Add Your Voice

June 28, 2019

At Grinnell, students have a say in a great many things, including matters related to teaching and learning. This happens through membership in a Student Educational Policy Committee (SEPC).

Quinn Ercolani ’20 and Allie Pearce ’20 cofounded the American studies concentration SEPC to spread information about what American studies has to offer and bring more students to the concentration. They hope to create an active community that facilitates an open dialogue about American studies coursework in an informal setting. 

Spreading Awareness

Taking Introduction to American Studies with Kesho Scott, associate professor of American studies and sociology, opened Ercolani’s eyes to how useful the concentration would be, especially given his interest in politics.  

“It’s an amazing thing to study that’s hard to have a grasp on until you experience it,” Ercolani says. 

American studies can offer “incredibly useful context for majors like political science or history as far as understanding the national consciousness and also the motivation of various social groups that impact our lives,” Pearce says.

“It’s not just learning geography or history,” says Hallela Hinton-Williams ’21, another founding member of the SEPC. “It’s interdisciplinary. We can show students the potential American studies has to help understand your own identity and to see yourself in relation to others.”

Encouraging an Open Dialogue

To help introduce new students to the concentration, the SEPC’s founding members are hoping to host events and discussions that showcase the themes explored in their coursework. 

“I see the SEPC as a platform to talk more generally and more informally about the issues that we see and engage with pop culture as well,” Hinton-Williams says. “We can watch a movie like Avengers: Endgame and relate it to themes we see in classes and themes we see in the U.S. generally.” 

The founding members are also hoping that the SEPC will provide a more active student voice in how resources are allocated. “We want to have a community where we can share ideas and gain decision-making power as far as course offerings and things of that nature,” Pearce says. 

She hopes the SEPC will create a space “where we can all feel heard and be able to exchange knowledge to really supplement the liberal arts education that’s already available at Grinnell.” 

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