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Grinnell Prize Honors Social Justice Innovators

The power of words and language to effect positive change in individuals and societies is the focus of the 2015 Grinnell Prize, the largest monetary award presented by a U.S. college recognizing achievements in social justice.

Grinnell College has selected two winners of the $100,000 Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize this year:

Each prizewinner will receive $50,000 as an individual and $50,000 for her organization.

Grinnell President Raynard S. Kington will present the prizes at an awards ceremony at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, in Herrick Chapel, 1128 Park St., Grinnell. Ahenkorah and Vertkin will talk about their work during the ceremony, which is free and open to the public.

Deborah Ahenkorah, Golden Baobab

Ahenkorah, 28, founded Golden Baobab in 2008 in Accra, Ghana, to encourage the creation, production and distribution of high-quality, culturally relevant children's literature by Africans for Africans. The first arts and literary organization to win a Grinnell Prize, Golden Baobab nurtures emerging African writers and illustrators through annual awards (with cash prizes), as well as workshops to provide resources and develop talent. The organization has formed its own literary agency and publishing company. Ahenkorah was nominated for the Grinnell Prize by her sister, Eunice, a 2013 graduate of Grinnell College.

 

Maria Vertkin, Found in Translation

Vertkin, 29, started Found in Translation in 2011 in Boston to support and train homeless and low-income bilingual women to start careers as professional medical interpreters. The organization attacks the twin challenges of economic disadvantages faced by minority women, as well as racial, ethnic, and linguistic disparities in health care. From 20 to 30 women graduate from the program each year, earning a certificate in medical interpretation and receiving career placement services.

Grinnell Prize Week Offers New Events

The award winners also will participate in Grinnell Prize Week from Oct. 26-29. They will meet with students, faculty and staff to discuss their approaches to social justice, sources of inspiration and success in overcoming obstacles. This year, for the first time, the week includes an art exhibition and the Spark Tank Innovation Challenge.

Current Styles in African Illustration

Colorful open-air market scene Xanele Puren, South Africa, Reproduced with permission from the 2014 Golden Baobab Prize for African Illustrators

"Current Styles in African Illustration" will open Monday, Oct. 26, in Burling Gallery on the lower level of Burling Library.

It will highlight distinguished and contemporary children's illustration in Africa by showcasing submissions to the inaugural Golden Baobab Prize for African Illustrators, which honors current and distinctive African illustrators from throughout the continent.

An opening reception for Ahenkorah of Golden Baobab and the exhibition will take place from 5 to 6 p.m. Oct. 26 in Burling Gallery.

The exhibition, presented by the Faulconer Gallery in conjunction with the staff of Golden Baobab, will run through Dec. 18. The exhibition and reception are free and open to the public.

Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends.

The Spark Tank Innovation Challenge 2015

Spark Tank Challenge - logoThe Spark Tank Innovation Challenge has paired Grinnell College students with educators in the Grinnell-Newburg School District to form 17 teams seeking innovative ways to address challenges in the public schools. Each team has been working to address a challenge by devising a solution that is innovative, practical, and beneficial.

Some of the challenges, identified by local educators and the Grinnell Schools Task Force, include:

  • Developing non-traditional methods of holding students accountable for their actions;
  • Making lunchtime a positive experience; and
  • Increasing underrepresented populations in STEM fields.

Student teams selected as finalists will have three minutes to pitch their innovations to the judges in a live event. The event, inspired by the "Shark Tank" TV show, is free and open to the public and will start at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, in Roberts Theatre, Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.

The judges — 2015 prizewinners and two local educators — will select three winning teams that will share a total of $22,500 in prize money to carry out their innovative projects. Each team also will receive a $250 cash prize.

Nominations Due Nov. 9 for 2016 Grinnell Prize

The College is accepting nominations for the 2016 Grinnell Prize through Nov. 9. No affiliation with Grinnell College is required.

Established by Grinnell College in 2010, the Innovator for Social Justice Prize honors individuals demonstrating leadership in their fields and showing creativity, commitment and extraordinary accomplishment in bringing about positive social change.

Grinnell College presented the first prizes in 2011. Since then, 12 prizes with a total value of $1.2 million have been awarded, including the two for 2015.

Agents of Change

Campus committees abound at Grinnell and are among the numerous ways for students to leave their footprint. High student participation in campus committees may be an obvious result of self-governance.

“Self-government” and “a democratic student community” were concepts invoked by the College’s founders, notes Chris Jones, College archivist. Student representation on campus committees was regularly documented in the early 1900s.

So, the work of student involvement in the inner workings of the Grinnell campus is indeed a well-established practice. Some committees are elected; some are appointed; some are show-interest-and-you-are-in.

Benefits to students

“Through the Rosenfield Committee, I'm involved in the process of bringing fantastic speakers to campus to talk about issues of human rights and international relations,” says Nipun Basrur ’15, a chemistry major. “I have the opportunity to meet and interact with these speakers and to plan events and symposiums on topics that I personally care about — an incredibly rare opportunity for undergraduate students.”

Basrur is also a member of the Student Educational Policy Committee (SEPC) for chemistry. Each academic department has its own SEPC. Basrur says, “I'm able to build a closer relationship with other majors and faculty and learn more about the planning and working of an academic department — which will be helpful if I choose to continue in academia in the future.”

Roni Finkelstein ’15 says, “I have learned so much about event planning, college operations, and networking from being involved in campus committees. I've also had invaluable enlightening conversations with accomplished scholars and professionals. My involvement with campus committees has shaped my perspective on my own career path.”

Last year, Finkelstein was involved in the Budget Planning Committee as Student Government Association treasurer. She currently serves on the Grinnell Prize Advisory Committee, the Rosenfield Program Committee, and the SEPC for history.

“I reach out to my social networks to gather opinions about what other students would like to see happen and share those opinions with staff and faculty,” Finkelstein says. “By gathering student opinion, committees become more effective in their missions to enrich campus life.”

Benefits to campus

Sarah Purcell ’92, professor of history and director of the Rosenfield Program, also knows well the benefits students gain from campus service. As a student, she served on the committee for the program she now directs.

“Everything in the Rosenfield Program involves students. It’s impossible to imagine doing this work without them,” Purcell says. “Students are the majority on the committee, are full voting members, and have input from ideas to planning to execution.”

Three students talking together in a committee

Grinnell’s committee work culture “is self-gov in practice,” she says. “Sharing committee responsibilities helps students to gain experience. Committee work is a great way to get to know Grinnell and build skills such as workplace etiquette. It’s definitely a resume builder, especially if the student has taken an active role and can talk about specific projects and their part in them.”

Mark Peltz, Daniel and Patricia Jipp Finkelman Dean for the Center for Careers, Life and Service, views student committee involvement as both a leadership and a learning experience.

“Students at Grinnell have uncommon opportunities to be involved in academic departments, standing committees, and task forces that directly impact the student experience. I tell students to take the role seriously. ‘You are a student whose voice is being heard so be an active participant in the process.’”

Peltz also sees a direct tie to self-governance. “Student participation is an expectation here, more so than at other places. Grinnell’s commitment to self-governance is the foundation on which committee decisions are made — from SEPCs where students play a role in recruitment and hiring of faculty to participating on Board of Trustees’ committees*. Students’ active involvement serves us better as a campus community.”

*The Student Government Association’s president and two vice-presidents regularly attend and participate on Board of Trustee committees.

Benefits for all

Basrur agrees: “When you give passionate and intelligent students the resources to plan events or student policies, our campus can only benefit.”

Nipun Basrur ’15, a chemistry major, is from Bangalore, India. Roni Finkelstein ’15, a history major, is from Tenafly, New Jersey.

Grinnell Prize Nominations

Nominations for the 2015 Grinnell Prize are due by Monday, Dec. 1, 2014.

Grinnell College is seeking nominations for the 2015 Grinnell Prize. The award program — which annually presents winners with a prize of $100,000 — honors innovators who have demonstrated leadership in their fields and who show creativity, commitment, and extraordinary accomplishment in effecting positive social change.

“The Grinnell Prize reflects our College’s longstanding commitment to educating men and women who will make a difference in the world,” says President Raynard S. Kington. “We have been impressed by the high quality of nominations that we’ve received in the first years of the prize, and our students benefit greatly from interacting with Grinnell Prize recipients in the classroom and in informal settings on campus. The Grinnell Prize honors those who ‘practice what we teach,’ and we are pleased to have this forum to recognize young people who are raising visibility and creating innovative solutions for some of the world’s most pressing issues.”

Past nominations have spanned a diverse array of social issues, including hunger relief, childhood education, environmental issues, literacy, youth arts, fair housing, violence prevention, immigration, GLBTQ services, hospice care, children’s mental health and global peace, among many others.

Previous recipients of the Grinnell Prize:

2011 – Eric W. Glustrom and Boris Bulayev, Educate!; James Kofi Annan, Challenging Heights; and Rabbi Melissa Weintraub, Encounter

2012 – Cristi Hegranes, Global Press Institute; Jacob Wood and William McNulty, Team Rubicon; and Jane Chen and Linus Liang, Embrace

2013 – Emily Arnold-Fernández, Asylum Access, and Elizabeth Scharpf and Julian Ingabire Kayibanda, SHE

2014 – Lindsay Stradley and Ani Vallabhaneni, Sanergy, and Adam Kircher and Kiah Williams, SIRUM

About the Grinnell Prize

The Grinnell Prize directly reflects Grinnell’s historic mission to educate men and women “who are prepared in life and work to use their knowledge and their abilities to serve the common good.”

Nominations are open to U.S. citizens as well as nationals of other countries. The program hopes to attract nominations across a wide range of fields, including science, medicine, the environment, humanities, business, economics, education, law, public policy, social services, religion and ethics, as well as projects that cross these boundaries.

Grinnell especially hopes to receive nominations for innovators working on domestic issues in the US. No affiliation with Grinnell College is required.

Prize Paintings

To commemorate winners of the Grinnell Prize, the College commissions paintings by artist Tilly Woodward.

She says "It is both an honor and a privilege to paint the story of people who have done so much in their young lives. I enjoy the challenge of finding visual metaphors to represent their missions and the enormous impact of the work they do with and for others."

Learn more about each year's paintings from her below.

2014 Grinnell Prize Symposium

A weeklong series of events at Grinnell College honors the 2014 Grinnell Prize recipients for their innovations in social justice. The winners are:

  • l to r: Ani Vallabhaneni, Lindsay Stradley, President Raynard S. Kington, Kiah Williams and Adam Kircher Lindsay Stradley and Ani Vallabhaneni of Sanergy. Sanergy builds and franchises Fresh Life toilets that improve sanitation and public health, create jobs, and convert waste into valuable byproducts such as organic fertilizer in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Adam Kircher and Kiah Williams of SIRUM (Supporting Initiatives to Redistribute Unused Medicine). SIRUM saves lives by administering the redistribution of surplus prescription medications to California residents who cannot afford their prescriptions.

The fourth annual Grinnell Prize Symposium, held the week of Oct. 6, brings these young innovators to campus to talk about their work and meet with students in and out of class.

The weeklong symposium includes several events that are free and open to the public.

Tuesday, Oct. 7 Herrick Chapel

4:15 p.m.

Awards Ceremony

The ceremony includes a keynote address by Charlayne Hunter-Gault, “My Sixties: Reflections on Coming of Age in the ‘Miracle Decade’ & Enduring Lessons.” A reception and book signing immediately follow at Macy House, across the street.

An archive video  of the ceremony is available.

Wednesday, Oct. 8 Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101

6:30 p.m.

Buffet dinner with prizewinners

7:30 p.m.

Prizewinner presentation: “Achieving Social Justice Through Building Healthy, Prosperous Communities”

Speakers are Lindsay Stradley and Ani Vallabhaneni, co-founders of Sanergy.

An archive video of the ceremony will be available shortly.

Thursday, Oct. 9 Rosenfield Center, Room 101

4:15 p.m.

Prizewinner presentation: “The Five Billion Dollar Problem”

Speakers are Kiah Williams and Adam Kircher, co-founders and directors of SIRUM.

A reception immediately follows upstairs in the second floor lobby.

The event will be streamed live.

2014 Grinnell Prize Winners Announced

The 2014 Grinnell Prize — a $100,000 award honoring young innovators in social justice — will be presented by Grinnell College to founders of two organizations making the world a healthier, cleaner place.

The winners were selected from among 211 nominees who represent 34 countries and serve a total of 43 nations through their work.

Winners

Lindsay Stradley and Ani Vallabhaneni, co-founders of Sanergy, which builds and franchises Fresh Life toilets that improve sanitation and public health, create jobs, and convert waste into valuable byproducts such as organic fertilizer in Nairobi, Kenya.

 

Kiah Williams and Adam Kircher, co-founders and directors of SIRUM (Supporting Initiatives to Redistribute Unused Medicine) , which saves lives by administering the redistribution of surplus prescription medications to California residents who cannot afford their prescriptions.

The largest prize for social justice awarded by a college, the Grinnell Prize is presented annually to leaders under 40 who make creative innovations in social justice. Half of each $100,000 prize goes to the individual winners, and the other half to their organizations.

The 2014 Grinnell Prize medals will be presented at an awards ceremony at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7, in Herrick Chapel at Grinnell College and will be viewable live at www.grinnell.edu/livestream.

The ceremony will include a keynote address by Charlayne Hunter-Gault. The award-winning journalist, author and civil rights activist will discuss “My Sixties: Reflections on Coming of Age in the ‘Miracle Decade’ and Enduring Lessons.”

The award winners also will participate in the Grinnell Prize Symposium from Oct. 6–10. They will give public presentations about their work and meet with students, faculty, staff, and the wider community to discuss their approaches to social justice, sources of inspiration, and success in overcoming obstacles. All Grinnell Prize events are free and open to the public.

See the winner’s page for more information about the winners and their organizations.

 

Announcing Team Rubicon Internship

 

One of the Center for Careers, Life, and Service’s (CLS) newest Grinnellink internships is with Team Rubicon. Team Rubicon's co-founders, Jacob Wood and William McNulty, received the Grinnell Prize in 2012. This summer 2014 internship is open to all current students interested in learning about military veterans and disaster response.

Team Rubicon’s mission is to unite the skills and experiences of military veterans with medical professionals to rapidly deploy emergency response teams into crisis situations. Its vision is a new paradigm in disaster response that recognizes and harnesses the skills of military veterans, offering them a chance to continue their service by helping and empowering those afflicted by disasters, and also themselves.

Team Rubicon asks that all personnel, including interns, be committed to working in alignment with the following operational principles:

  • Tenacity,
  • Excellence,
  • Impartiality,
  • Service,
  • Collaboration,
  • Accountability,
  • Transparency,
  • Priority,
  • Adaptability, and
  • Innovation.

Grinnellink internships are specific opportunities with College alumni and friends and are open exclusively to Grinnell students. The CLS coordinates the internships, which include full funding for food, transportation, and housing.  Opportunities are 8–10 week, full-time summer internships. 

Students can log in to PioneerLink to view full descriptions of Grinnellink internships, qualifications to apply, and application instructions.  Online applications will be available mid-January 2014.  The deadline to apply for the Team Rubicon internship is 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. 

Visit the CLS for more information about this opportunity with Team Rubicon, or to explore Grinnellink and other summer internship options.

Grinnell Prize Symposium, Nov. 8-9

 

2013 prizewinners honored in the third annual Grinnell Prize Symposium.

Saturday's Public Event

  • Bowling with Winners: 8 p.m. Bowladrome (915 State St., Grinnell)

The 2013 Grinnell Prize recipientsElizabeth Scharpf and Julian Ingabire Kayibanda of Sustainable Health Enterprises and Emily Arnold-Fernández of Asylum Access, are being honored for their innovations in social justice during a week-long series of events at Grinnell College and in Des Moines.

The third annual Grinnell Prize symposium, being held the week of November 3, brings these young innovators to campus to talk about their work and meet with students in and out of class.  

The visit is featuring a number of public events, including presentations by the prize recipients and an awards ceremony with a keynote address by anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean.

About the Grinnell Prize

The Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize (also known as the Grinnell Prize) honors individuals under the age of 40 who have demonstrated leadership in their fields and who show creativity, commitment and extraordinary accomplishment in effecting positive social change. Each prize carries an award of $100,000, half to the winning individual (or individuals) and half to an organization committed to the winner’s area of social justice.

Grinnell Prize Symposium, Nov. 7

2013 prizewinners honored in the third annual Grinnell Prize Symposium.

Today’s Public Event

  • "Changing the World," SHE winners: 4:15 p.m. Rosenfield Center Room 101 (will be live streamed)

The 2013 Grinnell Prize recipientsElizabeth Scharpf and Julian Ingabire Kayibanda of Sustainable Health Enterprises and Emily Arnold-Fernández of Asylum Access, are being honored for their innovations in social justice during a week-long series of events at Grinnell College and in Des Moines.

The third annual Grinnell Prize symposium, being held the week of November 3, brings these young innovators to campus to talk about their work and meet with students in and out of class.  

Their visit is featuring a number of public events, including presentations by the prize recipients, and an awards ceremony with a keynote address by anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean.

About the Grinnell Prize

The Grinnell College Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize (also known as the Grinnell Prize) honors individuals under the age of 40 who have demonstrated leadership in their fields and who show creativity, commitment and extraordinary accomplishment in effecting positive social change. Each prize carries an award of $100,000, half to the winning individual (or individuals) and half to an organization committed to the winner’s area of social justice.