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Churchill: The Politician as Playwright

Jonathan Rose will deliver a Scholars' Convocation on "Churchill: The Politician as Playwright" at 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 1, in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101.

Although he was known chiefly as a politician and wartime leader, Churchill was also a best-selling author, winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953. In Rose's latest book, The Literary Churchill: Writer, Reader, Actor, he introduces readers to "a Winston Churchill we have not known before." The Washington Post's review of the book states "In this sometimes speculative but immensely enjoyable biography, Jonathan Rose shows that Churchill’s authorial and political careers were entwined and inseparable."

Rose is William R. Kenan Professor of History at Drew University.

He was the founding president of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing, and he is coeditor of that organization’s journal, Book History.  His book The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes (2nd ed., 2010) won the Longman-History Today Historical Book of the Year Prize, the American Philosophical Society Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History, the British Council Prize of the North American Conference on British Studies, the SHARP Book History Prize, and the New Jersey Council for the Humanities Book Prize. 

His other publications include The Edwardian Temperament, The Holocaust and the Book: Destruction and Preservation, and A Companion to the History of the Book (with Simon Eliot). 

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 and Events.


Il Trovatore, Live in HD

This fall Grinnell will stream four of the Metropolitan Opera's productions live and in high-definition as the Met celebrates its 10th anniversary of Live-in-HD movie theater transmissions.

The screening will start at noon in the Harris Center Cinema.

The season opens with Giuseppe Verdi's "Il Trovatore" on Saturday, Oct. 3.

A tragedy, Il Trovatore is set in Spain during the Peninsular War (1808-14) between Spain and Napoleon's forces. The Met's production features soprano Anna Netrebko as the heroine Leonora, tenor Yonghoon Lee as the ill-fated Manric, and mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick as the mysterious gypsy. Sir David McVicar directs and Marco Armiliato conducts.

The season continues with screenings featuring pre-opera talks by faculty members:

  • Guiseppe Verdi's Otello on Saturday, Oct. 17, with a pre-opera talk by Ellen Mease, associate professor of European dramatic literature, criticism, theory and theatre history.
  • Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser on Saturday, Oct. 31, with a pre-opera talk by Kelly Maynard, assistant professor and department chair of European Studies
  • Alban Berg's Lulu on Saturday, Nov. 21, with a pre-opera talk by Eugene Gaub, associate professor of music theory and music history

Refreshments will be available for purchase in the lobby of the cinema before each opera.

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.

The Office of the President has generously funded tickets for Grinnell College faculty, staff, and students, and these tickets are available for free at all locations. Family members not employed by the College are required to purchase tickets.

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

Writers@Grinnell: Jami Attenberg

Jami AttenbergJami Attenberg, the next author in Writers@Grinnell will be on campus for two events on Tuesday, Sept. 22:

  • Reading at 8 p.m. in Rosenfield Center, Room 101
  • Roundtable at 4:15 p.m. in Rosenfield Center, Room 209

Attenberg has written about sex, technology, design, books, television, and urban life for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Salon, Print, The Hairpin, Vogue, New York, Elle, Real Simple, The Rumpus, and others. She has contributed to numerous anthologies and also wrote Wicked: The Musical: A Pop-up Compendium.

Attenberg believes in the power and importance of independent publishing and self-publication, whether online or in print. She has been published by a number of zines, and her chapbook, Deli Life, was published by Austin upstart So New Media in 2003. She also published a zine series, Instant Love. Her blog, whatever-whenever.net, has been in existence in various forms since 1998.

Her debut collection of stories, Instant Love, was published by Crown/Shaye Areheart Books in 2006. She is also the author of two novels, The Kept Man  and The Melting Season, both published by Riverhead Books. Her third novel, The Middlesteins, was published in October 2012 by Grand Central Publishing. It appeared on The New York Times bestseller list, and was published in England, Taiwan, Russia, Italy, France, Turkey, The Netherlands, Germany, and Israel in 2013. It was also a finalist for both the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction and the St. Francis College Literary Prize. A fifth book, Saint Mazie, was published in 2015 in the U.S., the UK, Italy, France and Germany. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, where she fights crime in her spare time.

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.

Writers@Grinnell: Kiese Laymon

Kiese LaymonKiese Laymon, the second author in this year’s Writers @Grinnell series, will present two events on Thursday, Sept. 17:

  • Roundtable at 4:15 p.m. in Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 209
  • Reading at 8 p.m. in Rosenfield Center, Room 101

Laymon is an African-American southern writer, born and raised in Jackson, Miss.

His novel Long Division was named one of the Best Books of 2013 by a number of publications — including Buzzfeed, The Believer, Salon, Guernica, Mosaic Magazine, Chicago Tribune, The Morning News, MSNBC, Library Journal, Contemporary Literature, and the Crunk Feminist Collective — and is currently a finalist for Stanford’s Saroyan international writing award.

Long Division and his collection of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, are finalists for the Mississippi Award for Arts and Letters in the fiction and nonfiction categories.

Laymon, an associate professor of English at Vassar College, has written essays and stories for numerous publications including Esquire, ESPN, Colorlines, NPR, Gawker, Truthout, Longman’s Hip Hop Reader, The Best American Non-required Reading, Guernica, Mythium, and Politics and Culture. He is working on a new novel, And So On, and a memoir, 309: A Fat Black Memoir.

Both the roundtable and reading are free and open to the public. Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. You can request accommodations from the event sponsor or Conference Operations.

Writers @Grinnell

Writers @Grinnell, the English department’s reading series, brings to campus writers of all kinds: poets, novelists, memoirists, essayists, radio essayists, columnists, graphic memoirists, playwrights, and short story writers. Recent visitors include African-American and Latino writers, international writers, LGBT writers, blind and deaf writers, bi-polar writers, and writers with mobility impairments. An anonymous donor enables the series to host an annual distinguished author reading and an interdisciplinary creative writing event.

Zine-Making Workshop

Carlos Ferguson ’92 and Kate In ’13 of Tiny Circus will conduct a collaborative zine-making workshop Sept. 14-16. An abbreviation of fanzine, or magazine, a zine is a small circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images.

Tiny Circus is a community-based organization that uses many forms of media to create zines that tell stories that are meaningful and engaging for audiences. These media include stop-motion animation, documentary audio and video, and social interaction to explore complex issues.

Sponsored by the Center for the Humanities, the "Collaborative Zine-Making Workshop: Practicing Consensus and Communication" is free and open to the public.

Participants will experience all parts of the creative process and build a wide range of skills, including camera and sound production in animation workshops, as well as collaboration in brainstorming, communicating, and creating together.

Schedule of Events

The entire workshop will be held in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.

7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14
Brainstorming session about the topic for the zine
11 am. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15
Hands-on zine-making session

Individuals may stop by and work for a few minutes or a few hours.
7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 16
Ferguson and In will give a presentation and host the first screening of the zine.

About the Hosts

Ferguson has worked with Tiny Circus for seven years, creating stop-motion animations with community members around the country. After receiving a B.A. in art from Grinnell, he earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa. He has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony, the Sacatar Foundation in Brazil and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He spends several months in Grinnell and in New Orleans between Tiny Circus tours.

In has been part of Tiny Circus since 2012 and has completed four tours as a full-time collaborator. She majored in sociology and had a Mellon Mays undergraduate fellowship. In addition to facilitating workshops on collaboration and animation with Tiny Circus, she composes and performs instrumental and vocal music and does freelance videography.

When the Wolves Came In

Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion will perform “When the Wolves Came In,” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, in Roberts Theatre in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.

This stand-alone repertory-based program explores the historical legacy of two triumphs in the international history of civil rights: the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 20th anniversary of the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa.

Abraham was inspired by Max Roach’s iconic 1960 protest album “We Insist: Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite,” which celebrated the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation and shed a powerful light on the growing civil rights movements in South Africa and the United States.

The potent themes inherent in these historical milestones are evident in Abraham’s choreography, evocative scenery by visual artist Glenn Ligon, the visceral power of Roach’s masterwork and original compositions of Grammy Award-winning jazz musician Robert Glasper.

In addition to the performance, Abraham will give a free, public talk titled "Dance Repertory as Creative Collaboration" at 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11, in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101. The Center for the Humanities and the Public Events Committee are sponsoring the talk and the performance.

About Kyle Abraham

A 2013 MacArthur Fellow, Abraham began his dance training at the Civic Light Opera Academy. He later studied dance at State University of New York at Purchase, where he received a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and at New York University, where he earned a Master of Fine Arts in the Tisch School of the Arts.

Abraham’s choreography has been presented throughout the United States and abroad in countries including Canada, Ecuador, Germany, Ireland, Japan, and Jordan. In November 2012, Abraham was named New York Live Arts Resident Commissioned Artist for 2012-14. One month later, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater premiered his work, “Another Night at New York’s City Center,” to rave reviews.


“When the Wolves Came In” is free and open to the public, although tickets are required.

Ticket distribution will begin at noon Tuesday, Sept. 8, in the box office of the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. A limited number of tickets are also available at the Pioneer Bookshop located at 823 Fourth Ave.

Any tickets not distributed by the box office will be available the night of the show beginning one half hour before show time. For more information, call 641-269-3236.

No tickets are needed for Friday's talk.

Bolstering the Arts

Chris Bulbulia ’10 came to Grinnell College as a Posse Foundation scholar interested in theatre. He wanted to become a professional actor, but a wealth of support and experience combined with intellectual flexibility honed at Grinnell opened up an even richer path of discovery.

Two short years after leaving Grinnell, Bulbulia had already climbed from post-graduate intern to a full-time development assistant at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. One night at the urging of a friend he journeyed across town to see Congressional Chorus perform its annual cabaret at the historic Atlas Performing Arts Center. It changed everything.

“I’d seen ballet and opera. I’d seen lots of shows at the Kennedy Center,” Bulbulia says. “But I saw this show and my jaw fell to the floor. I was like, whoa, what is this? There was such a range of genres — a cappella singing, bands and dancing, soloists and ensembles. It was a wonderful production.

“I fell in love with Congressional Chorus the first time I saw the cabaret,” Bulbulia says. “I feel very proud to be part of the organization today.”

Congressional Chorus and American Youth Chorus — its full name — is a family of five choruses devoted to American choral music. It performs a full slate of concerts and special appearances each year in Washington, D.C., including The White House and Capitol Hill occasions.

Bulbulia became a Congressional Chorus singer in 2013. He quickly transitioned to become the organization’s director of marketing, production, and development.

“We have a performance style for everyone,” Bulbulia says. “You’re not going to get the same thing every time you come to a show, which really lends to a dynamic season that people enjoy.”

Building relationships

Far from being overwhelmed by his multi-faceted job, Bulbulia is energized by the integration of functions he came to appreciate as a theatre major at Grinnell, as a freelance fundraiser for non-profit groups, and as an intern and employee at the Kennedy Center.

“There is a whole other side to the arts besides being a performer,” Bulbulia says. “I’ve come to understand that relationships need to be built in order to sustain organizations. This job incorporates all of the elements that allow Congressional Chorus to be healthy.”

Posse support

Bulbulia grew up in Maryland and Washington, D.C. He arrived at Grinnell as a Posse scholar through the College’s partnership with the Posse Foundation in his hometown. The Posse Foundation’s model is based on the idea that a small, diverse group of talented and carefully selected students can serve as a catalyst for individual and community development. It worked especially well for Bulbulia. 

“I had a great experience at Grinnell because of my Posse’s support system, and also because the Posse Foundation correctly decided that I would be a great fit for Grinnell,” he says.

Bulbulia’s activities at Grinnell included two years with the Grinnell Singers. His participation with the Student Publications and Radio Committee (SPARC) gave him insights into fundraising, allocations, and non-profit relationships.

Shortly after graduation, Bulbulia worked as an overhire stagehand in and around D.C. while “doing the struggling actor thing.” He even went to bartending school. The plan shifted, he says, when opportunities at the Kennedy Center refocused his attention on arts management.

“The arts are in need of people who can bolster the craft and provide good representation for artists themselves,” Bulbulia said. That includes helping artists make sound financial decisions and building their marketing and technical skills to assist in the creation of their best productions and performances.

Bringing people together

Bulbulia continues to work in support of community organizations such as Afromoda Dance Theater, City at Peace, D.C. Public Library’s Punk Archive, and Funk Parade. He is a member and officer in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, which is dedicated to the principles of friendship, love, and charity.

He also manages events and partnerships for the city’s largest online music magazine, DCMusicDownload.com, which provides in-depth coverage of the local music scene and hosts major music events at prestigious venues like 9:30 Club, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Howard Theatre.

“I have strong commitment to community and to bringing people together through fellowship,” Bulbulia says. “That is why I’ve been a part of all these organizations — to help communities grow and enjoy life together.”

A Focus on Polar Bears

Whether through the telephoto lens of her camera or her work in villages across Russia, Alaska, and Canada, Elisabeth Kruger ’06 is focused on polar bears.

Kruger serves as the Arctic and Bering Sea program officer in World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Anchorage office. A major focus of her work is decreasing human-polar bear conflict — starting with safely managing bear attractants like food. “Polar bears, the most carnivorous of all bears, are extremely curious, smart, and powerful,” she says — a troublesome combination when faced with the temptation of “easy” food in villages.

Before arriving in Alaska, the Russian major first moved from the cozy classrooms of ARH to Irkutsk, Russia, on a Fulbright grant studying Siberian folk theatre. Siberia became her home for four years, and through her volunteer work with conservation groups, the pristine wilderness of the Lake Baikal region became her inspiration. When it was time to return to the United States, Kruger knew that the taiga and tundra she longed for made Alaska — where “the streets and volcanoes are named after Russian explorers” — her only choice.

Kruger’s intimate knowledge of both North American and Russian cultures and languages has proven invaluable in facilitating WWF’s transboundary work on conservation issues in this region, culminating in a trilateral strategic plan coordinating the efforts of WWF national organizations in Russia, Canada, and the United States on issues ranging from oil and gas development to salmon fisheries management. In the neighboring Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas, decisions made on the national level can easily have far-ranging international consequences. Kruger appreciates that WWF positions itself “at the confluence of scientific research and local ecological knowledge,” using both resources to address conservation concerns in her region.

polar bear on ice flowAs polar bears have become an international icon for the global effects of climate change, research on bears garners ample public and media attention, says Kruger. “The U .S . Geological Survey recently announced that one of two U.S. subpopulations of polar bears experienced a 40 percent decline between 2001 and 2010 due to the effects of climate change on their habitat, stabilizing at the lower level in 2007.” Such stabilization in the South Beaufort Sea population gives researchers like Kruger hope that “if lawmakers act now to drastically reduce greenhouse emissions, polar bears as a species may still have a chance” of surviving this environmental crisis.

Alaska is home to a significant number of highly accessible, world-class researchers. Kruger, lacking a formal scientific background, appreciates that those researchers are both open to collaboration and are available to discuss their research. WWF’s own Arctic scientific research currently includes a partnership developing a method for individual polar bear identification using environmental DNA collected from their snowy paw prints. Kruger has contributed numerous snow samples from her travels across bear territory.

While it won’t replace the traditional mark-recapture method of collecting polar bear data, the expected increase in data points available to researchers at this crucial juncture could be transformative in our understanding of polar bear adaptation throughout the Arctic.

Statistics and Society

Undergraduate research tends to evoke images of either a library or a laboratory. The Data Analysis and Social Inquiry Lab (DASIL) offers students in social studies and the humanities something different. The lab has computers with statistical analysis programs that can help students and faculty understand trends in data and visually represent data in charts and graphs and on maps.

Grinnellians Helping Grinnellians

DASIL helps students and faculty analyze and visualize data on an individual basis and brings data analysis into the classroom. It also provides experiential learning for student tutors. “We do the students a disservice unless we make sure they have some level of technological understanding,” says Kathy Kamp, professor of anthropology and Earl D. Strong Professor of Social Studies. DASIL is a unique program in that it is staffed by undergraduates.

“When we’re not helping students,” says Beau Bressler ’16, a DASIL staffer, “we’re working on projects for faculty — usually gathering or organizing data.”

Last year, DASIL launched an independent website that hosts a number of data visualizations. Most of the visualizations make use of publicly available — usually government-collected — information.

One of the projects DASIL is taking on is an interactive map tracking land-holding, using historical records, in three Iowa townships in Poweshiek and Jasper counties.

An earlier major project DASIL was involved in was English professor James Lee’s Global Renaissance, an analysis of 25,000 texts from 1470 to 1700 using data mining techniques to visualize the specific language Shakespeare's England employed to describe different races and places across the globe before colonialism.

Learning by Teaching

Bressler has worked at DASIL for more than a year. During his time there, he has assisted students and professors and has done his own research for a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP). As an economics major, he works primarily on econometrics problems. The students who work with DASIL are fairly specialized, says Julia Bauder, social studies and data services librarian. “We try to have a student fluent in geographical information systems, an economics major who has taken econometrics, a mathematics major, and at least one person doing qualitative research and able to use NVivo qualitative analysis software.”

“Sometimes people come and they know what they want to research and what they’re trying to do, but they don’t know the software or don’t know what variables to use,” says Bressler. “I plan on going into research, so being exposed to other students’ research prepares me to do a broader array of research.” In the spring semester, Bressler helped Ope Awe ’15 analyze data for a MAP to determine what factors in a developing country influence entrepreneurship.

“DASIL is a place you can come and learn to work with data,” says Bressler. “Working with people — especially when they’re other students who know how to work with data — can make statistics easier to understand.”

Beau Bressler ’16 is an economics major from San Diego, Calif.

Alumni pledge $1M for new learning spaces

Undergraduates creating interactive translations of literary classics. Analyzing space, time, and motion as philosophical, as well as physical, phenomena. Discovering new ways of seeing the world by recording and analyzing endangered languages.

Grinnell College students and faculty will gain advanced opportunities to collaborate, create, and use new technologies in their pursuit of a greater understanding of humanity, thanks to a $1 million pledge from Grinnell graduates Karen Van Dusen ’77 and Joel Spiegel ’78. Their generous commitment will support the College’s new humanities and social studies complex.

Van Dusen and Spiegel, a Grinnell College trustee, have made the largest pledge to date to a long-term plan to improve the College's academic spaces. The College expects to launch a public campaign next year to raise $20 million for the project, which includes a major renovation of Alumni Recitation Hall (ARH) and Carnegie Hall.

Classrooms that accommodate the continuing transformation in modes of teaching and technology are essential for introducing students to the full range of human ideas, said Erik Simpson, professor of literature and Grinnell's principal investigator for the collaborative “Digital Bridges” project with the University of Iowa.

“More and more often,” he added, “my students will talk about a novel around a table one hour, and move to their computers to collaborate on a digital project the next. Bigger and more flexible classrooms will enable groups and individuals to switch between them seamlessly. Plus, well-designed informal spaces will encourage conversations to extend beyond class time.”

Like Van Dusen and Spiegel’s previous $250,000 commitment for curriculum-embedded global learning opportunities, the couple’s new gift demonstrates their commitment to providing students with “connected and relevant” experiences, complementing great classroom teaching with direct exposure to different ways of looking at the world.

Van Dusen, who majored in political science, describes how Grinnell’s broad-ranging approach expanded her own horizons. While working for Professor of Biology (now Emeritus) Ken Christiansen, Van Dusen would receive his biological samples shipped from the field, along with his accounts to her of his visits with Bedouin tribes. “I grew up in a rural area in the mountains of Wyoming,” she said. “I would sit and watch the license plates of cars passing through on their way to Yellowstone and wonder where those places were. Grinnell was my entry point into that larger world. I want to give other students with the same aspirations a chance to encounter the incredible range of human experience.”

Spiegel agrees. “As a biology major, the humanities and social sciences opened my eyes to the world,” he said. “These new learning spaces are important to us not just as bricks and mortar, but as a way of helping Grinnell pursue its original mission in a new time and context. This is about empowering faculty to help students see the world in new ways, so they can do great things for their own futures, and for the common good.”

President Raynard S. Kington remarked on the power of Van Dusen and Spiegel’s vision. “Through their philanthropic leadership, Karen and Joel are helping to ensure that all of our students will have access to opportunities for becoming effective global citizens and global leaders,” Kington said. “Their dedication to Grinnell as a learning place of national and international prominence is a powerful expression of the value of their own liberal arts experiences.”

“Those who supported the College before us made our educations possible,” Van Dusen and Spiegel explained in a joint statement. “We encourage others to join us in making sure these same kinds of educational opportunities are available and accessible to future Grinnell students.”

Learn more about plans to enhance Grinnell's learning spaces.