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Welcome, Class of 2019

Curious about the new group of first-years?

Here are a few facts about the class of 2019:

  • 81 percent graduated in the top 10 percent of their secondary school class.
  • 40 percent were varsity athletes.
  • 54 percent participated in the fine arts (music, theater, dance, visual art).
  • 24 percent are U.S. students of color.
  • 16 percent are first-generation college students.
  • 18 percent participated in student government.

Want to know more? Take a peek at a virtual conversation with two of them.

Grinnell College Grinnell College: We’re excited to begin the 2015–16 academic year. Renowned faculty and transformative research experiences here and abroad await you. Ready?

Haley Jo CutroneHaley Jo Cutrone ’19:  I’m both nervous and excited. I love the people — every interaction I’ve had with students and faculty has been friendly and everyone seems so excited about the school. And, my roommate seems wicked cool, so that’s very exciting.

Hasan ThompsonHassan Thompson  ’19I’M very anxious and eager to study at Grinnell. One of my passions is traveling, and I’d never been to Iowa before. Grinnell will be my home for the next few years. This will be a huge culture change for me.

Grinnell College Grinnell College: What do you plan to study your first year of college?

Hasan ThompsonHasan Thompson  ’19I plan to major in physics. My primary goal is to get mentally ready for both the academic year and football season by letting it sink in that Grinnell will be my home.

Haley Jo CutroneHaley Jo Cutrone  ’19I’m undecided on my major. I enjoy history so I could potentially major in something related to that field of study.

Grinnell College Grinnell College: We had a great summer in Grinnell preparing for your arrival. What adventures did you have last summer?

Haley Jo CutroneHaley Jo Cutrone  ’19I spent my summer working as a camp counselor in Maine. I also got outside a lot on the weekends — hiking in Acadia National Park and the White Mountains, kayaking, biking.

Hasan ThompsonHasan Thompson: I’m both a Posse Scholar and a Gates Millennium Scholar. Other than working at Popeye’s fast food restaurant, I spent the summer attending pre-collegiate training with 10 other future Grinnell scholars who are my Posse. We spent our entire summer learning more about each other and just creating moments and bonds that has brought us closer and will last a life time.

Grinnell College Grinnell College: If you had to describe yourself in 160 characters or less, what would it say? We’ll go first.

Liberal Arts College located in the middle of everywhere. Home to social justice crusaders, status-quo challengers, and investigative globetrotters. Go.

Hasan ThompsonHasan Thompson: A genuine and gracious leader who is confident, trustworthy, and creative. Also, sees no need for violence when you can kill them with success.

Haley Jo CutroneHaley Jo Cutrone: Outdoorsy reader intending to travel the world, hoping to make an impact, and aiming to discover new passions and new ideas.

Grinnell College Grinnell College: Good luck, Haley Jo and Hassan, and the entire of the Class of 2019. We’ll get to know each other better during the next four years. We know you’ll do great.

Haley Jo Cutrone is from Hollis Center, ME, and Hassan Thompson is from New Orleans, LA.

Global Roots, Local Lives

Adjusting to life in Grinnell can be daunting for even the most well traveled international student. Want to know what the quirky local customs are? Wishing you had someone to talk to about your favorite traditions at home? Feeling the need for family when yours is far away? Don’t sweat it! The Friends of International Students (FIS) program has you covered.

Host family with children pose with their international studentThe FIS program is a time-honored tradition at Grinnell College. Students from places as far reaching as Serbia, Ghana, and China are matched with local families who act as community hosts, providing them with support and friendship during their college years. With nearly 150 community hosts involved in the program, you’re sure to find a family that suits your personality. No wonder more than 84 percent of international students at Grinnell are part of FIS!

“This program really allows you to see the American family lifestyle and experience what the community is like,” says Avantika Johri ’18. “It’s really enlightening.”

For Johri, the chance to have an off-campus refuge and meet Grinnell townspeople with the Seney family has been invaluable. Whether it’s ice cream study breaks, family dinners, or a visit to the children’s school, the FIS program has allowed Johri to get a feel for what life is like in small-town Iowa. “It has really shaped my college experience so far,” Johri claims.

Sarah and Kevin Seney, as well as their three young daughters, have been equally thrilled with the experiences they’ve had as Johri’s community hosts.

“We felt that this was a way that our family could connect with the College and also give our daughters an experience they might not have gotten if we didn’t jump at this opportunity,” Sarah says. “It’s a wonderful way to connect the community with the College.”

The Seney’s daughters have relished the chance to learn about Johri’s home in India, and hope to bring her to speak in their classes at school.

Johri’s favorite part of the experience? Playing with the Seney’s children at Central Park. “They have so much energy; it kind of re-energizes me!”

“We hope that Avi feels that she can come to us for anything she may need — support, activities in the community, or just someone to talk to,” Sarah says.

So, if you’re nervous about studying in the U.S., or if you want to learn more about everyday life in the city of Grinnell, the FIS program is here for you!

Avantika Johri is an undeclared major from Mumbai, India.

Causes with Effect

In a recent list of most liberal college campuses, Grinnell came in fourth, reflecting its long-standing, politically liberal reputation. Yet over time, both conservative and non-partisan, cause-related groups have also made their voices heard.

Rosenfield Professor of Political Science H. Wayne Moyer, Jr., who has observed Grinnell campus politics for more than 40 years, says that while “there’s a liberal tinge to most of the student organizations, the liberalism is not focused on politics but on causes. The central theme is helping people.”

Yes, There Are Conservatives

“Young Republicans have been active at times,” Moyer observes, “as have the Campus Democrats. We have conservative students but they tend to be moderate to liberal Republicans who identify less with the national Republican party than they might have 40 years ago.”

2014 graduate Sam Mulopulos is among those self-described conservatives who thrived on campus. “When I first came to Grinnell, I fell in love with the place and its people. In fact, because of my contrarian learning style, Grinnell probably made me more conservative or at least led me to more fully develop my conservative ideology.

“People often joke that the only people in the closet at Grinnell are the Republicans,” Mulopulos says. He started a chapter of the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) in fall 2013. “I believe a group like YAL has a tremendous role in promoting political diversity and social justice. The goal was to provide a forum for conservative students to ‘come out’ and cogently speak about their beliefs in limited government, individual liberty, and free markets.”

Don’t See What You Like? Start Your Own

A new club — the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network — like YAL, a chapter of a national organization, was co-founded in 2014–15 by Isaac Andino ’17 and Jenny Chi ’17. “Roosevelt is committed to progressive change, especially focusing on the local level since we feel that is where students can have the most direct change,” Andino explains.

“We are currently focusing our efforts on sustainability via socially responsible investing, investigating the college's endowment holdings in fossil fuel and defense companies and ways to possibly reduce our exposure/support to them,” Andino says. “We founded this organization because we felt it was a good fit with the values of Grinnell and was broad enough that it could be directed at any number of pressing issues. Other organizations on campus focus on one specific issue, while Roosevelt could be used as a general umbrella to address issues in the future.”

RISE Grinnell, led by Jacob Metz-Lerman ’17, also addresses progressive issues. “The goal of RISE Grinnell is to organize and participate in activism across a broad spectrum of progressive issues,” Metz-Lerman says. “Although we shy away from the term social justice, that is exactly what we stand for — issues that threaten justice, peace, love, and equality.”

A Focus on Issues

For those interested in targeting more specific issues, the Grinnell in Latin America Solidarity Society (GLASS) organization may have appeal.

For Jason Camey ’16, the focus on Latin American issues through GLASS came after a trip to Guatemala, through a co-curricular grant, where he and other Grinnell students witnessed “how U.S. foreign policy affected people in the country.

“The goal we established for the GLASS was to start talking about issues and getting people connected with partner organizations in Latin America,” Camey says.

“Grinnell is a community filled with amazingly brilliant students who aren't just citizens of the U.S. but of the world, and I think more and more students are realizing worldwide issues are something we also have to look at. Many of my peers are unaware of how our foreign policy affects people directly. I think if more people knew then they'd raise questions, they'd think a little more critically, they'd approach foreign policy with more caution, pointing out how these policies affect people.”

From broad to specific, local to international, progressive to conservative, there is always room for more campus political organizations, asserts Mulopulos. “What a boring place the world would be if we all agreed on every issue all the time? Where is the intellectual challenge in that? The ultimate goal as humans is to make the world a better, safer, healthier, and more prosperous place for everyone.”

Isaac Andino ’17, a political science major, is from Miami Springs, Fla. Jenny Chi ’17 is majoring in political science and economics and is from West Hills, Calif. Jacob Metz-Lerman ’17, a political science major, is from Roslindale, Mass. Jason Camey ’16 is majoring in Spanish and political science.

Merlin's Story

About Merlin Mathews ’17

Merlin Mathews ’17 will be graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in anthropology and gender, women's, and sexuality studies. Merlin is neurodivergent and chronically and mentally ill.

He writes about the variety of accommodations he has received and the personal and administrative processes for getting them.

Synchronizing Mind and Body

Wellness on Grinnell’s campus comes in as many forms as its students have passions, and they don’t have to be strictly athletic passions.

Synchronized swimming has been a fixture in Tea Cakarmis ’17’s life since her childhood, and it wasn’t something she could leave behind her when she came to Grinnell. After arriving on campus, she formed the Grinnell Synchronized Swimming Club to keep synchro in her life and make it possible for other students — regardless of skill level, body type, or experience — to fall in love with it as she has.

Bringing Synchro to Grinnell

I envisioned the Grinnell Synchronized Swimming Club as a community, one that encourages both artistic expression and the development of athletic abilities.

At the age of 13, I was selected as a swimmer of the Serbian National Synchronized Swimming Team. I was both petrified and extremely honored. The five years I spent on the team before coming to Grinnell have been the most meaningful of my life. My teammates became my sisters as we shared countless hours of training, frustrations at being away from home, and pride in our accomplishments.

Swimmer performing move in a pool is mirrored by the pool's surface above.While competing internationally, we traveled together from Jerusalem to Geneva, we made countless friends and memories, and we spread our love for a unique sport that unifies ballet, gymnastics, swimming, and theatre. We performed routines requiring physical abilities equal to those of any other professional athletes — endurance, core strength, and flexibility. And we executed our routines gracefully, in sync, and while smiling — even underwater, we smiled. Although we were all too aware of the fact that our sport enjoyed little recognition in our country, we knew the value of what we were doing; we were our country’s ambassadors, painting the accurate picture of our people and our culture through our talent.

Through it all, the competitions and the pressure, synchro always remained my safe space. And it’s because it is such a beautiful mixture of all different athletic and artistic disciplines that it allows the performer to communicate any type of emotion or state of mind. It gives the performer an ability to enact their own reality or create a completely new one in the water. Because it is so subjective and open to interpretation, I believe that it is enhanced by the diversity of its performers.

Synchronized swimming is traditionally viewed as a sport that strictly prescribes the body type of the performer and thus excludes a lot of possible perspectives on the discipline. Although this remains somewhat true even today, the sport in general is becoming more accepting. I formed the Grinnell Synchro Club in that spirit. I wanted all of my club members to establish their own unique approaches to synchro.

Forming the Grinnell Synchro Club offered me yet another opportunity to be an ambassador, to represent the sport I love and my home country. It is a club that, to my surprise and excitement, has been growing during the past year. During my year abroad it will be led by two inspirational swimmers — Zala Tomasic ’18 and Tess Fisher ’18 — and it will be accepting all new members, with any level of experience.

Author Teodora Cakarmis ’17 is a French and political science double major from Belgrade, Serbia; Tess Fisher ’18 is an undeclared major from Oak Park, Ill.; and Zala Tomasic ’18 is an undeclared major from Skofja Loka, Slovenia.

Jennifer's Story

About Jennifer

Jen Brooks ’15, who is originally from Atlanta, Ga., graduated with a bachelor of arts in sociology. Jen was the third Grinnell student in recent years who used a wheelchair. She also needed full-time personal care attendant (PCA) services and a communication aid in the classroom.

During her time at Grinnell, Jen had the opportunity to explore her passion for activism, hone her skills as a researcher (through her two internships), and develop independent living skills.

Claire's Story

About Claire Forrest ’13

Claire Forrest ’13, originally from Minneapolis, Minn., earned a bachelor of arts degree in English. Claire has cerebral palsy, and used a motorized scooter and manual wheelchair to navigate the campus. While at Grinnell, Claire was a 4-year member of the Varsity Women's Swim Team, and participated in Paralympic swimming competitions during her career. She also served on the campus' Disability Awareness Committee. Claire studied with the Grinnell-in-London 2011 program, making her the first student to study abroad requiring wheelchair accommodation.

Best Practices for Diversity, Inclusion in Sciences

Grinnell College will host a national conference June 19-20 that seeks innovative ways to train faculty and to develop creative approaches that foster diversity and inclusion in the sciences.

The conference includes four free, public keynote talks in Noyce Science Center, Room 2022:

Friday, June 19
9-10 a.m.

Denise Sekaquaptewa, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan

Social Psychological Research on Factors Shaping the Climate for Diversity in STEM
2-3 p.m.

Nilanjana Dasgupta, professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Thriving Despite Negative Stereotypes: How Own-Group Experts and Peers Act as Social Vaccines to Protect Against Implicit Bias
Saturday, June 20
8:30-9:30 a.m.

Becky Wai-Ling Packard, professor of psychology and director of the Weissman Center for Leadership at Mount Holyoke College

From Microaggressions to Microaffirmations: Framing Constructive Feedback to Students
2-3 p.m.

Sian Beilock, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago

Anxiety, Attitudes and Motivation: Helping Students Perform their Best under Stress

About the Conference

Grinnell College will welcome faculty and staff members involved in teaching and learning at the 15 member institutions of the Liberal Arts College Association for Faculty Inclusion (LACAFI). These schools share similar challenges in addressing diversity concerns yet have similar goals in these areas and similar resources for meeting them.

“The goal of our conference is to empower educators to initiate diversity and inclusion efforts on their campuses," said Mark Levandoski, co-chair of LACAFI and professor of chemistry.

The conference also will include sessions on stereotype threat and implicit bias as well as successes and failures. Small-group discussions will enable different colleges to share best practices. In addition, institutional teams will work to develop their diversity and inclusion action plans.

Accessibility Accommodations

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Accommodation requests may be made to conference operations.