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MacArthur 'Genius Grant' Winner to Speak

Alison Bechdel, a noted cartoonist and graphic memoirist, will deliver the Scholars' Convocation at noon Wednesday, April 8, in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101. The lecture is free and open to the public with a free pizza lunch provided.

Bechdel is best known for her long-running comic strip, "Dykes to Watch Out For," which realistically captured lives of women in the lesbian community. Her comic strip is the origin of the well-known "Bechdel test," which asks if a film featuring two female characters has those characters talk to each other about something other than a man.​​

In recent years, Bechdel has penned several graphic memoirs, including "Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic" and "Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama." Her work, which is striking for its conceptual depth and incisive use of allusion, has earned her a devoted and varied following. In 2014, Bechdel earned a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, also known as a "Genius Grant." Bechdel's visit is sponsored in large part by Writers@Grinnell, who is also sponsoring a round table with Bechdel at 4:15 p.m. the same day in Rosenfield Center Room 209.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. The Joe Rosenfield '25 Center has accessible parking in the lot on the east side of the building. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations.

Writers@Grinnell: Kevin Gonzalez

Kevin GonzalezAuthor Kevin Gonzalez will present at 4:15 p.m. Monday, April 6, in the Kallaus Lecture Hall, ARH Room 102.

Kevin A. Gonzalez was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and holds MFA degrees from the University of Wisconsin (in poetry) and the Iowa Writers' Workshop (in fiction). He's the author of a collection of poems, Cultural Studies, and the co-editor of The New Census: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry. His fiction has been awarded the Narrative Prize, the Playboy Fiction Prize, and the Michener-Copernicus Award, and his stories have appeared in Playboy, Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, Narrative Magazine, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and Best New American Voices.  He edits the literary magazine jubilat and teaches at Carnegie Mellon University.

Student Research Symposium

The Dean's Office and the Center for the Humanities are pleased to announce the Student Research Symposium, April 6–9, 2015.

Selected students across all divisions will present a selection of their disciplinary or inter-disciplinary research papers, creative performances, and art projects.

National Public Radio Science Correspondent Joe Palca will present the keynote address, “A Good Idea is a Good Idea: Advanced Degree Not Required” on April 7.


Monday, April 6

Noon, Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Room 152
“Art in the Public Sphere”
Meredith Kalkbrenner ’15, Eden Marek ’15, Sara Ramey ’15, Anthony Wenndt ’15
Noon, Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101
“Policy and Progress”
Lilianna Bagnoli ’15, James Dowell ’15, Margaret Schmitt ’15
7:30 p.m., Roberts Theatre, Bucksbaum Center for the Arts
Performance: “The Liberal Arts in Performance”
Cristal Coleman ’15, Erica Kwiatkowski ’15, Sophiyaa Nayar ’17

Tuesday, April 7

Noon, Rosenfield Center, Room 101
“Quantitative Approaches to Self and Society”
Elizabeth Eason ’17, Gwendolyn Ihrie ’15, Isaiah Tyree ’15
Noon, ARH 102
“Self, Subject, and Community”
Briona Butler ’15, Amulya Gyawali ’15, Strahinja Matejic ’17
7:30 p.m., Sebring-Lewis Hall, Bucksbaum Center for the Arts
Keynote: “A Good Idea is a Good Idea: Advanced Degree Not Required”
Joe Palca, NPR Science Correspondent

Wednesday, April 8

4:15 p.m., Rosenfield Center, Room 101
“Visualizing Bodies in Film and Art”
Xena Fitzgerald ’17, Eliza Harrison ’16, Michelle Risacher ’17
4:15 p.m., ARH 102
“Theory and Social Praxis”
Chris Hellmann ’16, Violeta Ruiz Espigares ’15, Kenneth Wee ’16

Thursday, April 9

Noon, Rosenfield Center, Room 101
“Sexual Politics at Home and Abroad”
Hannah Kelley ’16, Krit Petrachaianan ’17, Scott Olson ’15

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

TEDxGrinnell ‘Speak Out!’

A sold-out TEDxGrinnell conference featuring seven notable Grinnell College alumni will be available for the public on Saturday, Feb. 21 through live streaming from 1 to 5 p.m. Central time.

Talks will address a variety of issues on the theme “Speak Out!” from children learning to speak to speaking out against injustice.

Presenters include:

  • Wadzi Motsi ’12, an analyst at Clinton Health Access Initiative in Zimbabwe;
  • Joshua Tepfer ’97, an assistant clinical professor at Northwestern University School of Law and co-director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth;
  • April Dobbins ’99, filmmaker and recipient of the S. J. Weiler Fund Award.

TEDx conferences, which are self-organized events operating under license from TED, are local events that bring people together to share "ideas worth spreading." The conferences emulate the TED conference, an annual gathering of leaders in technology, entertainment, and design.

Grinnell College and the Donald L. Wilson Program in Enterprise and Leadership are sponsoring TEDxGrinnell.

“TEDx is not a place for people to learn everything there is to know about physics or art history,” said Meghna Ravishankar ’17, organizer of TEDxGrinnell. “It’s a place for self-discovery and curiosity, encouraging people to challenge preconceived notions and push themselves out of their intellectual comfort zones.”

About TEDx, x = independently organized event

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.

At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event.

The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. (Subject to certain rules and regulations.)

About TED

TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California 30 years ago, TED has grown to support its mission with multiple initiatives. The two annual TED Conferences invite the world's leading thinkers doers to speak for 18 minutes or less. Many of these talks are then made available, free, at TED.com.

TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Sal Khan and Daniel Kahneman.

The annual TED Conference takes place each spring in Vancouver, British Columbia, along with the TEDActive simulcast event in nearby Whistler. The annual TEDGlobal conference was held in October 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

TED's media initiatives include:

  • TED.com, where new TED Talks are posted daily;
  • the Open Translation Project, which provides subtitles and interactive transcripts as well as translations from volunteers worldwide;
  • and the educational initiative TED-Ed.

TED has established:

  • The annual TED Prize, where exceptional individuals with a wish to change the world get help translating their wishes into action;
  • TEDx, which supports individuals or groups in hosting local, self- organized TED-style events around the world; and
  • the TED Fellows program, helping innovators from around the globe to amplify the impact of their remarkable projects and activities.

Follow TED on Twitter or TED on Facebook.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration

In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Patricia Williams of Columbia Law School and Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic will come to Grinnell College for events on Jan. 19-20. All events are free and open to the public, and will take place in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.

Patricia WilliamsOn Monday, Jan. 19, Williams, James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia University and recipient of a 2000 MacArthur "genius grant," will give a "teach-in" on "Hoping Against Hopelessness: An Anatomy of Short Lives." The teach-in, an interactive mix of lecture and discussion, will start at 10:30 a.m. and resume at 1:30 p.m. after a break for lunch.

Ta-Nehisi CoatesOn Tuesday, Jan. 20 at 6 p.m., Coates, national correspondent for The Atlantic, will give a lecture titled "The Case for Reparations." Coates's June 2014 cover story of the same name, which focuses on race relations in America, set a record for number of downloads in a single day from The Atlantic's website.

"Fostering respectful interactions in a diverse community is a critical part of Grinnell's mission," says Poonam Arora, chief diversity officer and associate dean of Grinnell College. "It is an honor to welcome Mr. Coates and Professor Williams to Grinnell, and I look forward to hearing their words as we come together to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day."

Sponsors include the Office of Diversity and Inclusion; the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights; the Office of the President; the Peace and Conflict Studies Program; the Center for Religion, Spirituality, and Social Justice; the Student Government Association; the Office of the Dean; and the Center for the Humanities.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. The Joe Rosenfield '25 Center is located on Eighth Avenue, with accessible parking on the east side of the building. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. Accommodation requests may be made to Conference Operations at 641-269-3235 or calendar[at]grinnell[dot]edu.

Iraq’s Crossroads

Fighting in the Middle East continues to have broad implications for the rest of the world, according to a political analyst who studies the violent groups jockeying for control in Iraq.

Ahmed Ali ’08 will give the talk “Iraq’s Crossroads: ISIS and Political Challenges” at noon Tuesday, Nov. 18 in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 209. The talk will include a free lunch. No reservation is required.

Ali is a senior research analyst and Iraq team lead at the Institute for the Study of War. Ali has been researching Iraqi affairs for eight years, and he worked as an analyst on Middle Eastern Affairs at Georgetown University.

Ali shares his insights on the “most dangerous terrorist and military organization in the region and world.”

What does ISIS membership look like? What's its current connection with al Qaeda?

A: The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is now a multinational organization. It is primarily led by Iraqi members who attacked U.S. forces during their presence in Iraq. The presence of Iraqis in ISIS’ upper echelons includes the leader of the group, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, and high-ranking members of the ISIS senior leadership council. ISIS also has within its ranks foreign fighters who hail from Middle Eastern, European, and North American countries. ISIS is in a direct competition with al-Qaeda. ISIS conceives itself as the leader of the global Jihadist movement and Baghdadi promotes himself as a reincarnated leader of the Muslim world. ISIS vision, however, is not accepted by the majority of Muslims who view the organization as a brutal group that is intolerant of the social and ethnic diversity that dominates the Middle East.

What other political challenges does Iraq face?

A: Iraq’s challenges are military and political. Politically and socially, Iraq needs a major national reconciliation initiative. The different communities feel aggrieved by governmental behavior and policies throughout Iraq’s history. Therefore, there has to be a mechanism to address those historical grievances in order for the country to move forward. ISIS is a threat to all Iraqis and its defeat in Iraq can signal the beginning of a process that can bring the communities together under an inclusive government and system.

What are differences or similarities of the many groups fighting against ISIS in Iraq?

A: There is a civil war in Iraq. In this civil war, there are different groups fighting. ISIS is the major threat to Iraq given its regional and global ambitions and its indiscriminate use of violence. There are also other Iraqi Sunni insurgency groups that fight the Iraqi government that are either Islamist in nature or have ties to the Ba’ath Party that ruled Iraq for 35 years. But ISIS remains the most dominant anti-government force.

Additionally, there are Iraqi Shi’a militias that are backed by the Iranian government and are countering ISIS while concurrently carrying out sectarian attacks against Iraqi Sunni civilians in addition to conducting criminal activities.

For the Iraqi Kurds, the Peshmerga are a major force countering ISIS. The Peshmerga are trusted by the Iraqi Kurds and since June 2014 when Mosul fell, there has been increased acceptance of their role by the Iraqi Arabs and Iraqi Turkrmens in certain areas due to the ISIS threat. The Peshmerga will have to maintain that trust by performing well and treating the population fairly. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), which includes the army and police, are also very important players but they have to be rebuilt after years of mismanagement and challenges.

How many people have died in the violence so far?

A: It is clear that the last 11 years have witnessed continued violence touching every Iraqi family’s life and affecting many American families that have members serving in the U.S. military and other crucial U.S. government agencies.

What is ISIS' endgame?

A: ISIS wants to establish an Islamic state that is transnational and is the leader of the global Jihad. However, ISIS has always overplayed its hand and failed to garner public support. Therefore, the organization can be defeated.

What is the United States’ current anti-ISIS strategy?

A: The U.S. is a significant actor in the effort to counter ISIS. It can mobilize the international community and marshal unparalleled military assets. U.S. current strategy is based on militarily weakening ISIS while also encouraging the Iraqi government to be more inclusive.

The program is sponsored by the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights.

Author T. Geronimo Johnson Gives Reading

Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate T. Geronimo Johnson will give a reading as part of the Writers@Grinnell creative writing series.

Johnson will speak at 4:15 p.m. Friday, Nov. 14 in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101. This event is free and open to the public.

Johnson’s work has drawn widespread critical acclaim. Hold It ‘til It Hurts was praised as a “powerful, stylish debut novel” by Publishers Weekly and as “a novel that defies categorization” by the San Francisco Chronicle.

The novel examines two brothers who are black who return from war and learn their adoptive father who is white has died. The brothers are given details about their birth parents.

Johnson’s new novel, Welcome to Braggsville, follows four liberal arts students who attempt to stage a lynching during a Civil War reenactment. The book is scheduled for release Feb. 17, 2015.

Johnson is the director of the Summer Creative Writing Program at the University of California–Berkeley.

Future Writers@Grinnell events will feature novelist Nami Mun, poet Brian Turner, and Alison Bechdel, a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” recipient.


Change They Can’t Believe In

A political expert will discuss the Tea Party and reactionary politics on the heels of a highly charged and historic election season.

Chris Parker, associate professor and Stuart A. Scheingold professor of social justice and political science at the University of Washington, Seattle, will give the talk “Change They Can’t Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America.”

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will start at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 11, in the Alumni Recitation Hall, Room 302.

Change They Can't Believe In book cover“The political science department is thrilled that Chris is returning to Grinnell for this lecture,” says Barbara Trish, political science professor. “He taught at Grinnell about fifteen years ago, and was a popular faculty member whose courses tackled important ideas, drawing into the mix lively contemporary politics.”  

The lecture bears the same title as the book Parker wrote with Matt A. Barreto. Published by Princeton University Press, it won the 2014 Best Book Award from the Race, Ethnicity, and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association.

Parker analyzes the party’s motivations and the political implications. Parker and Barreto contend that the Tea Party is driven by the reemergence of a reactionary movement in American politics that is fueled by a fear that America has changed for the worse.

Providing a range of original evidence and rich portraits of party sympathizers as well as activists, the book shows that what actually motivates Tea Party supporters is not simple ideology or racism, but fear that the country is in danger because it’s being stolen from "real Americans" — a belief triggered by President Barack Obama’s election.

The event is part of the College’s Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights.



Writers@Grinnell: Jess Row

Jess RowAcclaimed writer Jess Row will give a reading as part of the Writers@Grinnell creative writing series.

The reading will be held at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5 in the Alumni Recitation Hall, Room 302. This event is free and open to the public.

A native of Washington, D.C., Row was named a 2007 Best of Young American Novelist by Granta and has received numerous awards for his work, including a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. The New York Times praised his first novel, Your Face in Mine, as “provocative and intriguing.”

The book investigates race and culture through “racial reassignment surgery.” Row’s Martin has the surgery to transform himself from white to African-American. An old classmate helps him navigate the change.

Row’s short stories have been widely published, including in Harvard Review, American Short Fiction, and The Atlantic. His criticism appears frequently in Boston Review and the New York Times Book Review.

Future events in this year’s series will feature playwright Dan O’Brien, Iowa Writers Workshop professor T. Geronimo Johnson, and Alison Bechdel, who recently received a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant.”

Writers@Grinnell brings to campus writers of all kinds: poets, novelists, memoirists, essayists, radio essayists, columnists, graphic memoirists, playwrights, and short story writers.

“Carmen” Live in HD

Watch the New York City’s Metropolitan Opera 2014–15 season “Live in HD” in the Harris Center Cinema.

Saturday, Nov. 1, see Georges Bizet’s Carmen.

Richard Eyre’s mesmerizing production of Bizet’s steamy melodrama returns with mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili singing her signature role of the ill-fated gypsy temptress. Aleksandrs Antonenko plays her desperate lover, the soldier Don José, and Ildar Abdrazakov is the swaggering bullfighter, Escamillo, who comes between them. Pablo Heras-Casado conducts the irresistible score, which features one beloved and instantly recognizable melody after another.

Join Kelly Maynard, assistant professor of history, at 11:30 a.m. for a free introductory opera talk.

Maynard will provide historical background on the day’s opera and discuss salient aspects of the drama, music, and performance. The opera itself begins at noon.

The lecture series is coordinated by Eugene Gaub, associate professor of music.


Tickets are available at the Pioneer Bookshop, the Grinnell College Bookstore, and at the door on the day of the show.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students, children, and Met Opera members.

Tickets for Grinnell College faculty, staff, and students have been generously funded by the Office of the President and are available at no cost at all ticket locations. Family members not employed by the college are required to purchase tickets.

Email calendar[at]grinnell[dot]edu and ask join the Public Events listserv if you’d like to get reminders about performances and ticket distribution.