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Balanced Performance

Ever wonder about handling the rigors of both academics and athletics at Grinnell?

Fully one third of Grinnell’s student body participates in varsity athletics. And while many Grinnell students achieve big things in sports (search Jack Taylor 138), all Grinnell student athletes find their own way to combine passion for athletics with academic priorities.

Anushka Joshi ’18 holds tennis racket with book, balls balanced on topAnushka Joshi ’18 came to campus two weeks before classes to prepare for the fall tennis season. “Coach (Andy Hamilton ’85) sends us a workout schedule for summer, so he expects us to be in top form with our tennis as well as our fitness,” Joshi says. “The first two weeks we played five hours a day.”  

Joshi is among six to eight players on the squad of 20 who traveled most weekends and played every Saturday until fall break in October. This year, having built a 9-1 record in a tie for second place after fall conference play, the team will also have a short spring season before going to the 2016 NCAA automatic qualifier tournament.  

Joshi says sports at The British School in her native Nepal were not nearly as intense as they are at Grinnell. She handled her first year here fairly easily. But with 200-level courses this year, she questioned if she could pull it off all season.

“The first weekend, six of us played for six hours straight,” Joshi says. “I was thinking ‘can I do this every week?’ I had so much studying to do on Sunday. But, I mean, I couldn’t quit. We have seniors on our team doing biochem and they’re managing, so I thought to myself ‘I can do this, too.’”

Joshi says getting a head start on her reading and doing homework as soon as it is assigned are strategies for a workable balance.

“It’s a handful, but it’s fun,” Joshi says, “Definitely you have to focus on academics, because it is academics first at Grinnell.”

Joel Baumann ’18 says athletics and academics fit together well at Grinnell because “coaches here respect academics. They’re very clear on emphasizing that you are always a student first.”

Baumann runs cross country and specializes in the 800 meters during indoor and outdoor track seasons. Training is “pretty much continuous” with a two or three week break between each season. “For all intents and purposes, it’s year-long running,” he says.

This fall Baumann is combining a rigorous cross country regimen with macro economics, a 200-level poli sci course, French, and environmental studies. “We have an open curriculum and a wide variety of courses to choose from, so I’m able to schedule my day in a way that makes sense for me,” Baumann says.

On a typical day Baumann goes to class the entire morning, then works afternoons in the Admission office as overnight host coordinator for prospective male students. He takes an hour to relax or study before a two-hour practice that starts at 4:15 p.m. Following dinner with the team, his evenings are dedicated to homework for the next day.

Baumann says daily discipline “allows your body and your mind to adjust to doing certain things at certain times throughout the day.

“I enjoy being in athletics because it forces you to plan your day and develop good time management skills,” Baumann says. “You have to be really strict with your regimen.”

Anushka Joshi ’18 is from Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Nepal. She is considering computer science and economics as possible majors, and hopes to study abroad next year. Joel Baumann ’18, a native of Grinnell, intends to pursue a double major in political science and economics.

An Evening with Myron Rolle

Myron Rolle will present a free, public talk at 7 p.m. Saturday, October 3, in the Alumni Recitation Hall Auditorium (Room 302).

Rolle is a neurosurgeon, football all-American, Rhodes scholar, NFL draftee, and humanitarian.

Sponsored by: Diversity and Inclusion, Donald L. Wilson Program, Pioneer Diversity Council, Intercultural Affairs, and Student Athletes Leading Social Change.

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

Yesenia Ayala ’18 honored by White House

The White House recently recognized Yesenia Ayala ’18 for her courage and contributions to the Latino community in Iowa. She and 10 other young women were selected from more than 1,000 nominees as Champions of Change for empowering and inspiring members of their communities.

Ayala said later that the experience helped her go beyond her comfort zone to advocate for the community she loves and that needs support.

“Through my personal experience,” she added, “I was able to bring awareness to not only the local, state, but national community of the importance of mentoring and supporting students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and how we can all come together as one to make the movement work.”

As a service learning work-study student at Grinnell, Ayala works for Al Exito — a nonprofit group that empowers Latino youth in nine Iowa cities. She coordinates programming and mentoring for middle and high school Latino students, facilitates family programming and events, and engages other Grinnell students in encouraging Latino students to stay in school and plan for college.

Ayala also has designed and led workshops to inform Latino youth and their parents about the U.S. education system, financial aid, essay writing, and the college applications process. These activities promote more family involvement at school, greater civic engagement, and an increase in the likelihood that young Latinos will graduate from high school and pursue higher education.

A native of Los Angeles, Ayala is majoring in sociology and Spanish with a concentration in Latin American studies. She plans to pursue a law degree in civil rights upon graduation.

This fall, she continues to work with Al Exito to develop ways to incorporate teachers into the program, which Ayala hopes will expand statewide.  

Ayala’s Inspiration

Ayala talking with Auñón (who is in a NASA suit) at a gathering At a ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, Ayala joined other Champions of Change in a panel discussion moderated by MTV video blogger Francesca Ramsey. Ramsey noted that it’s often tough to get Latino students and their families comfortable with the college application process when it’s a completely new experience for them. Then she asked Ayala: “What have you done as a leader to overcome some of those fears from students and parents that you’ve been working with?”

Ayala said she was inspired to do the work she is doing because she is a first-generation Latina college student who had a difficult journey from high school to college. She often shares her story at Al Exito events to inspire others.

“I was working fulltime at McDonald’s as a manager while in high school, I was going to high school in a very low-income community, and I was striving to get A’s,” she said. “I was also taking the responsibility and the role of helping my parents raise my siblings.”

Thanks to the encouragement of a high school English teacher, Ayala applied for a Posse Foundation scholarship, as did more than 2,100 students in LA. She was one of 112 selected, winning admission to Grinnell, where she receives a full-tuition scholarship and additional financial aid.

“In most Latino families and communities,” Ayala said, “it’s very difficult for parents to let their children aspire for higher education, because they come from a community where they don’t know anything about the U.S. education system. … So every time we conduct a workshop, it’s our opportunity to let our parents know, our community know, our students know that it may be difficult sometimes to break those boundaries, those cultural oppositions, but it’s okay to do it.  If you don’t take a risk, you never know how far you can go.”

The Law of the Land

Akhil Reed AmarLearn more about the U.S. Constitution from one of the leading constitutional scholars in the United States.

Akhil Reed Amar, the Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, will give a lecture titled "The Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of Our Constitutional Republic (with Special Emphasis on Iowa)" for Constitution Day at Grinnell College. 

His talk begins at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23, in Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101.

Amar's lecture is based on his recently published book, "The Law of the Land: A Grand Tour of our Constitutional Republic." He will examine the role geography, federalism and regionalism have played in constitutional law, focusing on a landmark case that originated in Iowa, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District.

In 1965 Mary Beth Tinker and other Des Moines students decided to wear black armbands to school to protest U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam. School officials learned of the protest plans and quickly adopted a no-armband rule. Nevertheless the students wore the armbands to school and were suspended for violating school policy.

Represented by the ACLU, the students sued, claiming violation of their First Amendment rights. A lengthy court battle ensued, culminating in the 1969 Supreme Court ruling in the Tinker case that students do not "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."

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

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Rosenfield Center has accessible parking in the lot to the east. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations.

Akhil Reed Amar

Professor Amar teaches constitutional law at both Yale College and Yale Law School, where he received Yale's highest teaching honor, the DeVane Medal, in 2008. His work has been favorably cited by Supreme Court justices from both ends of the spectrum in more than 30 cases and he is regularly invited to testify before Congress at the request of both Republicans and Democrats.

The author of six books, Amar has also contributed to several popular publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic and Slate. His work has won awards from both the American Bar Association and the Federalist Society.

10 Tips for Making Friends at Grinnell

Get to know your roommate(s)/floormates

Offer to go to dinner or lunch together at the D-hall. Get out of the dorms and study in a cool spot like the Noyce elbow.

Getting to know the people around you can be a great way to expand your circle of friends. You can meet other people through your floormates as they invite friends over to study or hang out.

Ask your student adviser

Your floor’s student adviser can be a great resource. Grinnell doesn’t have Resident Advisers — grad students or other “authority” figures — on every floor like other schools.

Student Advisers are students like you who have recently been through the challenge of making friends in a new environment and are happy to introduce you to people. Helping you to make friends and feel comfortable in your new home is part of why they’re there, so use them!

Hang out in common areas

Instead of watching TV or Netflix by yourself, try going down to the lounge (each residence hall has at least one) or to Bob’s Underground Cafe for some R&R.

It’s a good way to let everyone know you’re open to meeting people and being social.

Keep your door open

Leaving your door open when you're hanging out in your room can be a great way to show people that you're interested in talking and making new friends.

At Grinnell, first-years are housed on floors along with students from other years, so you’ll have the chance to meet some older friends too. Just don’t forget to lock your door when you leave for class!

Students gear up for Nerf at NoyceJoin student clubs and activities

Grinnell holds a Student Activities Fair during New Student Orientation, where you can try everything from belly dancing to playing Nerf in the Noyce science building.

Sign up for things you’re interested in to meet like-minded people and try some new activities to broaden your horizons.

If there isn’t an organization for an activity or a cause you’re passionate about, start your own! Even first-year students can start organizations.

Organize study groups

Your classes are a great way to get to know people. With Grinnell’s open curriculum, the students you share classes with care about them as much as you do!

Offer to organize a study group so that you can get to know the people you sit next to in every class.

Students congregate at campus picnicAttend campus events

Attending campus events is an awesome way to meet different people and a great way to learn about what’s happening on campus. And we’re not just talking about Harris parties!

You never know if you might hit it off with the person you sit next to at a Food House dinner or a movie night.

And did we mention that all campus events (even concerts!) are free?

Get a campus job

Whether it’s part of your financial aid package or just for extra spending money, getting a job on campus can be a wonderful way to meet other students.

Consider a job where you interact with people, like the bookstore, mailroom, or dining hall. Not only will you earn some extra cash, you’ll get to know your co-workers and meet a variety of students across different class years!

Man in Grinnell College shirt walks a dog at animal shelterVolunteer

Partner with Mid-Iowa Community Action (MICA) to help families in need, or put in some time at the Poweshiek Animal League Shelter (PALS).

Finding an organization on campus or in town where you can volunteer is a great way to meet people. You'll encounter people with similar interests while doing something you care about.


Everyone around you knows what it’s like to arrive somewhere where you don’t know anyone, and they’re all probably just as nervous to make friends as you are. The more you socialize the less awkward you’ll feel.

Be yourself, and before you know it you’ll be just as comfortable in your new home as you were in your old one!

Bonus Tips: If you’re an introvert …

  • Look to see if anyone in your class year has made a group Facebook page. This can be a great way to discover people who are interesting to you without the initial awkwardness of face-to-face interactions.
  • Try to find situations with built-in conversation starters, such as student clubs and activities, so that the situation does the small talk for you.
  • Remember to build in time to recharge! Don’t feel like you have to force yourself to be social all the time in order to make friends. Give yourself permission to take a bit of time each day to be alone doing something you love: go for a run, read a book, whatever you can do to re-energize. If you want to be around people, but aren’t feeling that talkative, try hanging out on the bean bag chairs in Burling or do some reading in the Laurel Leaf Lounge.

If you give yourself time to relax, you’ll feel much more comfortable when the time for socializing comes around!

Students competing in three-legged race

Global Roots, Local Lives

Adjusting to life in Grinnell can be daunting for even the most well traveled international student. Want to know what the quirky local customs are? Wishing you had someone to talk to about your favorite traditions at home? Feeling the need for family when yours is far away? Don’t sweat it! The Friends of International Students (FIS) program has you covered.

Host family with children pose with their international studentThe FIS program is a time-honored tradition at Grinnell College. Students from places as far reaching as Serbia, Ghana, and China are matched with local families who act as community hosts, providing them with support and friendship during their college years. With nearly 150 community hosts involved in the program, you’re sure to find a family that suits your personality. No wonder more than 84 percent of international students at Grinnell are part of FIS!

“This program really allows you to see the American family lifestyle and experience what the community is like,” says Avantika Johri ’18. “It’s really enlightening.”

For Johri, the chance to have an off-campus refuge and meet Grinnell townspeople with the Seney family has been invaluable. Whether it’s ice cream study breaks, family dinners, or a visit to the children’s school, the FIS program has allowed Johri to get a feel for what life is like in small-town Iowa. “It has really shaped my college experience so far,” Johri claims.

Sarah and Kevin Seney, as well as their three young daughters, have been equally thrilled with the experiences they’ve had as Johri’s community hosts.

“We felt that this was a way that our family could connect with the College and also give our daughters an experience they might not have gotten if we didn’t jump at this opportunity,” Sarah says. “It’s a wonderful way to connect the community with the College.”

The Seney’s daughters have relished the chance to learn about Johri’s home in India, and hope to bring her to speak in their classes at school.

Johri’s favorite part of the experience? Playing with the Seney’s children at Central Park. “They have so much energy; it kind of re-energizes me!”

“We hope that Avi feels that she can come to us for anything she may need — support, activities in the community, or just someone to talk to,” Sarah says.

So, if you’re nervous about studying in the U.S., or if you want to learn more about everyday life in the city of Grinnell, the FIS program is here for you!

Avantika Johri is an undeclared major from Mumbai, India.

Welcome to Grinnell

Two traditions bookend student life at Grinnell. 

Two students open the envelopes that hold their Grinnell MedallionsThe day before classes begin, the entire class of 2019 will gather in Herrick Chapel, where alumni will welcome them into the Grinnell community; the next time these students will gather as a whole class will be to celebrate their commencement. 

At the aptly named Medallion Ceremony, each new student receives a silver medallion engraved with their class year.

In 1846, James Jeremiah Hill, a member of the Iowa Band, laid a silver dollar on the table. He announced the coin would be the cornerstone of a new college—the first dollar in its treasury. That act laid the foundation for the College. The medallions students receive symbolize the care more than 150 years of Grinnellians have taken to continue the work begun that day.

Four years later, the class of 2019 will gather with friends and family to celebrate its Commencement. With degrees in hand, the new graduates will head off on their next big adventure.

And later, some of them will return to welcome a new generation with medallions of their own.

As Grinnell’s Student Alumni Council tells students, “Years from now, when you hold your medallion, remember you belong to a unique community—you are a Grinnellian.”

Synchronizing Mind and Body

Wellness on Grinnell’s campus comes in as many forms as its students have passions, and they don’t have to be strictly athletic passions.

Synchronized swimming has been a fixture in Tea Cakarmis ’17’s life since her childhood, and it wasn’t something she could leave behind her when she came to Grinnell. After arriving on campus, she formed the Grinnell Synchronized Swimming Club to keep synchro in her life and make it possible for other students — regardless of skill level, body type, or experience — to fall in love with it as she has.

Bringing Synchro to Grinnell

I envisioned the Grinnell Synchronized Swimming Club as a community, one that encourages both artistic expression and the development of athletic abilities.

At the age of 13, I was selected as a swimmer of the Serbian National Synchronized Swimming Team. I was both petrified and extremely honored. The five years I spent on the team before coming to Grinnell have been the most meaningful of my life. My teammates became my sisters as we shared countless hours of training, frustrations at being away from home, and pride in our accomplishments.

Swimmer performing move in a pool is mirrored by the pool's surface above.While competing internationally, we traveled together from Jerusalem to Geneva, we made countless friends and memories, and we spread our love for a unique sport that unifies ballet, gymnastics, swimming, and theatre. We performed routines requiring physical abilities equal to those of any other professional athletes — endurance, core strength, and flexibility. And we executed our routines gracefully, in sync, and while smiling — even underwater, we smiled. Although we were all too aware of the fact that our sport enjoyed little recognition in our country, we knew the value of what we were doing; we were our country’s ambassadors, painting the accurate picture of our people and our culture through our talent.

Through it all, the competitions and the pressure, synchro always remained my safe space. And it’s because it is such a beautiful mixture of all different athletic and artistic disciplines that it allows the performer to communicate any type of emotion or state of mind. It gives the performer an ability to enact their own reality or create a completely new one in the water. Because it is so subjective and open to interpretation, I believe that it is enhanced by the diversity of its performers.

Synchronized swimming is traditionally viewed as a sport that strictly prescribes the body type of the performer and thus excludes a lot of possible perspectives on the discipline. Although this remains somewhat true even today, the sport in general is becoming more accepting. I formed the Grinnell Synchro Club in that spirit. I wanted all of my club members to establish their own unique approaches to synchro.

Forming the Grinnell Synchro Club offered me yet another opportunity to be an ambassador, to represent the sport I love and my home country. It is a club that, to my surprise and excitement, has been growing during the past year. During my year abroad it will be led by two inspirational swimmers — Zala Tomasic ’18 and Tess Fisher ’18 — and it will be accepting all new members, with any level of experience.

Author Teodora Cakarmis ’17 is a French and political science double major from Belgrade, Serbia; Tess Fisher ’18 is an undeclared major from Oak Park, Ill.; and Zala Tomasic ’18 is an undeclared major from Skofja Loka, Slovenia.