Campus News

Closed for Inventory on June 30, 2017

The Pioneer Bookshop will be closed for inventory on Friday, June 30.  It will open in the early afternoon that day, after the inventory has been completed. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Behind the Scenes with the Grinnell Prize

How can awarding $100,000 to a social justice innovator each year benefit Grinnell students and the College? More than a few people asked that question when the Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize was first awarded in 2011.

The answer has evolved as the prize itself has evolved. 

“Initially we saw the prize as a way to recognize Grinnell’s distinctive history and identity,” says Raynard S. Kington, president. “In recent years, we’ve seen how embedding the prize into our curriculum, making the winners accessible to our students, faculty, and staff so they can learn how these innovators do what they do — that’s where the real value lies — in helping us all create connections.” 

Susan Sanning, associate dean and director of service and innovation with the Center for Careers, Life, and Service (CLS), took over management of the prize in 2014. “That forced me to think about the value of service and innovation. I wanted to integrate the prize into the CLS and the College,” Sanning says. 

One of the ways that happens is through the planning and execution of Grinnell Prize week each fall. The winner is invited to campus and participates in a variety of events. 

Mélanie Marcel, the 2018 Grinnell Prize winner, is founder and CEO of SoScience, an organization that helps scientists and social entrepreneurs collaborate to solve societal challenges. SoScience advocates an approach to research that focuses on social impact rather than on projects for which they can secure funding from industry or governments.

“Mélanie is doing something that is redefining the box,” Sanning says. As she planned public events for prize week, Sanning wanted to provide enough opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to see the immediate things Marcel is doing as well as the systemic things.

Workshops helped lay out the practical pieces of Marcel’s work. In “Using Science for Good,” Marcel introduced the field of responsible research, its actors, and its methodologies through a simple game she developed and uses in the annual “Future of” conference SoScience hosts. Another workshop, “Facilitating Collaborations Between Scientists and Social Entrepreneurs and Grassroots Change Agents,” focused on the practical strategies and tools Marcel designed and uses in SoScience.

“The participants got to interact and discuss social issues with Mélanie, while also getting to hear about her life, personal experiences, and specifics in this area of work,” says Joy Suh ’19, major in biological chemistry. 

Prize Week culminated in a career panel to help students see how diverse careers can connect science and the social good. Sanning “looked for folks who are using their liberal arts education as a catalyst for careers in multiple fields.” 

The alumni panelists filled that role well. They included chemistry major Mitch Erickson ’72, science adviser to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; biology major Indrani Singh ’08, director of community health partnerships at the University of Rochester Medical Center; and Emily Stiever ’09, an independent major focused on political ecology and chief operating officer and vice president of field operations for Solar United Neighbors, a national nonprofit.

Sanning also wanted to “include an unexpected academic perspective in there,” which is why she invited Tammy Nyden, associate professor of philosophy. Nyden’s civic engagement with Mothers on the Frontline helps show students another way to connect work with service. Nyden is co-founder and president of the group, which helps inform scientific research on children’s mental health by presenting stories that aren’t typically heard. 

A theme of connection wove through all the events. Making connections with people, with ideas, and with students’ own interests was key.

During her keynote, Marcel said about the Grinnell Prize and the College: “The work you are doing is really like no other. We need special places like this one, places to collaborate, places where empathy, openness, and understanding are fostered.”

Awarding the Grinnell Prize to an innovator in social justice and asking that person to share his or her experience with students provides a mutually beneficial learning opportunity. Students get to see how education is a catalyst to do what they’re passionate about, and the prize winner gets to extend his or her influence and create more connections to grow the work.

Oops! Our Bad

Grinnell College is a tad late in handling a simple vote — okay, 50 years late. 

In 1967–68, the College introduced a change to its Latin motto. “Christo Duce” — translated as “With Christ as leader” — became “Veritas et Humanitas” – “Truth and Humanity.” The new motto was part of a new seal and logo — the laurel leaf design that’s set in a square with 1846 above it, surrounded by the new motto and the College’s name in Latin. 

The design was originally an experiment, but it was well received. The laurel leaves have been used as the College’s identity ever since, while use of the official circular seal depicting an open book was limited to diplomas, transcripts, and other official documents.

The “oops” part is that although the Board of Trustees liked the new square seal, it was still on probation, so to speak, and wasn’t formally approved for use 50 years ago. That changed at the board’s October 2018 meeting, when it voted to approve a bylaws amendment, confirming this text: Collegium Grinnellense and Veritas et Humanitas. In addition, the laurel leaf design has become the official College seal. 

AFA Construction Update

The new Admission and Student Financial Services center at the southwest corner of Park Street and Eighth Avenue opened for business in November. 

Joe Bagnoli, vice president for enrollment and dean of admission and financial aid, anticipates the new building will help make a more compelling case for enrollment at Grinnell while providing visitors with a warm welcome. 

See Page 25 for a story about the welcome desk. Wood for the desk came from trees removed from the construction site for the Humanities and Social Studies Center just across the street.stairs in AFA building

Fireplace in the AFA

Front desk in AFA

Grinnell College National Poll

In fall 2018, Grinnell College partnered with J. Ann Selzer, a nationally renowned pollster from Iowa, to conduct the Grinnell College National Poll. The College undertook this pilot project as a way to provide research opportunities to students and faculty and to contribute to the national discussion about the direction of American politics. 

The first poll was conducted Aug. 29–Sept. 2. Administered by professional interviewers, the poll surveyed 1,002 randomly selected landline and cell phone numbers of U.S. adults ages 18 or older, including 779 likely voters in the 2018 general election. The initial findings were released to the public Sept. 5 and included a challenging path to re-election in 2020 for President Donald Trump, intense partisan divide about the National Football League protests during the national anthem, and widespread support for lawful immigration. 

One of the innovative aspects of the poll is the inclusion of questions about political activation. For example, the poll asked respondents how likely they were to attend meetings, rallies or marches, contact public officials, or help others register to vote in elections in the near future. Using these responses, the poll seeks to establish an activation index, which would measure individuals’ likelihood of political action and participation.

Grinnell faculty members have been an integral part of the poll since its inception. Barbara Trish, professor of political science and director of the Program in Practical Political Education and the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights; Peter Hanson, associate professor of political science; and Xavier Escandell, associate professor of anthropology, all worked with Selzer to draft the questions for the poll. They are also incorporating the poll into their classrooms and research.

In her Political Parties course, Trish says students are using the poll’s findings to explore whether the policy positions of the parties as expressed in their platforms are consistent with those expressed by rank-and-file partisans. Hanson says the poll is a “very useful tool for teaching about quantitative reasoning and the national political environment,” and he is working with a student to write a blog post analyzing the poll’s initial findings. 

Escandell, as the faculty director for the Data Analysis and Social Inquiry Lab (DASIL), has overseen the cleaning of the survey data, preparing codebooks, and conducting preliminary data analyses. Escandell says DASIL, with the help of students, is “creating an interactive data visualization tool that will make the findings easily accessible to the public.” 

Through a special topics course, Political Polling: Analyzing the Grinnell College National Poll, taught by Ron Rapoport, visiting professor from the College of William and Mary, students have assessed poll data on key issues with an aim of understanding the social and political landscape of the 2018 midterm elections. 

The second poll was conducted after the November midterm elections. For more information about the Grinnell College National Poll, visit

Building a Greenhouse and Intergenerational Relationships

Congratulations to Chad Darby ’88 and Jennifer Kulik ’94, recipients of the College’s 2018 Joseph F. Wall ’41 Alumni Service Award. Each will use the $30,000 award to launch programs benefiting their respective communities in the Pacific Northwest.

Chad Darby headshotDarby’s project will build and develop a commercial-quality greenhouse for an elementary school outside of Portland, Oregon. 

“The experiences that will be made possible as a result of the greenhouse will quite literally bring learning to life for our students who might otherwise be exposed to some concepts only in theory or in a less practical, meaningful way,” says Jordan Mills, Bridgepoint Elementary principal.

Jennifer Kulik headshot

Darby says working in the greenhouse will teach students many skills in nursery operations, seed starting, plant care, and improving yield. He adds, “At the same time that we have a crisis of hunger and poverty in much of the United States, children are becoming less and less familiar with the sources of their food and the methods used to produce it.” 

Similar to Darby, Kulik saw a community need and started an organization to address it. Silver Kite Community Arts specializes in creating intergenerational arts programs and arts experiences for older adults. All of the arts programs use life stories as a source for art making.

With the Wall Award prize, Silver Kite is partnering with Sustainable Housing for the Ageless Generation (SHAG), a Washington nonprofit of affordable rental apartment communities for low- and moderate-income seniors. The program will be piloted in five different SHAG communities in the south part of Seattle.

“Based on feedback and learnings gleaned from the pilot programs, we will create an intergenerational program toolkit, which can be used by other SHAG and senior living communities to implement their own version of the program,” Kulik says.

The Wall Award was established in 1996 as a tribute to the College’s 150-year tradition of social commitment. The award was named in honor of Joseph Wall ’41, professor of history and longtime dean of the College, who inspired an ideal of social responsibility in his students.

Each year, a committee composed of alumni, faculty, and a student choose up to two award recipients and award the $30,000 prizes to either jump-start or complete a project that shows creativity and commitment to effecting positive social change. 

Since 1996, Grinnell College has presented the Wall Award to 50 alumni who have contributed more than $1 million and their time and talents to 44 diverse projects throughout the United States and in five other countries, perpetuating a legacy of activism. 

For more information about Darby’s and Kulik’s projects, see

Wellness Survey

Grinnell College has collected wellness data from students every three years since 2012. The data collection is part of a national effort, the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment.

The survey asks dozens of questions about student health and mental health as well as behaviors related to alcohol and other drug use. Grinnell students have consistently surpassed the national average survey participation rate of 21 percent. In 2018, Grinnell students’ participation rate was 51.6 percent. 

Jen Jacobsen ’95, assistant dean of students and director of wellness and prevention, shares the aggregate Grinnell results with staff and students across campus to help inform programming. She shares safety data with Campus Safety, sense of belonging data with the Office of Intercultural Affairs, alcohol and other drug use data with the Harm Reduction Committee, and sexual health data with the Sexual Health Information Center, a student-run organization. She also uses it for student training, including peer educators who focus on wellness, student leaders, and students who host overnight prospective students.

Data even finds its way into pub quizzes. “We find ways to gamify it,” Jacobsen says.

One piece of the student well-being puzzle that Jacobsen finds particularly fascinating is students’ perceptions of the behavior that’s happening around them. Students tend to assume, for example, that more fellow students are drinking, and drinking more, than they actually are. 

“The perception of norms is almost always wrong,” Jacobsen says. 

Since 2012 the survey data show a positive trend downward, 10 percent, in both the perception and the reality of the number of drinks students are consuming. Even more importantly, fewer students are self-reporting experiencing blackouts or alcohol-related injuries. Additionally, fewer students report having their sleep or studying disrupted by other students’ alcohol use.

Part of the explanation for this change, Jacobsen says, is the messaging that’s been going on about social norms. For example, the term “sober sex” has been used intentionally by the wellness office. In 2015, 51 percent of Grinnell students thought the typical student wanted to be intoxicated for sexual contact, and in 2018, 24 percent think so. 

“Perception is getting closer to reality,” Jacobsen says. “Grinnell students are critical thinkers inside the classroom. Discussing norms and their potential misperceptions is a way to extend this critical thinking outside the classroom to their everyday decision-making.”


A Changing Central Campus

Construction of the Humanities and Social Studies Center (HSSC) has changed the look of central campus. Two new pavilions, one directly east of Carnegie Hall and one northeast of Alumni Recitation Hall (ARH), will be ready for occupancy in early 2019. Faculty and students will be able to take advantage of state-of-the-art teaching and learning spaces while ARH and Carnegie are renovated.

Soon to come are cove-type outdoor learning spaces to the east of the HSSC’s south pavilion. A large plaza extending to the Robert N. Noyce ’49 Science Center will serve as the main entrance to the HSSC atrium, a new glass-walled structure linking the north and south pavilions to the historic ARH and Carnegie buildings.  

Across Park Street from ARH, the Admission and Financial Aid Center retains a residential feel to welcome visitors. It opens this fall.

New Leader Joins DAR

Jaci A. Thiede headshotJaci A. Thiede started her new position as Grinnell’s vice president for development and alumni relations (DAR) July 31. She takes the helm as the College prepares for the public launch of its first comprehensive fundraising campaign in 20 years. 

Thiede came to Grinnell from Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she served as vice president for university advancement. She brings extensive advancement, development, campaign, and alumni relations experience to her new role, with nearly 25 years in higher education advancement and campaign consulting.

Prior to her leadership role at Butler, Thiede was associate dean for alumni relations and development at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law in Chicago, and before that she served as a senior member of the Indiana University Foundation’s development division for 10 years.

While at Butler, Thiede led efforts that resulted in recording the first and third highest fundraising totals in the university’s history. She helped develop cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship strategies that resulted in the largest individual gift in Butler’s history, and increased overall annual giving by 24 percent over two years.

Thiede will play a central role in enhancing the visibility and fundraising capabilities of the College, ensuring Grinnell’s position at the forefront of liberal arts education. 


Welcome, New Trustees

The Grinnell College Board of Trustees recently elected five new members to four-year terms: G. Barry Huff  ’73, Kimberly Kuncl ’87, Stephen G. Moyer ’79, Angela Onwuachi-Willig ’94, and Saumil Parikh ’99.

In addition, John “Fritz” Schwaller ’69 has been elected Alumni Council president for 2018-19 and will serve as an ex-officio trustee during his term.

The board also voted to re-elect six trustees to new terms: Trish Fitzgibbons Anderson ’80, David Braman ’75; Sylvia Kwan, Tobi Klein Marcus ’87, George E. Moose ’66, and Connie Wimer.

The role of trustees is to assure the “great and lasting good” of Grinnell College. For bios of the new members, see trustees’ full biographical profiles.