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Academic Life

Asking for Help

Joyce Stern ’91“One of the most important things for Grinnell students is to get past the idea that adults are completely independent,” says Joyce Stern ’91, dean for student success and academic advising. “Adults are constantly consulting each other when they run into a challenge.”

While this advice might seem counterintuitive, it might be the first step in making more out of your time in college. When you arrive at Grinnell, a whole new world of independence is opened up to you. Suddenly, you have almost complete freedom in your social life, extracurriculars, and even your academics. You get to choose what clubs to join, which classes to take, when to study, and who you want to go to dinner with each night.

For many students, seeking help during high school means you’re doing badly or falling behind. But at Grinnell, using all the resources at your fingertips is part of what it takes to succeed! By choosing to come to Grinnell, you choose to ramp up your game. You could go someplace easy. You could shoot for the easy A, but instead you choose to challenge yourself. You’re smart, hard-working, motivated, and you’re very successful.

As a smart, successful student, you’re looking to make the most out of your investments. That includes making use of all the resources designed to support you when you take risks, save you time and energy, or get you back on track quickly when, inevitably, real life comes up and kicks you in the pants, which you know it will do at some point in your college years!

“We expect that all Grinnell students can handle this place,” Stern says. “You’re admitted with great credentials, but there are still things that get in students’ way.” Things such as difficulty adapting to professors’ standards, social anxiety, the death of a loved one, or struggles with time management can all have a big effect on your college experience.

The Academic Advising office can connect you with resources all around campus, from tutoring and counseling services to project planning worksheets and appointments at the Reading, Writing, or Math Labs. The staff at Academic Advising is there for you, to make sure that you get whatever you need to advance in your academics and build the life you want for yourself.

So when should you seek support? According Stern, there’s no such thing as “too early,” and there’s also no “too late.”

“We love to work with students who are simply trying to find a better approach to their studies. Students can and should approach us before the first sign of difficulty,” says Stern.

But even if you wait until you’re already having trouble, Academic Advising can still help.

“We know that people are only able to use good information when they are ready to do so, and even if we can’t help a student salvage a class or the semester, our work together could make the next semester go much better,” Stern says.

Seeking help isn’t a sign that you’re “not making it,” it’s a sign that you’re willing to challenge yourself and give yourself the best possible chance to succeed. So if you’re curious about finding new ways to study, if you’re struggling with a class, or if you’re simply curious about what’s available to you, Academic Advising is here for you!

For more information or to schedule an appointment, check out the Academic Advising website.

Balanced Performance

Ever wonder about handling the rigors of both academics and athletics at Grinnell?

Fully one third of Grinnell’s student body participates in varsity athletics. And while many Grinnell students achieve big things in sports (search Jack Taylor 138), all Grinnell student athletes find their own way to combine passion for athletics with academic priorities.

Anushka Joshi ’18 holds tennis racket with book, balls balanced on topAnushka Joshi ’18 came to campus two weeks before classes to prepare for the fall tennis season. “Coach (Andy Hamilton ’85) sends us a workout schedule for summer, so he expects us to be in top form with our tennis as well as our fitness,” Joshi says. “The first two weeks we played five hours a day.”  

Joshi is among six to eight players on the squad of 20 who traveled most weekends and played every Saturday until fall break in October. This year, having built a 9-1 record in a tie for second place after fall conference play, the team will also have a short spring season before going to the 2016 NCAA automatic qualifier tournament.  

Joshi says sports at The British School in her native Nepal were not nearly as intense as they are at Grinnell. She handled her first year here fairly easily. But with 200-level courses this year, she questioned if she could pull it off all season.

“The first weekend, six of us played for six hours straight,” Joshi says. “I was thinking ‘can I do this every week?’ I had so much studying to do on Sunday. But, I mean, I couldn’t quit. We have seniors on our team doing biochem and they’re managing, so I thought to myself ‘I can do this, too.’”

Joshi says getting a head start on her reading and doing homework as soon as it is assigned are strategies for a workable balance.

“It’s a handful, but it’s fun,” Joshi says, “Definitely you have to focus on academics, because it is academics first at Grinnell.”

Joel Baumann ’18 says athletics and academics fit together well at Grinnell because “coaches here respect academics. They’re very clear on emphasizing that you are always a student first.”

Baumann runs cross country and specializes in the 800 meters during indoor and outdoor track seasons. Training is “pretty much continuous” with a two or three week break between each season. “For all intents and purposes, it’s year-long running,” he says.

This fall Baumann is combining a rigorous cross country regimen with macro economics, a 200-level poli sci course, French, and environmental studies. “We have an open curriculum and a wide variety of courses to choose from, so I’m able to schedule my day in a way that makes sense for me,” Baumann says.

On a typical day Baumann goes to class the entire morning, then works afternoons in the Admission office as overnight host coordinator for prospective male students. He takes an hour to relax or study before a two-hour practice that starts at 4:15 p.m. Following dinner with the team, his evenings are dedicated to homework for the next day.

Baumann says daily discipline “allows your body and your mind to adjust to doing certain things at certain times throughout the day.

“I enjoy being in athletics because it forces you to plan your day and develop good time management skills,” Baumann says. “You have to be really strict with your regimen.”

Anushka Joshi ’18 is from Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Nepal. She is considering computer science and economics as possible majors, and hopes to study abroad next year. Joel Baumann ’18, a native of Grinnell, intends to pursue a double major in political science and economics.

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.

Students Win Awards in National Statistics Competition

USPROCTwo groups of Grinnell College students won awards at this year’s Undergraduate Statistics Project Competition (USPROC) sponsored by the American Statistical Association and the Consortium for the Advancement of Undergraduate Statistics Education. USPROC is an annual national competition among undergraduate students in the United States.

Alex Schmiechen ’17 and Zina Ibrahim ’17 won first place in the subcategory “First Course in Statistics.” Their project, titled Upvote or Downvote: What Makes Yik Yak Posts Popular?, was completed as part of the course Applied Statistics (MAT 209).

Their study examined Yik Yak, the anonymous social medial platform that is widely used on college campuses, in which users can indicate their liking for a post by “upvoting” or “downvoting” it. Schmiechen and Ibrahim’s study aimed to “determine potential indicators of popularity” and counted the upvotes of posts based on categories such as amount of humor, academic level, love life relevance, and whether or not it was a question.

Clark Fancher ’15, Josh Vernazza ’15, and Zack Davis ’16 won second place in the subcategory “Intermediate-level Applied Statistics Course.” Their project was titled An Examination of Age of First Drink and Effects of Church Attendance by Gender, and was carried out in the course Statistical Modeling (MAT 310).

They initially came up with this topic due to its relevance on college campuses. “Since underage alcohol consumption is so rampant throughout college campuses, we thought a study examining the age of first drink consumption would be interesting,” Davis said. They used survival analysis to model drinking patterns in Iowa youth. They also found that male church-goers have their first drink later than their female counterparts, which was different from conclusions reached in previous literature.

The results of both studies are significant in part because they pertain to current issues. Schmiechen and Ibrahim’s study highlights that further analysis could “lead to further insight into popular culture” and also be “a tool to examine a student body’s mental health”. Fancher, Vernazza, and Davis’ study addresses the benefits of decreasing underage drinking, and discusses the efficacy of after-school church programs delaying the age of first drink consumption.

Both projects were from courses taught by Professor Shonda Kuiper of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. These achievements highlight the College’s advancement in statistics education. “Students of Grinnell College are doing innovative research projects related to current events in their lives, while also utilizing advanced multivariate statistical modeling techniques,” Kuiper said.

In addition to a monetary award, both groups were invited to give a plenary talk on October 2, 2015, for the First Annual Electronic Undergraduate Statistics Research Conference.

Why Choose Grinnell in Washington?

  • Live, learn, work and explore in the center of U.S. politics and domestic policy. 
  • Experience Washington D.C. as an extension of your classroom with a Grinnell learning community – living and learning together with other Grinnell College students, faculty and alumni.

Scholars' Convo: Contesting Muhammad

Kecia AliKecia Ali, a renowned scholar on Islamic law, gender and religion, will deliver a Scholar's Convocation at 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.

Her talk, titled "Contesting Muhammad: Contemporary Controversies in Historical Perspective," will focus on modern debates about the Prophet Muhammad and his legacy.

Ali, the College's 2015-16 Gates Lecturer in Religious Studies, will give her Gates lecture the night before. She will present "Tradition, Traditions, Traditioning: Writing on Women and Islam," at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, in Faulconer Galler, Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. Ali will be speaking about the challenges of writing on gender, women, and Islam in a way that does justice to the diversity of perspectives in and cultural settings of Muslim communities.

Both events are free and open to the public.

"Professor Ali will provide the kind of background we need to analyze and understand some of the recent controversies surrounding the Prophet Muhammad," said Caleb Elfenbein, assistant professor in the departments of history and religious studies.

"She will discuss the history of representations of Muhammad in the West as well as in Muslim communities and how those histories, especially the way they interact, affects contemporary events," Elfenbein added. "Her talk will be especially informative regarding Muhammad's relationship with his wives."

Ali's research focuses on Islamic law, women and gender, ethics, and biography. She is the author of six books including her most recent publication, The Lives of Muhammad, about modern Muslim and non-Muslim biographies of Islam’s prophet, which will inform her lecture. She is also the author of Sexual Ethics in Islam, which provides a feminist reading of Islamic scriptural, legal, and ethical traditions as they relate to human gender and sexuality.

A professor of Islam at Boston University, Ali has held research and teaching fellowships at Brandeis University and Harvard Divinity School. She is an active member of the American Academy of Religion and currently serves as president of the Society for the Study of Muslim Ethics.

The Scholars' Convocation series was established in the late 1970s in response to Grinnell College's move to an individually advised curriculum. The College, aiming to create a common educational experience shared by the entire Grinnell College community, started the Scholars' Convocation series to offer an accessible intellectual encounter that transcends disciplinary boundaries.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Rosenfield Center has accessible parking in the lot to the east. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. Faulconer Gallery is wheelchair accessible, with accessible parking available at the south entrance to the Bucksbaum Center. You can request accommodations from Conference Operations and Events.

Pro Arte String Quartet in Concert with Eugene Gaub on Piano

Pro Arte Quartet, with Eugene Gaub on piano, will performing Mozart’s String Quartet in E-flat Major, Anton von Webern’s Langsamer Satz, and Antonín Dvořák’s Quintet for Piano and Strings No.2 in A Major in a concert at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13, in Sebring-Lewis Hall, Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.

The Pro Arte Quartet (PAQ) is one of the world’s most distinguished string quartets. Founded by conservatory students in Brussels in 1912, it became one of the most celebrated ensembles in Europe in the first half of the 20th century and was named Court Quartet to the Queen of Belgium. Its world reputation blossomed in 1919 when the quartet began the first of many tours that enticed notable composers such as Milhaud, Honegger, Martin, and Casella to write new works for the ensemble. In addition, Bartók dedicated his fourth quartet to the PAQ (1927), and in 1936 PAQ premiered Barber’s Op. 11 quartet, with the now-famous “Adagio for Strings” as its slow movement.

The concert is sponsored by the Department of Music as part of the Noyce Master Class series. Artists in the series teach master classes for Grinnell students, as well as perform on campus.

Ancient Theatre, Contemporary Bollywood

Professor Dhananjay Singh, of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, will present "Ancient Indian Theatre Traditions and their Representation in Contemporary Bollywood" at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14, in Lawson Lecture Hall, Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Room 152.

In a free, public talk, Singh will present the Indian perspective on the relationship between art and reality, and will emphasize the various exchanges between the two in theatre.

Drawing upon the pre-modern (non-modern) philosophy and aesthetics in India, Singh will argue that the relationship between art and reality is that of coexistence, without subordination of either to the other.

Singh is an International Visiting Fellow, and his visit is sponsored by the Center for International Studies.

Growing Interest in Statistics

On October 2, 2015, approximately 40 students on campus watched the live stream of the first annual Electronic Undergraduate Statistics Research Conference sponsored by the Consortium for the Advancement of Undergraduate Statistics Education (CAUSE). The section broadcasted was a talk by Dr. Benjamin Baumer, who is currently an Associate Professor of Statistics and Data Science at Smith College. Titled “In it to Win It,” the talk focused on his experiences as the former Statistical Analyst for Baseball Operations at the New York Mets.

Following the approval of a statistics concentration at Grinnell College, this talk is another example of students’ growing interest in the field. “I was surprised there were so many students participating in this talk,” said Ibuki Ogasawara ’17, a mathematics major. “Not only sports statistics but any applied stats field in general is such a growing field, I hope everyone is excited about having the statistics concentration available.”

Dr. Baumer stressed the importance of statistical analysis in running a sports team. He gave examples of how data can be used to answer crucial questions, such as how players will do in the future, when to trade players, and what the opposition’s tactics will be. Some of these topics could be potential topics for class projects for undergraduate students.

This talk also discussed careers in sports analytics. Baumer talked about the different positions in the Analytics Department of a sports team and the technical skills needed to succeed. He also talked about the benefits, challenges, and more practical parts of this career.

Some students found that this gave them insight on possible post-graduate options. “I’ve not decided whether or not I will apply for grad school or a job, but according to his talk it seems to be necessary to have a graduate degree in applied statistics or computer science if I want to work for a team or a company,” Ogasawara said. “I will definitely think about going to grad school if I decide to pursue a career as a statistician.”

Writers@Grinnell - Antonya Nelson

Antonya Nelson, the upcoming author in Writers@Grinnell will be on campus for two eventsAntonya Nelson on Thursday, October 29:

  • Reading at 8 p.m. in Rosenfield Center, Room 101
  • Roundtable at 4:15 p.m. in Rosenfield Center, Room 209

Antonya Nelson is the author of nine books of fiction (three novels and six collections of stories). Nelson's work has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, Harper's, Redbook, and in many other magazines, as well as in anthologies such as Prize Stories, the O. Henry Awards, and Best American Short Stories.

Her books have been New York Times Notable Books of 1992, 1996, 1998, and 2000; in 2000 Nelson was also named by The New Yorker as one of the "twenty young fiction writers for the new millennium." She is the recipient of the Rea Award for Short Fiction, a 2000-2001 NEA Grant, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Nelson also teaches creative writing in the Warren Wilson MFA program.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Rosenfield Center has accessible parking in the lot to the east. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations.