Campus News

Alumni Couple Gives $1.158 Million to Grinnell College

Alumni Michael ’74 and Virginia Munger Kahn ’76 have established an endowed fund for career advancement with gifts totaling $1.158 million. 

The fund will support participation by Grinnell students in “high-impact” experiences, including supplementing unpaid and low-paid domestic and international internships in any sector of the economy, job-shadowing, interviewing and networking, and attending career-oriented, professional development conferences.

“Michael and Virginia understand that the priorities and resources of the College’s career initiatives will evolve over time, and they have created a funding mechanism to accommodate programs and ideas beyond their present scope,” says Mark Peltz, Daniel and Patricia Jipp Finkelman Dean of Careers, Life, and Service. 

“Ginny and I both share a deep passion for supporting career, service, and life ambitions of Grinnell students, for furthering the international experience of students, and for supporting students with demonstrated financial need,” says Michael Kahn. “We also think it is important to strengthen and expand the College’s reputation among, and relationships with, employers in the for-profit, nonprofit, and government sectors.”

Michael and Virginia Kahn met while students at Grinnell and have maintained a lifelong affinity for the College, serving it in many ways. In 2015, Michael was elected to the Grinnell College Board of Trustees. As he has done throughout his career at TIAA in New York City, Kahn annually hosts as many as three student interns in various positions and locations throughout TIAA. Several of those internships led to full-time employment with TIAA following students’ graduation from Grinnell. 

Empowering Latinos to Serve in Elected Office in Iowa

Robert X. Barron ’02, who co-founded the Latino Political Network (LPN), recently received the College’s Joseph F. Wall ’41 Alumni Service Award. Barron plans to use the $30,000 award to hire a full-time staff member for LPN. 

A nonpartisan organization, LPN strives to educate and empower Latinos to serve at all levels of elected office throughout Iowa. Iowa continues to become more diverse, but the elected leadership does not yet reflect this diversity. 

LPN is the only group in Iowa committed to the organization and civic empowerment of Latinos, Barron says. 

“This award gives the LPN a transformational boost for our work to educate and empower new leaders in Iowa,” he says. “As a proud alumnus, I am thankful to the faculty, staff, and my fellow students for providing me with a learning environment that was both challenging and nurturing. My work since graduation is a testament to their impact on me.” 

He brings extensive political expertise and experience to LPN after working for many years for former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.

In addition to co-founding LPN, Barron is special assistant for government and community relations to Grand View University President Kent Henning. In this role, Barron represents Grand View before elected officials and works to build relationships with the community on behalf of students, faculty, and staff. A native and resident of Des Moines, Barron has served on the Des Moines School Board since 2013 and recently was elected to a new four-year term. 

Lizeth Gutierrez ’12: First Mellon Mays Fellow to Earn Ph.D.

Lizeth Gutierrez ’12 is the first Grinnell College Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) fellow to complete her Ph.D., graduating with a doctorate in American Studies from Washington State University in 2017. Grinnell developed its MMUF program in 2009, and Gutierrez was accepted into its second cohort in 2010.

Shanna Benjamin, associate professor of English and Grinnell’s MMUF faculty coordinator, invited Gutierrez back to Grinnell in September as the program’s kickoff dinner keynote speaker. “Having Lizeth there as an example of persistence and belief in oneself … I can’t imagine having anyone else,” says Benjamin.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s goal in funding MMUF programs across the country is to diversify the professoriate by providing fellows with a set of tools — including strong mentors, financial support, and research and time management skills — that can be harder to access for students who feel like outsiders in the academic sphere. 

Funding supports an average of five new MMUF fellows at Grinnell each year. Fellows design a two-year research project with a faculty mentor and receive student loan debt forgiveness up to $10,000 if they enroll in graduate school. MMUF also sponsors travel to regional networking events, connecting students with a vast network of peers and mentors to help them through the graduate school application process and beyond.

The importance of networks based on shared experience is central both to Gutierrez’s success in academia and to her own research. Currently a postdoctoral fellow at Macalester College, Gutierrez, who majored in Spanish with a sociology concentration at Grinnell, is studying how chisme (roughly translated as “gossip”) among Latina women working in the domestic industry functions as a tool of survival, helping them navigate their economic conditions and negotiate their rights.

 “I don’t think I would have survived my time at Grinnell if it wasn’t for the mentorship I received,” she says. “Grinnell College is very lucky to have [MMUF].”

 

Construction Zone

The South Pavilion of the new Humanities and Social Studies Complex (HSSC) took shape on central campus during the summer.

Construction site of Humanities and Social Studies Complex, boarded up windows on ARH, steel beam structure in place

Another view of the construction, looking south across Eighth Avenue, at the HSSC construction northwest of Alumni Recitation Hall (ARH).

Two-story house on the back of a flat-bed truck that's turning the corner onto Park Street, looking southeast at ARH

Three language houses on Park Street across from ARH were moved one block north during the summer. They will be ready for students to occupy this fall. The houses were moved to make way for the construction of a new Admission and Financial Aid building on the southwest corner of Eighth Avenue and Park Street.

 

Board of Trustees Election

Jeanne Myerson, Sheryl Walters, Odile Disch-Bhadkamkar, Julie Gosselink, Patricia Jipp-Finkelman, Peter CalvertThe College Board of Trustees recently elected four new members: Jeanne Myerson ’75, Sheryl Walter ’78, Odile Disch-Bhadkamkar, and Julie Gosselink

Myerson is a real estate industry leader with three decades of experience in commercial real estate investment. Most recently she served as CEO of the Americas region of the Urban Land Institute, an interdisciplinary research and education institute dedicated to leadership in land use and creating thriving communities worldwide. She founded The Belgrave Group, an independent consulting firm, in 2015. 

Walter has worked in all three branches of the federal government for more than 25 years. She is general counsel of the administrative office of the U.S. Courts, the first woman to hold this position. During her time on Capitol Hill, she worked for then-Sen. Joe Biden Jr. and the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.  

Disch-Bhadkamkar recently retired from Stanford University after 23 years in finance administration. Before joining Stanford she was a vice president at JP Morgan Chase & Co. in the corporate finance division. She and Neal Bhadkamkar are parents of Ishan Bhadkamkar ’13.

Gosselink is president, CEO, and chair of the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation, which was established by her grandfather. She has worked for the Ahrens Foundation since 2001 and has served as a director for several other Grinnell organizations, including the Galaxy Youth Center, Grinnell Chamber of Commerce, Grinnell Regional Medical Center Foundation, Iowa Council of Foundations, and Mayflower Community Foundation. 

Peter Calvert ’79, who was elected Alumni Council president for 2017–18, will serve as an ex-officio trustee. He works as executive director of Ethical Metalsmiths, an organization that leads jewelers and consumers in becoming informed activists for responsible mining, sustainable economic development, and verified, ethical sources of materials used in making jewelry. 

The board re-elected Patricia Jipp Finkelman ’80 to a second term as board chair. She has been a member of the board since 1998 and a life trustee since 2014. The board also re-elected Barrett Thomas ’97 and Matthew Welch ’96 to new terms.

Trustees Anne Campbell Spence ’66 and Clinton Korver ’89 recently retired from the board. They both joined in 2001 and completed four terms each. Korver also served as board chair from 2011–15.

See trustees’ full biographical profiles

Title IX Complaint Closed

The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) notified Grinnell College by letter, dated July 28, 2017, that the Title IX complaint opened in July 2015 has been administratively closed. The notice stated: “OCR has determined that there are no systemic issues pending that warrant OCR continuing the investigation.”

“This, by no means, suggests our work is done,” says Angela Voos, chief of staff, vice president for strategic planning, and Title IX coordinator. “Nor is it a signal to stop any of our efforts in education, prevention, or response to sexual violence or misconduct. Rather, we will take this letter as encouragement about our efforts to date. In keeping with our commitment to these issues, we will continue to broaden our efforts to reduce the incidence of sexual misconduct while also expanding our work to address other forms of discrimination.” 

See Grinnell’s Sexual Respect website for information about Title IX policies, procedures, and resources available to the campus community.

Shuchi Kapila Leads Institute for Global Engagement

Shuchi Kapila, professor of English, has been named assistant vice president for global education and senior global officer. She succeeds David Cook-Martín as head of the Institute for Global Engagement. 

The institute, which was established in 2016, focuses on internationalizing Grinnell on multiple levels. Kapila describes the institute as a central node that facilitates conversations between the Office of Off-Campus Study, the Language Learning Center, departments and divisions, and external partners.

Kapila hopes to continue the excellent work that the institute has been doing with the Global Learning Program and course-embedded travel. She also plans to foster partnerships between faculty with expertise in different global regions in the service of comparative study. 

“I’m excited to see more partnerships, more collaborations, more interdisciplinary, cross-divisional work,” says Kapila. “I’m excited to see how this will both support and transform our teaching.”

Cook-Martín left Grinnell in 2017 for a position with New York University Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

 
 

Fall at the Faulconer Gallery

Ram Singh Urveti, Woodpecker and the Ironsmith, 2011. Acrylic on canvas. Photo courtesy of Sneha Ganguly.

Sept. 22–Dec. 10, 2017

This exhibition, featuring 47 paintings by 24 artists, showcases works from the Gond and Warli communities of central India, the Mithila region of Bihar, and the narrative scroll painters of West Bengal. Divided into four broad categories — Myth and Cosmology, Nature – Real and Imagined, Village Life, and Contemporary Explorations — the exhibition explores the breadth and variety of cultural traditions in India, revealing a dynamic aesthetic that remains deeply rooted in traditional culture, yet vitally responsive to issues of global concern.

Many Visions, Many Versions: Art from Indigenous Communities in India was organized by BINDU Modern Gallery and toured by International Arts and Artists, Washington, D.C.

Ram Singh Urveti, Woodpecker and the Ironsmith, 2011. Acrylic on canvas. Photo courtesy of Sneha Ganguly.

Shanna Benjamin Selected for National Leadership Program

Shanna G. Benjamin, associate dean and associate professor of English, is one of 45 mid-level administrators in higher education nationwide selected by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) to participate in the 2017–18 Senior Leadership Academy. 

The academy is designed to prepare prospective leaders to assume positions as the chief officers in any division in independent higher education. 

“Professor Benjamin’s breadth of experience, including work in inclusive teaching and learning, mentoring, and development, make her especially well-suited for this opportunity,” says Michael E. Latham, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College.  

Benjamin looks forward to merging her theoretical work in the academy with her practical work in the dean’s office. “I am honored to be part of such an energetic and diverse group of up-and-coming leaders,” she says. 

Benjamin will undertake a mentoring program, work with experts, participate in webinars and engage in a series of readings and case studies during the academic year, as well as participate in opening and closing seminars.

Benjamin is a literary critic and biographer who studies the literature and lives of black women. Her term as associate dean at Grinnell began in January 2017.  

 

Expert in Statistics Education Wins NSF Grant

Shonda Kuiper, professor of mathematics and statistics whose work in statistics education is nationally recognized, recently received a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) program. 

The grant project, titled “Student Engagement in Statistics Using Technology: Making Data Based Decisions,” will enable Kuiper and her team to develop inquiry-based, online games that simulate data-based decision-making embedded in a research-like experience. 

Kuiper says these inquiry-based games will help students understand and apply concepts from statistics and data science as they work with complex, “messy” datasets.

She is collaborating with Rod Sturdivant of Azusa Pacific University and Ursula Wolz, Noyce Visiting Professor in Computer Science in spring 2017, now with Bennington College. David Lopatto, director of the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, will help develop an assessment tool for the games.

This is Grinnell’s first grant from the IUSE program, which is relatively new, although many Grinnell faculty members, including Kuiper and Lopatto, previously have received funding from the NSF for pedagogical projects.

This project fits well with the College’s efforts, supported by a grant from the Roy J. Carver Trust, to develop a curriculum in data science.