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Social Justice

Scholars’ Convo: Bob Haveman

Bob HavemanRobert "Bob" Haveman — professor emeritus of public affairs and economics and faculty affiliate, Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin–Madison — will present the Scholars' Convocation at 11 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 5, in Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101.

In his free, publilc talk, he will discuss “The US Labor Market is a Mess: How did it get that way; is there a way out?”

Haveman, an award-winning teacher, has published widely in public finance, the economics of environmental and natural resources policy, benefit-cost analysis, and the economics of poverty and social policy. His publications include Succeeding Generations: On the Effects of Investments in Children (with Barbara Wolfe), and Human Capital in the United States from 1975 to 2000: Patterns of Growth and Utilization (with Andrew Bershadker and Jonathan A. Schwabish).

He has served as senior economist, Subcommittee on Economy in Government, Joint Economic Committee, U.S. Congress.

His projects include estimating the adequacy of savings of older workers at and during retirement, assessing the impact of health shocks on the assets of retirees, evaluating the impacts of the Section 8 housing voucher program, and analyzing the methods for assessing the employment effects of public policy measures.

His work has appeared in the American Economic Review, Review of Economics and Statistics, Quarterly Journal of Economics, and Journal of the American Statistical Association.

He received his doctorate in economics from Vanderbilt University.

Adhikaar Means Rights

In 2005, Luna Ranjit ’00 co-founded Adhikaar, a non-profit organization dedicated to human rights and social justice issues faced by more than 40,000 Nepali immigrants in New York City. She knew the depth and range of needs of the Nepali people long before the devastating April earthquake shook her home country. 

As executive director of Adhikaar, which is Nepali for rights, Ranjit says, “We plan as much as we can, but as a convenient walk-in community center, we deal with different issues every day. We work on workers’ rights, access to healthcare, immigration rights, fair pay, and citizenship.”

Helping Nepalis after the earthquake

The earthquake in Nepal brought a flood of requests from immigrants trying to get in touch with their families, which the agency helped to facilitate. “The walk-in traffic has increased significantly. We provided a space where people could talk and feel supported,” Ranjit says.

The traffic also increased because of Adhikaar’s quick action to gain temporary protected status for Nepalis who were trying to immigrate, so they could use available services to also assist family members still in their native land.

During this hectic period, Ranjit worked closely with state legislators, New York Gov. Cuomo’s office, and with the state’s Congressional leadership to secure the temporary status. “Building relationships over the past 10 years came in handy. Adhikaar was one of the leading organizations in this tough battle,” Ranjit says.

“We are so happy that officials came together to make it happen so quickly. It’s been an insane few months but with very positive outcomes and major victories.”

Social justice is life’s work

During the last 10 years, Ranjit has seen the needs grow among Nepali immigrants, from individuals to multigenerational families. Many of them are now U.S. citizens.

“The field of social justice is definitely my life’s work, whether it’s at Adhikaar or other causes.”

Ranjit earned a master’s degree in public administration from Princeton after graduating from Grinnell with an economics major and global development studies concentration. Prior to founding Adhikaar, she worked with Asian and South Asian communities in Washington, D.C. 

Alma mater at Adhikaar

“Grinnell has played an important role in Adhikaar,” Ranjit says, recalling that a $500 check from Professor Mark Montgomery in 2005 “meant that we could stop talking about creating an organization and actually doing it.

“I had a ‘backpack office’ until I received that check. Then I received the check which meant we could rent space and be more visible. 

“Other members of the Grinnell faculty have also continued to support us over the years. There has always been a standing offer to help in any way.

“We’ve had Grinnell interns and volunteers, hosted students on break tours, and had a Grinnell grad on staff,” Ranjit recalls. “Grinnell’s preparation in writing has also been invaluable in my responsibilities for grantswriting.”

Social Justice Activated

When Sydney Banach ’18 browsed college websites as a prospective student, Grinnell College’s Liberal Arts in Prison Program quickly grabbed her attention.

“I remember reading about it on the website and the program contributed to my decision to apply to Grinnell early decision,” says Banach, who jumped at the chance to work in the justice system as an undergraduate.

At Grinnell, social justice is paired with an abundance of enriching and unique opportunities that allow students to explore issues of social justice up close. In the College’s innovative Liberal Arts in Prison program, student volunteers work as coordinators and tutor incarcerated students.

“This experience has definitely cemented my decision to work with juveniles in the future — whether as a lawyer, psychologist, or in another way,” Banach says.

The second-year student spends four hours a week tutoring youth and another five hours a week coordinating the volunteer program at a juvenile justice facility. Tutoring has broadened student volunteers’ definition of scholarship — incarcerated students are eager students whose lives, like their own, can be transformed by the liberal arts experience.

New Relationships

More than 20 student volunteers travel weekly to the juvenile detention facility to tutor incarcerated students in math and reading. The volunteers build rewarding relationships with students.

“The experience made me understand why people go into education,” says Cody Combs ’15, a volunteer coordinator and math tutor for three years. “To see someone go on to take a GED test and succeed is very gratifying.”

 “It expanded my definition of what a student is,” says Emma Morrissey ’15, a coordinator and writing tutor for the program for three years, who took a course in criminology because of her experiences in the program.

Rewarding Experiences

“I love interacting with the juveniles,” Banach says. “They have a refreshing perspective on life and are always enthusiastic to learn.”

Being able to participate in the program early on in her academic career is allowing Banach to learn about the juvenile justice system from the inside and make a difference in the lives of incarcerated students while still a student herself.  

“It’s extremely rewarding when a tutee gets a problem right or figures out a concept he did not think he could calculate,” she says. “They often surprise themselves which is inspiring.”

Grinnell’s Liberal Arts in Prison program also offers other volunteer programs, like serving as tutors and teaching not-for-credit classes at an adult prison facility. Approximately 50 students per semester volunteer through the program.

Sydney Banach ’18, undeclared, is from Mechanicsburg, Pa. Cody Combs ’15, a Chinese major, is from Bozeman, Mont. Emma Morrissey ’15, an English major, is from Chatham, N.J.

Caucus 2016: Fifty Years after Selma

The Rosenfield Program is bringing experts from across the political spectrum and from different professions to speak at a series of free public events leading up to the 2016 Iowa caucuses.

"Iowa is a politically impactful state and the Iowa caucuses are an important part of America's political landscape," said Sarah Purcell, professor of history and director of the Rosenfield Program. "Whether you participate in the caucuses as a voter or an observer, it's important to go beyond the headlines and engage in the issues. We want to give people the tools they need to participate in politics in an educated and civil manner."

Judith Brown-DianisLawyer and activist Judith Browne-Dianis will present the first event, a lecture about voting rights, at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2, in ARH Auditorium, Room 302.

Her talk, "Fifty Years after Selma: Voting Rights Under Attack," will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act by describing its role in the Iowa caucuses and the presidential selection process.

Co-director of the Advancement Project and former managing attorney of the Washington, D.C., chapter of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., Dianis has extensive background in civil rights litigation and advocacy in the areas of voting, education, housing and employment.

The Advancement Project is a next-generation, multi-racial civil rights organization focused on dismantling structural racism by changing public policies.

The president's office is co-sponsoring the lecture.

Caucus 2016

The Rosenfield Program is holding four additional caucus-related events during the fall semester:

How to Reduce Political Polarization without Compromise
4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19
Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101
A workshop with Phil Neisser and Jacob Hess, co-authors of You're Not as Crazy as I Thought (But You're Still Wrong): Conversations between a Die-Hard Liberal and a Devoted Conservative.
Neisser, professor of political theory at State University of New York at Potsdam and a leftist; and Hess, research director at Utah Youth Village, a nonprofit for abused children, and a conservative; will conduct a workshop about how liberals and conservatives can have more civil and productive conversations.
Co-sponsors: Peace and Conflict Studies Program and Ombuds
Using Dialogue as Civic Engagement, On and Off Campus,
4 p.m., Friday, Nov. 20
Rosenfield Center, Room 101
A lecture by political opposites and co-authors Neisser and Hess.
Co-sponsors: Peace and Conflict Studies Program and Ombuds
What Are the Iowa Caucuses?
6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1
ARH Auditorium, Room 302
An introduction to the history and politics of the Iowa caucuses presented by Purcell and Barbara Trish, professor and chair of political science.
Journalists Talk About the Iowa Caucuses
5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 7
Rosenfield Center, Room 101
A panel discussion with Pulitzer Prize-winner David Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Jen Jacobs, Des Moines Register chief political reporter; and Kathie Obradovich, Des Moines Register political columnist.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. Accommodation requests may be made to event sponsors or Conference Operations and Events.

Grinnell Prize Honors Social Justice Innovators

The power of words and language to effect positive change in individuals and societies is the focus of the 2015 Grinnell Prize, the largest monetary award presented by a U.S. college recognizing achievements in social justice.

Grinnell College has selected two winners of the $100,000 Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize this year:

Each prizewinner will receive $50,000 as an individual and $50,000 for her organization.

Grinnell President Raynard S. Kington will present the prizes at an awards ceremony at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, in Herrick Chapel, 1128 Park St., Grinnell. Ahenkorah and Vertkin will talk about their work during the ceremony, which is free and open to the public.

Deborah Ahenkorah, Golden Baobab

Ahenkorah, 28, founded Golden Baobab in 2008 in Accra, Ghana, to encourage the creation, production and distribution of high-quality, culturally relevant children's literature by Africans for Africans. The first arts and literary organization to win a Grinnell Prize, Golden Baobab nurtures emerging African writers and illustrators through annual awards (with cash prizes), as well as workshops to provide resources and develop talent. The organization has formed its own literary agency and publishing company. Ahenkorah was nominated for the Grinnell Prize by her sister, Eunice, a 2013 graduate of Grinnell College.

 

Maria Vertkin, Found in Translation

Vertkin, 29, started Found in Translation in 2011 in Boston to support and train homeless and low-income bilingual women to start careers as professional medical interpreters. The organization attacks the twin challenges of economic disadvantages faced by minority women, as well as racial, ethnic, and linguistic disparities in health care. From 20 to 30 women graduate from the program each year, earning a certificate in medical interpretation and receiving career placement services.

Grinnell Prize Week Offers New Events

The award winners also will participate in Grinnell Prize Week from Oct. 26-29. They will meet with students, faculty and staff to discuss their approaches to social justice, sources of inspiration and success in overcoming obstacles. This year, for the first time, the week includes an art exhibition and the Spark Tank Innovation Challenge.

Current Styles in African Illustration

Colorful open-air market scene Xanele Puren, South Africa, Reproduced with permission from the 2014 Golden Baobab Prize for African Illustrators

"Current Styles in African Illustration" will open Monday, Oct. 26, in Burling Gallery on the lower level of Burling Library.

It will highlight distinguished and contemporary children's illustration in Africa by showcasing submissions to the inaugural Golden Baobab Prize for African Illustrators, which honors current and distinctive African illustrators from throughout the continent.

An opening reception for Ahenkorah of Golden Baobab and the exhibition will take place from 5 to 6 p.m. Oct. 26 in Burling Gallery.

The exhibition, presented by the Faulconer Gallery in conjunction with the staff of Golden Baobab, will run through Dec. 18. The exhibition and reception are free and open to the public.

Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends.

The Spark Tank Innovation Challenge 2015

Spark Tank Challenge - logoThe Spark Tank Innovation Challenge has paired Grinnell College students with educators in the Grinnell-Newburg School District to form 17 teams seeking innovative ways to address challenges in the public schools. Each team has been working to address a challenge by devising a solution that is innovative, practical, and beneficial.

Some of the challenges, identified by local educators and the Grinnell Schools Task Force, include:

  • Developing non-traditional methods of holding students accountable for their actions;
  • Making lunchtime a positive experience; and
  • Increasing underrepresented populations in STEM fields.

Student teams selected as finalists will have three minutes to pitch their innovations to the judges in a live event. The event, inspired by the "Shark Tank" TV show, is free and open to the public and will start at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, in Roberts Theatre, Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.

The judges — 2015 prizewinners and two local educators — will select three winning teams that will share a total of $22,500 in prize money to carry out their innovative projects. Each team also will receive a $250 cash prize.

Nominations Due Nov. 9 for 2016 Grinnell Prize

The College is accepting nominations for the 2016 Grinnell Prize through Nov. 9. No affiliation with Grinnell College is required.

Established by Grinnell College in 2010, the Innovator for Social Justice Prize honors individuals demonstrating leadership in their fields and showing creativity, commitment and extraordinary accomplishment in bringing about positive social change.

Grinnell College presented the first prizes in 2011. Since then, 12 prizes with a total value of $1.2 million have been awarded, including the two for 2015.

Witness for Peace: Alfredo Lopez

Alfredo Lopez will discuss his work with the grassroots La Organización Fraternal Negra Hondureña/The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9, in Alumni Recitation Hall Auditorium, Room 302.

OFRANEH, which has existed since the 1970s, is dedicated to defending the rights of Garifuna peoples in northern Honduras, who have been subject to displacement from their land and acts of violence.

His presentation will focus on militarization and violence in Garifuna communities, including:

  • the dynamics of racism and state violence against Garifuna communities, and
  • displacement tied to tourism.

He will also highlight the connections to U.S. policies like funding of the Honduran police and military, the ways that OFRANEH is organizing to protect Garifuna rights, and what people in the U.S. can do to support Garifuna rights and peace in Garifuna territories. 

The free public event is sponsored by the Peace and Conflict Studies Program and the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. ARH is wheelchair accessible and has an elevator at the south end of the building that makes it easy to reach the auditorium and accessible restrooms on the third floor. Outside entrances with automatic door operators are located on the southeast and southwest sides of ARH. Several accessible parking spaces are available along Park Street. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.

An Evening with Myron Rolle

Myron Rolle will present a free, public talk at 7 p.m. Saturday, October 3, in the Alumni Recitation Hall Auditorium (Room 302).

Rolle is a neurosurgeon, football all-American, Rhodes scholar, NFL draftee, and humanitarian.

Sponsored by: Diversity and Inclusion, Donald L. Wilson Program, Pioneer Diversity Council, Intercultural Affairs, and Student Athletes Leading Social Change.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Accommodation requests may be made to the event sponsors or Conference Operations and Events.

Meskwaki Food Sovereignty Initiative

The mission of Meskwaki Food Sovereignty Initiative (MFSI) is to secure food sovereignty by seeding, growing, and harvesting Meskwaki indigenous knowledge and life-ways.

Join MFSI staff and volunteers at the Red Earth Gardens on the Meskwaki Settlement, located 25 miles north of Grinnell, to learn about community-based education and outreach around food system control and development of sustainable local farms and farmers. Following tours of MSFI gardens, a local-foods lunch will be served. Sponsored by the Center for Prairie Studies.

Tour: 9:30 - 11:15 a.m.
Red Earth Gardens, Meskwaki Elder Garden, Meskwaki Settlement School Garden

Local-foods lunch 11:15 - noon
Cornbread or Bakote, seasonal farm salad, squash and bean soup, seasonal melons, lemon balm and mint iced tea.

Please email Jan Graham if you plan to attend. If you have reserved a spot on the bus, meet the bus at the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center drop-off zone at 9 a.m. for the 25-minute ride to Red Earth Gardens. Please wear weather-appropriate clothing and walking shoes.

Yesenia Ayala ’18 honored by White House

The White House recently recognized Yesenia Ayala ’18 for her courage and contributions to the Latino community in Iowa. She and 10 other young women were selected from more than 1,000 nominees as Champions of Change for empowering and inspiring members of their communities.

Ayala said later that the experience helped her go beyond her comfort zone to advocate for the community she loves and that needs support.

“Through my personal experience,” she added, “I was able to bring awareness to not only the local, state, but national community of the importance of mentoring and supporting students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and how we can all come together as one to make the movement work.”

As a service learning work-study student at Grinnell, Ayala works for Al Exito — a nonprofit group that empowers Latino youth in nine Iowa cities. She coordinates programming and mentoring for middle and high school Latino students, facilitates family programming and events, and engages other Grinnell students in encouraging Latino students to stay in school and plan for college.

Ayala also has designed and led workshops to inform Latino youth and their parents about the U.S. education system, financial aid, essay writing, and the college applications process. These activities promote more family involvement at school, greater civic engagement, and an increase in the likelihood that young Latinos will graduate from high school and pursue higher education.

A native of Los Angeles, Ayala is majoring in sociology and Spanish with a concentration in Latin American studies. She plans to pursue a law degree in civil rights upon graduation.

This fall, she continues to work with Al Exito to develop ways to incorporate teachers into the program, which Ayala hopes will expand statewide.  

Ayala’s Inspiration

Ayala talking with Auñón (who is in a NASA suit) at a gathering At a ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, Ayala joined other Champions of Change in a panel discussion moderated by MTV video blogger Francesca Ramsey. Ramsey noted that it’s often tough to get Latino students and their families comfortable with the college application process when it’s a completely new experience for them. Then she asked Ayala: “What have you done as a leader to overcome some of those fears from students and parents that you’ve been working with?”

Ayala said she was inspired to do the work she is doing because she is a first-generation Latina college student who had a difficult journey from high school to college. She often shares her story at Al Exito events to inspire others.

“I was working fulltime at McDonald’s as a manager while in high school, I was going to high school in a very low-income community, and I was striving to get A’s,” she said. “I was also taking the responsibility and the role of helping my parents raise my siblings.”

Thanks to the encouragement of a high school English teacher, Ayala applied for a Posse Foundation scholarship, as did more than 2,100 students in LA. She was one of 112 selected, winning admission to Grinnell, where she receives a full-tuition scholarship and additional financial aid.

“In most Latino families and communities,” Ayala said, “it’s very difficult for parents to let their children aspire for higher education, because they come from a community where they don’t know anything about the U.S. education system. … So every time we conduct a workshop, it’s our opportunity to let our parents know, our community know, our students know that it may be difficult sometimes to break those boundaries, those cultural oppositions, but it’s okay to do it.  If you don’t take a risk, you never know how far you can go.”

Global Public Health

Dr. Paul Farmer, physician, humanitarian and founding director of Partners in Health, will close the College's Global Public Health Symposium.

Farmer will participate in two events:

4 p.m. Question and Answer Session

7 p.m. “Global Public Health" Presentation (followed by book signing)

Both events take place in Harris Center Auditorium and  are free and open to the public.

Farmer, chair of the Department of Global Health and Social 

Medicine at Harvard Medical School, has written extensively about health, human rights and the consequences of social inequality. He also is the subject of a best-selling book by Tracey Kidder, "Mountains beyond Mountains," which details his work in Haiti.

Farmer's presentation wraps up the symposium. He will sign several books: "Reimagining Global Public Health," "To Repair the World" and "Mountains to Mountains."

Farmer's talk is co-sponsored by the John Chrystal Endowment for Distinguished Foreign Visitors.

The Symposium

Red and white globe with red and white stethescope

The symposium was designed to inform the campus community and the general public about some of the most important issues in global public health today from different standpoints: policy, medicine, international relations, personal health, etc.

"Health is a fundamental human right, but many global issues present challenges to public health and well-being," said Sarah Purcell, professor of history and director of the Rosenfield Program. "From Ebola to obesity, the Global Public Health symposium examines some of the most pressing issues in world health today."  

Grinnell's Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations and Human Rights is sponsoring the symposium. Co-sponsors are President Raynard S. Kington, a physician and former deputy director of the National Institutes of Health; the Grinnell Wellness program; and the Henry R. Luce Program in Nations and the Global Environment.