Campus News

Political Mobilization in Houses of Worship

Danielle Lussier, assistant professor of political science, and her colleagues at Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia have won an international collaboration grant from the Global Religion Research Initiative at Notre Dame University, a Templeton Foundation-supported project. They will examine the role that contemporary houses of worship, both Muslim and Christian, play in the political mobilization of their adherents in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority democracy. 

Danielle Lussier

In Support of Positive Social Change

The Joseph F. Wall ’41 Service 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 the late Joseph Wall ’41, professor of history and longtime dean, who inspired an ideal of social responsibility in his students.

Each year, the College awards two graduates with a prize of $25,000 each to jump-start or complete a project that shows creativity and commitment to effecting positive social change. Projects may be original or supplement existing programs, address issues specific to local communities or be of wider global concern, and be carried out domestically or internationally. 

Katie Lee ’09

Katie Lee ’09 Wall Award WinnerLee works for B Lab, a nonprofit organization that seeks to build a global community of businesses that meet the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility, public transparency, and legal accountability. Lee will use her $25,000 to jump-start B School, an online educational platform that will enable people around the world to learn about the B Corporation movement, improve its business practices, and take action to help companies manage their impact. Using her background in education, Lee will work with B Lab staff to develop individual courses and cohort training for internal and external audiences. She will also work with a creative designer to build and pilot the B School tech platform on a learning management system. Within one year, Lee intends to build and pilot this online education platform and launch courses for B Lab staff, B Corporation ambassadors, and the general public.

Renata Heberton ’06

Renata Heberton ’06 Wall Award WinneHeberton’s award will fund the Pillar Project, a new extension of Angelica Village. Created in 2014, Angelica Village is a shared-living community in Denver that offers shelter, food, and sustained support to people experiencing homelessness. The Pillar Project will augment the mission of Angelica Village by providing personal and community support and mentoring for personal, educational, and occupational development. Specifically, the Pillar Project will support and advocate for unaccompanied refugee minors, young refugee adults, and formerly homeless adults to increase stability, connect with appropriate resources, provide enrichment, and identify and work toward life goals.


Receives 2017 Creative Writing Fellowship

The National Endowment for the Arts recently announced that poet Hai-Dang Phan ’03, assistant professor of English, is one of 37 writers nationwide to receive a 2017 individual creative writing fellowship of $25,000.

Phan was selected from more than 1,800 eligible applicants through an anonymous review process based on artistic excellence. He’s the second Grinnell College faculty member to receive an NEA creative writing fellowship in two years. Novelist Dean Bakopoulos, writer-in-residence, received a 2016 fellowship. Fellowships alternate between poetry and prose each year. 

“It’s a really amazing thing for two Grinnell faculty to have won these highly competitive fellowships in just two years,” says Michael Latham, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College.

“It feels personally significant to me that I received this fellowship as an English professor at Grinnell,” Phan says. “Grinnell College has been a supportive, creative, and intellectual environment for me for many years, first as an undergrad here and now as a professor in the English department.” He’s been on the faculty since 2012.

Last year was a highly successful time for Phan as a writer. He received the New England Review’s Emerging Writers Award, a scholarship that enabled him to attend the prestigious Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Vermont in August 2016. 

For his poem titled, “My Father’s Norton Introduction to Literature, Third Edition (1981),” Phan won the Frederick Bock Prize, given by editors of Poetry in recognition of the best work published in the magazine during the past year. That poem was also selected for Best American Poetry 2016, guest-edited by nationally renowned poet Edward Hirsch ’72

“Hai-Dang Phan, who has been nurtured by Grinnell, is a gifted poet of dislocation, migration, and inheritance,” Hirsch says. “He is part of the future of American poetry.”  

Reading, Writing, Remembering

Tracy Huling ’77 and Brian Buckley ’14, Alvin Irby ’07, and Bryan Boyce ’08 are the winners of this year’s Joseph F. Wall ’41 Sesquicentennial Service Awards.

Tracy HulingBrian BuckleyHuling and Buckley will use the award to support their organization, the Prison Public Memory Project (PPMP). In its pilot site in Hudson, N.Y., the program works with community members and collaborating scholars and artists to discover, preserve, interpret, and present the rich and complex history of the prison there, honor the memories of former prisoners and prison workers, and use the past to imagine a new future for the town when its historic prison closes. Funds from the award will be used to 1) fortify the program already in place in Hudson, developing a permanent site of prison memory there, organized and directed by Buckley and 2) support the PPMP’s founder, Huling, as she expands the reach of the organization to other rural prison communities in the United States. 

Alvin IrbyIrby, who lives in New York City, will use his award to expand his Barbershop Books program, which places child-friendly reading spaces in barbershops. The program will improve black boys’ access to engaging books and increase the amount of time they read for fun. Creating reading spaces in 20 additional barbershops will enable Barbershop Books to reach 800 young male readers in two Brooklyn communities. By providing year-round access to culturally relevant, age-appropriate, gender-responsive children’s books in a traditionally male space, Irby hopes to help young black boys identify as readers. 

Bryan BoyceBoyce will fund his project, Cow Tipping Press, a program that teaches creative writing for adults with developmental disabilities and shares their work with a broad audience. The funding will be used to train five additional instructors in strategies for teaching diverse learners, reaching 75 students and publishing their writing for hundreds of readers in the first year. By offering an imaginative outlet, Boyce will provide a platform for people with developmental disabilities to speak for themselves in a medium that is often used to speak about them.

The Wall Service Awards were established by a group of 205 donors during the College’s 1996 sesquicentennial celebration, honoring Grinnell’s long-standing commitment to social justice and public service. Wall was a professor of history at Grinnell who inspired the ideal of social responsibility in his students. The College gives awards of $25,000 each to alumni to carry out a service project that is of tangible benefit to others. Projects may be original or supplement existing programs; they may be local, regional, national, or international in scope; and may be carried out domestically or internationally. Since 1999, more than $1 million has been awarded to 44 alumni.

Applications for next year’s awards are due in June 2016. 

Innovators in Social Justice to Receive 2015 Grinnell Prize

This year’s winners of the Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize are working creatively to diminish the inequities facing underrepresented populations. The winners are:

  • —Deborah Ahenkorah, founder of Golden Baobab, an organization that supports the creation and distribution of culturally relevant literature by African writers and illustrators for African children. Through awards with cash prizes, workshops, and an independent publishing company, Golden Baobab seeks to remedy the underrepresentation of relatable African perspectives in children’s literature.
  • Maria Vertkin, founder of the organization Found in Translation, a program that trains multilingual, low-income and homeless women for jobs in medical interpreting. This program aims not only to provide these women with the means to obtain economic security, but also equips them to address the ethnic, racial, and linguistic disparities in the health care industry.

As the largest prize for social justice awarded by any college, the $100,000 Grinnell Prize is awarded each year to leaders who create sustainable innovations in social justice. 

“Over the past five years since its establishment, the prize has grown increasingly integrated into campus programming,” says Saunia Powell ’02, coordinator of the Grinnell Prize. “Past prizewinners have formed lasting partnerships with faculty, students, and alumni through short courses, workshops, student research, internships, and fellowships.”

The 2015 Grinnell Prize medals will be presented at the Grinnell Prize award ceremony and prizewinner talks on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at 4 p.m. in Herrick Chapel. The deadline for submission of 2016 Grinnell Prize nominees is Nov. 9, 2015.

Chief IT Officer Named

Dave Robinson was named the College’s chief information technology officer in August. In this newly created position, Robinson will have broad responsibility for academic and administrative information technology support and services. 

“He is articulate, engaging, and approachable and has a genuine desire to work collaboratively with faculty, staff, and students in our liberal arts setting,” says President Raynard S. Kington. “He understands faculty research and is eager to find ways to involve students in ITS that have value and meaning to the students as well as the institution.”

Formerly director of computing and telecommunications at the University of Pittsburgh at the Greensburg and Oakland, Pa., main campuses, Robinson ushered in upgrades to network infrastructure and wireless systems and introduced a technology governance model. He also taught courses in computer science and engineering at the two campuses. 

“I’m thrilled to be joining the Grinnell community, and I’m excited to meet everyone and to begin contributing to the mission of the College,” Robinson says. 

A native of the British Isles, Robinson earned a bachelor’s in neuroscience from Cardiff University in Wales and a doctorate in pharmacology and neuroscience from the University of Cambridge in England. Robinson was also a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Iowa. 

Architects Selected for Campus Projects

EYP, an architecture firm in Boston, was selected in February to design the new learning spaces for social studies and humanities — excluding the fine arts. The project will include renovation of Alumni Recitation Hall (ARH) and Carnegie Hall as well as new construction.

In May, EYP visited campus for an open forum with faculty, staff, and students. EYP introduced three preliminary conceptual strategies that showed possible building organizational elements, such as the use of an atrium to link new and old sections of ARH or a courtyard that would remain open to the elements. EYP received a great deal of feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the three different approaches. 

EYP designers are working with members of faculty and staff to develop the list of functions the new spaces must provide and the square footage for them. Additional considerations include how to meet high standards of accessibility and sustainability. 

Schematic design work will begin in the fall of 2015. The rest of the design process will likely take a year to 18 months. Based on the College’s previous experience with major academic building projects, it may take about two years to build a new building and one year to renovate an existing structure. 

“We’re fairly sure that we won’t be able to build and renovate at the same time,” says Erik Simpson, professor of English and co-chair of the ARH Carnegie Planning Committee. “We don’t even know yet whether ARH and Carnegie can be renovated at the same time.” 

A tentative target date for final occupancy is June 2020.

The ARH and Carnegie renovation is one part of a larger project that also includes a new admission and visitor center and a comprehensive campus landscaping plan. In June, Ayers Saint Gross, a design firm based in Baltimore, was selected to take on these projects. 

Ayers Saint Gross will partner with Confluence, a regional landscaping design firm with an office in Des Moines, Iowa, to ensure the use of building materials and natural elements to reflect Grinnell’s prairie location.

For all of these projects, the 

College’s Board of Trustees authorized expenditures of $100 million — $20 million to come from gifts and the remaining $80 million from debt. (See Page 31 for a related story.)

Project updates will be shared at

Office for Civil Rights Investigation Initiated

In July 2015, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) informed Grinnell College that it was opening an investigation into a Title IX complaint filed against the College. The complaint, which was not shared with the College by OCR, addresses the College’s response to cases of reported sexual assault and retaliation. OCR also informed the College that “opening the allegation for investigation in no way implies that OCR has made a determination with regard to its merits.” College administrators said they welcome this review and will collaborate with OCR to assure that the College’s Title IX policies and procedures are as effective as possible. 

Last spring, President Raynard S. Kington requested that OCR provide the College with technical assistance under Title IX after being unable to comment on media coverage of student allegations dating back to 2012. Kington noted that the College had made significant improvements in policies and process following new guidance from OCR in April 2011 and sought review by OCR as a neutral and impartial fact-finder. 

“Our work should not be judged in the court of public opinion based on incomplete information, but by those responsible for oversight of Title IX, based on comprehensive information about our practices on campus,” Kington said in a letter to the campus community in March 2015.   

After making the request for assistance, the College learned from media that a number of Grinnell students had filed a Title IX complaint with OCR. A local attorney working with the complainants acknowledged that neither the filing of the complaint, nor the complaint itself had been shared with the College. OCR publicly “commend[ed] Grinnell College for its commitment to ensuring that all students have the opportunity to learn in an environment free from sexual violence,” but later declined to provide technical assistance in light of the pending complaint.

The College continues to proactively develop its sexual respect policies to ensure that its practices are trauma-informed, prompt and equitable, and fair.  Recent enhancements include engaging an outside adjudicator, former Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus, as well as outside investigators on an as-needed basis. In addition, the College has developed a Title IX training program that has become a national model. Throughout all of its efforts, Grinnell students have been deeply involved in prevention and response work.

The College maintains a Title IX Task Force that directs its resources toward preventing sexual misconduct and responding to student reports. Each member of the task force has a focused area of responsibility:

Angela Voos (chief of staff and Title IX coordinator), oversight of all Title IX matters.

Sarah Moschenross (dean of students), conduct process.

Jen Jacobsen ’95 (wellness director), prevention.

Jeff Pedersen ’02 (head football coach), athletics.

Deanna Shorb (dean of religious life), confidential response and support.

Bailey Thompson (strategic planning assistant), case management.

In a July 27, 2015, message to the campus community announcing the OCR investigation, Voos said, “We are committed to ensuring that we are doing everything possible to prevent and respond appropriately to incidents of sexual violence and will continue to seek improvements that tend to the needs of our community. We support the rights of our students to file a civil rights complaint, and we will continue to provide support and care for all of our community members.”

Grinnell’s sexual respect policy resources can be found at


Improving Children’s Mental Health

Tammy Nyden, associate professor of philosophy, recently received the Iowa City Human Rights Commission’s Isabel Turner Award. The award recognizes Nyden’s outstanding achievements in advocacy for improving children’s mental health services in Iowa. 

Tammy Nyden

After seeing the difficulties her own family faced in finding children’s mental health resources, Nyden and two other families formed Parents Creating Change, a group to advocate for local and state reform. Working with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Parents Creating Change then formed the NAMI Iowa Children’s Mental Health Committee.

In partnership with Parents Creating Change and the NAMI committee, Nyden has organized rallies at the Iowa Statehouse, generated media coverage, and raised awareness about the needs of children with unique mental health needs in Iowa. 

Nyden says, “It is rewarding to see incremental changes already starting to take place at the state level, but there is so much work left to do.”

Nyden has been recognized widely for her advocacy work. In 2014, she received the Advocate of the Year Award from Iowans with Disabilities in Action.

Kesho Scott Inducted into Iowa African-American Hall of Fame

The Iowa African-American Hall of Fame (IAAHF) inducted four new members, including Kesho Scott, associate professor of American studies and sociology, in November.

Founded in 1995 in Des Moines, the IAAHF recognizes the outstanding achievements of African-Americans who have enhanced the quality of life for all Iowans. Since its inception in 2002, the organization has inducted 65 Iowans as members.

Scott invited 20 of her students to the banquet. “They had the opportunity to interact with many of Iowa’s most distinguished leaders and scholars in the realm of race and social justice, and I was excited to give them this opportunity,” she says.

Scott was the first African-American woman to receive tenure at Grinnell. She is an award-winning author and frequent speaker on issues of race relations, diversity, women’s issues, inclusion, and cultural competency. She has 30 years of experience conducting workshops about unlearning racism and all “-isms.” 

Born in Detroit, Scott received her bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University, her master’s in political sociology from the University of Detroit, and her Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Iowa, where she was Woman of the Year in 1986. She has held several distinguished faculty positions, including visiting professor at Nanjing University in China and Fulbright visiting professor at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia. The recipient of numerous honors, Scott is especially proud to have been awarded the Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice by the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women in 2008. In addition, Scott has appeared on CNN, Iowa Public Radio, and The Oprah Winfrey Show.