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Grinnell Welcomes Alumni to 2016 Reunion

More than 1,100 Grinnell College alumni, friends, and family will return to campus for the College’s 137th Alumni Reunion Weekend.

Four reunion attendees pose for a seflie photoAlumni from from 48 states, the District of Columbia, and 11 foreign countries including South Africa, Ireland, Japan, Taiwan, Germany, Hong Kong, India, and Costa Rica will return to Grinnell from June 3 to June 5.  

Reunion is one of the College’s biggest social events with parties, dances, dinners, and family activities.

Other weekend highlights include:

  • an all-Reunion picnic,
  • a special Honor G reception highlighting Grinnell athletics,
  • a 5K fun run,
  • class dinners,
  • bike and walking tours of the campus and community,
  • and a "Music in the Park" community concert by "The Loggia Patrol," composed of alumni from the class of 1976.

Silver, gold, and copper colored tag, focus on the gold which say 50th ReunionThe 50th reunion class of 1966 has organized a series of “Grinnell Talks” with themes that range from flying upside down in aerial aerobatic competitions to coping with mid-life career changes.

Ten alumni will receive awards for service to their professions, the College, and community.

A number of special presentations are planned for the weekend including a College President’s Panel, which will discuss the opportunities and challenges Grinnell College faces in the changing world of higher education. The panel will feature:

  • Former Drake University President David Maxwell ’66 (moderator),
  • President Raynard Kington,
  • Michael Latham, V.P. of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College,
  • Dan Davis ’16, SGA President, 2015-16,
  • Joe Bagnoli, V.P. for Enrollment, Dean of Admission & Financial Aid,
  • Mark Peltz,  Daniel and Patricia Jipp Finkelman Dean for Careers, Life, and Service, and
  • Lakesia Johnson, Associate Dean and Chief Diversity Officer

The Alumni College will hold courses on the theme of "Food for Thought" starting June 1. This year, participants will have the option of choosing an excursion to either the Meskwaki reservation or the Kolona Amish settlement to learn more about the food and food systems of the region. The annual alumni lecture will be presented by David Ten Eyck ’76 on “My Grinnell Experience: From Classrooms in the Cornfields to Courtrooms on the Frozen Tundra.”

 

Grinnell Welcomes Alumni to Reunion

More than 1,100 Grinnell College alumni, friends, and family will return to campus for the College’s 136th Alumni Reunion Weekend.

Crowd dining in Quad's wood paneled dining hall, colorful banners hung from raftersAlums from as far as Germany, Costa Rica, and Taiwan will return to Grinnell from May 27 to May 31.  

Reunion is one of the College’s biggest social events with parties, dances, dinners, and Wonderland Family Fun!

Other weekend highlights include:

  • an all-Reunion picnic,
  • a special Honor G reception highlighting Grinnell athletics,
  • a 5K fun run,
  • class dinners,
  • tours of the campus and community,
  • a special exhibition of lath art by the late John Pfitsch,
  • and a special student performance of a series of vignettes on “The Grinnell Experience: Life in the ‘60s,” by Murry Nelson ’69.

Alums will look back at the impact they have had on the world, from the founding of the student organization Concerned Black Students in the late ‘60s, to the films alumni have made and the books they’ve written.

Silver, gold, and copper colored tag, focus on the gold which say 50th ReunionThe 50th reunion class of 1965 has organized two series of “Grinnell Talks” featuring classmates who will discuss their life’s work including American involvements in Southeast Asia to the science of the aging brain.

Ten alumni will receive awards for service to their professions, the College, and community.

A number of special presentations are planned for the weekend including a College President’s Panel, which will discuss the future of higher education. The panel will feature:

  • Grinnell’s President Raynard Kington,
  • Mary Sue Coleman ’65 (University of Michigan),
  • David Maxwell ’66 (Drake University),
  • J. Fritz Schwaller ’69 (SUNY-Potsdam), and
  • moderator George Drake ’56 (President Emeritus, Grinnell College).

The Alumni College will hold courses on the theme of preservation starting the 27th, and Gertrude B. Austin Professor of Economics William Ferguson ’75 will partner with David Calvert ’75 to offer the annual alumni lecture on “Community and Responsive Governance: Academic and Practical Perspectives.”

 

Gymnastics in the Round

Imagine a set of children’s monkey bars that have been turned into a circle the size of a tractor tire — that’s what the German wheel is like, the apparatus used in wheel gymnastics.

In March 2015, for the second year in a row, Carly Schuna ’06 won the U.S. Open All-Around Competition in wheel gymnastics. She’ll compete in the Wheel Gymnastics World Championships in Italy in June 2015.

“Grinnell College is really encouraging of weird, idiosyncratic, niche interests people have,” Schuna says.

At Grinnell, she did nothing athletic. But when she first tried the German wheel at a juggling festival, Schuna says, “I never wanted to get off.” She bought her own wheel six weeks later — this from a woman who hates exercise.

“The German wheel’s fun factor so totally outweighs the amount of physical effort it takes to do it,” she says. It’s so much fun, she says, that she’s motivated to do weight training and lots of cardio exercise to make herself stronger so she’s better on the wheel.

She’s been studying the German wheel for about three years.

“In a way, I don’t feel like I have any right to be in an international gymnastics competition,” Schuna says. When she competes in Italy, she’ll be competing against women who’ve been doing German wheel gymnastics for at least 10 years.

But one thing Schuna learned while at Grinnell, she says, “If you have the potential to develop, there’s no reason you shouldn’t do it.

“Wheel gymnastics is a huge part of my life. It’s something I never expected,” she says. “I don’t have a gymnastics background at all, so it doesn’t come naturally to me to point my toes and do all of the things you have to do in competition. Learning all of that is a continuous process.”

Carly Schuna '06 hangs upside down inside her German wheelSchuna is able to put so much time and effort into the German wheel because she’s put her English major to good use in her primary job as a freelance children’s writer. She freelances for Highlights, the well-known children’s magazine, among many other publications.

The freelance nature of her work gives her a ton of flexibility so she can practice German wheel as much as she wants. As a result, she’s become a certified wheel gymnastics coach who coaches several times a week at Madison Circus Space in Madison, Wis., an organization she helped found.

“I’m lucky to have more than one job, and both things that are totally unusual,” Schuna says. “I don’t fit in any boxes and I’m really proud of that."

 

Grinnell Welcomes Alumni

More than 1,400 Grinnell College alumni, friends, and family will return to campus for the College’s 135th Alumni Reunion Weekend. Alums from as far as India, Thailand, and New Zealand will return to Grinnell from May 28 to June 1.

Reunion is one of the College’s biggest social events. It combines parties, dances, dinners, and Ultimate Frisbee. Other weekend highlights include an all-Reunion picnic, a 5K fun run, class dinners, tours of the campus and community, and a traditional bakery run at 2 a.m. on Saturday.

Alums will look back at the impact they have had on the world, from the Grinnell 14’s trip to Washington, D.C., which helped start the student peace movement in 1961, to the films alumni have made and the books they’ve written. Nine alumni will receive awards for service to their professions, the College, and community.

Presentations are planned on how the College has changed in the last 40 years, the success of the Liberal Arts in Prison Program, and the first postgraduate steps taken by the Class of 2013. The Alumni College will hold courses on the theme of revolution starting the 28th, and Rosenfield Professor of Political Science H. Wayne Moyer will lead a discussion on climate change.

On Becoming an Excellent Teacher

 

Bryan Lake ’02 received a 2012 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching for his work as a kindergarten teacher at Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary in Urbana, Ill.

He’ll receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation and a paid trip for two to the recognition ceremony and professional development events in Washington, D.C., in the spring. The award was announced Dec. 20.

When Lake came to Grinnell College, his original goal was pre-med. In high school, he thrived in chemistry and biology courses.

It was his first-year tutorial, “Peacemaking,” with Martha Voyles, an associate professor of education, that got Lake thinking about a change in direction. An American Studies course cemented that impulse, and in his junior year, he “decided to change everything.”

That led him to majoring in American Studies and earning his certification in elementary education.

Lake started his career as a fourth-grade teacher, which hooked him on science again. He used active learning to help students get their hands dirty — literally. He says his students’ “eyes got wider.”

When he moved into teaching second grade, Lake taught science as heavily activity based. Students investigated simple machines and discovered how basic circuits work. Their sense of wonder convinced Lake that he was on the right track.

While Lake pursued National Board Certification, he began making connections across subject areas. He developed an integrated math and science unit to foster students’ sense of wonder across disciplines.

When he moved into his kindergarten classroom, Lake’s biggest goal was to tie everything together — math, social studies, physical education, and health, for example. He eagerly embraced science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teaching and learning, which led to the work for which he won the presidential award.

“It’s a huge honor,” Lake says, but “it says more about what kindergarteners can do.” He adds that those young students are capable of higher-level thinking than people think.

Now, in his 11th year of teaching, Lake is working with teachers as one of three elementary instructional coaches for the Urbana, Ill., school district. While he supports all teachers in all subject-areas in his two schools, he’s starting to break back into science.

He’s also helping teachers flesh out their own inquiry projects as they work with the new science standards. For example, some second- through fourth-grade teachers will collaborate with the music teacher to use a variety of instruments and recording devices to capture sound waves. 

The job presented an opportunity to inspire more scientific inquiry-based learning and teaching on a larger scale, Lake says. He also saw it as a chance to learn from colleagues.

Lake misses the kids, though, and hopes to teach kindergarten again someday.

Alum Invents $10 Microscope

Kenji Yoshino ’11, a Science Learning Center post-baccalaureate fellow at Grinnell College, has created a digital microscope made from a smartphone, a cheap laser pointer lens, and a few things from the hardware store. It’s a contraption that anyone can construct with $10 worth of parts, in 20 minutes.

Get step-by-step instructions.

In fact, Yoshino shows you how on YouTube, in a video shot and edited by Luke Saunders ’12, who works as an editorial fellow in Grinnell’s Communications Department.

 In its first three weeks on the Web, viewers watched the video 937,000 times.

The microscope is made of Plexiglas, plywood, bolts, nuts, washers and the laser-pointer lens. The smartphone sits on top, using its camera lens to help the process.  The wingnuts allow the user to change the focus by shifting the height of the platform holding the specimen. And, of course, it’s easy to take photos.

This scope has an optical zoom of 40x, which is great for macro photos, but using the phone’s digital zoom allows for a combined zoom of 175x. It is possible to view plant cells, see and record video of nematodes, and even perform biology lab work.

Kenji had read online about someone using laser pointer lenses to turn a smartphone into a macro camera. Yoshino decided to play with the design, hoping to improve stability and focus, and ended up discovering that stabilizing the phone and adding a light source would make the apparatus capable of subbing for a microscope.

It worked so well, Yoshino talked to Saunders — a friend from theatre productions at Grinnell — about making the video. Then the two of them presented the model at the iExplore STEM Festival, at Drake University on Oct. 29.

The primary goal of this innovation is not to make money.

“I am a major proponent of making home science more accessible,” Yoshino explains on the video.  “My goal in designing and building this phone-to-microscope conversion stand is to provide an alternative to expensive microscopes.”

“This setup is a viable option for underfunded science classrooms that would not otherwise be able to perform experiments requiring a microscope. But more than that, this device will allow people to rediscover the world around them.”

Bethany Brookshire at Student Science talks about her experience building the microscope. Learn "what happens when a foolish scientist screws stuff up. It’s the story of a DIY microscope, and how it all went terribly wrong."

Inspiring Novelists Around the World

 

Novelist Grant Faulkner ’87 inspires nearly a half-million would-be novelists — more than 150 of them in Grinnell — to write 50,000 words during a 30-day international writing marathon, the largest event of its kind.

Faulkner is executive director of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a nonprofit that promotes novel writing every November.  He encourages participants to not worry about spinning perfect prose; getting words on the page is half the battle.  “Although many of our participants are dedicated writers, we attract people from all walks of life,” he says. “They might not call themselves writers before NaNoWriMo, but they find out they can write a novel on their own terms. It’s such a magical thing,” he says, when participants discover themselves as creators.

More than 60 years after Ernest Hemingway soaked in the magic of Paris, Faulkner walked in the steps of the literary icon. He’d considered majoring in economics, but after his study-abroad experience in France he decided to major in English and dedicate himself to writing.

“Everyone has a story to tell, and the way humans make meaning of the world is through their stories,” he says. “National Novel Writing Month provides a gift that allows people to tell those stories.”

Additional Information:

One Year, One Emmy

One year out of Grinnell and Kyle Espinosa ’12 has an Emmy to his name.

“I feel pretty ecstatic to win an Emmy for a project I had a significant role in,” he says. “The statue is for the team, but if I had a spare $2000 lying around, I could get mine.”

Espinosa is part of Nickelodeon’s digital team, a group that recently won an Emmy for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media — User Experience and Visual Design. Their Nick app for iPad goes beyond free video viewing, offering a moveable tile layout with original videos, polls, games, and interactive content, as well as full episodes of Nickelodeon programs and specials.

Espinosa and his supervisor were responsible for populating the video content. He also reviewed the quality and functionality of the app, worked with the development team on technical issues, and had creative input on written copy and editorial issues.

The project added up to long hours; he also monitors the Nick.com site to ensure everything is working. “I watch Nick TV for a living,” he says. 

Espinosa has been working with the digital team in New York since his graduation, when he started in Viacom’s Summer Associate Program (SAP). In the program, he worked with Nick Digital and MTV Digital Music Production, accepting a position with Nick Digital when the program ended. 

He loves his job. “The people I work with are great and the work I do gets seen by such a huge audience that it's kind of selfish,” he says. “I’m working on making more slime for prime time! Everyone, go out and watch Legend of Korra. It’s super fun, I swear!” 

Espinosa’s not the only Grinnellian at Nickelodeon. “I know a fellow studio art major working in Nickelodeon. Dodge [Nate] Greenley ’11 is working on the West Coast offices out in LA,” he says.

Wondering how to succeed after Grinnell? Espinosa suggests you “take risks and find opportunities, even if they’re only tangential to your dreams. They’ll open up doors you never know existed. Also utilize all the resources available! I was pretty stoked to find out that Grinnell had a subscription to Lynda.com and I made sure I got everything that I wanted from that site.”