Welcome to the Grinnell Community

Jaci Thiede, vice president for development and alumni relations

As I considered the possibility of accepting a position to lead Grinnell’s development and alumni relations team, I asked myself a number of questions. Was I really willing to move from Indianapolis to Iowa, where I did not have any family or friends? Would I find an engaging and supportive professional community that would help me grow? Who would help take care of my dog, Summit, while I traveled? Would Summit and I find a welcoming community on a personal level? The more I wondered about these questions, the more aware I became of just how important having a strong and supportive community is to me, and the more I realized I might have been taking my own personal and professional communities for granted. Vowing to change that, I am trying to be more mindful every day of the importance of community. 

Communities form around people who have some common interest, goal, or experience. The experience of going to college in Grinnell, Iowa, is one thing that connects all of our alumni. Some components of that experience — faculty, academic programs, student organizations, and administrations — change over time for various reasons. But one thing that seems to remain constant, regardless of graduation year, is the fact that Grinnell alumni are passionate, invested, and actively engaged in making the world a better place, even if they do not always agree on how to go about it.

This is perfectly normal. Community members are not required to agree with each other. In fact, I strongly believe that divergent and diverse opinions bring necessary perspective to dialogue when communicated in an appropriate way. For at least the past decade, I have been telling the teams I lead that liking and/or agreeing with each other is not required to accomplish our objectives. However, what is required is for team members always to communicate in a professional, respectful, and kind manner. In my experience, communicating in these ways is how communities get stronger, problems are solved, and the world becomes a better place.

Grinnell College has had to address some contentious issues in the short time I have been a part of the community. In my role, I hear from a great number of alumni who want to share their opinions on such issues. Often, the alum will begin by saying, “I love Grinnell College and want to continue supporting it, but I’m struggling with this …” and then they go on to very carefully and rationally lay out their data points on whatever issue they want to discuss. In these instances, the analytical and critical thinking skills that are so fundamental to a liberal arts education and are such a hallmark of a Grinnell College degree are on full and beautiful display. I have come to think of this as “channeling their inner Grinnellian,” and I respect, admire, and appreciate such thoughtfulness and true devotion to the Grinnell College community.  

I look forward to meeting as many Grinnellians as possible in the months and years to come and to hearing your ideas on how we can continue to strengthen the Grinnell College community and thereby move closer to accomplishing our common goal of making the world a better place. 

With thanks for all you do for Grinnell College and for welcoming me into your community,

P.S. Nearly eight months into my Grinnell adventure, my initial questions have been affirmatively answered. Summit and I have found the Grinnell community to be incredibly thoughtful, welcoming, and supportive on a professional and personal level. Our next-door-neighbor brought us homemade brownies while we moved in, we have a Grinnell College student who sometimes stays with Summit when I travel, my colleagues are incredibly smart, talented, and inspiring, and the alumni I have had a chance to meet have made me feel instantly welcomed. This is, indeed, a special community.

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