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Six Appeal, World-class A Cappella

Six Appeal, an award-winning, six-member young men's vocal ensemble that performs with the energy of a rock band, but without instruments, will give a free, public concert on at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 8, in Herrick Chapel.

The versatile vocal band from Minnesota is one of the most popular touring a cappella groups in the nation. In fact, Six Appeal achieved the title of National Champion at the 2012 National Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival in San Rafael, California.

6 Appeal members hamming it upThe six members of the ensemble — Jordan Roll, Michael Brookens, Trey Jones, Nathan Hickey, Reuben Hushagen, and Andrew Berkowitz — met at Concordia College in Minnesota. Performing together since 2006, the group became a professional ensemble in 2010. The band has released two records, including covers, original songs, and holiday music.

The Grinnell concert will span decades of music, featuring classic oldies, current chart toppers, and catchy original tunes.

Although the March 8 concert is free and open to the public, tickets are required for admission. They will be available starting March 2 in the box office in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Accessible parking is available in front of the chapel. You can request accommodations through Conference Operations and Events.

Creating a Life that Matters

Wes MooreWes Moore, a New York Times bestselling author, Army combat veteran, youth advocate and CEO of BridgeEDU, will speak at Grinnell College on Monday, Feb. 29.

His speech, titled “Wes Moore: Creating a Life that Matters,” will explore why work filled with meaning and purpose can create lasting and transformative personal and societal change. 

The talk, which is free and open to the public, will start at 7 p.m. in Sebring Lewis-Hall in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. A reception in the rotunda will follow the lecture.

Moore is an accomplished author, writing two New York Times bestsellers. His first book, The Other Wes Moore is a story of the importance of individual decisions as well as community support. It investigates the vastly different lives of two children — both named Wes Moore — growing up in inner Baltimore.

The author grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, White House Fellow, and business leader, whereas the other Wes Moore is serving a life sentence for killing a police officer during an armed robbery. The Work, Moore’s other bestseller, chronicles his journey to discover meaning in his work and how he found that meaning in service.

Moore’s work as a youth advocate started when he was a student at Johns Hopkins University. He founded STAND! — an organization that works with Baltimore youth in criminal justice system. He also founded and serves as CEO of BridgeEDU, an innovative college platform that addresses the college completion and job placement crisis by reinventing a student’s first year in college and providing more support throughout college.

A gifted speaker, Moore has been featured in USA Today, People magazine, “Meet the Press,” “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “The View,” “MSNBC,” and NPR, among many other national media sources. He also hosts “Beyond Belief” on the Oprah Winfrey Network and also serves as executive producer and host of “Coming Back with Wes Moore” on PBS.

Moore’s talk is sponsored by the Finkelman Deanship in the Center for Careers, Life, and Service and the Careers in Education Professions Program.

Data Across the Curriculum

Students in Monty Roper’s anthropology and global development studies classes gain practical experience in fieldwork, data analysis, and ways to deal effectively with clients when they act as consultants for both local organizations in Grinnell and internationally in an agricultural village in Costa Rica. The clients they work with get free research which is presented to them both in the form of an oral consultation and in a written report.

For a global development studies/anthropology seminar, students prepare research plans during the first half of the semester and then travel to a rural agricultural community in Costa Rica to spend the two weeks of spring break collecting data which is then analyzed and written up during the remaining weeks of the semester. The first year of the project, the class conducted an in-depth community development diagnostic. Since then, they have investigated a variety of rural development issues, mainly focusing on tourism, women’s empowerment, and organizational issues and agricultural projects of the town’s two cooperatives.

In Grinnell, Roper works with Susan Sanning, director of service and social innovation, to identify and explore possible collaborations with community partners who have research needs. In the past, for example:

  • Mid-Iowa Community Action (MICA) was interested in knowing why families dropped out of their Family Development and Self-Sufficiency Program (FaDSS) before their benefits were fully used,
  • Drake Library was interested in what kinds of programming would best serve the town’s “tween” population, and
  • A hair salon wanted to find out whether it was economically viable to invest in special hair care products and services for black customers.

Ideally, positive change occurs because of the class’ research.

Grinnell students Dillon Fischer ’13 and Sarah Burnell ’13 interviewed graduates of Grinnell High School who had gone on to attend college about their preparedness for college academics. According to the GHS principal, these findings led the school to revise its minimum writing standards, making them more challenging.

The local after-school youth program, Galaxy, requested a study on donor perceptions and desires and subsequently used the results to write a successful grant proposal for support.

This year’s class is planning to do more follow-ups on previous projects to ascertain longer-term results.

See more story and photos.

Ignite Institute for Middle/High School

Middle and high school students can learn salsa dancing, international cooking, storytelling, political campaigning, spear throwing and more at the first Ignite Institute on Saturday, March 5, at Grinnell College.

The College will launch the Ignite Institute with a day of free, fun and fascinating academic mini-courses taught on campus by Grinnell College student teachers.

Ashley Schaefer“These engaging mini-courses will be fun and accessible to students, plus they will introduce them to the physical environment of a college campus, helping to develop college readiness,” said Ashley Schaefer, director of the Careers in Education Professions program.

“The Grinnell College students who teach the courses gain experience developing a course from start to finish, build their organization and planning skills, and get a taste of the complexities of teaching,” Schaefer added. “Most teachers sign up because of their desire to contribute to the Grinnell community and because they love the topics they plan to teach.”

With this new crop of 44 teachers conducting mini-courses for middle and high school students, more than 180 students at Grinnell College will have taught an Ignite course within two years.

Ignite is open to all Iowa students in grades 7-12 who wish to attend. All participants will receive a free T-shirt, lunch, and snack. Students are welcome to take either a morning or afternoon mini-course, or both. Registration is open and continues through Friday, Feb. 26.

The Ignite Institute is inspired by the successful Ignite Program, which offers free courses to students from pre-kindergarten through the sixth grade. The program began last year, and by last November, 256 students had registered for the Ignite Program's 21 mini-courses.

The 21 mini-courses offered on March 5 are designed for specific age groups. For example, seventh and eighth-graders will choose from seven courses, including How to Take Over the World Using Algorithms and Robots as well as Tour de France: Food Edition!

Ninth and tenth-graders also will have seven courses to select from, including GMZ: Grinnell's Celebrity Hot Seat and Amazing Atlatls: Spear-Throwing Fun. Among the seven courses for 11th and 12th graders are The Nature versus Nurture Debate and Lay Down the Law.

Morning check-in will begin at 10:15 a.m. for students who haven’t already picked up their information folders and T-shirts from Schaefer the week of Ignite. Check-in will take place in the lobby of Alumni Recitation Hall, 1226 Park St., Grinnell.

Students who already have their information will head directly to their classrooms and classes will start promptly at 10:30 a.m. Students in middle school must be signed in by an adult. There will be a lunch break for all students at 12:30 p.m., at which time parents of middle school students who have not signed up for an afternoon course may pick up their students.

The afternoon session will start at 1 p.m. and students will be dismissed at 3 p.m. Parents should pick up their middle school students. High school students do not need a parent to drop them off or pick them up.

Making the Ignite programs possible are Grinnell College Careers in Education Professions and Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement, as well as a generous gift from Helen Redmond and Pete Brownell.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. You can request accommodations through Conference Operations and Events.

Carnival and Creativity

February 11-12, 2016 at Grinnell College

Queen ReesieOn August 23, 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans. Roughly five years later, on January 12, 2010, a massive earthquake rocked the small island nation of Haiti.

These cataclysmic events, this shared experience of trauma, added a further layer of connection between these two regions, already linked by their shared African and French heritage, the legacy of colonialism, and the experience of slavery that made Louisiana and Haiti home to vibrant, thriving Afro-diasporic communities.

February 2016 represents the 10th and 5th anniversaries (respectively) of the first Pre-Lenten celebrations – Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Carnival in Haiti – to follow these social and environmental catastrophes.

Bennie Pete and Hot 8 Brass BandIn New Orleans and Port-Au-Prince alike, Carnival did what Carnival always does: it gave the community a chance to come together in solidarity in the face of struggle; it provided an opportunity to heal from trauma; and it offered a moment for people who are often ignored – especially within the upper echelons of global social and economic power – to give voice and movement to their struggles and their triumphs through song and dance and celebration.

These Mardi Gras and Carnival celebrations showed us the remarkable power that music, dance, and art have to heal and to empower individuals and communities.

On February 11-12, 2016, we will pay tribute to those individuals and communities with a series of events that mark the 10th and 5th anniversaries of the 2006 and 2011 Carnival celebrations:

Thursday, Feb. 11

4:30-6:30 p.m., Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Lawson Hall, Room 102
New Orleans Brass Band Workshop with Bennie Pete, tuba and co-founder, Hot 8 Brass Band
7:30-9 p.m., Bucksbaum Center, Lawson Hall, Room 152
"If You Don't Like What the Big Queen Says, Just...": An Evening With Queen Reesie (Cherice Harrison-Nelson, curator of the Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame and Big Queen of the Guardians of the Flame Mardi Gras Indians)

Friday, Feb. 12

4:15-6 p.m., Bucksbaum Center, Lawson Hall, Room 152
Carnival and Creativity Roundtable Discussion
Discussants:
  • Gage Averill, University of British Columbia
  • Cherice Harrison-Nelson, Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame
  • Tess Kulstad, Grinnell College
  • Bennie Pete, Hot 8 Brass Band
  • Moderated by Mark Laver, Grinnell College
8-9:30 p.m., Bucksbaum Center, Sebring-Lewis Hall
The Grinnell Jazz Ensemble Plays the Music of New Orleans, featuring Bennie Pete and Cherice Harrison-Nelson. Directed by Mark Laver.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Music, the Center for Humanities, the Center for International Studies, and the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights.

Fighting Social Injustice

Paula Cousins ’17 and Anesu Gamanya ’17 led a renovation project funded by the Davis Projects for Peace program that dramatically transformed a small Jamaican primary school 2,000 miles from Grinnell.

 “This experience reinforced why I came to Grinnell — social justice,” Gamanya says. “Growing up in Zimbabwe, I witnessed social injustice everywhere and sometimes experienced it, and I thought I did not have the power to fight it. This project gave me an opportunity to help alleviate the social injustice in another community.”

The third-year economics majors share a strong desire to help others.

When Cousins heard about the dire conditions of the Bottom Halse Hall Basic School in Clarendon, Jamaica, it nagged at her. She wondered how the serious sanitation problems, cracked floors, broken toilets, and cramped classrooms affected the educational experiences of the school’s 60 children who range in ages from 2 to 5.

“I did not think it was a suitable learning environment,” says Cousins, who grew up in the nearby Hayes community. “It was not conducive to learning.”

Other problems dogged the school, which is in an economically disadvantaged area. It had limited storage, outdated technology and equipment, and other issues.

So Cousins and Gamanya, who spent winter break 2014–15 together in Jamaica, developed a proposal to help the school and received a $10,000 award from the Davis Projects for Peace. The program invites undergraduates at American colleges and universities in the Davis United World College Scholars Program to develop grass-roots projects students implement during the summer.

Cousins’ parents and others in the small community rallied around the summer renovation plans.

“I don’t think you can quantify how much it helped the children to have a better learning environment,” says Cousins, who also has a concentration in global development studies.

Children in a classroom at Bottom Halse Hall Basic School in Clarendon, JamaicaRenovating a school is hard work, the duo found. The crews—some paid workers, others volunteers—worked on weekends and after school. Despite some minor building setbacks, they saw the 10-week project through, installing new  

  • floors
  • a water tank
  • toilets
  • community resource room with computers and the Internet
  • shelves and desks
  • a sick bay
  • blackboards

 “The floors were really impressive,” Cousins says. “I’m really, really, proud. I’ve very grateful to the people in the community.”

The project earned praise from school employees and the community. Cousins says the renovation work could eventually make the school eligible for government aid.

She hopes more Grinnell students apply for the Davis program and really think about how their projects could benefit others.

“Find a project you’re invested in,” Cousins says. “Try to do something that will affect the most people in the most meaningful way.”

Working on the project changed Gamanya.

"I also learned that not only can I learn to identify social injustice, I can find ways to address it,” she says.

 

Paula Cousins ’17 is from Hayes, Clarendon, Jamaica. She is an economics major, with a concentration in global development studies. Anesu Gamanya ’17 is from Harare, Zimbabwe. She is an economics major.



 

Rebecca Wong ’17 Earns Honorable Mention for Udall Scholarship

Rebecca Wong ’17 has earned honorable mention for the Udall Scholarship, which recognizes second- and third-year undergraduate students for their outstanding leadership, public service, and commitment to environmental issues, American Indian healthcare, or tribal policy.

Wong, who aspires to work in renewable energy engineering, is one of 49 students nationwide to receive this honor.

A leader in environmental justice groups on campus, Wong serves as vice president of the Food Recovery Network and chief leader of the IOWATER water-monitoring group. She also plays violin in the Grinnell Symphony Orchestra and is general manager for Grinnell Outdoor Recreation Program.

"This honor has shown me that I am on the right path," Wong said, "and I will continue to strive to create a world where humans can maintain and improve their standard of living without irreversible detrimental effects to the environment."

The Udall Scholarship honors the legacies of Morris Udall and Stewart Udall, whose careers had a significant impact on American Indian self-governance, health care, and the stewardship of public lands and natural resources.

Striking a Balance

In their first year at Grinnell, twins Vrishali Sinha ’19 and Vidushi Sihna ’19 led women’s golf to its third consecutive conference title. For added emphasis, they finished one-two individually at the Midwest Conference tournament in October.

The Sinhas’ games were “on” from the start of the season. In their very first competitive rounds for Grinnell, Vrishali and Vidushi shot the second and third best scores in program history at 74 and 76, respectively. Grinnell team scoring records fell three times in the first three tournaments.

The twins’ first-year success was not entirely unexpected. Both Sinhas have practically lived on the links since they were 10. As teens they were among the best women players in the Indian Golf Union, the governing body for amateur golf in all of India.

Vrishali and Vidushi had always planned to attend college together, but some were surprised that they would opt for Division III golf at Grinnell. The choice initially stunned their lifelong golf coach in India.

“Our coach wanted us to go Division I,” Vrishali says.

“When he found out Grinnell was Division III, he was like, ‘Why?’” Vidushi says.

Wanted a Balance

The Sinhas’ father fielded the incoming appeals from Division I programs, but Vrishali says, “I have a lot of friends who went to Division I and they did not have a really good experience. We were always certain that we wanted to go Division III so we didn’t even consider the Division I and II offers.”

“We are really uncertain whether we want to turn professional or not,” Vidushi adds. “You sacrifice your academics if you go Division I.” 

So, does that mean academics were always their first consideration in choosing a college?

“I wouldn’t say first,” they say in unison, laughing at the common occurrence in their conversation.

“… but we wanted a balance,” Vidushi finishes.

Coaches Influential

One of the Sinha sisters sets up a shot while the other watchesGrinnell golf coaches David Arseneault and Jennie Jackson can attest to the importance of tools like Skype and FaceTime in communicating with student-athletes, especially when prospective students live more than 8,000 miles away.

“We were in contact with a few coaches, and out of all of them we liked Coach A. and Jenny the most,” Vrishali says. “I think that influenced our decision to come to Grinnell a lot.”

The Sinhas also talked with teammate-to-be Lauren Yi ’18 to find out about life at Grinnell from a student perspective, Vidushi says.

“For me, golf and academics are at par, but at a Division I, academics become secondary,” Vrishali says. “People who I know (in Division I) have to choose an easier major so that they can balance out the study and travel.”

“Also, there is just the one tutorial requirement here,” Vidushi says. “I want to do a double major, and I think it’s much better that way.”

Liberal Arts Options

The Sinhas are a year away from declaring majors, and when asked what they might presently choose, they answer together: “Econ.”  

“I want to double major in studio art and econ,” Vidushi says. “There are a lot of artists in our family. My mom’s an artist, my brother paints, I paint.”

“Oh, no,” Vrishali says about the possibility of two majors. “I’m fine with one.”

Both sisters say they’ll probably return to India after college, but for now they are comfortable keeping long-term plans open-ended.

“That is also why we came to a liberal arts college,” Vrishali says, “because you have so many options here. I’m taking an intro to psych course and that’s pretty interesting, so I might do something related to psychology, or stick with econ, I’m not sure.”

Responding to Change

The Sinhas seem relatively undaunted by all they’ve experienced in a few short months, including the differences in American golf courses, the stateside approach to team play, and an academic system that requires a new way of doing things.

“Academics here are tough, definitely,” Vidushi says. “The education system in India is a lot different from what it is here. Out there we just have …”

 “One exam…” Vrishali says.

“…twice a year,” Vidushi finishes.

“You have to do well on your exams because that is 100% of your grade,” Vrishali explains.

Dad Likes Decision

The biggest adjustment of all, however, was coming to a place the size of Grinnell from one of the largest population centers in the world.

“Delhi is huge,” Vrishali says. “It’s a lot colder in the interaction between people, which is more formal, like, just when it’s required or necessary. Out here the people are a lot more friendly.”

While their coach back home now has come around to approving of the twins’ decision to come to Grinnell, their father was never in doubt.

“Oh, he’s happy,” Vidushi says.

“My dad is so happy,” Vrishali says.

Vrishali Sinha ’19 and Vidushi Sinha ’19 attended The Shri Ram School in Gurgaon, Haryana, India. 

 

A Community of Care

If you talk to Grinnell students about their experiences on campus, it’s likely that the term “self-governance” will be mentioned more than once. The concept of “self-gov” is integral to the Grinnell experience, but what does it really mean?

When Dixon Romeo ’16 arrived on campus in 2012, he could see that not everyone agreed about what self-governance meant. Was it about being a responsible member of the community, or did it have to do with individual student rights? After nearly four years at Grinnell, Romeo has developed a clearer idea of what self-governance really is.

We Versus Me

“I think the longer you’re at Grinnell, the more you tend to lean toward the idea of community governance and away from the idea that self-gov means you can do whatever you want,” says Romeo.

For him, the “me-first” mentality is a big misunderstanding of the importance of self-gov on campus. Creating a culture of respect in which individuals look out for each other and think about how their actions might affect the community as a whole is an integral part of the learning that takes place during college. Offering a study break to a friend who looks stressed, sitting with someone who’s alone in the dining hall, or helping to solve a conflict on your dorm floor — all of these are ways that Grinnell students enact self-gov and create a community of care and respect.

In addition to these daily examples of self-gov, working in the Student Government Association (SGA) helped Romeo develop an even deeper understanding of self-gov. As SGA vice president, Romeo interacts with many different students, staff, and faculty and has realized the importance of self-governance on such a diverse campus.

“While you’re here in this community, you need to have an opportunity to learn, both by making mistakes and by doing great things,” Romeo says. “But you can’t do that if it’s everyone for themselves. We have these self-governing tenets in order to make this a safe space in which everyone can learn and develop into the kind of person they want to be.”

Self-Gov at Parties

One example — many campus parties and events are watched over by student security.

“The idea that we, as students, become responsible for one another, go through training and sacrifice our Friday and Saturday nights so that the rest of the community can have a fun time in a safe way, that’s pretty amazing,” Romeo says. “If something goes wrong or there’s a conflict or someone needs help, I think it’s really important that you’re able to turn to your peers for help, because it’s about responsibility rather than authority.”

Evolving Definitions of Self-Gov

Romeo also acknowledges that the nature of self-governance will be different for each generation of Grinnellians. The issues that were important for the community during the 1970s are not the same concerns of the current student body, and the way self-gov is manifested reflects that change.

“Issues of identity are at the forefront of our current culture,” Romeo explains. “Ten, or even 15 years ago, no one would stand up in a crowd and announce whether they prefer female, male, or any other pronouns, because that wasn’t a part of the conversation.”

Another misconception: Self-governance only applies to situations outside of the classroom. Romeo feels that students need to extend that thinking to their academic activities as well.

“Learning how to state your case, disagree respectfully, and struggle to really understand other people’s opinions in the classroom is a big part of self-gov and of the liberal arts as a whole,” Romeo says.

Dixon Romeo ’16 is an economics major from Chicago.

 

History in the Making

During Grinnell’s week-long fall break, 11 students in the Opera, Politics, and Society in Modern Europe course went to San Francisco with Kelly Maynard, assistant professor of history, to get an up-close look at how politics and culture influence the development of modern opera. Thanks to the generosity and enthusiasm of trustee Craig Henderson ’63, who opened his home and opera connections to the class, students spoke with opera singers, saw orchestral rehearsals, met with opera critics, and got exclusive backstage glimpses into set design and media suites.

“It really helped me put everything that we learned in class into perspective,” says Austin Schilling ’17. “You can read about how people used to make sets or how people designed opera houses 200 years ago, but you can’t get a real feel for it without seeing how everything operates with your own eyes.”

Students saw two live opera productions, The Magic Flute and Lucia di Lammermoor, at the San Francisco Conservatory and the San Francisco Opera House. Some were surprised at how different it was from watching operas on-screen. “Seeing an opera live in front of you and getting to analyze it on the spot with your classmates gives you a completely new perspective,” says Sam Hengst ’18.

What students didn’t expect was the opportunity to meet with the director of the San Francisco Opera, David Gockley, who made time to meet with them during one of their tours. With half a semester of in-class study and a rigorous week of immersion in the world of opera under their belts, students were prepared to ask Gockley questions that helped them to discover the modern parallels to what they learned in class.

Students taking a close look at a wig in a room full of other wigs“We got to see firsthand that the history we’re studying in class is alive and functioning today and is still as rich and complex as it was 200 years ago,” says Elizabeth Allen ’16.

“I think my biggest take-away from this experience is that you need to look at things from many different angles,” says Hengst. “When we do readings, we’re so used to just thinking about things in one way, but on this trip we saw that the world of opera is complex, from the actors and singers to set design and the use of technology. It’s a network, and we couldn’t have gotten such a great understanding of that from just reading about it.”

Through learning about the many complicated components that go into an opera production, these students discovered aspects of opera that they had never expected to be interested in. Allen even discovered an area that may turn into a topic of future research — the way globalization and art collide in modern opera.

“Thinking about The Magic Flute, which is an 18th-century Viennese opera, translated into English in the 21st century by David Gockley, using set design that includes the aesthetics of contemporary Japanese ceramics … it’s something global and contemporary, but still rooted in the past,” Allen says. “Seeing that was a really pivotal experience for me, and I realized that that’s the way I want to look at things in the future.”

For Allen and the other students in the class, learning about the many factors that contribute to opera opened their eyes to viewing things differently and looking beneath the surface of a finished product, a skill that will benefit them no matter what field they go into.

Austin Schilling '17 is a mathematics and German double major from Evanston, Ill.

Sam Hengst '18 is a German major from Madison, Wis.

Elizabeth Allen '16 is from Santa Fe, N.M., and is an art history major.