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Meet Our New Grinnell College Librarians

Mark Christel, Librarian of the CollegeMark Christel, Librarian of the College. Prior to coming to Grinnell, Mark worked as Humanities Librarian at Hope College, as Associate Director for Reader Services and Collections at Vassar College, and, for the past 8 years, as Library Director at the College of Wooster in Ohio. Mark holds Master’s degrees in library science from the University of Michigan and in English from Rutgers and a B.A in English with honors from the University of Wisconsin--Madison.

 

Liz Rodrigues, Humanities & Digital Scholarship LibrarianLiz Rodrigues, Digital Scholarship Librarian.  Liz returns to Grinnell as a library faculty member. During the 2008-2009 academic year she held a term appointment here as a reference and instruction librarian. Most recently, Liz served as a postdoctoral fellow in digital scholarship at Temple University.  She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Michigan, with a Certificate in African American & Diaspora Studies; an M.A. in Library & Information Science, University of South Florida; an M.F.A. in Poetry from Florida Atlantic University; and a B.A. in English from Kenyon College. 

 

Rebecca Ciota, Discovery & Integrated Systems Librarian

Rebecca Ciota is Grinnell’s new Systems Librarian. Rebecca holds an M.S. from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Graduate School of Library and Information Science and a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Oberlin College.

Writers@Grinnell: Hai-Dang Phan '03 & Rick Barot

Award-winning poet, translator, and scholar, Hai-Dang Phan '03, along with award-winning poet Rick Barot, will read from their work and discuss writing on Thursday, Sept. 1 as part of the Writers@Grinnell series at Grinnell College. The event, which is free and open to the public, will start at 8:00 p.m in the Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.

In addition, they will lead a roundtable discussion, which is free and open to the public at 4:15 p.m. Sept. 1 in the Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 209.

Hai-Dang Phan photoHai-Dang Phan, born in Vietnam and raised in Wisconsin, is a poet, translator, and scholar who teaches courses in Ethnic American Literature and Creative Writing at Grinnell. His research interests include modern and contemporary American literature, race in American literature, war literature, reconciliation, modern and contemporary poetry in English, and translation studies. A former Thomas J. Watson Fellow, he received his B.A. in English from Grinnell College and his Ph.D. in Literary Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is completing his M.F.A. in Creative Writing (Poetry) from the University of Florida.

His poems and translations appear or are forthcoming in literary journals such as AnomalousAsymptoteBarrow StreetThe Brooklyn RailCerise PressDrunken BoatKartika ReviewLana TurnerNOÖ Journal, and RHINO. He has interned at Harper’s Magazine, and for five years co-curated FELIX, a quarterly series of new writing based in Madison. He is currently working on a number of critical and creative projects: a book manuscript entitled A Rumor of Redress: Literature, the Vietnam War, and the Politics of Reconciliation, a book-length translation of new and selected poems by the contemporary Vietnamese poet Phan Nhien Hao, and a collection of poetry tentatively entitled Small Wars.

Rick Barot photoRick Barot has published three books of poetry with Sarabande Books: The Darker Fall (2002), Want (2008), which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and won the 2009 Grub Street Book Prize, and Chord (2015).  Chord received the UNT Rilke Prize, the PEN Open Book Award, and the Publishing Triangle's Thom Gunn Award.  It was also a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize. His poems and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including Poetry, The Paris Review, The New Republic, The New York Times Magazine, Tin House, The Kenyon Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Artist Trust of Washington, the Civitella Ranieri, and Stanford University, where he was a Wallace E. Stegner Fellow and a Jones Lecturer. He lives in Tacoma, Washington and directs The Rainier Writing Workshop, the low-residency MFA program in creative writing at Pacific Lutheran University.  He is also the poetry editor for New England Review.  In 2016 he received a poetry fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation.

 

Nature Photographer Ken Saunders II Exhibit Opens in Burling Gallery

Thursday, August 25, 2016 - 8:00am to Saturday, October 15, 2016 - 10:00pm
Burling Library

 

Exhibition: August 25 - October 15
Opening Reception: Friday, September 2, 4:00 p.m., Burling Gallery

“Nature photography is my passion,” says Ken Saunders II, who retired from a long career with the College’s Facilities Management in 2015.   Looking at his photographs, one is compelled to add that nature photography is also his forte.  Ken’s striking photographs show us nature at its most beautiful.  His favorite subjects are individual animals and plants, captured in their natural habitat at rest or in motion, with close-up or telephoto lens. 

All of the photographs in this exhibit, titled “Portraits of Nature in Iowa,” were taken within 40 miles of Grinnell.  It may surprise some viewers that this diversity of wildlife can be found so close to our community.   Ken could perhaps agree with Henry David Thoreau’s statement -- “What’s the need of visiting far-off mountains and bogs if a half-hour’s walk will carry me into such wildness and novelty?” -- though in fact he also photographs in other parts of the country, especially in the mountain west.

Ken recalls getting his first camera – a Kodak 104 Instamatic, which retailed for $15.95 – when he was about seven years old.  Many years later he advanced to a 35mm film single-lens reflex camera, a Pentax, and then in 2003 began experimenting with digital photography.  He got his first digital single-lens reflex camera in 2006, a Nikon D200, and has been working in this vein ever since.

The Center for Prairie Studies is pleased to co-sponsor this exhibit of Ken’s photography with Faulconer Gallery.  The exhibit is displayed in Burling Gallery and will run from August 25 to October 15.  An opening reception will take place at Burling Library Gallery (lower level) on Friday, September 2, at 4:00. 

Building Local Food Systems: Two Case Studies, California and Iowa

Wednesday, August 31, 2016 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm
Joe Rosenfield '25 Center Room 101

 

How do you create a local food system?  On August 31, in JRC 101, at 4:00 and 7:30 p.m., two speakers will share their experiences creating local food systems in two very different locations: the Bay Area of San Francisco and the Meskwaki Settlement in Tama County, Iowa. 

More and more people are interested in eating food raised near where they live.  It is fresher, tastes better, and is often more nutritious.  Because it is produced on a smaller scale, it is more likely to be raised using organic methods, which make it healthier.  Purchasing food grown near where you live also contributes more to the local economy than buying the same food from big retail grocers. 

But “buying local” can face challenges.  Is supply adequate to meet the demand?  How do consumers connect with farmers? Are the types of food being raised locally also the types that consumers want?  Is local food out of the price range of many consumers?  If locally raised food is normally available for only part of the year, can anything be done to lengthen the growing season or make the food available year-round?

Answers to many of these questions can be found through the creation of local food systems. Going beyond ad hoc relationships and even such worthy organizations as farmers markets, a local food system is a coordinated, self-consciously planned set of institutionalized relationships among farmers, consumers, businesses, and communities, structured in a way that maximizes the availability of affordable local food to members of a community. 

Jennifer Vazquez-Koster has been working on local food initiatives in Iowa for 10 years.  She is currently manager of the two-year old Meskwaki Food Sovereignty Initiative, an umbrella that encompasses three garden-farm operations at the Meskwaki Settlement in Tama County: a senior garden affiliated with the senior living center at the Settlement, a school garden, and Red Earth Gardens, a large-scale commercial organic operation that sells produce through a Tribally Supported Agriculture (TSA) program, a farm stand, and area grocery stores. The concept behind “food sovereignty” is for the Meskwaki to reclaim their food system from the national industrial food and agriculture system. 

Thomas Nelson ‘91 has been instrumental in advancing the local food system in the San Francisco Bay Area.  He launched a community-based social enterprise, Capay Valley Farm Shop, which connects 54 farms and ranches in the Capay Valley to Bay Area families and businesses, in the latter category focusing on tech companies, online grocery, and neighborhood businesses.  He is also a business advisor at Kitchen Table Advisors, a non-profit that works with beginning farmers to help them market their products.  He also serves on the board of California FarmLink, established in 1999, which has created a statewide program of economic development support for beginning, limited-resource, immigrant and other underserved farmers across the state.

Jennifer Vazquez-Koster will speak on “Beginning a Local Food System at the Meskwaki Settlement” at 4:00 p.m. and Thomas Nelson will speak on "Community-based Strategies to Scale Up Sustainable Food Systems" at 7:30 p.m.  Both presentations are in Joe Rosenfield Center ’25 101.  Refreshments will be served.  Sponsored by the Grinnell College Center for Prairie Studies.

Commencement 2016

It’s been a beautiful day for the 170th Commencement of Grinnell College, celebrating the class of 2016.

Commencement exercises began at 10 a.m. at the amphitheater on Central Campus, and are now complete.

The ceremony featured an address by internationally renowned novelist Zadie Smith and the awarding of honorary degrees.

Join us as we celebrate our newest graduates. You can:

  • See a copy of the live stream on YouTube. (Higher quality video will be available later.)
  • Follow and join the conversation on Twitter: @GrinnellCollege #Grinnell2016
  • Share your photos on Instagram: #GrinnellCollege or #Grinnell2016
  • Follow us on Facebook and YouTube for highlights from the day.
  • Check out the story on Snapchat: username grinnellcollege

About Zadie Smith

Zadie SmithNovelist Zadie Smith was born in North London in 1975 to an English father and a Jamaican mother. She read English at Cambridge, graduating in 1997. Her acclaimed first novel, White Teeth, is a vibrant portrait of contemporary multicultural London. The book won many honors, including the Guardian First Book Award, the Whitbread First Novel Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best First Book), and two BT Ethnic and Multicultural Media Awards (Best Book/Novel and Best Female Media Newcomer). Smith’s The Autograph Man, a story of loss, obsession, and the nature of celebrity, received the 2003 Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize for Fiction.

In 2003 and 2013 Smith was named by Granta magazine as one of 20 “Best of Young British Novelists.” Smith’s On Beauty won the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction. Her most recent novel, NW, was named as one of the “10 Best Books of 2012” by The New York Times. A tenured professor of creative writing at New York University, Smith writes regularly for The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books. She published one collection of essays, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, and is working on a book of essays titled Feel Free.

About Honorary Degree Recipients

Zadie Smith will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at Grinnell’s Commencement exercises.

Grinnell also will confer honorary degrees upon two alumni and a renowned educator.

Thomas Cole ’71 will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws. He is U.S. Representative for Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District, serving since 2002. Cole, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, is the fourth-ranking Republican leader in the House. He is currently one of only two Native American serving in Congress and was inducted into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame in 2004.

Fred Hersch ’77 will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. A pianist, composer, and one of the world’s foremost jazz artists, Hersch was described as “one of the small handful of brilliant musicians of his generation” by Downbeat magazine. His accomplishments include a 2003 Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship for composition and numerous Grammy nominations. He is a member of the Jazz Studies faculty at the New England Conservatory.

Claudia Swisher will receive an honorary Doctor of Social Studies. She was an English teacher for several decades at Norman North High School in Norman, Okla., where she was admired for going above and beyond in her efforts to connect with students. She saw education as something that should be formed around the children, and not that the children and their interests should be manipulated to conform to education.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Information on commencement ceremonies is available at Grinnell’s Commencement Web page. For any further information on commencement, please call 641-269-3178.

Photo of Zadie Smith by Dominique Nabokov

Another Banner Year for Grinnell Philanthropy

Fiscal year 2016 (FY16) continued Grinnell College’s philanthropic growth after the exceptional year of fiscal year 2015 (FY15). Total commitments in FY16 reached $26,973,773, an increase of more than $3.6 million, or 15.5%, in new gifts, new pledges, and new bequests over the previous year.

In all, 11,375 individuals — including alumni, friends of the College, parents of current and former students, faculty, students, and staff — were donors to the College in fiscal year 2016. Among these, the largest number of donors (7,711) made unrestricted contributions. This year 7,098 alumni made gifts to the College, an increase of 3.9% over last year. Of FY16’s alumni donors, 245 made their first-ever gifts to the College. Overall, Grinnell welcomed 1,407 first-time donors in FY16.

Total receipts for fiscal year 2016 — one-time gifts, payments on pledges, and realized bequests — reached $10.9 million.

“Grinnell’s culture of philanthropy supports our aspirations to provide students a world-class education that prepares them to successfully navigate their careers, life, and service,” says President Raynard S. Kington. “I am grateful for our many donors who so generously play a key partnership role in our future.”

Grinnell achieved a major milestone in FY16 when Carolyn “Kay” Bucksbaum ‘51 pledged $5 million toward the creation of a position to lead the College’s Global Grinnell initiatives and a programmatic fund focused on uplifting students and program development.

Additionally, the College set a record for one-day giving this fiscal year. Our second annual Scarlet & Give Back Day saw gifts from 3,376 donors on April 7, an increase of more than 75% over last year’s 1,922 donors.

Alumni and donor engagement take many forms at Grinnell. Here are some highlights from fiscal year 2016:

  • The second annual Global Day of Service, co-sponsored by the Alumni Council, engaged over 450 alumni, family, and friends who volunteered in 55 locations around the world to celebrate Founder's Day, Grinnell College, and our strong commitment to social justice.
  • GRASP volunteers conducted nearly 400 interviews with prospective students.
  • The alumni relations team, in partnership with more than 200 regional network volunteers, hosted more than 75 regional events to which we welcomed 3,652 alumni, parents, and friends.
  • More than 400 students participated in National Philanthropy Week.
  • The outgoing Class of 2016 achieved 54% in total gift participation toward the senior class gift.
  • With the partnership of over 150 class volunteers, the College welcomed 1,177 alumni and family members back for Reunion 2016 from 47 states, the District of Columbia, and 11 foreign nations.
  • The Class of 1966 raised over $4 million and had 67% participation, both of which are records for a 50th Reunion class.
  • Through the 2016 Grinnell externship program, 97 alumni volunteers provided experiences to 99 students, a 36% increase from last year.
  • More than 150 alumni returned to campus to share their time and talent with current students and fellow alumni. As alumni mentors and speakers in a variety of platforms, Grinnellians are consistently creating opportunities to give back through their professional expertise and talent.
  • The Council for Advancement and Support of Education honored the donor relations team with a Circle of Excellence Award for its fall 2015 Endowed Scholarship Fund Activity Reports. The annual giving team received awards from CASE for Best Practices in Fundraising (Scarlet & Give Back Day FY15) and Best Student Alumni Programming (Class Ambassadors).

“This marked the fourth consecutive year for increased fundraising at Grinnell,” says Shane Jacobson, vice president for development and alumni relations. “We thank each and every donor who helped make fiscal year 2016 an incredible year in philanthropy. Their generosity, alongside the many other ways the Grinnell community gives back, flows through the College to positively influence the lives of our students, faculty, and staff.”

For more information about giving to Grinnell College, please contact the Office of Development and Alumni Relations toll-free at 866-850-1846 or local at 641-269-1846 or send an email to alumni[at]grinnell[dot]edu.

David Cook-Martín Named Assistant Vice President for Global Education

David Cook-MartinDavid Cook-Martín, professor of sociology, has accepted the position of assistant vice president for Global Education and senior international officer. In this role, he will lead Grinnell's new Institute for Global Engagement and take on the responsibility to promote strategic planning for international education and external partnerships across the College. He will also join President Raynard Kington's senior staff.

This step flows from one of the foremost recommendations of the Global Grinnell Task Force: to create a stronger, more integrative structure to lead the College's international initiatives. Grinnell's high rates of participation in study abroad, large and diverse international student population, and outstanding curricular offerings are compelling strengths. Further collaboration across academic areas, engagement with the Center for Careers, Life, and Service, and the offices of Development and Alumni Relations, Admission, Student Affairs, and Off-Campus Study now promise to give Grinnell a distinctive position of leadership in global education as referenced in the Global Grinnell Task Force Report.

This initiative was also made possible by the great generosity of Carolyn "Kay" Bucksbaum '51, former board chair and now Life Trustee of the College. Her recent $5 million gift created two endowments, one to fund the creation of the senior international officer position and another to create a Global Distinctiveness Fund to support students and faculty through scholarships for global courses and language study, research initiatives, internships abroad, and international projects exploring global problems and challenges. 

David brings outstanding qualifications to his new role. An expert in the sociology, history, and politics of human migration, his teaching and research deeply engage with the transnational forces shaping the contemporary world. Most recently, he co-authored Culling the Masses: The Democratic Origins of Racist Immigration Policy in the Americas (Harvard University Press, 2014), a book that won major national awards from both the American Sociological Association and the American Political Science Association. He is also the author of The Scramble for Citizens: Dual Nationality and State Competition for Immigrants (Stanford University Press, 2013)—another award-winning book—and numerous scholarly articles and public commentaries. David's engagement with the American Council on Education, his role as director of Grinnell's Center for International Studies over the last three years, and his service as chair of the sociology department have given him valuable administrative experience as well.

The Institute for Global Engagement will provide Grinnell with a vital point for ongoing collaboration among departments and programs and across the divisions of the College. As the new institute takes up the responsibilities formerly held by the Center for International Studies, I am confident that under David's leadership it will make the most of the opportunities provided by Kay's generous gift, as well as the new Global Learning Program courses, which are a direct result of a $4 million gift provided by Trustee Susie McCurry '71 and the Roland and Ruby Holden Family Foundation. The new Humanities and Social Studies Complex will provide an ideal home for the institute alongside Off-Campus Study, the Office of International Student Affairs, and a new Language Resource Center.

In the coming weeks, David and Michael Latham, Vice President for Academic Affairs, will plan for a new faculty and staff steering committee to provide direction for the institute. They will also work with the Office of Development and Alumni Relations to engage trustees, alumni, and friends of the College in its continuing work.

 

Transforming Trans Justice

The college experience is often seen as not only an opportunity for educational enrichment, but also as a space for exploring personal identities.

For Chase Strangio ’04, Grinnell was both personally and politically formative. “I really found a home both intellectually and emotionally,” says Strangio. “I knew I was queer; I knew that I had a critical political sensibility, but I didn’t have any real sense of who I was before Grinnell.”

Strangio’s time at Grinnell solidified his commitment to LGBT rights. After graduating, he moved to Boston to work for GLAD (formerly known as the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders). While on the one hand it was an exciting experience, Strangio was disappointed by the then-emphasis on marriage and other ways the organization and other mainstream LGBT organizations were content with the constraints set by the legal system.

“I was a paralegal, and it was exciting to be there with these amazing lawyers; but I was a bit frustrated. At the same time I was coming to terms with my own gender, and I started to really gravitate toward trans legal work,” Strangio says. “I decided that I wanted to go to law school to be able to do a different kind of legal work than that being done at GLAD.”

Strangio attended law school at Northeastern University in Boston, a program he chose because it reminded him of Grinnell. “It was a school that had a very self-selecting body of students who cared a lot about social justice.” His three years of law school were dedicated to issues of mass incarceration, criminal justice, and trans justice.

In addition to his desire to help people as a direct services lawyer (a lawyer who works with organizations that serve low-income individuals by providing them with affordable or free representation), Strangio was also drawn to a law degree for the legitimacy he felt it would bring.

Chase Strangio“If I’m being perfectly honest, I knew that I was sort of an outsider in the world in certain ways,” he says. “I felt like getting a law degree would force people to take me seriously.”

After graduating, Strangio received an Equal Justice Fellowship, which supports public interest legal work, and went to work at the Silvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) in New York City. At SRLP, he worked on disability justice and prison justice work within trans communities throughout New York state.

“It was an amazing experience. I learned a lot about the legal system. I learned a lot about political organizing, but I had ongoing frustrations with the limitations of direct services and of working at an under-resourced organization,” Strangio says.

Strangio took a job at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 2013, where he has worked for the last three years. He currently represents Chelsea Manning, who was convicted in 2013 of multiple charges related to releasing sensitive documents to WikiLeaks, in her case against the Department of Defense for denying her hormones while in prison.

“One of the things I really love about working at the ACLU is that I’ve been able to utilize creative and collaborative approaches to doing legal advocacy,” Strangio says. “Taking litigation and combining it with traditional media and social media and leveraging multiple points of intervention to try to effect change.”

He also loves working in an environment where his colleagues are doing the most exciting and important work in the field, because “it’s an incredible intellectual environment.” He now has the resources and support to pursue the kind of work he’s passionate about with the support of a vast network of colleagues who care as much as he does.

“I feel incredibly privileged to get to do the work that I want to do on behalf of my community. Just to be able to work in collaboration with people who are doing such inspiring things — it doesn’t really get better than that.”

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.”