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A Pioneering Spirit

It’s not often that you get the chance to create a career for yourself that’s never existed before. Many graduates have planned their college years around jobs they want to have in the future, but for Hilary Mason ’00, carving out a place in an existing field just didn’t cut it.

A pioneer of the growing data science movement, Mason has combined her computer science background with statistics, engineering, and technology to make sense of the massive amounts of data that pile up in businesses and other enterprises.

“It’s a very rare thing to have the chance to be at the leading edge of something that has become a fairly significant movement,” Mason says. “It’s been really interesting to see it evolve.”

After working as the chief scientist at bitly.com, a well-known URL-shortening service, Mason has quickly become the face of data science. She’s been interviewed for Fortune Magazine and NPR’s Science Friday, and even cofounded a nonprofit called HackNY that connects hacking students with startup companies in New York City.

In 2014, Mason finally decided to take a leap and start her own business called Fast Forward Labs. She and her team analyze large amounts of data from their client businesses and develop prototypes for innovative technological products. The goal is to inspire their clients and show them what kinds of options are available to them.

“I saw an opportunity to add value by providing expertise to people building real products around data technology,” says Mason. “It’s a win for all, because we’re working on the most interesting technology that we can come up with at any given time!” A recent prototype they created was a program that identifies and categorizes users’ Instagram photos to provide more information about their interests.

For Mason, the Grinnellian spirit of combining multiple disciplines and thinking critically about the world we live in helped her to be a leader the field of data science. “Grinnell teaches you to think critically, communicate well, and analyze the world,” Mason says. “It’s an excellent grounding for entrepreneurship. Being able to think in that way is really helpful no matter what you end up doing.”

At Grinnell, students take classes in a wide variety of disciplines rather than just sticking within their majors. This makes them the perfect candidates for a world where thinking innovatively and combining multiple fields of knowledge is the hallmark of many of the most interesting jobs out there.

Goldstein Earns Academic All-America Honors

Grinnell College’s Daniel Goldstein ’16 joined elite company Tuesday when he became the 24th Pioneer in history to earn Academic All-America recognition.

Goldstein made the At-Large Team after enjoying a stellar diving and scholastic career at Grinnell.

The team is chosen by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA), The At-Large category covers 16 sports, including Grinnell’s offerings of men’s and women’s swimming and diving, golf, and tennis.

Goldstein, a computer science/mathematics major from Ann Arbor, Mich., qualified for the NCAA Division III National Championships for the third year in a row this season. He earned honorable mention All-America honors twice.

A three-time Midwest Conference Diver of the Year, he won five league titles in his career and owns school and MWC records in 1-meter diving for 11 dives (score of 529.45), 1-meter diving for six dives (333.55) and 3-meter diving for six dives (335.90).

Goldstein three times earned Academic All-District recognition and in 2016 collected Grinnell’s Morgan Taylor ’26 Award for outstanding senior athlete.

Slavic Coffeehouse and Maslenitsa

Two students joke around while serving the long line of patrons at the Slavic coffee houseA longstanding tradition in the Russian department, our annual Slavic Coffeehouse and Maslenitsa this year was a tremendous success, thanks to the leadership of Russian House and our Russian majors, as well as all of our Slavic and Russian-speaking international students.

A huge crowd of students, faculty, staff, and community members enjoyed Russian favorites like bliny, borscht, and pirozhki, as well as Czech, Polish, Serb, and Uzbek dishes, all prepared by students.

Maslenitsa, a traditional Orthodox holiday, is Russia’s version of Mardi Gras, during which we customarily burn a chuchelo (scarecrow) of winter. This year’s fire was spectacular, with flames leaping high against a dark blue sky. Charlie Eddy ’16 treated us to a rendition of Russian bard Vladimir Vysotsky’s “Он не вернулся из боя” [“He didn't return from battle”].

Woman licks finger while holding plateful of foodThe Slavic Coffeehouse and Maslenitsa were held in Bucksbaum Center for the Arts this year, where guests enjoyed the wonderful exhibit in Falconer Gallery, “Siberia: In the Eyes of Russian Photographers.”

This event was part of our exciting extracurricular programming in the department, which also included a visit by Eric Greene ‘85, director of the Office of Russian Affairs in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, and former Russian ambassador John Byerle, as well as a book talk by Anya Von Bremzen, author of Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, a Memoir of Food and Longing

All photos courtesy of Michaela (Misha) Gelnarova ’18.

Webster Earns Goldwater Honorable Mention

Lillian Webster ’17Lillian Webster ’17 has received an honorable mention from the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. Majoring in mathematics and statistics, Webster is one of 256 honorable mentions, chosen from 1,150 applicants nationwide.

For her application, Webster, a resident of University City, Missouri, submitted a paper titled "Subword Complexes in Coexeter Groups." Last summer, she completed a Research Experience for Undergraduates focusing on algebraic combinatorics at the University of Minnesota, and her research resulted in a talk at the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics in January 2016.

"Lillian has amazing creative insight, and is equally adept at working with both abstract concepts and detailed technical arguments," said Joseph Mileti, associate professor of mathematics at Grinnell. "She also communicates her ideas with a clarity and elegance rivaling most graduate students."

An active member of the Grinnell community, Webster is also a student in the Grinnell Careers in Education Professions Program. She has stage managed several productions for Dance Ensemble/ACTivate, including "Snow White Retracted" and "Once Upon a Time Splintered." In addition, she is a mentor for advanced mathematics courses. Webster spent the fall 2015 semester in Hungary as a participant in the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program.

After graduating from Grinnell in May 2017, Webster plans to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics, focusing on either algebra or combinatorics, and go on to teach at a college or university.

Congress established the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Program to encourage excellence in science and mathematics for American undergraduate students with excellent academic records and outstanding potential. Winners receive up to $7,500 toward tuition and other expenses for the academic year. Grinnell College students are frequent recipients of Goldwater honors, with six students being named Goldwater Scholars and six students receiving honorable mentions since 2010.

Last Make/Shift Exhibition for Spring 2016

Grinnell College studio art students will present their art and give short artist talks at free, public events throughout May in the Make/Shift Space at 928 Main St., Grinnell.

The exhibition "Formulations," which includes new artwork from Grinnell College studio art classes, will open at 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 11, in the Make/Shift Space. It will feature works in various mediums, including collages, 3D printing objects, drawings, sculptures, and more:

  • Color Construction by Introduction to the Studio students and new work by Print Media students, taught by Matthew Kluber, associate professor of art
  • Collages from Mixing Forms, taught by Andrew Kaufman, associate professor of art
  • 3D Printing Objects from Introduction to Sculpture, taught by Jeremy Chen, assistant professor of art
  • Drawings from Introduction to Drawing, taught by Chen

Also on May 11 — the opening day of "Formulations " — the Make/Shift Space will host "140 Seconds," featuring 13 fast-paced artist talks, starting at 7 p.m. Grinnell College students enrolled in a site-specific studio art seminar taught by Associate Professor of Art Lee Emma Running will each give a 140-second artist talk accompanied by six images of their choice.

The last Make/Shift Space exhibition of the semester, "Beautiful Sunset," will open from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 19. The exhibition will feature artwork by graduating seniors. The range of work includes painting, drawing, print media, sculpture, installation, video, and performance. Most of these works will be on display through Tuesday, May 24.

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

Advocating for Men’s Health

While life events have helped Ryan Brown ’16 shape his aspirations, he has largely carved out his own path toward fulfilling them.

“My dad is a pediatrician, so I was raised thinking I was going to be a doctor one day,” Brown says. “I didn’t really know where I wanted to go with that until my mom got breast cancer and I realized I really wanted to do something about it.”

Originally recruited from the Chicago area to play baseball for Grinnell, Brown is a biological chemistry major who’s become intensely focused on oncological research. He has spent the past three summers interning at University of Chicago research labs that deal primarily with late-stage prostate cancers.

“More specifically, cancers that don’t respond to the normal androgen deprivation therapies,” Brown says. “Our lab works with different genetic manipulation approaches to establish models for various stages of prostate cancer progression.” 

Motivated by Coach

Thankfully, Brown’s mother is a success story. Brown’s inspiration to study men’s cancers came from another survivor — Grinnell pitching coach Casey O’Rourke (2008-2013). An all-conference phenom in his first year at the University of Iowa, O’Rourke was sidelined as a sophomore by testicular cancer.

“[O’Rourke] kind of refined my interests into men’s cancers and testicular cancer,” Brown says. “After working with him in my first year I had this motivation to work with male cancers. I just cast the net out to cancer labs that were close by me and the prostate lab was one of them.”

Early Lab Experience

Brown’s efforts to secure an internship were entirely self-directed. He sold himself as a candidate for an unpaid internship in his first summer, and he returned in a paid capacity after his second-year science classes provided the requisite knowledge.

“My first summer in the lab I really knew nothing about biology and it was pretty difficult to catch up on what everyone else knew,” Brown says. “After my second year I came back and everything made sense.”

Brown also successfully advocated for two other Grinnell students, Matt Godinsky ’16 and Shane Comiskey ’18, to work in the lab — one in each of two consecutive summers.

Creating Awareness

Last November, Brown organized a group of 20 Grinnell students and staff to join with the lab’s Moustaches in Movember team in raising funds for men’s health issues through the Movember Foundation. Grinnell’s contingent raised $1,751 of the lab’s total of $6,816.

“It’s an awareness-type thing,” Brown says. “You see a guy with a ridiculous moustache and people are likely to say, ‘Hey, what’s up with that?’ You say, ‘Sorry, I look like an idiot, but it’s for a good cause. I’m raising money for men’s health issues through Movember.’ It’s awesome. It opens conversations.”

A Better Understanding

After graduation, Brown will be working full time in the lab where he’s interned the past three summers, driving his own projects and working to publish them. He says he’ll concentrate on research for a couple of years before applying to medical school.

“I want to be a translational physician scientist,” Brown says. “A physician who’s able to translate work between the lab and exam room gains a much better understanding of what their patients experience, as well as issues that interfere with treatment.”

Ryan Brown ’16, from Chicago, Ill., is a biological chemistry major with a concentration in neuroscience.

Hands-on Liberal Arts

Providing students with hands-on experience in a way that impacts the local community may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of anthropology, but that’s exactly what Monty Roper’s Applied Anthropology course is all about. “Anthropology is applied across a huge range of different professions, in the business world, in the NGO world, in development and health,” says Roper, associate professor of anthropology and Donald Wilson Professor of Enterprise and Leadership.

Sarah Henderson ’16 and Liz Nelson ’17 decided to tackle the project proposed by the Grinnell Historical Museum — increasing attendance, which has been decreasing in recent years. Museum board members asked Henderson and Nelson to research why people weren’t using the museum and what could be done to get more people in the door.

Understanding the Community

Henderson and Nelson conducted interviews with community members who have extensive knowledge of museums. They also conducted random interviews with townspeople and Grinnell students on the street and in the local coffee shop to find out what could be done to attract more people to the museum.

“The experience taught me a lot of practical skills about how to approach people I didn’t know, which I was nervous about at first,” Nelson says. “I feel more confident approaching someone about my research, and we ended up having some really great conversations and learning a lot.”

Henderson, who has been interested in museums for much of her time at Grinnell, relished the opportunity to learn to apply what she’s learned in class to an organization in the community.  “Actually getting to work on a real project for real people has been incredible. I care about it a lot because it feels like something meaningful and real is going to be done based on our work,” says Henderson

Solving the Problem

After a semester of research, Henderson and Nelson wrote a final report with recommendations for the museum, which they presented to the board of directors. “The board was extremely receptive and is moving forward with several of our suggestions,” says Henderson.

One of those suggestions was incorporating a student intern at the museum during the school year to establish a better connection between the museum and the College. The museum has hired several to begin work this summer.

Putting New Skills to Good Use

But the museum wasn’t the only party to benefit from this research experience. In an interview for a graduate school program in museum administration, Henderson was able to talk about the project and what it taught her about the possibility of starting a museum consulting business. “The director was thrilled, and I actually got accepted into that program later that week,” says Henderson.

Nelson adds, “This practicing anthropology class has been my favorite anthropology course, because you always read about theories and ethnographies, but actually getting to do something with that knowledge is so much fun!”

 “It all comes back to the same set of skills that anthropologists employ,” Roper says. “Learning that by doing a project of your own in the community really shows students how to apply those abilities creatively.”

Sarah Henderson ’16 is an anthropology/art history double major from Wilton, Iowa.

Liz Nelson ’17 is an anthropology major from Grinnell, Iowa.

Film Screening: Called to Walls

Dave Loewenstein ’88 is returning to campus — along with co-directors Nick Ward and Amber Hansen — for a panel discussion and film screening of Called to Walls. The free, public event will begin at 7 p.m. Friday, May 6, in ARH Auditorium, Room 302.

Called to Walls is "part road-movie, part inspirational small town drama, and part art documentary" that chronicles the making of giant murals in the city cores of places like Newton and Joplin, Mo.

For Loewenstein, there’s more to creating a mural than just painting the side of a building. He designs political activism prints and specializes in community-based collaborative public art projects. He’s worked on murals all over the United States, including Grinnell, as well as in Korea, Northern Ireland, and Brazil. In his experience, making a piece of public art has encouraged conversations (and offers of help) from passers-by, resulting in what he calls an “improvised gathering space.”

The events are sponsored by Alumni in the Classroom and Artists@Grinnell.

Dave Loewenstein ’88

Dave LoewensteinDave Loewenstein is a muralist, writer, and printmaker based in Lawrence, Kansas. In addition to his more than twenty public works in Kansas, examples of his dynamic and richly colored community-based murals can be found across the United States in Missouri, Oklahoma, Arizona, Arkansas, Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi, Iowa, Chicago, New Orleans, and New York City, and in Northern Ireland and South Korea.

Loewenstein’s prints, which focus on current social and political issues, are exhibited nationally and are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Yale University,  and the Center for the Study of Political Graphics in Los Angeles. He is the co-author of Kansas Murals: A Traveler’s Guide, a 2007 Kansas Notable Book Award Winner, published by the University Press of Kansas; and the co-director of the documentary film Creating Counterparts which won Best Documentary at the 2003 Kansas Filmmakers Jubilee.

Loewenstein has been recognized widely for his work, including the 2001 Lighton Prize for Arts Educator of the Year from Kansas City Young Audiences, the 2004 Tom and Anne Moore Peace and Justice Award given by the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice, a 2006 Phoenix Award from the Lawrence Arts Commission, a 2007 Kansas Press Association 1st Place Columnist Award for his column “Blank Canvas,” and in 2014 he was named one of the founding Cultural Agents for the new U.S. Department of Arts and Culture. His most recent studio project is Give Take Give, funded by the Rocket Grants program.

Dutch Global Horizons and Phi Beta Kappa

Larry SilverLarry Silver, Farquhar Professor of Art History at the University of Pennsylvania, will present a Scholars' Convocation, "Dutch Global Horizons," at 11 a.m. Thursday, April 28, in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101. The event is free and open to the public.

Silver's presentation is part of Grinnell's Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program. New members of Phi Beta Kappa will be announced at the beginning of the convocation.

Silver describes his presentation as an exploration of the imagery of the seaborne empire of the Netherlands during the Golden Age of the 17th century, when Dutch ships plied the oceans and established commercial and political links with bold Old World Asia and New World Latin America. He also notes that images of India and East Asia, as well as the short-lived Dutch colony in Brazil, permitted armchair travelers in Amsterdam to experience the globe as never before.

Silver, who received his bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and his master's and doctoral degrees from Harvard University, is a specialist in painting and graphics of Northern Europe. He focuses primarily on works produced in Germany and the Netherlands during the era of Renaissance and Reformation. He has served as president of the College Art Association and the Historians of Netherlandish Art. He recently was honored with the University of Pennsylvania’s Lindback Award for Teaching Excellence. 

His publications include Rubens, Velázquez, and the King of Spain, Rembrandt’s Faith, Peasant Scenes and Landscapes, Hieronymus Bosch and a general survey, Art in History. He has organized a number of print exhibitions, among them Grand Scale: Monumental Prints in the Age of Dürer and Titian and Graven Images, dealing with professional engravers of the 16th-century Netherlands.

Grinnell College welcomes the participation of people with disabilities. Room 101 in the Rosenfield Center is equipped with an induction hearing loop system, which enables individuals with hearing aids set to T-Coil to hear the program. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations and Events.

Alternative Universities as Sites of Creativity

Artists from the Bruce High Quality Foundation University (BHQFU) and Vincent Katz, a professor of art at Yale University, will give talks on alternative universities as sites of creativity on Wednesday, April 20, at Grinnell College.

The free and public talks will take place at 7:30 p.m. Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101.

Earlier that day, the founders of BHQFU will hold a workshop, “B.Y.O.U.: Build Your Own University,” in the Masonic Temple downtown, 928 Main St., Grinnell. The workshop on teaching and learning will take place from 1-3 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

The founders of BHQFU will “How to Die an Artist: Resistance and Futility.” BHQFU, founded in 2009, is New York’s Freest Art School. It provides tuition-free classes, residencies, workshops, exhibitions and public programs to a community of thousands of New Yorkers. The school is an alternative to contemporary art schools that emphasize professionalization.

A professor at the Yale University of Art, Katz will discuss “Black Mountain College: Finding the Center in the Remote.” His lecture will cover the pedagogy of Black Mountain College in terms of its location and locus, especially as related to the college’s later years. He also will discuss Black Mountain’s relevance today, as a model, and also consider parallels to modern, remotely-operated web-based experience of culture.

Katz is a celebrated poet, critic, translator, editor and curator. His criticism has been published in numerous books, catalogs, and journals, including in Apollo, Art in America, ARTnews and Art on Paper, among others. He is also the author of The Complete Elegies Of Sextus Propertius, winner of the National Translation Award in 2005.  

He has curated several celebrated exhibitions, including an exhibition on Black Mountain College for the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid, and Street Dance: The New York Photographs of Rudy Burckhardt for the Museum of the City of New York.

The Center for Humanities is sponsoring these events as part of this year's theme: Sites of Creativity: Streets, Salons, Studios, and Schools.