Campus News

Students Craft Reusable Chopsticks

Students lined up on the first floor of Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center Jan. 26, patiently waiting their turn to make a personal set of reusable chopsticks from wood harvested to make way for the new Humanities and Social Studies Complex.

“This is a great way to recycle wood from campus into something I can keep with me,” said Evan Feldberg-Bannatyne ’20, as he used a hand plane to smooth one of the four sides of one of his chopsticks.

“Plus,” he added, “my roommate is from Shanghai and he promised to help me master the art of eating with chopsticks.” 

“This is a fun way to promote Asian culture,” said Rong Guo ’19 of Xi’an, Shaanxi, China. “I like watching how the chopsticks are made. I use them, but I never knew how to make them.” 

No previous woodworking skills were needed. It took most students from 15 to 20 minutes to use a special jig and planer to transform two slender sticks of walnut or sycamore into a smooth pair of chopsticks.

“I was impressed that so many students were willing to wait in line to make their chopsticks,” said Karen Edwards, associate dean and director of international student affairs. “They were enthusiastic about the chance to create a meaningful souvenir.”

2nd Annual TEDxGrinnell “Bursting the Bubble”

The second annual TEDxGrinnellCollege conference, held Nov. 5, featured five Grinnell alumni and two current professors who spoke to a sold-out audience of students, faculty, staff, and townspeople. Sponsored by Grinnell College and the Donald and Winifred Wilson Center for Leadership and Innovation, the talks centered around the theme of “bursting the bubble.”  

“We intentionally left the theme open-ended, and framed it as a series of questions,” says Meghna Ravishankar ’17, who organized the event with Robert Ludwig, program associate. “How do you cope when your expectations are different from reality? How do we understand the ‘Grinnell bubble,’ and what can we gain by stepping outside of it?

“We already have such fantastic ideas and people within our community that we don’t necessarily know about,” Ravishankar continues. “TEDxGrinnellCollege is an opportunity to shed light on some of those people and ideas, and to create connections throughout the larger Grinnell community.”

Presenters included:

  • Ozzie Ercan ’97, columnist, movie producer, actor, graphic designer, and realtor-turned- rapper/stay-at-home dad.
  • Jean Kummerow ’71, psychologist and career coach specializing in leadership and management development.
  • Mark Laver, assistant professor of music at Grinnell, saxophonist, and ethnomusicologist.
  • Rebecca Mwase ’07, Zimbabwean-American theatre and performance artist, creative consultant, producer, and organizer working at the intersection of art and social justice.
  • Christine Thorburn ’92, rheumatologist and two-time Olympic cyclist.
  • David Opong-Wadee ’12, campaign operative, congressional staffer, and founder of campaign consulting firm Forward Progress.
  • Tony Perman, assistant professor of music at Grinnell and ethnomusicologist specializing in the music of Zimbabwe.

Kathy Clemons ’95 coached the speakers and also served on the speaker selection team. Presentations were captured on video and may be viewed at

TEDx conferences, which are self-organized events operating under license from TED, are local events that bring people together to share “ideas worth spreading.” The conferences emulate the TED conference, an annual gathering of leaders and innovators in technology, entertainment, and design.

At the Faulconer Gallery Spring 2017

Image: Robert Hodierne ’68, The Ambush, Image 7, 1967 (printed 2015). Digital print, courtesy the artist.

Robert Hodierne: Vietnam War Photographs

April 7–June 4, 2017

Robert Hodierne ’68 was a 21-year-old freelancer when he made his first trip to Vietnam in 1966, leaving Grinnell on a one-way ticket at the end of his third year. He returned in 1969 as a soldier assigned to Pacific Stars and Stripes in Saigon, where he spent another 14 months. During those two tours, he photographed combat in every corner of the country. His Vietnam photographs, many unpublished, reflect Hodierne’s concern for the ordinary soldier, many of them his own age when he was there. Hodierne has had a distinguished career as a photojournalist, photographing other conflicts around the world. He teaches in the Department of Journalism, University of Richmond, Va.

The exhibition was organized by the University of Richmond Museums and co-curated by Richard Waller, executive director, University Museums, in collaboration with Hodierne.

Two students admiring wire art sculpture

Image from 2016 Bachelor of Arts Exhibition.


April 7–May 7, 2017
BAX (Bachelor of Arts Exhibition) features work by third- and fourth-year art students — those majoring in art as well as students in other majors who work intensively in studio. With support from the Faulconer Gallery staff, students manage all the exhibition details, from the submission of proposals, to the selection of a juror, to the installation and awarding of prizes.

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