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Academic Life

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.

International scholars to discuss publishing houses in India, Kenya

Urvashi ButaliaTwo international scholars, Urvashi Butalia and Billy Kahora, will give a joint lecture about publishing houses in India and Kenya at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4, in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.

Butalia, founder and CEO of Zubaan, a feminist publishing house in India, will discuss "Publishing Against the Grain: A Story From India." Butalia co-founded Kali for Women, India's first feminist publishing house, in 1984. Zubaan, the publishing house she runs today, is a successor of Kali and publishes books about and by women, as well as archiving women's histories.

Butalia has been published widely in edited volumes, newspapers, and magazines both in India and abroad. One of her best-known works was featured in the award-winning history, The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India, which received the Oral History Book Association Award in 2001 and the Nikkei Asia Award for Culture in 2003. In 2011, she was awarded the Padmashree, an honor for civilians presented by the Indian government to Butalia for her work in the field of women's education.

Billy KahoraBilly Kahora, managing editor of Kwani Trust in Nairobi, Kenya, will discuss publishing houses as creative collectives. Established in 2003, the Kwani trust is dedicated to developing, publishing, and distributing quality, creative, and contemporary African writing. As managing editor, Kahora has edited seven issues of the Kwani journal as well as other Kwani publications, such as Nairobi 24 and Kenya Burning.

An award-winning short fiction and creative nonfiction author, Kahora has had his work featured in many publications in Kenya and abroad, including Vanity Fair. His story "Treadmill Love" received the Caine Prize in 2007 and his stories "Urban Zoning" and "The Gorilla's Apprentice" were shortlisted for the prize in 2012 and 2014. He also is a past recipient of the Chevening Scholarship and an Iowa Writer’s Fellowship.

The Center for the Humanities is sponsoring the lecture, which is free and open to the public.

Inaugural Meeting of the Pre-Physical Therapy Society

Are you interested in learning more about a healthy, active lifestyle and about rehabilitation?

Two free public talks on the research and practice of movement science, with a specific focus on physical therapy, are part of the Inaugural Meeting of the Pre-Physical Therapy Society.

Dr. Jeffrey Kinsella-Shaw

Dr. Jeffrey Kinsella-Shaw will present "Physical Therapy: Bringing the Science of Healing and the Art of Caring Together.”

Dr. Kinsella-Shaw is associate professor in the kinesiology department and director of the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at the University of Connecticut. 

Justin Munato

Justin Munafo will present "Research Experiences in Human Movement Science: Older Adults on Cruises" at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3 in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.

Justin Munafo is a doctoral student in the kinesiology department at University of Minnesota.

The presentations are appropriate both for those interested in the group and pre-physical therapy as well as anyone in the general public interested in how their body moves and how physical therapy helps.

Damian Kelty-Stephen, assistant professor of psychology and adviser of the Pre-Physical Therapy Society will provide information about the group to those who are interested.

The event is being sponsored by All-Campus Events, Wellness, Students on Health-Oriented Tracks, and Pioneer Diversity Council, among others. 

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.

Visual Contrast Sensitivity as a Biomarker of Neuro-Developmental Age and Connectivity

Jeffrey Kinsella-Shaw will present “Visual Contrast Sensitivity as a Biomarker of Neuro-Developmental Age and Connectivity,” 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3, in Robert N. Noyce '49 Science Center, Room 2022.

In this free public event, he will discuss his dynamical-systems theoretic research on the perception-action linkages that support motor coordination across the lifespan and that help to inform and target clinical interventions in movement.

Jeffrey Kinsella-Shaw is associate professor of the Department of Kinesiology and director of the Doctoral Program in Physical Therapy at the University of Connecticut. His visit is sponsored by the biology department.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations and Events.

Old Maps, New Technology

Old maps are rich sources of historical information, but manually cataloging the information on them is time-consuming and costly.

Jerod Weinman, associate professor of computer science, and his co-researchers have plans to make them “searchable the way scanned books have become accessible to web search.”

With a National Science Foundation grant, he and Erik Learned-Miller, University of Massachusetts Amherst, have set themselves and their students a lofty goal — helping others search and analyze historical maps by automatically recognizing place names and other text, and aligning them with modern geography.

The National Science Foundation awarded the computer science professors nearly half a million dollars in a three-year grant for their project, Adaptive Integration of Textual and Geospatial Information for Mining Massive Map Collections.

Grinnell’s share will support up to 14 student researchers who’ll work with Weinman on the project.

Drawing Information From Old Maps

“Libraries and archives are digitizing historical maps for widespread online access. Without technology for searching them, large map collections relevant to a given problem or question may remain obscure even in online archives,” Weinman and Learned-Miller say. “If all of the text in a map can be read automatically by computer, a wealth of information becomes quickly available — location names, geographic features, and often statistics.”

The group is developing techniques that will — working back and forth between old maps and a world atlas — make text and geographical information available to researchers.

This information can help in a variety of ways. For example, scientists and policymakers can establish changes in land usage, waterways, or borders over time.

“Right now we’re targeting pre-digital era 19th century maps because they represent geography with reasonable accuracy while still being typeset by hand or handwritten,” Weinman says.

Why at Grinnell?

The hands-on research experience, say the professors, will “train a diverse group of graduate and undergraduate students in constructing, learning, and making predictions with adaptive models.”

Many of the Grinnell students working on the project will be doing so through Mentored Advanced Projects (MAP). Weinman’s approach to mentored projects emphasizes “not only scientific methodology, but also the philosophy of computing as a science.”

He and fellow researchers — including David Lopatto, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Teaching, Learning and Assessment, and David Jensen, director of Knowledge Discovery Laboratory at University of Massachusetts Amherst —  have shown that computer science students report more benefits from their research experiences using this method than they would with methods that are more traditional.

The researchers will share their findings through journals and conferences in the computer vision, artificial intelligence, and GIS communities.

Generation Grinnell

A close-knit, multi-generational alumni network isn’t typically something students look for when searching for the perfect college experience. But for Sara Lowenburg ’13, the opportunity to connect with a network of Grinnellians has been a hallmark of her education and post-graduate success.

The daughter of Grinnellian Jane Mauldin ’76, Lowenburg was impressed by the level of professor-student interactions during her visit as a prospective student. “I remember sitting in on Professor Purcell’s Civil War class, and it was awesome,” Lowenburg says. “The professor was engaging and the students were really into it and had a lot of thoughtful contributions. I could tell that the professors had relationships with students and I didn’t see that everywhere I visited.”

This initial experience with Sarah Purcell ’92, professor of history and a Grinnell alumna, later led Lowenburg to a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) on how the Civil War has been commemorated. This project enabled her to work closely with Purcell and a small group of other students, doing highly in-depth, critical research. The MAP culminated in the students curating an exhibit about Civil War era Grinnell.

“I loved the experience of doing a MAP, because it allowed me to hone my research skills and because it was a very intensive project. It was great to have a lot of control over what was exhibited and to see what the school was like during a very different era,” Lowenburg says.

After graduating, Lowenburg participated in an internship with the Museum at Eldridge Street in New York City, an opportunity offered by Grinnell alumna Hanna Griff-Sleven ’81. “She was genuinely interested in what I thought, and I could not have asked for a better colleague. I secured the internship for the summer after I graduated from Grinnell, and by September 1st, I had a full-time job,” Lowenburg says. She currently works for the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

With a Grinnellian mother, a rewarding MAP experience with a Grinnellian professor, and an internship with a Grinnell alumna, Lowenburg has been able to experience the intense connection many past and present Grinnellians feel toward each other.

“The network of Grinnell is pretty special. I feel very connected and very well taken care of.”

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.”

Big Island Summer

Rebecca Rasmussen ’16 and Edward Hsieh ’16 helped find what turned out to be the largest super colony of ants ever recorded in North America. By large, we mean all the way from Iowa to the Appalachian Mountains.

Students sitting on ground with research tools around them.Those Mentored Advanced Projects (MAPs) in summer 2014 earned them both an invitation from Grinnell biology professor Jackie Brown to do a second MAP last summer. This one meant spending two months on Big Island, Hawaii.

Both students agreed enthusiastically. By mid-May, Rasmussen and Hsieh were planning preliminary field studies to help Brown and Idelle Cooper ’01 of James Madison University find out why some female damselflies are red and some are green.

Ecological or sexual selection

“I was looking at a behavioral biology aspect because we wanted to see if the females were evolving this color dimorphism because of sexual selection,” Rasmussen says. For two months, she and other researchers stalked damselflies at various sites near Na’alehu, the southernmost town in the United States.

“Our main hypothesis was ecological selection, so I was testing the alternative,” Rasmussen says. Her findings indicated that sexual selection was minimal. “What we saw goes along with what Professor Brown and Professor Cooper have been positing, which is promising for their research,” she says.

Hsieh tested for chemical properties related to the color morphs. “In the ant project I looked at their particular hydrocarbons, and in this one I looked at antioxidant chemicals to see what potentially helped protect damselflies against UV radiation depending on the elevation.”

Finding the unexpected

Damselfly sitting on a notes that track flies sex and behavior for June 18, 2015, 10:12 a.m.Hsieh’s early findings contradicted expectations that red pigment signals protection from UV stress. He found that the redder the damselfly, the lower its antioxidant capability. “We have a couple of theories as to why that might be so,” Hsieh says. “It’s still pretty open ended and we’re actually continuing to work on it right now.”

Brown, who along with Cooper received National Science Foundation funding for the damselfly project, says, “Working with Edward and Rebecca on two different projects has highlighted for me both their talents and the value of our research-based curriculum in preparing students for meaningful participation in research.

“Each has built on their particular experience with the ant project, but in a completely new setting,” Brown says. “We’ll be working hard together during their senior year to submit these results for publication.” 

Serious contributions

Rasmussen says the collaborative research processes have made her feel “more prepared for going to graduate school in biology, if that’s the route I decide to take. Going through the planning stage, executing it, and then summarizing it is, I think, applicable to any career field.”

Rasmussen says it is satisfying as an undergraduate to do research that adds knowledge to a field. “It is pretty exciting to find things that could seriously contribute or that turn out to be an unusual finding that is worth reporting,” she says.

“I was originally interested in doing biological field research,” Hsieh says of his MAP experience, “and these opportunities gave me a lot of experience in what I would expect to do if I were to continue in that vein. It’s very likely that I’ll continue on to graduate school, possibly in entomological research.”

Coolest experience

Damselfly research is highly weather dependent, so on a few rainy days the research team found diversions that included Hawaii’s vast mix of Asian cuisine, volcanoes, and black sand beaches.

“One morning it was pretty rainy so we went to a beautiful beach for snorkeling,” Hsieh says. “We swam with sea turtles, and then farther out we found a giant pod of 30-plus dolphins.

“We were swimming with dolphins,” Hsieh says. “It was one of the coolest experiences of my life. And it was on my 21st birthday. It was awesome.”

Rebecca Rasmussen ’16 is a biology major from Des Moines, Iowa. Edward Hsieh ’16 is a biology major from Champaign, Ill.

7 Tried-and-True Study Tips

Studying is hard, especially when you’re just getting used to college classes or transitioning from introductory courses to higher-level studies. But it doesn’t have to be so hard that you feel like you’re not getting anywhere! Read on to learn tried and true techniques for mastering your classes while still having time to enjoy your life at Grinnell.

1. Ask for Help
One of the best ways to get ahead in your education is to take advantage of your professors’ office hours. Zach Liebman ’16 says, “Not only will going to office hours help you better understand the material and expectations of the class, but it also gives you an opportunity to build a relationship with your professor.”  
You can also take advantage of the many helpful resources that the Academic Advising Office has to offer, including tutoring, appointments at the Writing or Reading Lab, and tons of great worksheets and tips.
2. Test Yourself
When it comes to studying for a test or brushing up on an area you’ve struggled with, Evelyn Weidman ’17 suggests inventing your own problems for practice. “By making your own problems and examples, you do a whole other level of thinking than if you just review the examples from class and homework that you already have,” says Weidman. This process can help you to identify areas that you need to work on and will help eliminate the fear of “trick questions” many experience on test day.
3. Visualize Success
To deal with math problems that seem complicated, Karin Yndestad ’17 recommends using visual learning techniques. “Whenever possible, draw a picture. Visualizing the problem that you are working on often gives you unexpected insight on how best to solve it,” Yndestad says. She also suggests students write out and prove theorems from scratch without using notes, rather than just repeating from memory. “This forces you to really understand the methods behind the proof, and it also helps you commit important ideas to memory.”
4. Procrastination = Motivation?
Having trouble staying motivated when all you want to do is relax?  Try setting up a reward system to turn activities that you normally use to procrastinate into prizes for a job well done. After completing a reading or homework assignment, Carlina Arango ’16 rewards herself with a TV show on Netflix or a massage in the Wellness Lounge. “It helps you stay focused, and time goes by faster if you learn how to balance studying with a bit of relaxing in between,” says Arango.
5. Talk the Talk
Vocabulary flash cards not doing the trick? For increasing fluency in a language, Philipp Gemmel ’17 advocates practicing paraphrasing. “When learning a language, it is completely fine to not know something, but knowing how to say something you don’t know by describing it with something you do know helps a lot,” Gemmel says. Too shy to practice with other people? Try talking to yourself! Gemmel says this is a good way to build confidence through “perfectly pressure-free practice.”
6. Begin at the End
For students wracking their brains on how to begin a paper, Katy Tucker ’16 has a trick. “Try writing the first draft of your paper backwards. This strategy can help identify your strongest thesis and has the added benefit of motivating you to keep writing,” Tucker says. “I think it’s less overwhelming to feel as though you’re continually adding on evidence to your argument rather than constructing a perfectly organized paper from scratch.”
7. Sleep

It might surprise you that the study tip Grinnellians raved about isn’t even about studying.

“Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep,” says Liebman.

“Sleep is more important than studying,” Isaac Mielke ’18 says.

“Get sleep. Really,” says Amanda Hinchman-Dominguez ’17.

It may seem like a good idea to take advantage of all Grinnell life has to offer by following the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” philosophy, but if you’re tired your brain isn’t working at full capacity. Trying to function on only a few hours of sleep means it takes you longer to understand what you’re studying, finish a problem set, or write a paper. Sleep equals more efficient studying, which equals more time to enjoy life!

Zach Liebman ’16 is an economics major from Evanston, Ill. Evelyn Weidman ’17 is from Flossmoor, Ill. and is an economics major. Karin Yndestad ’17 is a mathematics major from Eagan, Minn. Carlina Arango ’16, a Spanish and anthropology double major, is from Chicago, Ill. Philipp Gemmel ’17 is a political science and biology double major from Gusenburg, Germany. Katy Tucker ’16, from Wellesley, Mass., is a psychology major. Isaac Mielke ’18 is an economics major from Falcon Heights, Minn. Amanda Hinchman-Dominguez ’17 is from Titusville, Fla. and is a computer science major.

Double the Fun

At Grinnell, students are encouraged to find ways to pursue as many of their interests as they can. This can mean participating in clubs and athletics in addition to academics, but some students want to take their interests even further by declaring a double major.

A double major may seem overwhelming, but it’s actually very common for students to merge two seemingly unrelated interests into a major that fits their aspirations.

Becoming a better doctor

Micah Iticovici ’16 working at a table with books, papersMicah Iticovici ’16, a biological chemistry/economics double major, arrived on campus intending to be a philosophy major. However, he soon discovered an interest in biochemistry and the medical profession.

Then, during his Introduction to Economics course, he began to see an overlap between how economists study decision-making and how medical professionals and their patients interact.

“Patients are really not great decision-makers,” Iticovici says. “They make a lot of really small decisions without looking at the overall impacts of those choices.”

Using the principles he learned in economics, Iticovici has pursued independent research to try to gain a better understanding of how and why patients make decisions that aren’t in their best interests. By delving into behavioral economics with a medical spin, he hopes to be able to advise and relate to his future patients more effectively.

Combining economics with a medicine-oriented biochemistry major may be unexpected, but it has many practical applications. But a down-to-earth major like economics can add a lot to a major that is less logic-oriented as well.

The economics of art

Alex Neckopulos ’17 is a studio art/economics double major who was interested in art from a young age. Her talent was encouraged until high school, where she got very different feedback from her teachers. They viewed artistic pursuits as less valuable than math and sciences, and her interest in art faded.

Neckopulos regained her passion for art when she came to Grinnell, but she discovered that the analytical side she developed in high school was still calling. At first, the notion of combining her interests in art and economics seemed unrealistic. “Honestly I had no idea how they would work together! It felt like I was trying to stick a circle in a square hole,” Neckopulos says.

After taking a job as an assistant in the Faulconer Gallery, however, Neckopulos discovered that her knowledge of economic models and principles came in handy. “Working in a gallery, you have the art that you’re passionate about, but it’s also a business, and you have to know how to get people in the door and really manage your funds,” Neckopulos says.

She hopes to obtain an internship at a larger, public gallery in the future to see what it’s like to pursue those interests on a grander scale. “My advice to anyone who has multiple interests would be to seek out that job that you think might combine them, because there’s nothing more eye-opening than applying what you learn to real life,” says Neckopulos.

Look for the overlap

“Double majors are really doable,” Iticovici adds. “You can combine anything and there will be some kind of overlap, as long as you’re willing to look for it. And that makes everything you learn more fulfilling and interesting.”

For Grinnell students, the ability to delve deeply into more than one subject helps to transform their varied interests into new, more fulfilling career paths. So if you’re having trouble deciding what you want to do, fear not! You just might be able to do it all.