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Spark Tank Kickoff

The kickoff event for the Spark Tank Innovation competition will be held in Alumni Recitation Hall, Room 102 from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016.

Community members will present social justice issues to be addressed by teams of students.

This competition will start on Sept. 13 and will end on Feb. 2 when teams will present their proposals to a live audience and a panel of judges for a prize of up to $15,000 to fund their work in the Grinnell community.​

Lunch will be provided at the kickoff event. 

Sponsored by the Donald L. & Winifred Wilson Center for Innovation and Leadership.

First-Year Roommates

Student Affairs staff review paper and online records as they select roommates for the incoming classIf you’re jittery about who your roommate will be in your first year of college, stop worrying. Not only do you have a lot of control over a good match at Grinnell, there are real people who care about it.

“Students fill out an application that asks for different types of preferences — identities, music, study habits, things like that,” says Joseph Rolón, director of residence life. “Other schools put them into a computer program and match them up. Here, humans actively research the students and care about how they’re matched. We literally spend three days in the summer hand-matching 400 first-year students.”

Rolón says it’s important that students are honest on the roommate form. “What students say on paper can be very different from who they are when they get here,” Rolón says, “especially if their parents were looking over their shoulder when they filled it out or their parents filled it out for them. Students need to be very honest because that’s what we’re basing our matches on.”

Positive Relationship

The residence life staff encourages incoming first-year students to contact their assigned roommates before arriving in Grinnell. Tulah Fuchs ’19 and Lauren MacKenzie ’19 chatted briefly, but Fuchs says they didn’t share a lot of personal information right away.

“What was really important for our relationship is that we didn’t attempt to get to know each other before we actually met,” Fuchs says. “That works for some people, but our relationship took off without the virtual pressure of telling our life stories on Facebook.

“I think the roommate form was a huge part of our positive relationship, and I think that the questions were really good,” Fuchs says. Questions about lifestyle and personal tastes are important, she says. Being asked to describe your ideal roommate “allows you to think beyond the basics and write down not just what you want in a roommate but potentially your first real friend in college.”

Records of students and floor map of Younker Pit with a number of rooms with big red Xs through themReflect and Prioritize

She advises incoming first-years to give themselves time to reflect about their answers and to understand that their roommate doesn’t have to be their best friend from the get-go. “I think there’s a lot of pressure on people to have that happen,” Fuchs says.

“Start off by prioritizing the basics, like when you go to bed and how neat or messy of a person you are,” Fuchs says. “Definitely be honest. If your roommate and you are best friends, that’s fine, but hopefully you’re not fighting about what time the lights should be turned off.”

Unusual Beginning

Rachel Swoap ’19 had an unusual experience that turned out well thanks to the efforts of residence life staff.  After arriving at Grinnell, Swoap learned that her assigned roommate had withdrawn from the College. For a time she didn’t have anyone scheduled to room with her. “That was like the last thing I wanted to hear,” Swoap says. “I thought, what’s going to happen to me?”

Arriving early for the Peer Connections Pre-Orientation Program (PCPOP) was good, Swoap says, because she had time to unpack and get familiar with her surroundings. Without a roommate for most of New Student Orientation (NSO), she had begun to accept the idea of living alone.

“The last night of NSO, I got an email saying ‘We have a girl who’s in a triple. Would you want to meet up with her and see if she could live with you?’ I got excited all over again,” Swoap says.

Happened Fast

Swoap met Liz Williams ’19 at an NSO event that night. “We hit it off and talked for two hours,” Swoap says. “We decided it would be perfect if we lived together and she moved in the next day. I got to meet her parents and help her unpack. It all happened very fast.

“We come from very different backgrounds,” Swoap adds. “Liz is from D.C. and moved around a lot as a kid. I’m from small-town Massachusetts. But it worked out so well. She’s fantastic and I’m just really happy about how it turned out.”

Sold on Process

It’s been such a positive experience that the two women plan to live together again this year. Swoap says the roommate form helped make it happen.

“I tried to answer questions as honestly as I could and I think she must have done the same, because we have very similar habits and even personalities,” Swoap says. “I guess something in the survey came through that they noticed.

“I think a lot of first-years get really nervous about who they’re going to live with for an entire year, but I’m just really sold on this whole process now,” Swoap says. “It’s a big deal who you’re living with and to have it work out so well is just amazing. I’m very grateful for that.”

Tulah Fuchs ’19 is from Brooklyn, N.Y. Lauren MacKenzie ’19 is from Manchester Center, Vt. Rachel Swoap ’19 is from Williamstown, Mass. Elizabeth Williams ’19 is from Washington, D.C.

Grinnellian Trains for the Olympics

Joshua Tibatemwa in Grinnell Honor G swimcapGrinnell College swimmer Joshua Tibatemwa ’19 will be making a splash on the international scene in August.

Tibatemwa, 19, will be representing his native Uganda in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is the first Pioneer in the modern era to earn a spot in the Olympics while still a student at Grinnell.

As Uganda’s overall fastest male swimmer, Tibatemwa was named to that country’s Olympic swim team by the Ugandan Swimming Federation.

Last August, at the International Swimming Federation World Championships in Kazan, Russia, Tibatemwa set two national records for Uganda and achieved his personal best in the 50 freestyle (25.54 seconds) and 50 breaststroke (33.00 seconds). When he swims in the Olympics, he’ll compete only in the 50 free.

Swimming is a relatively new sport in Uganda, and the level of competition pales to the international champion threshold — the overall men’s world record in the 50 free is 20.26; 25.25 in the 50 breaststroke. Tibatemwa is aware of the gulf.

“I am part of the second generation of competitive swimmers in Uganda,” he says. “In 10 to 20 years, I hope we will see Uganda swimming on a par with USA swimming.”

He strives to close the gap with hard work. Under the guidance of Grinnell swim coaches Tim Hammond and Erin Hurley, Tibatemwa, who swims on Grinnell’s varsity, practices in the water one to two hours per day, Monday through Saturday. He also does up to an hour of daily strength training.

“It’s the best training I have ever gotten,” Tibatemwa says. “It is very structured and will help me if I get to the Olympics.

Several seniors on the swim team often practice with Tibatemwa, so he can gauge his speed against other swimmers. “I find it easier to train while competing against them rather than competing just with the time on the clock,” he says.

Tibatemwa has thoroughly impressed his coaches with his drive.

“It seems just his nature to want to be better,” Hammond says. ”He is eager to understand technique and accept critique day after day.”

Hammond notes that Tibatemwa has good technique to excel on the world stage, with great reach in the front end of his stroke and a good hold on the water. ”Once he has that hold, he can apply the incredible strength he has to it, and this produces an incredible distance per stroke,” says the coach, who is focusing on increasing Tibatemwa’s stroke rate.

Because Tibatemwa was training outside the regular college swim season, which ended in March, Hammond and Hurley couldn’t coach Tibatemwa until they received a waiver from the NCAA. Until then they could only supply him with written workouts. 

“It took us a few weeks to get the appropriate information from the NCAA and Uganda to put it all together,” recalls Hammond, who provides the Ugandan federation with weekly updates. The federation also named Hammond and Hurley Ugandan National Swimming Coaches.  

When they were able to work with Tibatemwa, they were more than pleased.

“Joshua is an absolute joy to coach,” Hammond says. ”He is perpetually positive and does his best to accomplish each task at hand. Most everyone sees Joshua as a shy, kind person. And he is, but when you spend enough time with Joshua in a competitive endeavor, you can start to peak at the competitive monster inside of him that one would never see without knowing him well enough.” 

Tibatemwa began swimming at age 6 in his hometown, Kampala, the Ugandan capital. “At first I didn’t want to compete,” he says. But by the time he was 13, he started to enjoy the sport. “With swimming,” he says, “you have time to yourself as compared to other sports. You don’t have to shout to pass the ball. You can be alone in your head.”

On the advice of two of his mentors in school and in the Dolphins Swim Club Kampala — brothers Tefiro ’15 and Ham ’16 Serunjogi — Tibatemwa came to Grinnell last fall. He was looking for a school that had both good academics and swimming training. “Tefiro and Ham recommended Grinnell,” he says of the duo, who each swam on the men’s varsity while earning their degrees. “So I trusted them and followed them here.”

Though he calls the cold winter of east-central Iowa the biggest adjustment he’s had to make, “The college is great, and I like being in a comfortable small town,” he says. Referring to his hometown, with a population of 1.3 million, he adds, “It’s nice to have a break from the big city.”

When the spring semester ended on May 20, Tibatemwa, who plans to major in computer science, returned to Kampala to continue his training and start an internship with Kiira Motors, the first manufacturer of solar-powered vehicles in East Africa. 

“I will train in the mornings and evenings, and do my work as an intern during the middle of the day,” he says. “I’m hoping to develop software and gain experience in tackling real-world problems.”

“It has been a silent goal of mine to get to the Olympics,” Tibatemwa says. “Every swimmer harbors it. I would love to have the opportunity to be among the world’s best athletes, doing what they’ve been training to do for many years.”

Enriching the Lives of Zoo Animals

It was straight out of Wild Kingdom.

Misha, an Amur tiger at Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, approached the horned zebra, batted it with her front paws, then knocked down the prey, which clattered onto a pile of rocks. Resuming her attack, Misha tore off pieces with her powerful teeth, before slashing off the gold unicorn horn and then the entire head.

students constructing zebra-unicorn for tigerBut no live animals were harmed in the making of this production. The zebra, which indeed sported a gold unicorn horn, was constructed by Grinnell College students from animal-safe papier-mâché, paint, and cardboard.

The activity stemmed from Grinnell's Community Service Work-Study program and the Grinnell Science Project, a pre-orientation program for first-year students designed to increase representation from groups underrepresented in the sciences.

Group carries the painted zebra through the zoo“Creation and destruction — together that's our purpose with this project,” says Sunny Zhao ’18, a biology major from Naperville, Ill. “It would have been sad if the tiger hadn’t played with the zebra and destroyed it.”

“It was really satisfying to see the tiger tear the zebra apart,” adds Mackenzie “Max” Semba ’19, an undeclared major from Portland, Maine.

It helped that the zebra’s hollow stomach received a helping of meat before a zookeeper placed it inside the tiger exhibit.

Grinnell students have collaborated with the zoo for four years to make new and exciting enrichment items: giant bowling pins for rhinos and puzzles made from twine, milk cartons, raw pasta noodles, and origami cardboard for monkeys and birds.

Spectators watch though a window as Misha, the tiger, demolishes the zebra-unicornThose items help keep zoo animals active, says Megan Wright Walker, area supervisor for animal health at the zoo. “Here in the zoo we provide food for the animals,” she says. “They don’t have to hunt for a mate. They don’t have to hunt for somewhere to sleep. Enrichment items help to mentally stimulate the animals by giving them a challenge.” 

Sunny Zhao ’18 is a biology major from Naperville, Ill. Mackenzie “Max” Semba ’19 is an undeclared major from Portland, Maine.

7 Great Reasons to Study Off Campus

Given that over 60 percent of Grinnell’s students participate in study-abroad programs, it’s no wonder Grinnell has a reputation for being globally focused. Not only is off-campus study an awesome opportunity to expand your international education, it’s also an unforgettable life experience. Third-year Grinnellians share their favorite parts of the study-abroad experience:

  1. Your perspective will broaden like you wouldn’t believe.

Joseph Galaske ’17 says his home-stay in rural South Africa has changed his outlook: “It was one of the most incredibly enlightening experiences of my life. There were definitely experiences that pushed my boundaries, like the living conditions.” Experiencing daily life in such a vastly different culture opened Galaske’s mind to a whole new way of living.

  1. You’ll finally lose that feeling of panic when speaking another language.

For Jinna Kim ’17, a sociology and Spanish major, studying abroad in Argentina has been an awesome way to improve her skills in Spanish. “I never felt entirely comfortable speaking Spanish, despite having taken many classes, and always broke out in a cold sweat when I had to speak it,” says Kim. “I can already feel myself becoming more confident, and I’m more eager to jump into conversations!”

  1. You can travel with your program for a one-of-a-kind research experience.

Emily Adam ’17 enrolled in a public health course while studying in Denmark and got to visit public health organizations and clinics in Denmark, Estonia, and Finland as part of her class. “Getting an inside look at how public health policies work in other countries has been really valuable,” Adam says. “There are differences in culture that I wouldn’t have expected, and it’s been interesting to learn about the challenges of their systems.”

  1. International foods will become your bread and butter.

“Sometimes my friends and I just walk around and find random restaurants,” says Trang Nguyen ’17, an international student from Vietnam who is currently studying in South Korea. “What’s special about my daily experience in Korea is eating ramen at the convenience store, ordering street food while listening to the live music that’s everywhere … We haven’t had a bad experience yet!”

  1. Your confidence will soar.

“Adaptability, confidence, intuition…I feel as if living abroad is like a workout for your intangible traits,” says Jonathan Sundby ’17, who is studying in India this spring.

  1. You can experiment with new habits.

“A new experience gives you a chance to try some different lifestyles,” says Nguyen, who was always very organized and plan-oriented in the United States. “Planning like I used to doesn’t really work in Korea, so I had to change the way I operate. I feel more relaxed and outgoing here. I really enjoy the change!”

  1. You’ll do things you never imagined (or maybe things you always dreamed of).

“I recently visited Iguazu Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world,” says Kim. “The amount of water and the size of the waterfalls are indescribable. My friends and I even hiked a mini-trail to a smaller waterfall, where we jumped in and swam just like the people in GoPro videos!”

Joseph Galaske ’17 is a biology major from Moberly, Mo.

Jinna Kim ’17 is a sociology and Spanish double major from Bellevue, Wash.

Emily Adam ’17 is a biology major from Harper, Iowa.

Trang Nguyen ’17 is a mathematics major from Hanoi, Vietnam.

Jonathan Sundby ’17 is a political science major from Stillwater, Minn.

Bookstores to be Closed June 18 – July 4 While Moving

The Grinnell College Bookstore, on campus, and the Pioneer Bookshop, at 823 4th Ave., will be closed for moving starting on June 18, 2016.

The two stores will be combined at the new location at 933 Main Street, Grinnell. The new store will open on July 5 as the Pioneer Bookshop. The online bookstore is also closed during the move.

The new Pioneer Bookshop will still offer the same wide selection of children’s books and toys, fiction, and non-fiction. It will also have the same special order service and gift wrapping.

In addition, the store will feature Grinnell College clothing, school and office supplies, art supplies, consumer electronics, greeting cards, and gifts.

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.