Home » Alumni

Alumni

With Photosphere, You are (Almost) There

Have cellphone, will travel: that’s the mantra in today’s device-driven world. Now, with a smartphone camera and a special app, a new project is providing virtual tours of archaeological sites in northern Arizona.

The Kaibab National Forest’s website now displays amazing 360-degree views of actual pueblos and rock art sites, old cabins and fire lookouts, and historic railroads, trails, and roads.

Using Google Camera on a phone, archaeologist Neil Weintraub [’86] snaps a picture at a site — or actually 41 images stitched together, to form a collage called a “photosphere.” On screen, users can rotate the view and gain a sense of the entire surrounding landscape. When that image is downloaded into the Tiny Planets app, a compressed and more artistic rendering can be created.

Neil feels this technique will provide an unusual perception on archaeological and historical sites.  It provides for him additional clues as to why people built pueblos where they did many years ago.  Also the near three-dimensional pictures show how significant the sky and landscape was to people who resided in the region many years ago.

While it is not the same as being there in person, Weintraub is confident that this method will provide people a preview, so that when or if they do visit it in person, they will see it from a new perspective.

Originally appeared in KNAU Earth Notes. Republished with permission.

Andy Hamilton ’85 Named as Athletic Director

Andy HamiltonAfter completing a national search, Grinnell College today announced that Andy Hamilton ’85, who currently serves as interim athletic director, will become the College's next director of athletics and recreation, effective July 1.

Hamilton, who also serves as an associate professor physical education and head coach of both the men's and women's tennis teams, will succeed Greg Wallace, an associate professor of physical education who is on sabbatical this year. At the end of the 2015-16 academic year, Wallace will transition to senior faculty status and begin working with the admission office to assist in recruiting student-athletes.

"Andy Hamilton brings an outstanding combination of experience in coaching, teaching, mentoring and administrative management to this position," said Mike Latham, vice president for academic affairs and dean of Grinnell College. "His deep understanding of Division III athletics, record as a coach, excellence in the classroom, and commitment to the student-athlete ideal make him particularly well suited to this role. I am very confident he will provide excellent leadership for Grinnell athletics and the department of physical education."

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate, Hamilton has served as head men's tennis coach since 1995 and head women's tennis coach since 2007, leading both teams to multiple Midwest Conference championships.

During his career Hamilton also coached women's basketball, was a men's basketball assistant coach, and assisted with football. His tutorial course and offerings in sport sociology, sport journalism, and organization and administration of athletics have made valuable contributions to the curriculum. He will begin his new position following terms as assistant athletic director and interim athletic director.

Greg WallaceIn announcing Hamilton's appointment, Latham also recognized the accomplishments of Wallace and thanked him for his dedicated and outstanding service.

"In addition to his leadership as director of athletics and recreation since 2007, Greg served as head men's golf coach for 15 years and head football coach for 20 years," Latham said. "During that span, the football team compiled a remarkable 68 victories and Greg was voted Midwest Conference coach of the year three times, in 1994, 1997 and 1998. The 1998 team is recognized as the best squad in program history, winning the league title outright while posting a perfect 10-0 mark "

In 2011, Latham added, Wallace was honored with a 35-year membership plaque from the American Football Coaches. He also earned the 1990 Grinnell Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Educator Award in recognition of his devoted service to the College and the community.

Performing Locally, Thinking Globally

For many, theatrical performances are a way to explore the unfamiliar, to experience things that are different from the place and people they call home. For Leda Hoffmann ’09, however, theatre has been a tool for making a strange new place feel like home.

The daughter of a foreign service officer, Hoffmann’s life before Grinnell was spread across multiple continents. While some might see moving around between Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Canada, and the United States as an obstacle to getting involved in a community, Hoffman dove headfirst into local theatre to make friends in each new city.  

So why did this internationally-inclined student choose to come to the middle of Iowa? The answer is simple: To get the benefits of international ideas without the distractions of a big city.

“I had never lived anywhere that wasn’t a big city, but going to Grinnell was easy for me,” she says. “Grinnell felt cosmopolitan enough that I knew if I went, there would be people from big cities, smaller towns, and all over the world.”

A theatre and dance major, Hoffmann directed numerous student-run plays during her time at Grinnell, working closely with theatre faculty. “Grinnell professors push you to do better,” she says. “To have professors and other students push you and go, ‘That’s not good enough, push harder. Ask more questions.’ That’s the whole point of going to Grinnell for me.”

This willingness to engage and challenge each other is part of what attracted Hoffman to Grinnell in the first place. “The people I talked to at Grinnell felt really honest and connected to what was going on there,” Hoffmann says. “It felt like a really strong community and one that felt true to whatever it wanted to be.”

After graduating, Hoffmann began her theatre career as an assistant lighting designer for Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C. and later as an education apprentice at Hartford Stage in Connecticut. More recently, she has worked her way from education coordinator to literary coordinator and director at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.

“When I started as an intern at the Repertory Theater, I did a lot of teaching literacy through theatre. After two years, I had enough connections in town to become a director,” says Hoffmann. “As director of community engagement, I create and execute the programs that ignite positive change in our community. It’s a job that combines my love of theater with the social justice mindset Grinnell instilled in me.”

Pioneer Weekend 2.0: A Three Day Innovation Competition

What the heck is it?

Pioneer Weekend 2.0 is the second iteration of a three day innovation competition, sponsored by the Wilson Program.

Student innovators from different backgrounds work together in teams of 3­–6 people and complete a prototype of an idea that they come up with at the event.

Pioneer Weekend encourages hands-on experiences, innovation and leadership skills, and aspiring student entrepreneurs can find out if their startup ideas might be viable.

When is it?

Friday though Sunday, April 8–­10, 2016.

Register by Wednesday, April 6. Space is limited and spots are filling fast!

Why Should I attend?

Cash Prizes! $500 1st team; $300 2nd team; $100 3rd team.

Education: With a whole weekend dedicated to letting your creative juices flow, Pioneer Weekend is a perfect opportunity to work on a new platform, learn a new programming language, or just experiment. Step outside of your comfort zone! Pioneer Weekend is all about learning through the act of creating.

Networking: We all know it's not just about the idea — it's about the team. Pioneer Weekend attracts the community's best makers and doers and is a great way to find someone you can actually launch a startup with. Walk away with a cool story that could lead to a job or a potential company.

Fun and Friendship: This isn't just a happy hour. It’s a happy weekend! By spending a weekend working on solving real-world problems, you will build long-lasting relationships.

What to Expect

Beginning with open mic pitches on Friday, students will bring in their best ideas and inspire others to join their team.

Saturday, teams focus on customer development, validating their ideas, practicing Lean Startup methodologies, and building a minimal viable product. Mentoring sessions are provided by distinguished professionals.

On Sunday afternoon, teams present their prototypes and receive valuable feedback from a panel of experts. Prizes are awarded.

Mentoring

Student teams will be mentored and judged by distinguished alumni that are part of the Wilson Program Leadership Council.

Tribute to Ragnar Thorisson ’11

Ragnar Thorisson ’11 passed away Feb. 12, 2016, in his home in Seattle. In 2003, Ragnar was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a rare form of blood cancer. After several years in remission, the cancer returned in 2014. Throughout his illness, Ragnar maintained an outstanding sense of humor and compassion and inspired many people with an online journal of his experiences and insights. He is survived by his partner, Alyssa Penner ’10.

While on campus, Ragnar was an active, thoughtful, and respectful leader in the Grinnell community. He exemplified Grinnell’s ideals of passionate activism and respectful dialogue, demonstrating a deep commitment to building a just and equitable society free from hate and bigotry. In addition to completing an internship with the Gay-Straight Alliance, Ragnar served as the programming coordinator for the Stonewall Resource Center and was a student leader in campus organizations such as A Just Grinnell and the Stonewall Coalition. He was instrumental in the writing and passing of the Hate Crimes and Bias Motivated Incidents Response and Protocols.

Ragnar was also actively committed to serving the larger Grinnell community, undertaking two internships with Mid-Iowa Community Action for which he received their Outstanding Volunteer Award. He traveled to New Orleans over spring break three years in a row through ReNew Orleans to rebuild houses devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Ragnar was the recipient of the Judith Louise McKim Sociology Award and the President’s Medal.

Ragnar is remembered as a brilliant, caring, and sophisticated scholar and as an inspiring activist. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions, which can be made in Ragnar’s name, to support the Department of Sociology at Grinnell College or the Social Justice Fund Northwest. 

Read more about Ragnar’s story and his memorial services.

Make donations to Grinnell College Sociology Department
c/o Office of Development & Alumni Relations
733 Broad Street, Grinnell, Iowa 50112
Or donate online.

Peace and Conflict Studies Student Conference

A keynote address by a genocide studies scholar, an invited alumni address, and presentations of student papers and faculty-led discussions will highlight Grinnell College's fourth biennial Peace and Conflict Studies Student Conference on March 11-12.

All events are free and open to the public, and will take place in the Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, 1115 Eighth Ave., Grinnell.

The conference is sponsored by Grinnell College's Peace and Conflict Studies Program.

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

Conference Speakers

Ernesto Verdeja

Keynote address: "Can We Predict Genocide and Mass Killings"

7:30 p.m. Friday, March 11, Rosenfield Center, Room 101

Verdeja is assistant professor of political science and peace studies at the University of Notre Dame and executive director of the Institute for the Study of Genocide.

Verdeja, who received his doctorate from the New School for Social Research in New York City and directs undergraduate peace studies at Notre Dame. His research focuses on large-scale political violence, transitional justice, political reconciliation, war crimes trials, truth commissions, and reparations.

Leonard Merrill Kurz ’75

Alumni address: "A Grinnellian's Journey for Peace"

11:45 a.m. Saturday, March 12, Rosenfield Center, Room 101

Leonard Merrill Kurz ’75 is president of Forest Creatures Entertainment, a motion picture, television, and new media production. Kurz holds a master's degree in film and television production from Stanford University. He has written, produced, and directed several documentaries, including Free the Children.

Lunch will be provided.

Student Panels

This year, 19 students from Grinnell, Macalester, Skidmore, and Antioch colleges will present papers during the conference. The papers address a range of topics about peace and conflict from the social sciences, humanities, and sciences, reflecting the vibrant interdisciplinary variety of the field.

Papers are organized into themed panels, each moderated by a faculty member who has reviewed panel papers. After the 15-minute student presentations, faculty moderators will respond and facilitate a discussion session.

The following panels will occur throughout the two-day conference.

"The Body, Objectification, and Social Suffering"
4:15 p.m. March 11, Rosenfield Center, Room 225
Papers by: Vincent Benlloch ’18, Grinnell; Clara Moser, Skidmore College; and Jesus Villalobos ’17, Grinnell.
Faculty moderator: Abram Lewis, assistant professor of gender, women’s, and sexuality studies at Grinnell.
"Leaders, Parties and Their Alternatives: Political Violence and Social Transformation"
8:30 a.m. March 12, Rosenfield Center, Room 225
Papers by: Suha Gillani ’16, Michael Cummings ’18, Max Pilcher ’18 and Maxwell Fenton ’19, Grinnell.
Faculty moderator: Keynote speaker Verdeja.
"Communities, Identities and Conflicts"
10:15 a.m., March 12, Rosenfield Center, Room 225
Papers by: Keegan Smith-Nichols, Antioch College; and Stuart Hoegh ’17 and Karol Sadkowski ’16, Grinnell.
Faculty moderator: Todd Armstrong, professor of Russian at Grinnell.
"Troubling Childhood: Violence and Rights"
10:15 a.m. March 12, Rosenfield Center, Room 226
Papers by: Betty Varland ’18 and Mari Holmes ’17, Grinnell; and Jolena Zabel, Macalester College.
Faculty moderator: Tess Kulstad, assistant professor of anthropology at Grinnell.
"Sexual Violence in War and Peace"
1:30 p.m. March 12, Rosenfield Center, Room 225
Papers by: Emily Ricker ’18 and Hannah Boggess ’18, Grinnell; and Will Stolarski, Macalester College.
Faculty moderator: Patrick Inglis, assistant professor of sociology at Grinnell.
"National Politics of Exclusion and Their Consequences"
1:30 p.m. March 12, Rosenfield Center, Room 226
Papers by Nirabh Koirala ’17 and Lucia Tonachel ’18, Grinnell; Zoe Bowman, Macalester College.
Faculty moderator: Gemma Sala, assistant professor of political science at Grinnell.
 

Changing State, Federal Roles in U.S. Electric Power Sector

David Kathan ’78, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), will present “Changing State and Federal Roles in the U.S. Electric Power Sector” a noon Friday, March 11, in Robert N. Noyce ’49 Science Center, Room 2024. David Kathan holds a doctorate in public policy and management from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He is an economist in the Office of Energy Policy and Innovation at FERC.

Recent developments in environmental and energy sustainability policy, along with the creation of a modern grid, are changing the relative roles and jurisdictional responsibilities of states and the federal government.

Kathan will provide examples of shifts in state and federal governance of these issues. He will focus on several recent Supreme Court cases and decisions that have the potential of further blurring the lines between state and federal jurisdiction, such as the recent FERC v. EPSA demand response decision. Kathan will discuss the implications of these blurred lines and shared responsibility for future environmental and energy policy.

Kathan joined FERC in 2002 after more than 20 years in energy consulting. At FERC, he works on market design issues, including demand response, smart grid, scarcity pricing, and resource adequacy.

Kathan has been the project lead for the commission’s annual demand response reports required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and was the FERC staff lead on the National Action Plan on Demand Response. During 2013, he was on temporary assignment to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, where he focused on federal agency demand management issues, and was responsible for the issuance of a Presidential Memorandum on federal agency energy management in December 2013.

Prior to joining FERC, Kathan was a principal at ICF Consulting, where he consulted on economic, environmental, and quantitative issues related to the electric power industry, with a focus on demand response and electric system modeling.  He has also held posts at National Economic Research Associates, Synergic Resources Corporation, and the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment.

The Department of Chemistry is hosting the free, public event.

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

Grinnell a Peace Corps ‘Top School’

Grinnell College has once again earned a spot on the Peace Corps’ annual Top Volunteer-Producing Colleges and Universities list, coming in at No. 23 among small universities. Currently, eight Grinnell graduates are making a difference around the world as volunteers.

For the past four consecutive years, Grinnell has made it onto the annual list. Since the agency was created in 1961, 375 Grinnell alums have served overseas.

"The Peace Corps is a unique opportunity for college graduates to put their education into practice and become agents of change in communities around the world," Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. "Today’s graduates understand the importance of intercultural understanding and are raising their hands in record numbers to take on the challenge of international service."

Grinnellian Justin Miller ’12 is making a difference as a Peace Corps volunteer. Miller has been serving in Burkina Faso as an education volunteer since August 2014. Miller works primarily as a high school math and English teacher at local schools. Additionally, Miller is working on recording public service announcements on nutrition and sexual education topics, and will distribute the recordings to his community through Bluetooth.

For Miller, the best part about serving as an education volunteer is getting to know his students personally and teaching them American games. Looking back, it was his passion for service and trying new things that led him to Peace Corps.

"Professor Terri Geller at Grinnell once told me, ‘If you aren't doing anything to help, you're saying that you're OK with how things are.’ There’s a lot of injustice in the U.S. and the world as a whole," said Miller, who graduated with a B.A. in mathematics. "The school's strong social justice environment pushed me to try to help people."

This year’s rankings follow a 40-year high in applications for the Peace Corps in 2015.  This record-breaking number comes after the first full year that the agency implemented historic reforms allowing applicants to choose the countries and assignments they'd like to be considered for. Graduating college students are encouraged to browse open programs and apply by April 1 for assignments departing fall 2016.

Iowa-based Peace Corps recruiter Ryan Cairns, a returned volunteer who served in Bulgaria, advises Grinnell candidates.  Students who are interested in post-graduate service are encouraged to meet with Keira Wilson, assistant director of service and social innovation, in the Center for Careers, Life, and Service. Visit Peace Corp Events to learn of in-person and online opportunities to chat with a recruiter.

About the Peace Corps

The Peace Corps sends the best and brightest Americans abroad on behalf of the United States to address the most pressing needs of people around the world. Volunteers work with their community members at the grassroots level to develop sustainable solutions to challenges in education, health, economic development, agriculture, environment and youth development.

Through their service, volunteers gain a unique cultural understanding and a life-long commitment to service that positions them to succeed in today’s global economy.

Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961, more than 220,000 Americans of all ages have served in 141 countries worldwide.

The Wish Specialist

The power of making a wish is no small thing; it gives us hope and allows us to envision something better. However, not many of us expect those wishes to be granted — that would be just a little too Disney. While there may not be any fairy godmother waiting to swoop in and make our dreams come true, Sally Webster ’08 has found a way to bring a little magic into the lives of seniors across the country by literally granting wishes for a living.

Success and Satisfaction with Non-Profit Work

Webster developed an interest in nonprofit work when she participated in a ReNew Orleans trip while at Grinnell. After the trip, she took a semester off and stayed in New Orleans for 6 months helping to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. After graduating, she continued to work with nonprofits through AmeriCorps NCCC, which solidified her interest in the nonprofit sector. Moving to Denver, she discovered Wish of a Lifetime, an organization that resonated with Webster due to her own close relationship with her grandmother.

Wish of a Lifetime is a Colorado-based organization that grants wishes to seniors who are experiencing isolation from friends, family, or the activities they once loved.

 “We try to grant really life-enriching, meaningful wishes,” says Webster. “They’re always connected to this vast personal history, to their passions and important people in their lives.”

She started working at the organization in 2010 as a wish coordinator, helping interview seniors and plan the logistics of making their wishes come true. Webster is the director of community outreach, managing external communications, social media, and the organization’s volunteers and interns.  

“It’s been really fulfilling working here,” Webster says. “Some of the wishes are just incredible. We reunited two Holocaust survivors this past summer in Israel, a man and his cousin. And to hear about his perspective on life after the unimaginable things he’s been through — it was amazing.”

Wish Fulfillment for the Elderly

The organization recently fulfilled the wish of one of Grinnell’s oldest alumni, Louise Goodwin McKlveen ’35, who dreamed of throwing the first pitch for the Minnesota Twins. In the weeks before her wish was granted, she excitedly did exercises to increase her arm strength in preparation for the big occasion.

“We have a lot of anecdotal evidence that isolated seniors become more involved in their communities after having a lifelong wish granted,” Webster says. They often begin volunteering, joining social clubs and re-engaging with past passions, and learning to view the last decades of their lives as “productive, involved, and exciting.” But the organization has an even larger goal in mind.

“The intention is really to change the way people view and value seniors in their everyday lives,” says Webster. “There is going to be a huge demographic shift over the next couple of decades and there will be a large elderly population. Getting people to engage with seniors and getting seniors to engage in their communities is the difference between a dependent population and one that is still contributing to society.” From their humble beginnings fulfilling only a handful of wishes annually, Wish of a Lifetime now grants more than 200 wishes each year.

Webster can vouch for the personal value of interacting with seniors and learning from their life experiences. “After working here for 5 years, I have a lot more perspective on the personal challenges in my life,” she says. “I’ve listened to the incredible obstacles these people have faced. They’ve overcome so much that my problems seem manageable in comparison!”

For more information or to nominate a senior citizen in your community, visit Wish of a Lifetime.

 

Charity Made Easy

If you use social media, chances are you’ve heard of “slacktivism.” It’s social media activism, such as when someone signs an online petition or participates in something like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness. These actions require little effort and can help make people aware of issues in the world, but these slacktivists are often criticized for not actually doing anything to help the cause they are touting.

Tab for a Cause, co-founded by Kevin Jennison ’12, takes advantage of the ease of slacktivism while ensuring that users’ actions actually make a difference. By installing a program on your browser so that every new tab you open donates money to charity, Tab for a Cause allows users to raise money for causes they care about simply by going about their normal Internet-browsing activities. Since its inception, Tab for a Cause has raised over $175,000 for various charities.

Tab for a Cause sponsors several nonprofit organizations. Users get the opportunity to learn about organizations they may never have heard of before and to choose where their money goes — all with just the click of a button.

“The idea materialized when YouTube first started showing advertisements,” says Jennison. “I realized how massive the Internet advertising market is. In founding Tab for a Cause, we sought to redirect a fraction of the money in online advertising toward a good cause.”

Rising to the Challenge

At Grinnell, Jennison was a biology major, but learning the ins and outs of software engineering and marketing has “been a blast” for him. “More than anything, Grinnell encouraged me to be unafraid to learn new things,” he says. “I took to jumping into projects that were initially intimidating, and eventually starting this business was one of those projects.”

Tab for a Cause launched during Jennison’s senior year at Grinnell. To help the product take off, he messaged friends on Facebook, hung posters in the College bathrooms, and emailed family members. Soon, he and his partner took to the Internet to spread the word. Communities like Nerdfighteria and crowdfunding sites like Project for Awesome took Tab for a Cause from a few thousand members to tens of thousands over the course of just 18 months.

“The biggest challenge,” Jennison says, “has been learning to steady what can be an emotional roller coaster ride. I’ve learned to celebrate small victories and confront difficulties, but to take both with a grain of salt.”

Looking to the Future

To continue the organization’s growth and popularity, Jennison and his partner encourage sharing among friends and classmates by “holding competitions to see which colleges or high schools can raise the most for charity in a certain period of time.”

Through the development of Tab for a Cause, Jennison has learned the importance of sharing ideas with the people around him. “Early on, every time we talked to someone about Tab for a Cause we came away with a plethora of new ideas,” he says. “This feedback guided our product before we even built it and saved us from tragic mistakes.”

Moving forward, the team at Tab for a Cause is working more and more closely with charity partners in order to give users a personal connection with the projects they donate to. They have also recently launched Goodblock, a free Chrome adblocker that shows users beautiful ads that earn money for charity every time they are viewed.

Jennison’s final word of advice for Grinnellians with big ideas: “Do it. Dive in and get your hands dirty. At worst, you’ll learn a ton, and at best, you’ll succeed in realizing your idea.”