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Performing Locally, Thinking Globally

For many, theatrical performances are a way to explore the unfamiliar, to experience things that are different from the place and people they call home. For Leda Hoffmann ’09, however, theatre has been a tool for making a strange new place feel like home.

The daughter of a foreign service officer, Hoffmann’s life before Grinnell was spread across multiple continents. While some might see moving around between Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Canada, and the United States as an obstacle to getting involved in a community, Hoffman dove headfirst into local theatre to make friends in each new city.  

So why did this internationally-inclined student choose to come to the middle of Iowa? The answer is simple: To get the benefits of international ideas without the distractions of a big city.

“I had never lived anywhere that wasn’t a big city, but going to Grinnell was easy for me,” she says. “Grinnell felt cosmopolitan enough that I knew if I went, there would be people from big cities, smaller towns, and all over the world.”

A theatre and dance major, Hoffmann directed numerous student-run plays during her time at Grinnell, working closely with theatre faculty. “Grinnell professors push you to do better,” she says. “To have professors and other students push you and go, ‘That’s not good enough, push harder. Ask more questions.’ That’s the whole point of going to Grinnell for me.”

This willingness to engage and challenge each other is part of what attracted Hoffman to Grinnell in the first place. “The people I talked to at Grinnell felt really honest and connected to what was going on there,” Hoffmann says. “It felt like a really strong community and one that felt true to whatever it wanted to be.”

After graduating, Hoffmann began her theatre career as an assistant lighting designer for Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C. and later as an education apprentice at Hartford Stage in Connecticut. More recently, she has worked her way from education coordinator to literary coordinator and director at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

“When I started as an intern at the Repertory Theater, I did a lot of teaching literacy through theatre. After two years, I had enough connections in town to become a director,” says Hoffmann. “As director of community engagement, I create and execute the programs that ignite positive change in our community. It’s a job that combines my love of theater with the social justice mindset Grinnell instilled in me.”

Pioneer Weekend 2.0: A Three Day Innovation Competition

Friday, April 8, 2016 - 6:00pm to Sunday, April 10, 2016 - 3:00pm

Pioneer Weekend 2.0 is the second iteration of a three day innovation competition, sponsored by the Wilson Program.
 
Student innovators from different backgrounds work together in teams of 3­-6 people and complete a prototype of an idea that they come up with at the event.
 
Pioneer Weekend encourages hands-on experiences, innovation and leadership skills, and aspiring student entrepreneurs can find out if their startup ideas might be viable.
 
See more...

Pioneer Weekend 2.0: A Three Day Innovation Competition

What the heck is it?

Pioneer Weekend 2.0 is the second iteration of a three day innovation competition, sponsored by the Wilson Program.

Student innovators from different backgrounds work together in teams of 3­–6 people and complete a prototype of an idea that they come up with at the event.

Pioneer Weekend encourages hands-on experiences, innovation and leadership skills, and aspiring student entrepreneurs can find out if their startup ideas might be viable.

When is it?

Friday though Sunday, April 8–­10, 2016.

Register by Wednesday, April 6. Space is limited and spots are filling fast!

Why Should I attend?

Cash Prizes! $500 1st team; $300 2nd team; $100 3rd team.

Education: With a whole weekend dedicated to letting your creative juices flow, Pioneer Weekend is a perfect opportunity to work on a new platform, learn a new programming language, or just experiment. Step outside of your comfort zone! Pioneer Weekend is all about learning through the act of creating.

Networking: We all know it's not just about the idea — it's about the team. Pioneer Weekend attracts the community's best makers and doers and is a great way to find someone you can actually launch a startup with. Walk away with a cool story that could lead to a job or a potential company.

Fun and Friendship: This isn't just a happy hour. It’s a happy weekend! By spending a weekend working on solving real-world problems, you will build long-lasting relationships.

What to Expect

Beginning with open mic pitches on Friday, students will bring in their best ideas and inspire others to join their team.

Saturday, teams focus on customer development, validating their ideas, practicing Lean Startup methodologies, and building a minimal viable product. Mentoring sessions are provided by distinguished professionals.

On Sunday afternoon, teams present their prototypes and receive valuable feedback from a panel of experts. Prizes are awarded.

Mentoring

Student teams will be mentored and judged by distinguished alumni that are part of the Wilson Program Leadership Council.

Temporary Location for College Bookstore

Grinnell College recently purchased the former Gosselink's Hallmark Store at 933 Main St. to serve as the temporary location for the College Bookstore.

Although this location is walkable from campus, the College is exploring options to make it easier for students to visit this off-campus site, as well as campus delivery services for items ordered through the bookstore.

The bookstore — now housed in an addition to the east side of Carnegie Hall at 1210 Park St. — needs to move before the addition is torn down early in the construction of the new Humanities and Social Studies Complex. The complex will consist of new space constructed as an addition to the existing Alumni Recitation Hall and Carnegie Hall buildings, which will be renovated as part of the project.

This summer the bookstore will move into the former Gosselink's Hallmark Store. Although the building is in very good condition, the College plans to make several upgrades, such as constructing accessible restrooms and installing new exterior signage.

"We believe we have secured the best possible temporary location for the bookstore to move to this summer," said John Kalkbrenner, assistant vice president for auxiliary services and economic development.

Also during the summer, the College will combine its downtown Pioneer Bookshop at 823 Fourth Ave. with the bookstore in its new temporary site.

"Consolidating the operations of the College Bookstore and the Pioneer Bookshop," Kalkbrenner added, "will reduce costs because we will be operating one store rather than two at a downtown location that will be as convenient for local residents as the current Pioneer Bookshop."

Eventually, a permanent bookstore will be located in the neighborhood between downtown and campus referred to as the Zone of Confluence.

Before that can happen, however, Grinnell College will need to create an overall plan for the zone, including a new bookstore. At this time, the College is in the early stages of developing plans for the zone.

"As we move forward with developing a comprehensive plan for the Zone of Confluence," Kalkbrenner said, "one of our primary goals will be to identify a prime site for the permanent bookstore."

Tribute to Ragnar Thorisson ’11

Ragnar Thorisson ’11 passed away Feb. 12, 2016, in his home in Seattle. In 2003, Ragnar was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a rare form of blood cancer. After several years in remission, the cancer returned in 2014. Throughout his illness, Ragnar maintained an outstanding sense of humor and compassion and inspired many people with an online journal of his experiences and insights. He is survived by his partner, Alyssa Penner ’10.

While on campus, Ragnar was an active, thoughtful, and respectful leader in the Grinnell community. He exemplified Grinnell’s ideals of passionate activism and respectful dialogue, demonstrating a deep commitment to building a just and equitable society free from hate and bigotry. In addition to completing an internship with the Gay-Straight Alliance, Ragnar served as the programming coordinator for the Stonewall Resource Center and was a student leader in campus organizations such as A Just Grinnell and the Stonewall Coalition. He was instrumental in the writing and passing of the Hate Crimes and Bias Motivated Incidents Response and Protocols.

Ragnar was also actively committed to serving the larger Grinnell community, undertaking two internships with Mid-Iowa Community Action for which he received their Outstanding Volunteer Award. He traveled to New Orleans over spring break three years in a row through ReNew Orleans to rebuild houses devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Ragnar was the recipient of the Judith Louise McKim Sociology Award and the President’s Medal.

Ragnar is remembered as a brilliant, caring, and sophisticated scholar and as an inspiring activist. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions, which can be made in Ragnar’s name, to support the Department of Sociology at Grinnell College or the Social Justice Fund Northwest. 

Read more about Ragnar’s story and his memorial services.

Make donations to Grinnell College Sociology Department
c/o Office of Development & Alumni Relations
733 Broad Street, Grinnell, Iowa 50112
Or donate online.

Grinnellians Earn Esteemed Watson Fellowships

Lane Atmore ’16 of St. Paul, Minn., and Chase Booth ’16 of Wichita, Kan., have been awarded the prestigious Watson Fellowship for one year of independent study and travel abroad.

They are two of 40 students selected nationwide to receive the $30,000 fellowship for postgraduate study from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation.

The students’ projects will take them around the world during their Watson year.

Lane Atmore

Lane AtmoreAtmore, an anthropology and Chinese major, will travel to Guam, Micronesia, Thailand, Greenland, Russia, and Greece to examine “Boat Culture as Island Identity” in coastal communities.

She plans to attend festivals, live with local families, and work with boat builders and cultural leaders to study the relationship between boat culture and island identity. She hopes to be able to find some universal aspects of island culture, as well as see how climate change and globalization have impacted traditional island communities.

“I’m most excited about deepening my appreciation and knowledge of something that I love and also understanding how much it means to the people I will be living with,” Atmore said. “I’m going into this with no expectations and an open mind, excited to learn what the world has to teach me.”

“Lane put a great deal of thought, passion and effort into crafting her wonderfully original Watson proposal,” said Jon Andelson ’70, professor of anthropology. “I know from having supervised her summer MAP (Mentored Advanced Project) research last summer that she will bring an open mind, a discerning eye, and a boundless curiosity to her Watson project.”

An accomplished pianist, Atmore won a piano competition despite breaking her right elbow and learning a one-handed piece only three days before the contest.

Following her Watson year, Atmore plans to pursue a doctorate in anthropology and continue to do field research.

Chase Booth

Chase BoothBooth, a classics major, will journey to Australia, South Africa, Greece, and Ireland to study the different forms of support offered in response to a community’s shared emotional crisis.

His project, “Emotional Support in Communities Under Duress,” will investigate whether the support offered by government-funded agencies and nongovernmental organizations is responsive to the needs of various communities. These communities include the displaced aboriginal populations in Australia, black youth and students in South Africa, sexual assault victims-survivors in Ireland, and victims of the economic crisis in Greece.

“While traveling around the world is obviously a huge part of the Watson and something I am looking forward to, having the opportunity to pursue something I love and care about in depth will surely be the most rewarding part of my year abroad,” Booth said. “I can’t thank enough everyone who has helped me get to this point in my life.”

“I am thrilled for Chase” said Monessa Cummins, associate professor of classics and Booth’s faculty adviser. “He embraced academic and personal challenges at Grinnell and is now well poised to take on the rigors and opportunities of a Watson year abroad.”

Booth served as co-leader of Grinnell Monologues, a student group in which participants write and present essays on emotional well-being and self-perception.

After his Watson year, Booth hopes to work for a program similar to the Schuler Scholar Program, which provides support to underprivileged Chicago-area high school students going to selective universities. Then he intends to apply to law school and pursue opportunities in civil and human rights law.

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program offers college graduates of unusual promise a year of independent exploration and travel outside the United States to foster effective participation in the world community.

Grinnell has been a partner with the Watson program since it was established in 1968. With the announcement of this year’s Watson Fellows, 75 Grinnell students have received this prestigious award.

Learn more about what a fellowship can mean through the journey of Wadzanai Motsi ’12, an earlier Watson winner.

Grinnell College Students Take on the Project Pengyou Leadership Summit

Xenophobia is not a new issue in our society and the Project Pengyou Leadership Summit is helping to end it. This year, the Wilson Program helped Grinnellians attend.

The nationally known leadership summit creates spaces and promotes movements to help end and fight the institutional xenophobia that has plagued our nation throughout history. It promotes collaboration, inclusion, and mutual understanding between Americans and Chinese citizens.

Why Go?

In the fall, three students approached the Wilson Program for funding to attend the summit, held at UC Berkeley in Berkeley, California.  

Sophie Wright ’17, a coach at this year’s summit, majors in English and Chinese, so she is able to find a direct correlation between her studies, the program, and Grinnell’s liberal ideologies.

Alethea Cook ’16, a Chinese and economics major and global development studies concentrator, says “I struggled to define myself and write my identity as a Taiwanese-American in Grinnell.” She grew up in a predominantly white small town and talks about how her racial and ethnic background influenced her interactions with peers. She uses her personal experiences as inspiration and hope.

Adam Dalton ’16, an economics and Chinese major, also found connection between his studies and his passions.

Lessons from the Summit

Wright says she “helped the fellows to conceptualize and to apply the material that they had learned as well as to empower them to […] be able to start their own Project Pengyou.”

She also talked about learning how to balance personal life from professional life, which is something many people continue to struggle with. This issue sparked Cooks’ interest in the program; her personal life has affected her professional life.

Cook says she learned that “there is much more to the movement than what [she] had previously thought.” She likes the idea of creating personal relationships with people in order to change the perceptions non-Asian people tend to have of Asian people. She says she was inspired to work on a “person-to-person basis.”

Dalton says he “had little training regarding effective, innovative, and sustainable leadership” before the summit. The Project Pengyou Leadership Summit, he says, facilitated his personal growth and will have lasting benefits for his ability to lead.

Cook, Dalton, and Wright had different experiences that resulted in rather similar outcomes. They all praised the program for teaching them the meaning of leadership and say they gained tools necessary to be effective leaders and innovators.

The Wilson Program encourages students to become leaders in academic and non-academic fields and to become innovators that create awareness and instill paths to a better, more accepting society.  In this case, that means making institutional changes that directly combat xenophobia and racism.

Project Pengyou 

Project Pengyou - Grinnell, Facebook Page

Grinnell Caucus Project

As a first-year Grinnell College student, Suha Gillani ’16 interned for Barack Obama’s campaign. But until taking a short course in January, she had no idea how distinctive and important Iowa is to the presidential selection process, and how the nature of Iowa and Iowans shape the caucuses.

Gillani, an international student from Pakistan, was one of 13 Grinnell students, including 2 from outside the United States, who got an up-close and personal view of presidential candidates campaigning across Iowa during the Grinnell Caucus Project.

During the weeklong, immersive class about the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, the students traversed 1,525 miles and visited a good portion of the state, attending presidential campaign events featuring one Democratic candidate, three Republican candidates, and a former president. The course wrapped up about 2 weeks before the 2016 Iowa caucuses.

Seeing Presidential Candidates Up Close

Before coming to Grinnell, the only political event Caleigh Ryan ’17 had attended was a huge Obama rally in Chicago. But during the course, she and her fellow students listened to Chris Christie give his stump speech in northwest Iowa, noted how Marco Rubio courted voters at a town hall in Ottumwa, and stood shivering in the snow to catch a glimpse of Donald Trump as he left a rally in the John Wayne Birthplace Museum in Winterset.

They watched Hillary Clinton, accompanied by singer Demi Lovato, reach out to young voters at the University of Iowa in Iowa City and saw former President Bill Clinton urge Fort Dodge voters to caucus for his wife because of her experience and achievements. 

The course gave Caitlin Scaife ’16 a new appreciation for Iowans’ role in selecting a president, a role that many non-Iowans scoff at and many Iowans take for granted.

“Before taking this course, I don’t think I ever fully realized how important Iowa is in the presidential selection process or how much work goes into the Iowa caucuses,” Scaife says. “This week we’ve met citizens who have gone to several candidate events in order to make their decision.”

Leaving Personal Politics Behind for a Week

To participate, Scaife and her classmates had to apply for admission and meet the prerequisite requirements: Political Parties and The Presidency courses, both taught by Barbara Trish, professor and chair of political science, who designed and taught the two-credit caucus course.  

The course textbook was What It Takes: The Way to the White House by Richard Ben Cramer. The 1,000-page tome about the 1988 presidential election explores candidates from George Bush and Robert Dole to Michael Dukakis and Gary Hart.

The class was structured to get the students out to candidate events, says Trish, who insisted that her charges suspend their personal political beliefs for the duration. “But perhaps more important,” she says, “was to show them that if you dig beneath the surface a little, there’s fascinating work and other aspects of life to uncover related to the caucuses.”

Gaining Insights into Fundraising, Get-Out-the-Vote Efforts

Students also toured the State Capitol with State Rep. Chris Hall ’07, D-Sioux City, and met with Rep. Dave Maxwell, R-Gibson, who represents the Grinnell area. In addition, they talked with political party officials and business leaders.

The national sales manager of KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids discussed trends in political advertising. The vice president of marketing of Pizza Ranch, an Iowa-headquartered restaurant chain with a faith-based mission, explained the context for the key role its franchises play in hosting GOP candidates on the campaign trail.

They gained insights into fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts from the founder of Campaign Headquarters, a call center in Brooklyn, Iowa, that promotes conservative candidates, including Ted Cruz. And they explored the role of PACs in the Iowa caucuses with Rob Barron ’02, political director of NextGen Climate, which advocates policies to prevent climate disaster and to promote prosperity for all Americans.

Megan Settle ’16 documented the course in a series of three photo blogs that show firsthand what the students saw and experienced.

Appreciating How Iowans Participate in Democracy

The students’ main takeaway was an awareness of how tightly the caucuses revolve around Iowa trademark retail politics. Ryan was shocked to learn firsthand that it’s common to see Iowans talking face-to-face with presidential candidates in town halls with fewer than 100 people.

“I think most voters in the country have no idea what a different experience of democracy Iowans enjoy,” she says.

Yanling Xu ’16, an international student from China, noticed that the spectacle of candidates talking in such close proximity to voters revealed a commonality Iowans have with Grinnell students.

“Iowans are as passionate as we are about politics,” she says. “Their questions are sharp and interesting.”

Hearing the candidates speak about how vital Iowans are to the process was energizing and inspiring to Hannah Boggess ’18.

“Candidates and Iowans respect Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status,” she says. “And it’s really incredible that we get to be a part of this unique and important piece of the political process.”

This course was funded by the Wilson Program whose mission is to nurture among our students a critical understanding of leadership and innovation as well as the skills associated with these.

Image of students in front of the Iowa State Capitol courtesy of Megan Settle.

Suha Gillani ’16 is a political science and economics major from Karachi, Pakistan.

Caleigh Ryan ’17 is an English major from Oak Park, Ill.

Caitlin Scaife ’16 is from Rochester, Minn., and is a political science and gender, women’s, and sexuality studies major.

Megan Settle ’16 is a political science and Spanish major from Raymore, Mo.

Yanling Xu ’16 is from Xiamen, China, and a political science major.

Hannah Boggess ’18 is a gender, women’s, and sexuality studies major from Minnetonka, Minn.

For the Global Good

Grinnellians are well-known for their commitment to social justice, but not everyone knows that the College has a formal program for studying individual and global conflicts. In Grinnell’s Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) program, students combine what they learn from fields as diverse as psychology, political science, anthropology, biology, and environmental studies to better understand the major struggles of the world.

“More than simply looking at the nature and causes of conflict and violence, we try to identify the best ways to prevent or transform conflict to create lasting peace,” says Simone Sidwell, PACS program coordinator.

Examining Conflict and Combat

Emily Ricker ’18 began her PACS research when she took a class entitled Anthropology, Violence, and Human Rights. In class she learned that sexual violence was often used strategically by the military during the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan. “I wanted to see if that was the case in other situations of conflict and combat,” says Ricker. “In my paper, I focus on the cases of Partition, the Rwandan genocide, and the Holocaust.”

By learning multiple techniques from different disciplines, PACS students are able to combine many perspectives and skills to target a problem from different angles rather than just limiting themselves to one economic, political, or sociocultural model. Students graduate with experience analyzing problems comprehensively to make the most effective solutions possible.

Sharing Research, Developing Skills

PACS holds an undergraduate conference every other year in which students from Grinnell and other schools come together to share their work and draw inspiration from each other. This year, Ricker presented her paper “Sexual Violence as a Tool of Combat” alongside three other Grinnellians in the panel session “Sexual Violence in War and Peace." Twenty students in total presented at the conference, including students from Macalester, Skidmore, and Antioch College.

Ricker also serves on the PACS committee, helping to bring speakers to campus and to edit the Peace and Conflict Studies Journal. Students who present at the conference have the opportunity to publish their papers in the journal, a chance at scholarly recognition that many college students don’t have until graduate school.

“The entire process of submitting abstracts, presenting their papers, and engaging in a peer review of their papers to get them published gives them an excellent experience,” Sidwell says. “The Peace and Conflict Studies program really empowers students to do well and to ‘do good’ after graduation, to pursue careers or postgraduate studies that help make the world a better place.”

Spanning Disciplines

As the study of peace and conflict spans so many disciplines, the PACS program coordinates with established departments, offering short courses and building PACS-specific classes into the existing curriculum. Students also have the opportunity to enroll in the new pilot course, Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies, which is co-taught by Grinnell faculty and an outside expert in the field. The PACS program hopes to establish itself as a concentration in the future.

Emily Ricker is from Marblehead, Mass., and intends to declare a political science major.