Fostering Community Grinnell Style

Brigham Hoegh ’08

If you’ve ever stopped someone wearing a Grinnell sweatshirt or slightly stalked a vehicle with a Grinnell College bumper sticker, it’s probably because you know the delight a conversation with a fellow Grinnellian can bring. Over the past few years, the College has recognized how much we enjoy running into fellow alumni, and the Office of Development and Alumni Relations (DAR) hired Anna Halpin-Healy ’13 as the assistant director of alumni relations for regional programs. In this new position, she supports the College’s and alumni volunteers’ efforts to foster the Grinnell community across the country, with a particular focus on the College’s regional networks.

Grinnell regional networks are areas in the United States with a significant number of Grinnellians. Regional planning committees are formed in these areas, and these groups of alumni volunteers work together and with DAR to foster their local alumni community. Regional network events bring Grinnellians together in celebration of the College’s commitment to community, social justice, and lifelong learning.

In 2016–17, the networks hosted 74 regional events, in addition to the 22 summer picnics and 17 Global Day of Service group projects planned around the country, offering numerous opportunities for Grinnellians to connect with one another.

Regional network events are as diverse as our alumni community and cover the spectrum of Grinnell interests. Here are a few samples of the great events regional planning committees have hosted: 

  • Going back to class with professors Sarah Purcell ’92 and Barb Trish and 20 current Grinnell students on the Rosenfield Program spring break tour as they discussed Evgeny Morozov’s The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom (2011).
  • Taking a hike through beautiful and historic Woodland Mounds Preserve in Warren County, Iowa, with Jesse Richardson-Jones ’03 and Kirsten Plowman ’04
  • Listening to “The Legal Fight for Transgender Rights,” a presentation by Chase Strangio ’04 at the Chicago Humanities Festival, with Thomas Neil ’14, Joe Engleman ’14, and the Grinnell-in-Chicago Regional Planning Committee. 

In support of the Alumni Council’s purpose, “to foster strong connections among Grinnell alumni and between alumni and the College,” council members have been intentionally active in their regional networks and encourage you to do the same. Robert Ruhl ’76, a member of the Grinnell-in-Puget Sound Regional Planning Committee, has helped host the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, the Global Day of Service, and the annual summer picnic. Mary Knuth Otto ‘63 notes, “It’s the mix of graduation years that I really love about [regional events].” And I, myself, have so enjoyed working with the Grinnell-in-Des Moines Planning Committee as co-chair this year.

What makes the magic happen in the most active regional networks? Karmi Mattson ’97, Twin Cities regional coordinator, says, “Think of things you’ve always wanted to do but have never gotten around to doing, like touring a popular location or attending a class on an interesting topic. Most events happen because there was one alum willing to spearhead the event and run with it.” 

How can you get involved?

To learn more about joining a regional planning 

committee and working with your fellow alumni to organize events and foster your local Grinnell community, please visit or contact Halpin-Healy, halpinhe2[at]grinnell[dot]edu or 866-850-1846. DAR is specifically looking for more alumni who are excited about fostering the Grinnell community in the Bay Area, Boston, Los Angeles, and New York. If you are interested in fostering your local Grinnell community but do not live in a regional network, DAR may be able to support your efforts. Please visit to learn more.

Grinnell’s Regional Networks

(San Francisco) Bay Area, Boston, Chicago, Des Moines, Front Range (Denver area), Iowa City/Corridor, Los Angeles, New York, Pittsburgh, Puget Sound (Seattle area), Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul), Washington, D.C.

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