Campus News

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.

German Campus Week 2017

Germany Making Choices

The German Department at Grinnell College is happy to announce that it has received a grant from the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany to participate in the Campus Week campaign during fall semester 2017. The Campus Week program seeks to foster the friendship between Germany and the United States in American university and college campuses. This year’s topic is “Germany Making Choices.” In a series of events and in the classroom, we’ll learn about the German election and Germany’s role in European integration and global migration.

For more information on this campaign visit the German Information Center website of the German Embassy.

Schedule of Events

September 11-26: Exhibition (ARH 2nd Floor)

Starting on September 11, you will be able to visit the exhibition “Germany Making Choices.” This exhibition explains the German political and electoral systems.

September 24: German Election Party (1-3 p.m., ARH, Room 120)

Join the German Department to follow the election results live on TV. You will be able to participate in an interactive quiz challenge at 2 p.m. Three winners will receive a generous gift card from the Pioneer Bookstore. Visit the exhibition ahead of time, so you have all the knowledge necessary to win! And come on time, so you don’t miss your swag bag! Refreshments will be served.

September 25: Herbert L. Quelle Talk (7:30 PM, Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101)

Herbert L. Quelle, German Consul General in Chicago, will speak on the German elections and the role of the consulate in the Midwest. This event is co-sponsored by the Rosenfield Program in Foreign Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights.

TBD: Film Screening (Strand Theatre)

Joins us to watch a free screening of We Are Young. We Are Strong (Burhan Qurbany, Germany, 2014). A discussion on the true story behind the movie and contemporary expressions of xenophobia in Germany will follow the show. You can watch the official trailer.

TBD: Visit to a German Company in Iowa

Students will visit a German company based in Iowa to gain first-hand experience of transatlantic trade and partnerships.

Please, check again for updated event news.

For additional questions contact Javier Samper Vendrell.

Share your impressions and comments on social media!


2017 Honorary Degree Recipients

“Before America was my home, Iowa was my home, and before Iowa was my home, Grinnell was my home.”

– Kumail Nanjiani ’01, Doctor of Humane Letters

“How lucky you are to be emerging from this place where the past four years have provided you with tools of intentionality, intellect, and empowerment.”

– Daniel Werner ’91,  Doctor of Laws

“I hope that after your four years here you are prepared to take on the awesome task of attacking the problems of this nation and, indeed, the world.”

– Emily Pfitsch,  Doctor of Humane Letters

“Remain calm — and polite — under pressure.”

– Barb Van Ersvelde,  Doctor of Humanities


Grinnell Prize Awarded to Founder of Essie Justice Group

Gina Clayton is the recipient of the 2017 Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize. The attorney and activist founded and directs Essie Justice Group, a nonprofit, California-based organization that developed a nine-week Healing to Advocacy program. It’s built on the belief that those directly impacted by oppressive systems are the most effective change agents. 

Gina ClaytonApproximately 50 women have graduated and been invited into the “Essie sisterhood,” the organization’s mobilization base. This year, Essie is building a statewide network dedicated to bringing about decriminalization, reducing incarceration and ending state-sponsored violence against women and communities of color.

During Grinnell Prize Week, Oct. 2–6, 2017, students, faculty, staff, and local residents will be able to interact with Clayton, learning her best practices to design, organize, and launch innovative programs to address social justice issues. The award ceremony will be held Oct. 3 at the College.

The Grinnell Prize, which began in 2011, awards $100,000 — $50,000 to the prizewinner and $50,000 to the prizewinner’s organization — to recognize efforts in social justice. 

Nominations for the 2018 Grinnell Prize open July 1. To submit nominations, see


Commencement 2017

"Engage, care, be passionate. Because each other is all we have. This is all we got, this is all we have. And it may not be heaven, but it can be Iowa. Congratulations, class of 2017. Welcome to the real world. We need you out here." 


Class of 2017 listens to commencement speaker Kumail Nanjiani ’01

Class of 2017 listens to commencement speaker Kumail Nanjiani ’01

Lizzie Eason ’17 hugs Karen Shuman, professor of mathematics and statistics

Lizzie Eason ’17 hugs Karen Shuman, professor of mathematics and statistics.

Gabrielle Matthews ’17 takes  a selfie with her family.

Gabrielle Matthews ’17 takes a selfie with her family.
Xiaoxuan (Jessie) Yang ’17 accepts her diploma from President Raynard S. Kington.
Xiaoxuan (Jessie) Yang ’17 accepts her diploma from President Raynard S. Kington.
Jack Mutti, College marshal, rings the College bell to start the processional.
Jack Mutti, College marshal, rings the College bell to start the processional.
Sadie Tristam ’17 embraces her dad after coming off the commencement stage.

Sadie Tristam ’17 embraces her dad after coming off the commencement stage. 

Poppin' bottles in celebration

Ariel Keller ’17, Sophia Gatton ’17, Haley Lopez ’17, Lydia Stariha ’17,  Carolyn Silverman ’17, Nicholas Curta ’17, Thomas Marsho ’17, Ethan Lahn ’17, and Matt Hammond ’17 poppin' bottles in celebration. 

Q&A with Kumail Nanjiani ’01

KT: So how did you hear about Grinnell in the first place? Why did you end up coming here?

KN: Well, I knew I wanted to go to a liberal arts school. And I knew I wanted to go to ... not a big city. Grinnell’s not a big city. And so I kind of went by ranking. I was in Pakistan. I didn’t really have a good sense of what different places were like. And I liked the website, I liked what they offered, and they were ranked really well, and I’d heard really good things. So that’s kind of why I picked it. I didn’t really know what it was going to be like.

KT: First impressions?

KN: Very small, very, very quiet. I was surprised by how not a big city it was. Those were my first impressions. I’d never been in a town that felt like that.

KT: Why come back to give this speech?

KN: I honestly was like, if Grinnell ever asks me, I’ll do it. So when they asked me, I was excited. I felt really honored. And then I got nervous. Like, what am I going to say? There’s so much pressure. So I said yes, and then for a while I just kind of freaked out about it.

KT: In your speech, you talked about finding work that satisfies you. How do you find that thing that you want to keep doing every day? What do you do in the meantime?

KN: I stumbled into stand-up, and I was very lucky that I did. But I think that people have plenty of time to figure out what satisfies them. Until then, just be engaged and keep looking. The world is full of weird, highly specific jobs.

KT: You worked in computers for several years before pursuing comedy full time. Would you still be doing that if comedy hadn’t worked out?

KN: Probably. When I quit my day job and moved to New York to pursue comedy full time, I didn’t have a plan B. That’s the bad and the good of not thinking too far ahead. The good was that I didn’t freak out. I just put myself out there and did it. The bad was, I ran through all my savings, and I didn’t have a job. I had a few pretty intense months. If comedy hadn’t worked out, I think I would be much sadder.

KT: How do you keep people entertained? Do you have any strategies, or are you just a naturally entertaining person?

KN: I’m not a naturally entertaining person. If you’re able to articulate your personal experience, people generally find that engaging. I can’t guess what people will like; I can just do what I want to do as best I can: talk about my experience, and hope that people connect with it.

KT: What has it been like to write and play yourself in The Big Sick?

KN: It’s been challenging, but also really satisfying. I wrote the movie together with my wife, Emily V. Gordon. We had never done anything like this, but we were working with the best people in the world, and they guided us.

This project also made me realize that good work takes a lot of hard work and rewriting. And unlike stand-up, that work happens in a vacuum. Nobody sees your movie until it’s done. If I write a joke and try it, certain parts might work and others might not, but I still presented that story. You can rewrite a joke, but while you’re rewriting, you’re performing it and getting feedback.

KT: Last question. How has Grinnell informed your comedy?

KN: Grinnell showed me that it’s okay to be yourself. As a teenager, I tried to fit into some other person’s version of cool. But at Grinnell, there was such a focus on figuring out who you are, and weird wasn’t bad. I gained a lot of confidence here. Grinnell helped me realize that I don’t have to change to be accepted.