of the most valuable things I’m getting from the MAP.”

Mesev draws from her experiences researching lung cancer at the University of Minnesota and blood cancer at the Mayo Clinic. “A lot of what I know about biomedical research comes from there,” Mesev says. She also credits Grinnell with giving her the background knowledge to invent the creatures in her novel and ground them in real science.

Mesev plans to pursue biomedical research immediately after graduating. After that, graduate school in the same field. As for her novel, “I want to polish up the first 50 pages and submit them to an MFA writing program.” She does hope that with further revision and rewriting she can “turn this manuscript into an actual novel.”

Emily Mesev ’15 is a biological chemistry/English major from Coleraine, Northern Ireland.

Libraries’ Study Breaks Spring 2015

Please join us for a quick break from studying with poetry reading and student performers along with homemade cookies and milk.

Study breaks are at 9 p.m. Monday, May 11 and Tuesday, May 12 in the Burling Library Lounge. 

Poet Purvi Shah

The first night, May 11,  will be a poetry reading with Purvi Shah, who composed a poetry about Grinnell College.

Prior to the reading, Purvi’s poetry will be installed in vinyl film directly onto Burling Library’s front windows on May 11 as part of “Public Writing, Public Libraries,” a project of Grin City Collective Artist & Writers Residency. 

Ritalin Test SquadRitalin Test Squad, a student improv group, will join us for the second night, May 12.

Both events are open to the public. Cookies will be delivered to the Kistle Science Library, as well.

This event is co-sponsored by the Libraries Student Educational Policy Committee (SEPC), the Student Government Association, and the Libraries.

Research Is Integral

When you take science classes at Grinnell, research is part of the learning experience from your very first course.

Biology 150, an introductory course, “gives students an authentic, accurate experience in what it’s like to do research,” says Clark Lindgren, professor of biology and Patricia A. Johnson Professor of Neuroscience.

Students aren’t simply learning the specific steps for conducting research, Lindgren says. They identify the questions they want to address and try to find answers to them the way scientists do. “They design experiments, do experiments, and write it up,” he says.

One sign of student success, Lindgren says, “is when the research project becomes their own. They get committed to finding the answer.” He says that most students get to that point, whether they end up majoring in science or not.

Think Like a Scientist

Mike Fitzpatrick ’16 appreciated the laboratory component of Bio 150. “Doing experiments, finding more information. I liked the questions I could ask and the answers I could get,” he says.

As the bio chem major delves deeper into his science courses, he’s enjoying the lab work. “It’s not so clear cut,” Fitzpatrick says. “There are more subtleties to sink my teeth into.”

In addition to his courses, Fitzpatrick is working on a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) that involves extensive laboratory research. “There are so many thing to think about with experiments,” Fitzpatrick says. “It’s fun to learn from them and move on. I’ve learned from each failed experiment.”

With Lindgren’s guidance, Fitzpatrick is studying lizards’ neuromuscular junctions, specifically glial cells, in order to see how they function. Humans have glial cells too, which is one reason lizards make good model organisms. “Ideally, I want to study glial cells in the human brain,” Fitzpatrick says.

Although he came to Grinnell with the idea of becoming a doctor, conducting research has confirmed for Fitzpatrick that he wants a career in research. He intends to pursue an MD/PhD program. 

“I help students who want to go into science get there,” Lindgren says. He’s studied chemical synapses for several years and won a National Institutes of Health grant in 2014 to continue his work.

“Some students who do independent research projects are still exploring,” Lindgren says. “Some discover that yes, they like research, and some learn that no, they really don’t. I think both are excellent outcomes. The earlier you can discover what your interests and aptitudes are, the better off you are.”

Blend Science with Art

Erica Kwiatkowski ’15 uses images from her research to inspire dance choreographyErica Kwiatkowski ’15 has said yes to research over and over. She plans to pursue an MD/PhD program in the fall. Currently in her last semester at Grinnell, Kwiatkowski is working with Lindgren and Celeste Miller, assistant professor of theatre and dance, on a MAP that’s exploring how science and medicine can inform and inspire dance.

Like Fitzpatrick’s, Kwiatkowski’s research with Lindgren is about neuromuscular junctions — but in mice rather than lizards. Kwiatkowski is researching how their endocannabinoid receptors signal hunger and satiation. She likes this practical question.

“The endocannabinoid system still has places that need explained,” she says. “I’d love to be part of finding an answer.”

At Grinnell, she says, she’s able to be self-directed. “What keeps me interested is that I can ask questions and find answers with my hands, using incredible tools to see and figure out things.”

She’s using images from the neuroscience part of her MAP in the dance part of it. She shows the “visually beautiful” images to a group of fellow Grinnell College dance students. They use the images to generate movement ideas that Erica will then use to create the  choreography.

“With dancing and merging it with science, it’s given me a much better appreciation of how the arts and sciences can come together and create something really important,” Kwiatkowski says.

Mike Fitzpatrick ’16 is a biological chemistry major from Lakewood, Ill. Erica Kwiatkowski ’15, also a biological chemistry major, is from Weston, Mass.

2015 Mini-Grant Awards

Teacher's aide holding book open and reading to two young children.Teacher's aide Monica Bender reads to children at Grinnell Community Daycare and Preschool, which will receive funds to purchase new books for classrooms.

A dozen local projects and initiatives will benefit from $31,223 in grant support this year from the Grinnell College Mini-Grant Program.

The program is just one of the ways that Community Enhancement and Engagement office strengthens community resources and educational opportunities, as well as enhances the safety, beauty, and economic vitality of Grinnell. The office also fosters community partnerships, and supports student and employee engagement in off-campus activities. The mini-grants have played an especially important role.

"We are very pleased to support a variety of community betterment initiatives through Grinnell College’s Community Mini-Grant Program," said Melissa Strovers, program and communications manager for community enhancement and engagement at Grinnell. "As demonstrated by the strong project proposals we received this year, we are extremely fortunate to live, work, and play in a place where people are genuinely committed to improving the quality of life of our local community."

The following initiatives received mini-grant funding for 2015:

  • Grinnell Area Arts Council, for technology infrastructure upgrades ($3,500)
  • Grinnell Community Daycare and Preschool, for diversity books and materials for classrooms ($1,000)
  • Drake Community Library, for the digital preservation of slides and outdated media formats from the library archives ($3,045)
  • Grinnell Fire Department, for technology upgrades ($3,350)
  • Grinnell Historical Museum, for the safety improvements at the museum ($2,953)
  • Grinnell Little League, for new player equipment ($2,500)
  • Grinnell-Newburg Community School District, for the Grinnell Outdoor Adventure Program ($2,500)
  • Grinnell-Newburg Community School District, for the Grinnell High School Library Makerspace ($2,000)
  • Grinnell Regional Medical Center, for the Giving Gardens Project ($2,000)
  • Grinnell UCC Community Preschool, for the Preschool Tiger Pack Program ($5,000)
  • Imagine Grinnell, for bike racks for Summer Street Park, the Community Garden, and Downtown Grinnell ($2,500)
  • Poweshiek Animal League Shelter (PALS) for donation boxes and pet beds ($875)

For more information about the mini-grant program, contact Strovers, 641-269-3900. Learn more about the College’s community contributions.

Shacks and Shanties/Medium Cool

Artist Faheem Majeed will present on the Shacks and Shanties project at 4:15 p.m. Thursday, April 30, 2015, in Faulconer Gallery. The project was a multifaceted South Side Chicago installation initiative that served as a collaborative 
platform for artist interventions, and a space for civically engaged community members and organizations.

Majeed will also screen the film "Medium Cool" by Haskell Wexler at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 29 in Alumni Recitation Hall, Room 302. In his 1969 review, Roger Ebert wrote "In Medium Cool, Wexler forges back and forth through several levels...There are fictional characters in real situations...there are real characters in fictional situations." The film has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for its significance. Faheem will talk about the film, which he cites as one of his inspirations as a creative artist.

Majeed, a full-time practicing artist, tackles questions about civic-mindedness, community activism, and institutional racism through environment and art. He was the inaugural artist in residence for University of Chicago’s Arts in Public Life Initiative, and has taught classes in socially engaged art practices. He has also been active in arts administration, curation, and community facilitation.

These events are sponsored by The Cultural Films Committee, Faulconer Gallery, and the Department of Art and Art History

Siam's Twins and Early Asian America

Joe Orser portraitAuthor Joe Orser will present a free public talk on “Siam’s Twins and Early Asian America” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 28, 2015, in Burling Library Lounge.

Orser will explore Chang and Eng Bunker, conjoined twins who toured as a curiosity throughout the world from the 1820s to the 1890s, settling in North Carolina.

Orser teaches history at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and is the author of The Lives of Chang and Eng: Siam's Twins in Nineteenth-Century America.

Orser’s talk is part of The Asian American Association’s celebration of Asian Pacific Islander American Awareness Week, Sunday, April 26 – Saturday, May 2.