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Winners announced for 2011 Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize

Thursday, May. 5, 2011 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA -  

Grinnell College today named the winners of the first Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize: Boris Bulayev, president, and Eric Glustrom, executive director, Educate! (shared award); James Kofi Annan, executive director, Challenging Heights; and Rabbi Melissa Weintraub, co-founder and co-executive director, Encounter.

The Grinnell Prize, which received more than 1,000 nominations from 66 countries, honors individuals under the age of 40 who have demonstrated leadership in their fields and who show creativity, commitment and extraordinary accomplishment in effecting positive social change. Each winning entry receives $100,000, half to the individual(s) and half to an organization the winner(s) designates for a total of $300,000 awarded this year in prize monies. The inauguration of Grinnell College's 13th president Raynard S. Kington, M.D., Ph.D. marks a transition point for the college. The prize commemorates the occasion and celebrates Grinnell’s historical and future commitment to positive social change.

“The winners of the Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize are outstanding examples of people who saw a huge social need and then worked creatively to meet that need and make the world a better place,” Kington said. “Since its founding, Grinnell has encouraged students to use their knowledge and their abilities to serve the common good. Boris, Eric, James and Melissa exemplify this core Grinnellian value, and their stories and achievements will inspire students at Grinnell and around the world.”

The pool of nominees for the Grinnell Prize spanned a diverse array of social issues, including hunger relief, disaster relief and accountability, childhood education, economic development and the environment, literacy, community-produced news, youth arts, fair housing, violence prevention, immigration, GLBTQ, restorative justice, public access to healthcare delivery, children’s mental health, urban agriculture and global peace, among many others.

Details of Grinnell College Prize winners are as follows:

Glustrom started Educate! at the age of 17 after filming a refugee settlement in Uganda for a documentary. Bulayev became involved while both were attending Amherst College. Today, both have built Educate! to empower 1,400 youth across Uganda, where over half of the population is under the age of 15. Their organization provides social entrepreneurship training, long-term mentorship and access to capital to help youth create and lead solutions to poverty, disease, violence, environmental degradation and the highest youth unemployment rate in the world.

The government of Uganda recently asked Educate! to incorporate its social entrepreneurship course into the national education system. It will reach 45,000 youth annually and be the world’s first national social entrepreneurship curriculum.

A survivor of child trafficking, Annan established Challenging Heights to provide education and rehabilitation for children who have returned from slavery and horrific forms of child labor.

From the age of six to 13, he worked as a child fisherman in more than 20 villages before he finally escaped and returned to his home. At the time he could neither read nor write, but he befriended kindergartners so that he could use their schoolbooks and teach himself to read. He worked to feed himself and pay for school. Annan later rose to become a university graduate and manager at Barclays Bank of Ghana. In April 2007, he resigned from the bank to devote his full-time efforts to promote the mission of Challenging Heights – his multi-faceted approach includes addressing the root cause of child trafficking by providing education, health and advocacy programs for formerly enslaved and vulnerable children and their families.

Weintraub co-founded an organization training Jewish leadership to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by providing Jewish leaders with firsthand exposure to Palestinian narratives and realities on the ground. Encounter’s flagship program has brought more than 1,000 influential Jewish leaders on trips to Palestinian cities, representing the only significant non-military Jewish presence in Palestinian areas of the West Bank in the last decade. Encounter’s target audience—rising and prominent leaders, opinion-shapers and decision-makers—have wide-ranging constituencies, and therefore access to hundreds of thousands of hearts and minds. Melissa’s bold, transformative approach stresses civil discourse across political divides within the Jewish community, attracting "unusual suspects," supporting influential leaders on the right and left to gain a more nuanced understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and accordingly, to reshape their funding priorities, advocacy efforts, and policy decision-making.

On October 26 and 27, 2011, the winners will visit the campus to participate in the Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize Symposium and awards ceremony. Through public lectures and interactions with students, they will share their experiences and perspectives in shaping innovative programs that effect positive social change. In addition, Morris Dees, the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center and noted civil rights lawyer, will be the keynote speaker at the symposium.

Grinnell College is a nationally recognized, private, four-year, liberal arts college located in Grinnell, Iowa. Founded in 1846, Grinnell enrolls 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries in more than 26 major fields, interdisciplinary concentrations and pre-professional programs.

Three seniors win competitive Watson Fellowships

Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2011 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA -  

Three Grinnell College students have been awarded prestigious Watson Fellowships for one year of independent study and travel abroad.

The three Grinnell seniors were among only 40 students from 23 colleges nationwide to receive the $25,000 fellowships from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation: Natalie Ngoc Truong, a political science and English double major from Davenport, Ia.; Alex Reich, a biology major from Mahtomedi, Minn.; and Courtney Sheehan, an independent major in visual culture from Ohio.

The Watson Fellowship Program offers college graduates of unusual promise a year of independent exploration and travel outside of the U.S. to foster effective participation in the world community. Since 2000, 17 Grinnell students have won Watson Fellowships; not since 1991 have three Grinnell seniors won in one year.

Natalie Truong

Truong plans to study speechwriting in the governments of India, South Africa, Vietnam, and Australia, comparing how politicians in each country advance their political goals and help construct their nation’s images through words. “With the Watson, I want to explore how politicians in democracies and non-democracies use symbolic language in speeches to reinforce values and power,” Truong said. “I will study in countries with stark current issues, cultural beliefs, and nationalistic tendencies and see how they relate to the context, appeal, and style of speeches given in those societies.”

Truong has written for several of Iowa’s politicians and assisted with speechwriting in the Office of First Lady Michelle Obama last summer. Her other Grinnell activities include political organizing in Iowa’s Asian American communities.

Alex Reich

Reich will use the Watson Fellowship to work with environmental research and cultural organizations in Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Greenland, and Russia. “I am eager to gain insights into the impact of climate change on traditional food systems,” Reich said, “so I will assist scientists as well as community activism groups in the Arctic with indigenous health initiatives and food security projects.”

As a Grinnell student, Reich co-founded EcoHouse, a sustainable living student residence; coordinated a local foods effort and community garden; and participated in cross country and track. He plans to work in science policy to promote effective social solutions to environmental issues.

Courtney Sheehan

Sheehan plans to use the Watson Fellowship to study the politics of film festivals in Croatia, India, Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the Netherlands. At Grinnell, Sheehan has been heavily involved in programming for the campus films committee, filmmaking camps for children, and reviewing films for the student newspaper. She also completed internships with the Boston Jewish Film Festival, the Children’s Film Festival in Seattle, and a film magazine.

“My Watson project stems from my constant desire to approach film from new angles and directions,” Sheehan said. “The film festivals in each country represent distinctive political contexts, and I will draw on my past experience with festivals in the U.S. to volunteer at these international festivals.”

Grinnell College is a nationally recognized, private, four year, liberal arts college located in Grinnell, Iowa. Founded in 1846, Grinnell enrolls 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries in more than 26 major fields, interdisciplinary concentrations, and pre-professional programs.

Former White House correspondent on campus week of May 2

Tuesday, Apr. 19, 2011 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA -  

Former White House correspondent Richard Benedetto will talk about his political journalism career while on the Grinnell College campus during the week of May 2 as part of the Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellows program. Benedetto will visit English, political science and history classes throughout the week, have informal meetings with students, and give two free public lectures.

• Mon., May 2, 7:30 p.m.: Benedetto will discuss “What It’s Like to Cover the White House,” based on his 40-year career.

• Tues., May 3, 4:15 p.m.: Benedetto will offer his perspectives on “Political Coverage: Who Are the Media Talking To, Voters or Themselves?”

Both lectures will be held in Room 101 of the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center on the Grinnell campus.

Benedetto was a founding staff member of USA Today and wrote the paper’s first cover story. In addition to reporting on the White House and national politics, he wrote a weekly political column for the Gannett News Service, covering every presidential campaign from 1984-2004. Retired since 2006, he continues his involvement in journalism as a consultant for C-Span and as an adjunct faculty member at American University’s School of Public Affairs.

The Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellows Program brings to campus prominent artists, diplomats, journalists, and business leaders to make connections between the academic and non-academic worlds. Benedetto’s Grinnell lectures are sponsored by the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights. For more information about the program, contact Sarah Purcell, director,, 641-269-3091. Grinnell welcomes the participation of people with disabilities. If accommodations are needed, please contact641-269-3235 as soon as possible to make a request.


Libraries' ceremony to celebrate American Library Association award for services and leadership

Friday, Apr. 15, 2011 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA -  

The Grinnell College Libraries will celebrate the Excellence in Academic Libraries Award received earlier this year during an outdoor ceremony on Fri., Apr. 29. Representatives of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL); Grinnell College President Raynard S. Kington, M.D., Ph.D.; Dean of the College Paula Smith; and Librarian of the College Richard Fyffe will make brief remarks, and a plaque and $3000 cash award from the ACRL will be formally presented.

In January, the American Library Association (ALA) acknowledged the “outstanding services, programs and leadership” provided to Grinnell College students, faculty and community by the staff and collections of Burling Library, the main campus library; the Kistle Science Library; and the curriculum library. The award cited the Grinnell libraries’ student mentoring and information literacy programs, and the “continuous effort to improve, adapt, reshape and respond to new expectations.”

The award ceremony, which is open to the public, will be held at 11 a.m., north of Burling Library, which is located at 1111 6th Ave. Limited parking is available on the east side of the library. The rain location for the ceremony is Main Hall Lounge, 1221 6th Ave.

More information about Grinnell College library services is available from the Grinnell website at, where the ALA application is also available.

Grinnell College is a nationally recognized, private, four year, liberal arts college located in Grinnell, Iowa. Founded in 1846, Grinnell enrolls 1,600 students from all 50 states and from as many international countries in more than 26 major fields, interdisciplinary concentrations, and pre-professional programs.

Archaeologist to present annual McKibben Lecture Apr. 21

Wednesday, Apr. 13, 2011 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA - Archaeologist Brian Rose will deliver the sixth annual McKibben Lecture on “Assessing the Archaeological Evidence for the Trojan War: Recent Excavations at Troy,” Thurs., Apr. 21 at 7:30 p.m. in Room 101 of the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center on the Grinnell College campus.

Rose, who is James B. Pritchard Professor of Archaeology at the University of Pennsylvania, has recently been involved in educating American troops about the cultural heritage of Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been head of post-Bronze Age excavations at Troy since 1988 and is the English language editor of “Studia Troica,” the annual journal of the Troy excavations. Rose is also curator-in-charge of the Mediterranean section at the university’s museum, immediate past president of the Archaeological Institute of America, and a trustee of the American Academy in Rome.

The annual McKibben Lecture in the Department of Classics is endowed in honor of Bill and Betty McKibben, who together served for more than 50 years as teachers and scholars of classics at Grinnell College. The lecture is free and open to the public. The Rosenfield Center is located at 1115 8th Ave. on the Grinnell campus.

Guest conductor in residence with Grinnell Singers; concert Apr. 17

Wednesday, Apr. 13, 2011 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA -  

Guest conductor Simon Carrington will be in residence at Grinnell College, Apr. 10-17, and will direct The Grinnell Singers on Sun., Apr. 17 at 2 p.m. in Sebring-Lewis Hall on the Grinnell College campus.

Carrington will conduct the Grinnell Singers in a program that includes distinctive choral selections from the 16th to the 21st century. The concert also includes selections by Professor of Music John Rommereim, who directs the choir; Tarik O'Regan; and Arvo Pärt, as well as folk song arrangements by Zentner, Rubtsov, and Carrington. Choir members and student conductors Mark Mercier '11, Sarah Goff '11, and Kathleen Murphy-Geiss '11 will be conducting selections on the program. The Singers recently completed a spring break tour in Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas with performances in Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Austin, and Houston.

Carrington has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in music, performing as singer, double bass player and conductor, first in the U.K. where he was born, and later in the U.S. From 2003 to 2009, he was professor of choral conducting at Yale University and director of the Yale Schola Cantorum, a 24-voice chamber choir that he has brought to international prominence. Now a Yale professor emeritus, he maintains an active schedule as a freelance conductor and choral clinician, leading workshops and master classes around the world. This season he has conducting engagements in England, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Japan, South America, and New Zealand, as well as concerts and recordings with his own ensemble, the Simon Carrington Chamber Singers.

Copyright expert Jane Ginsburg to deliver Phi Beta Kappa lecture Apr. 21

Thursday, Apr. 7, 2011 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA -  

Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Jane Ginsburg will deliver a Scholars’ Convocation lecture on “The Author’s Place in the Future of Copyright,” Thurs., Apr. 21 at 11 a.m. in Herrick Chapel on the Grinnell College campus.

A recognized copyright expert, Ginsburg is the Morton L. Janklow Professor of Literary and Artistic Property Law at Columbia University, where she also directs the university’s Kernochan Center for Law, Media, and the Arts. She has co-authored and edited established texts on international copyright, trademarks and brands, intellectual property, and copyright and piracy. Her legal background extends from family lineage as the daughter of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the late Martin Ginsburg, international tax expert, both of whom also served as members of the Columbia law faculty.

The Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program makes available distinguished scholars to the 100 colleges and universities with chapters of the honorary society to contribute to the intellectual life and idea exchange among the lecturers, students, faculty, and staff.

Newly elected members of Grinnell's Phi Beta Kappa chapter, Beta of Iowa, will be recognized at the lecture, as well as the winner of the annual Joseph F. Wall Scholar's Award competition.

Ginsburg’s lecture, which is free and open to the public, is part of the college’s ongoing Scholars’ Convocation series. Herrick Chapel is located at 1128 Park St. Grinnell welcomes the participation of people with disabilities. If accommodations are needed, please call 641-269-3235 as soon as possible to make a request.

Pulitzer poet Yusef Komunyakaa to deliver final Scholars' Convocation

Thursday, Mar. 31, 2011 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA -  

Writers@Grinnell will welcome three interdisciplinary and intercultural writers during April readings on the Grinnell College campus.

On Apr. 7, Russian poet Ilya Kaminsky and novelist Gary Shteyngart will read from their published works during interdisciplinary events in Faulconer Gallery in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.

Kaminsky, who will read at 4:15 p.m., is the author of “Dancing In Odessa” which was recognized by the American Academy of Arts and Letters and Poetry and ForeWord magazines. Last year he published an anthology of 20th century poetry in translation, and in 2009, poems from his manuscript “Deaf Republic,” were awarded Poetry magazine’s Levinson Prize.

Shteyngart, who will read at 8 p.m., was named one of The New Yorker magazine’s “20 under 40” luminary fiction writers in 2010. His novels, including “Absurdistan” and “The Russian Debutante’s Handbook,” have received high praise from The Guardian, New York Times Book Review, Time, and the Washington Post. Both events are co-sponsored by the Department of Russian.

Writers@Grinnell will sponsor an Apr. 28 Scholars’ Convocation by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa, whose poetry first received attention in 1984 for use of colloquial speech with jazz influences. Komunyakaa earned a Bronze Star from service in Vietnam, and his writing about the war has been cited among the best of the genre. His convocation reading will be at 11 a.m. in Room 101 of the Joe Rosenfield ‘25 Center on the Grinnell campus.

On May 12, Writers@Grinnell will also host a reading by student writers for The Grinnell Review, the college’s literary journal, at 8 p.m. in Room 101 of the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center.

Works by the authors are available from the Pioneer Bookshop in downtown Grinnell. The college welcomes the participation of people with disabilities. If accommodations are needed, please call 641-269-3235 as soon as possible to make a request.


Arabic virtuoso Simon Shaheen in concert Apr. 12

Wednesday, Mar. 30, 2011 12:00 am

Grinnell, IA - Arabic virtuoso Simon Shaheen will lead an instrumental quartet in performance at Grinnell College on Tues., Apr. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in Sebring-Lewis Hall of the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.

Shaheen, who is considered one of the most significant contemporary Arab musicians, entertains listeners with “soaring technique, melodic ingenuity and unparalleled grace” on the violin and oud, a stringed instrument commonly used in North Africa. His music ranges from jazz to Western classical styles with strong Arabic influence. For the past six years, Shaheen has focused his energies on his band Qantara which has been nominated for more than a dozen Grammys. He is currently on an international tour with a quartet of members of Qantara.

Tickets are required for this free public performance and may be obtained at the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts box office, beginning Thurs., Apr. 7, noon-5 p.m. Limited tickets are also available from the Pioneer Bookshop in downtown Grinnell. For ticket questions, call 641-269-3101 or go to

Shaheen’s appearance at Grinnell is sponsored by the college’s Public Events Committee. The Bucksbaum Center for the Arts is located at 1108 Park St. Grinnell welcomes the participation of people with disabilities. If accommodations are needed, please contact the event’s sponsoring organization as soon as possible to make a request.



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