Takshil Sachdev ’19 at his summer internship with Grinnell Prize winner Global Press Institute in San Francisco

Experiential Learning

T.S. Eliot might have been describing experiential learning when he wrote, “We had the experience but missed the meaning. And approach to the meaning restores the experience in a different form.” Indeed, experiential learning is the combination of action and reflection. At Grinnell, such learning takes many forms and is an essential element of the student experience. From shadowing an alum in Micronesia to further one’s understanding of environmental conservation to interning with the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City to studying particle physics at CERN, Grinnell students engage in service, research, internship, and other experiential learning endeavors to explore their interests, gain new insights, broaden their networks, learn new skills, and develop valuable experience. 


How does one discover or affirm one’s interests? Quite like how one might discover a taste for pancakes or dragon fruit. Research will get an individual so far, but ultimately one must experience the phenomenon in question. This is precisely what we aim to accomplish when pairing Grinnell students—mostly first- and second-year students—with alumni who work in various career fields around the world. For as few as three days or as long as two weeks, these young Grinnellians reside with our seasoned alumni to learn about different career fields, to witness the challenges of work-life balance, and to clarify their values, strengths, and aspirations for life after Grinnell.  Where have students shadowed alumni?

  • Actuarial science at Nationwide in Des Moines, Iowa.
  • Ceramics entrepreneurship at Tokyo University of the Arts in Tokyo, Japan.
  • eCommerce with the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago, Illinois.
  • Environmental conservation at Micronesia Conservation Trust in Kolonia, Pohnpei.
  • Product management at Nike in Portland, Oregon
  • Radiology at Baptist Health in Louisville, Kentucky.
  • Social innovation at IDEO in New York, New York
  • Software development at Amazon Studios in Los Angeles, California.
  • Space statistics and trending at NASA in Brownsboro, Alabama
  • Tech start-ups at INsReady Inc. in Shanghai, China.


Deep-sea divers see oceans differently than do casual snorkelers. A simple surface-level view becomes unambiguously more complex once one is fully submerged. Similarly, internships provide students with deepened, more sophisticated perspectives and understandings of different career pathways (and trajectories) and the organizations where these experiences occur. The very best internships challenge students to apply and acquire new skills, gain irreplaceable experience, make meaningful connections with both young and veteran professionals, and, at times, recalibrate their goals.  For these reasons and more, internships are an essential part of the student experience at Grinnell.

  • Center for Constitutional Rights (New York, NY)
  • European Parliament (Brussels, Belgium)
  • Goldman Sachs (Jersey City, NJ)
  • Google (Mountain View, CA)
  • International Bridges to Justice (Geneva, Switzerland)
  • Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY)
  • Sierra Club (Seattle, WA)
  • TIAA (New York, NY)
  • U.S. Department of State (Munich, Germany)

Service- and Community-based Learning

The CLS’s service- and community-based learning programs and initiatives provide students opportunities to apply their interdisciplinary Grinnell education to systemic social problems. In partnership with our faculty, these initiatives bring the liberal arts alive as we work with approximately 100 organizations within our local, regional, and global communities. Some of these endeavors even morph into paid student employment opportunities, course-based projects, or mentored research projects. Students develop not only new perspectives and skills but also a more sophisticated understanding of how their liberal arts education prepares them to work in partnership with community members to realize sustainable change.


The Grinnell College campus is the quintessential learning space. Visitors to campus will encounter the intellectual buzz on campus in our classrooms, laboratories, libraries, studios, and even the dining hall. Despite the ubiquity of learning opportunities on campus, preparing students for life after Grinnell requires exploring other places, cultures, and organizations that are otherwise absent from the quiet and serene campus surroundings. Treks redefine the field trip by taking students into organizations where perspectives become more nuanced, connections are made, and opportunities are revealed. From the startup scene in Silicon Valley to human rights and international relations in New York City, these experiences extend Grinnell’s learning culture across the country.

Undergraduate Research

Where are you doing your graduate work?  This is a question many Grinnell students have received when presenting their research at conferences and symposia. You can imagine the expression of the inquisitors when they learn the research presentation they just heard was from an undergraduate. Indeed, undergraduate research—both on-campus and beyond—is an invaluable experience for students. From Mentored Advanced Projects (MAPs) here at Grinnell, to Research Experiences for Undergraduates funded by the National Science Foundation, Grinnellians engage in research endeavors around the world.

  • Authoritarian regimes at Heidelberg University in Berlin, Germany.
  • Algebraic combinatorics at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis,
  • Behavioral ecology at Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, Colorado.
  • Crime and urban education at the University of Chicago.
  • Diaspora communities at Association Sconfinando in Florence, Italy.
  • Gene expression in T cells at Harvard University School of Medicine in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • Particle physics at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Public health at Duke University in San Jose, Costa Rica.
  • Public policy at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • Pregnancy malaria at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

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