Kickstart for Class of 1970 Scholarship

In town early for football practices, Roger Roe ’70 first met his future wife, Paula Speltz Roe ’73, outside Burling Library during Paula’s freshman orientation week at Grinnell. As Roger was going into the library, he stopped, introduced himself, and asked Paula to come watch a Pioneers football game.

A half-century later, the couple still value the ideas and ideals the College taught them. They are showing appreciation through a $150,000 pledge to support an endowed scholarship, the class of 1970’s gift for its 50th Reunion celebration in 2020. The need-based scholarship will be awarded to future students.

“Higher education is a significant shared value in our relationship,” Roger says. “We thought by contributing when we did and the amount that we did, it might help kick-start the class’ efforts and motivate individuals within the class.”

Roger is a member of the 50th Reunion planning committee and served in a similar capacity during the class’s 45th Reunion. Part of his role is fundraising to accumulate sufficient funds for the class gift.

“I admire that Roger takes this on, and I really think it’s indicative of his love for Grinnell,” Paula says. “I think it’s rewarding for him because it renews relationships. He’s genuinely interested in his classmates, and this is a way to connect and catch up with what’s happened over the years since graduation.”

Roger is still close with quite a number of classmates and teammates. He lettered three years in baseball and football and was captain of the baseball team his senior year. The history major was president of East Norris Hall during his junior year.

His Grinnell experiences helped him excel in law school at the University of Minnesota and in his legal career. “Being an attorney was a wonderful, rewarding career. Without that educational foundation, it wouldn’t have happened,” he says.

While Roger was a partner at Rider Bennett and other law firms in Minneapolis, Paula served as executive vice president for compensation and benefits first at Target Stores and then at Norwest Bank, which later merged with Wells Fargo, where she oversaw the pay plans and benefit programs of the nearly 200,000 Wells Fargo employees.

A native of a small town in Minnesota, Paula says her perspective was greatly expanded by her exposure to the diversity and intellectual challenge at Grinnell. Her world was further broadened by participating in an Arts of London and Florence program.

Armed with her Grinnell history degree, Paula headed to the Twin Cities during the 1973 economic recession. Eventually she landed a job at an insurance company in Minneapolis as a contract analyst.

“As uninspiring as that first job was, it quickly led to other jobs with much more opportunity and responsibility,” she says. “There’s no doubt the writing and critical thinking skills I gained at Grinnell were immensely helpful then and throughout my career. Once started, my career accelerated as fast as I could handle — especially considering Rog and I were also parents to two active, interesting, and engrossing daughters.”

The now-retired couple lives parts of the year in Minneapolis, California (where their children and grandchildren live), and Naples, Florida, where they attend the annual January reception with Grinnell swimming and diving student-athletes.

“We’ve met a lot of current students, and they are really impressive,” Roger says. “They are thoughtful, committed, socially conscious, and reflect the values of Grinnell.

“Providing an opportunity for another qualified individual to attend Grinnell is rewarding for both Paula and me and, hopefully, an inspiration to all the members of the class of 1970.”

Team Effort

A simple lunchtime conversation over a ham sandwich is one of the many reasons Luther and Jenny Erickson are beloved by numerous Grinnell College alumni.

“Every now and then, we would come across a student that needed a little bolstering or a pat on the back,” Jenny says. “Luther and I would invite the student to our nearby house to have a ham sandwich. Those situations really endeared us to students, and we enjoyed it. Years later, our doorbell would ring, and there would be those same students. That’s the gravy when you get older — seeing your students doing well.”

The Ericksons came to Grinnell in 1962 when Luther began teaching in the chemistry department; he served as a professor for 41 years, retiring in 2003. Jenny was director of the Forum for 20 years before retiring in 1997. Together they taught, encouraged, mentored, and supported thousands of students while also serving as pillars of the Grinnell community.

A group of more than 35 alumni have joined together to honor the Ericksons by making gifts and commitments to establish the Luther and Jenny Erickson Endowed Professorship of Chemistry. The professorship will play an important, strategic role in the academic life of Grinnell College, serving to both recruit and retain generations of future faculty members who embody the characteristics so well-known and generously shared by the Ericksons.

Leslie Lyons and Luther and Jenny EricksonThe initial professorship will be awarded to chemistry professor Leslie Lyons, whom the Ericksons have known for decades. In fact, the Ericksons and Lyons were next-door neighbors when both lived on College Park Road. Lyons and her husband Lee Sharpe, associate professor of chemistry, even share the same alma mater as the Ericksons — the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Lyons will be formally installed as the Luther and Jenny Erickson Endowed Professor of Chemistry during a public ceremony in 2020.

Grinnell College trustee Edward Senn ’79 — who rang the Ericksons’ doorbell quite a few times — struck up a friendship when he worked for Jenny as a Forum desk attendant. He also had Luther as a professor. Senn sat with them at Herrick Chapel during the College’s last professorship installation. And it got him thinking.

“Luther and Jenny had a tremendous impact on generations of Grinnellians from the very beginning,” Senn says. “It hit me that naming a professorship would be a terrific way to honor them and help the College at the same time.”

Senn was not alone in that sentiment. While most professorships are set up by an individual donor or couple, Senn reached out to Kenneth ’65 and Mary Sue Wilson Coleman ’65 and Joe Oxman ’79 with a novel way of approaching the professorship — crowdsourcing. Oxman introduced the project to a broader audience of chemistry majors from the 1970s and 1980s.

“The chemistry professors there at the time — Luther, Gene Wubbels, and Roger Gurira — had an immense influence on many of us,” Oxman says. “The respect for them is still evident to this day, and there was enthusiasm about what this professorship could do for the chemistry department and student research. Luther and Jenny were inspirations to us. They were semi-parental for many.”

Mary Sue Coleman, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, was one of the countless students who benefited from advice and guidance of the Ericksons early in her career. She says it’s uplifting to know their legacy will carry on for future generations of Grinnellians through the professorship.

“So many people were positively touched by their lives,” she says.

As word spread about the professorship, Luther and Jenny’s phone and doorbell began to ring even more.

“Having this professorship in our names is an honor, and we do appreciate it,” Luther says. “It has put us in touch with more of our former students.”

“And it has put them back in touch with each other,” Jenny adds.

Serving Others

During the 1960s, Grinnell’s Program for Practical Political Education (PPPE) flourished, sponsoring elaborate mock political conventions in Darby Gym and bringing to campus a long list of luminaries, including former Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.

Those early PPPE experiences set the tone for a distinguished public service career for Grinnell College trustee George Moose ’66 and formed the backdrop to the discussion at an informal dinner Moose and his wife Judith R. Kaufmann had in March in Washington, D.C., with 16 Grinnell College students. The students were participating in a tour sponsored by the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights.

Moose and Kaufmann, both career public servants with experience in senior policy positions with the U.S. State Department, met while in the Foreign Service. He served as U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Benin and to the Republic of Senegal. He later served as assistant secretary of state for African affairs and as the U.S. permanent representative to the European office of the United Nations in Geneva.

Kaufmann served as director of the Office of International Health Affairs and is now an independent consultant on diplomacy for global health.

“Our experiences overseas and in Washington, D.C., made us intensely aware of the need to support the development of students who will be our next generation of policymakers and practitioners, and to equip them with the knowledge and understanding to pursue public service within an ethical framework,” Moose says.

Last fall, Moose and Kaufmann made a planned gift commitment of $840,000 to endow the Program for Experiential Learning in Public Policy. Administered by the Rosenfield Program, the gift’s principal purpose is to encourage students to consider careers in public service as well as to help ensure that students can afford to participate in related career development opportunities.

One area of specific support is the reinvigoration of the PPPE. The College plans to establish revised goals for the PPPE that include promoting interest in public service and enhancing the free flow of ideas important for strengthening U.S. democracy.

“It’s especially meaningful to be able to advance PPPE’s programming to celebrate and enhance opportunities for public service,” says Barbara Trish, director of the Rosenfield Program.

While the endowment will be established through their planned gift, Moose and Kaufman also are supporting the fund directly with annual retirement plan distributions during their lifetimes. These gifts are making an immediate impact. 

The fund helped pay for 16 students to travel to Washington, D.C., on the Rosenfield Program’s international affairs study tour. 

The spring break tour included visits and meetings with people in the Pentagon, Swedish Embassy, World Bank, and several other offices that deal with global affairs. 

Kate Goddard Rohrbaugh ’91, a program analyst for the Peace Corps' Office of Strategic Information, Research, and Planning, hosted a panel of four former Peace Corps volunteers who served in China, Kenya, Albania, and St. Lucia. Antonio DiMarco ’18 hosted a visit to the Cadmus Group, a strategic and technical consulting firm with a portfolio that includes global issues. Greg Thielmann ’72 hosted the group at the Arms Control Association, an educational organization that attempts to ensure bipartisan involvement in arms control. 

For his part, Moose hosted a visit to the United States Institute of Peace, an organization that Congress established in 1984 to promote the prevention and resolution of international conflicts.

“The whole study tour on foreign affairs was in perfect alignment with what George and Judith have accomplished and continue to strive for in their careers,” Trish says. 

She is also directing some gift funds to support professional development awards for Rosenfield summer interns. 

“We know that the commitment to a career in public service sometimes involves sacrifices, so we hope that offering a little financial support toward that end might make the path a little easier,” she says. 

New Biology Chair Created

Guillermo Mendoza served as a pre-med adviser to hundreds of future physicians during his distinguished 34-year teaching career at Grinnell College. 

A gift from his son, Dr. Carlos Mendoza ’72, celebrates Guillermo’s legacy as professor, adviser, and researcher. This planned gift of $4.25 million will create the Dr. Guillermo Mendoza Endowed Chair. The new position in the biology department will be awarded in the future to a faculty member with exceptional academic, scholarly, and teaching achievements. 

Carlos himself was a pre-med/biology major at Grinnell. He recalls vividly his father’s recommendation to take advantage of the wide curriculum choices offered at Grinnell and diversify his intellectual interests. He took that advice, minoring in art history and studying abroad in Florence and London, providing him with flexibility in all pursuits.

“I thought Dad nailed it when he said get the heck out of the science building and educate yourself in different areas so you are not intellectually too focused in your career,” Mendoza says. “He was absolutely right. I think that trend continues 50 years later as Grinnell continues to produce pre-med graduates that are diversified in their education and interests. That advice is as good now as it was back then.”

Born in Mexico City in 1909, Guillermo Mendoza moved with his family to California in 1914 during the Mexican Revolution. He went on to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees at Northwestern University while working part time for University of Chicago professor Samuel Stevens. It was during this time that he married Olivia Coronado.

Guillermo started teaching zoology at Northwestern in 1940, the same year Stevens became president of Grinnell College. Three years later, Stevens recruited Mendoza to join the faculty.

A zoologist specializing in the study of a variety of freshwater fish unique to central Mexico, Mendoza’s long academic career included research and teaching biology, comparative anatomy, embryology, genetics, histology, and electron microscopy. He published numerous research papers, held offices in professional societies, and served as chairman of the department of biology and the division of natural sciences at Grinnell College. He held the position of Stone Professor of Biology from 1961 until he retired in 1977. 

Carlos attended medical school at the University of California San Diego, which his older brother, Dr. Guillermo R. Mendoza ’68, had also attended. After completing his training, Carlos voluntarily enlisted and served in the Army for three years as a staff cardiologist. Then followed 30 years in private practice. In 2012, he retired from medicine to his 200-acre farm north of Denver, where he remained busy with successful hay and llama-breeding businesses. 

Mendoza made his gift to Grinnell by contributing his farm to a charitable remainder unitrust, which provides him immediate tax benefits as well as lifetime retirement income following the farm’s sale. The remaining value of the trust will eventually establish the Mendoza Endowed Chair.

As long as Carlos can remember, Grinnell College was an important part of his family’s life. 

“We lived on the edge of campus,” he says. “We talked about the College at the family dinner table and attended Grinnell functions. Because the College was a huge part of my life as a kid and a young adult, the decision to give to Grinnell is a logical way to pay back and acknowledge the pivotal role the College played in our lives as a family.” 

If you would like to learn more about supporting Grinnell College with a life income gift, please contact Buddy Boulton, director of planned giving, boultonb[at]grinnell[dot]edu, 641-269-3248.

Learning Outdoors

In many ways, outdoor learning at Grinnell College was already synonymous with celebrated biology professor Kenneth A. Christiansen

“Anything and everything was of interest to him, particularly his research outdoors,” says Anne Spence ’66, a former College Trustee and student of Christiansen’s. 

Anonymous donors to Grinnell College are honoring the memory of Christiansen with a gift of more than $750,000 for outdoor learning spaces adjacent to the new Humanities and Social Studies Center (HSSC). The learning areas are scheduled to be complete by June.

“The gift of outdoor learning spaces to memorialize Ken Christiansen is perfectly aligned with the teaching and learning focus of the HSSC and the environmental strategy of the College’s landscaping project,” says President Raynard S. Kington. “It is a fitting tribute to Ken’s distinguished teaching and research career at Grinnell, as well as his deeply valued relationships with students and colleagues.”  

In 1955, Christiansen began a storied career at Grinnell. His courses included general biology, zoology, evolution, ecology, sociobiology, invertebrate zoology, insect biology, parasitology, and marine biology. In 1962, he was named the Harry Waldo Norris Professor of Biology and in 1994 he became professor emeritus. Christiansen died in November 2017 at the age of 93.

“He was a biologist and a naturalist,” Spence says. “He could talk about birds, plants, insects, and animals. Along with Ben Graham [professor of biology, deceased], he helped find the spot for the Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA). Having outdoor and teaching spaces combined is absolutely perfect for him.”

The outdoor learning spaces will be built next to the HSSC South Pavilion, south of the plaza that runs between the HSSC and Robert N. Noyce ’49 Science Center. Classes regularly meeting inside the HSSC and Noyce will have the option of quickly relocating to outdoor spaces. 

Four outdoor learning areas will accommodate up to four classes at once. The spaces are designed with sound configurations in mind so that audible disruptions will be kept to a minimum. The raised seating and lowered adjoining areas create a cove effect with a walkway running between the coves. The spaces will be accessible and have technological capabilities, thanks to the installation of electrical utilities. 

The outdoor learning area is part of an overall landscaping plan that encompasses the new Admission and Student Financial Services center, as well as areas along Park Street and Mac Field. 

“The outdoor learning spaces perfectly intertwine teaching with our efforts to develop landscaping that provides a strong sense of place and adds to the beauty of our campus,” says Jaci A. Thiede, vice president of development and alumni relations. “It also ties in so well with Professor Christiansen’s passions and interests. We are grateful to the alumni and friends who are honoring him with their philanthropy and in doing so, helping his spirit and love of Grinnell’s learning opportunities benefit generations of Grinnellians in the years ahead.”

Diane Christiansen ’81 expressed the family’s appreciation for the importance and appropriateness of the memorial gift. “It means so much for others to acknowledge my father in a way that illuminates his deep love of the natural world,” she says.

A Leg Up

Since 2010 Grinnell College has partnered with QuestBridge, a national nonprofit organization that connects high-achieving, low-income high school students with educational opportunities. 

“These students are otherwise hard to reach through more traditional recruiting methods like high school visits and college fairs,” says Sarah Fischer, director of admission. 

QuestBridge guides high school students through the whole college search process and helps them prepare a strong college application. Through QuestBridge, qualified high school students apply to and then rank the colleges they would like to attend. In turn, the Grinnell admission team examines which candidates they would like to select for admission. If there’s a match, the student is offered what amounts to binding early admission with a full scholarship. During the past three years, 46 students were matched to the College through QuestBridge. 

“We strive to enroll a class that represents a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds, and the partnership with QuestBridge has allowed us to attract a lot of outstanding students who come from lower-income backgrounds,” Fischer says.

The College covers 100 percent of the comprehensive fee for QuestBridge Scholars. This currently amounts to more than $260,000 over four years per student. While admission leaders enthusiastically embrace the benefits of QuestBridge, it does come with a financial cost. 

That’s where John Pilgrim ’65 and Anne Young Pilgrim ’65 have stepped up. The Durham, North Carolina, couple created the Pilgrim QuestBridge Scholarship Fund, pledging $65,000 over five years to offset a portion of the expenses.   

“Anne and I feel very committed to doing what we can to make the Grinnell student body today more economically diverse and to assure that all Grinnell students, regardless of their economic circumstances, can take full advantage of all the educational opportunities Grinnell offers,” John Pilgrim says.

By implementing this new type of scholarship fund, the Pilgrims hope to encourage other donors to consider making similar gifts. 

“The national policy is increasingly directed against low-income people and low-income students,” John Pilgrim notes. “This is intensified by the steady, significant rise in income inequality over the last 40 years. QuestBridge is one small step in the opposite direction. It fits our values, it fits Grinnell’s resources, and it’s our pleasure and privilege to make a small dent in the finances.” 

Questbridge participants

“The QuestBridge focus on the identification of talented low-income students from across the United States helps Grinnell realize its three fundamental commitments to academic excellence, diversity, and social responsibility,” says Joe Bagnoli, vice president for enrollment and dean of admission and financial aid. “We are grateful to John and Anne for their support of these students and look forward to working with other alumni to serve more QuestBridge Scholars.” 

Linking the Community of Grinnell Alumni in London

Everyone has a memory from Grinnell College where they couldn’t stop laughing, says Daniel Malarkey ’08

Maybe the memory is from a time at a dining hall or staying up late after drinking way too much caffeine. It’s a feeling of simple joy.

“I want us to have that sense of joy from being in each other’s presence,” Malarkey says. “Grinnell alumni often have common goals due to our social activism. To reach those goals, there’s more power in having a connection within a community. I want us to come together as a team. We may not agree on everything, and that’s fine. But we all can work together.”

Creating connections in London

In October Malarkey hosted a reception at the Groucho Club in London’s West End with staff visiting from Grinnell’s Institute for Global Engagement and the Office of Development and Alumni Relations. Faculty, staff, and students in the Grinnell-in-London program attended, along with alumni from across the United Kingdom. Malarkey also hosted a Grinnellian community brunch in December at the David Gill Gallery, where he is the director. The gallery is well known for art and furniture by leading contemporary artists including the late Dame Zaha Hadid and American artist Michele Oka Doner.

Since London is one of most cosmopolitan cities in the world, Malarkey sees great potential in creating more opportunities for Grinnellians to gather via events and speaking engagements by tapping into the great intellectuals, writers, and thinkers in the city. Events also could continue to incorporate the students studying in the Grinnell-in-London program.

“Grinnell is not just a four-year experience,” he says. “It’s a community of people who share something. This community ranges from 18 to 100 years old. To give money is not just about giving back to Grinnell. It’s about creating connections where a global community is working together toward common goals.”

A truly global education

Malarkey knew right off the bat that Grinnell College was serious about global education when he was allowed to defer his admission for a year so he could travel to France. During that year, Malarkey became fluent, which set him up to create an “umbrella plan of study.” His degree was in French, but underneath it he learned about literature, theatre, art, and history.

“I meet individuals in the art world, whether it’s collectors, artists, curators, or museum directors, where things come up in conversation that relate to history, literature, and languages,” he says. “What Grinnell did is give me a platform with super intelligent professors to create a lot of knowledge and ideas, which I use every day.”

Malarkey says understanding French cultural references, cinematic history, and literature allows him to find commonalties with people in the art world with whom he interacts. That global experience has become invaluable and is one of the reasons he has decided to make a yearly gift to support Grinnell’s global initiatives. 

Grinnell students’ cultural proficiency will be deeply affected by their ability to understand the local people and customs, whether it’s in London or a small town in Lithuania, Malarkey says. The Institute can help students get a sense of how different cultures and people operate. 

Malarkey invites Grinnellians living in London to be a part of building a strong College community there. London residents who are interested in connecting with fellow Grinnell alums can email Anna Halpin-Healy ’13, assistant director of alumni relations for regional programs, at halpinhe2[at]grinnell[dot]edu

Hola! Bonjour! Guten Tag!

Emily Ricker ’18 knew she could “get away with speaking English” during her 2016 summer internship in Pohnpei, an island in the Federated States of Micronesia. But when she learned she could add a language component to her summer internship, Ricker said yes.

Although the anthropology and political science double-major doesn’t consider herself particularly good at learning languages, she has some background in them. She studied Latin in middle school and took four years of Spanish in high school and three semesters of Arabic at Grinnell.

To learn Pohnpeian, Ricker met with her tutor, Koadendel, a few times a week. 

“I’d show up and sit on the porch for a couple of hours and chat,” Ricker says. Her tutor’s husband and children were often present and occasionally joined the conversation. “I can’t overemphasize the amount of social bonding and cultural learning.

“I learned a lot of basics, basic verbs, walking, hanging out, going to work, nouns for church. I also went to church services completely in Pohnpeian and got to the point where I could understand some of what was being said by others and could participate in greetings. 

“Without the language tutoring, the internship and experience as a whole would not have been nearly as rich, and I am beyond grateful for the wonderful opportunity,” Ricker says.

She put her basic Pohnpeian to use the next summer when she did a Mentored Advanced Project on the experiences of Pohnpeian migrants to the Midwest. Being able to say “hello” in their language “was sort of an in,” Ricker says. 

That’s the kind of cultural connection that Joel ’65 and Nancy Shinder hope to foster with their newly named Shinder Family Fund for Advanced Language Development. They originally endowed the fund anonymously in 2003 and recently decided to name it. “I began to think that if you put your name on it, that you tell the world that you care about it,” Joel Shinder says. 

“Language is so important,” he says. “I feel it’s even more of an imperative today.” 

He credits his interest in languages to his maternal grandfather, an immigrant from Eastern Europe, perhaps near Minsk, where many languages were spoken. His grandfather spoke and wrote several. 

“It’s not just the language itself, it’s the culture,” Shinder says. “The first thing you learn in a language is the way you think about things.”

He learned several languages, beginning as a child with Hebrew, then Latin and Russian in high school. “Russian, because of the Sputnik fear,” he says. He studied German and French at Grinnell, where he majored in history. 

He was interested in Middle Eastern histories and earned a doctorate from Princeton University. “Once you get interested in an area, you really have to do the languages,” he says. He studied Arabic and Turkish in graduate school and figured out some Spanish, Italian, Persian, and Greek as needed for research while studying Ottoman-Turkish. 

Nancy Shinder was an enthusiastic student of French and Polish and traveled to both France and Poland. She wants students to have the advantage of a good grounding in another language and culture. 

Student Eligibility

The Shinder Family Fund for Advanced Language Development is designed to support students 

who’ve completed two years (or the equivalent) of a non-native language. The Shinders would like students to benefit from advanced studies or applied experiences, such as internships or immersive language research. However, the fund will not apply to traditional, semester-long off-campus study.  

Developing Expertise in Data Science

Imagine the vast quantity of data an online retailer such as Amazon collects from shoppers in a day. Or the amount of data the New York City Police Department collects on “stop and frisks” in a year.

Analyzing and interpreting such huge, quickly changing data sets is the province of the interdisciplinary field of data science.

Data science is “an intersection of mathematics, computer science, and statistics that has developed this new field, where we’re working with very different data, with very different techniques than were common 20 years ago,” says Shonda Kuiper, professor of mathematics and statistics and an expert in statistics pedagogy.

 “Students need those skills to compete in today’s world,” says Jeff Jonkman, associate professor of mathematics and statistics. “Students are very interested in it. A lot of high school students who come to visit want to talk about data science.” 

Kuiper, Jonkman, Samuel Rebelsky, professor of computer science, and other faculty have been working on incorporating data science into the curriculum in various ways. Two new data science courses have been developed, an introductory course and a capstone course. In Rebelsky’s CS 151 course, he’s relating the study of functional problem solving to the practice of data science. 

To support these efforts, the Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust awarded Grinnell a $200,000 grant in 2016. Since it began its grant-making activities in 1987, the Carver Trust has distributed more than $258 million in the form of nearly 2,000 individual grants. The Carver Trust focuses its charitable giving on biomedical and scientific research; primary, secondary and higher education; and youth-related needs.

“The grant has provided us some time and space to really think about how to move forward in this new discipline in an efficient way,” Kuiper says. She took 10 online courses and received a certification in data science during spring 2017. 

Of those 10 courses, three were review, “but there were a lot of things that were very new to me as well,” she says. Such as natural language processing. 

“Analyzing text is something that wasn’t commonly done by statisticians before, but now it’s something that we should know how to do,” Kuiper says. “How do you take blogs, how do you take movie scripts, and find patterns?”

During the summer of 2017, Kuiper and Jonkman developed the curriculum for a new 200-level course, Introduction to Data Science. They sketched out what topics they needed to cover and in what depth. They worked “with students collaboratively to develop and design tutorials to train students in these new areas,” Kuiper says. They had 10 tutorials set up before classes started.

They also looked at what people were doing at other schools “where data science is trying to grow into whatever it will be when it grows up,” Jonkman says.

“I think one thing we agreed on,” Kuiper adds, was that “we really wanted this to be an applied class, where students have a final project that they could present to possible employers when they leave the class.”

In addition to developing the curriculum together, Kuiper and Jonkman team-taught the course in the fall. “The team-teaching is incredibly beneficial,” Jonkman says, “because Shonda knows more about it than I do, and I can learn more as I go and hopefully be a lot more ready in the spring.”  They’ll each teach the course again, separately, in spring 2018.

Kuiper adds, “There is no way I think either one of us could have done this without mutual support.”

One of the biggest challenges with this course is that everything is very new, she says. “The tutorials we built this summer are now outdated, because if we’re pulling live data, it’s changing constantly. And we’re using free software, which I think is also very beneficial for the students to use, but that creates a lot of messiness in the classroom and with the data itself.”

In the course, students examined many different types of data, including college data sets; millions of New York Police Department reports; housing prices in Ames, Iowa; movie ratings pulled from the web; and a database of global terrorism incidents.

“Our goal is to be as interdisciplinary as possible,” Kuiper says. “I think every discipline is now using data in new ways.”  

Chemistry in Copenhagen

Lucy Chechik ’18, a chemistry major from Minneapolis, wanted to study abroad and chose DIS (Danish Institute for Study Abroad) Copenhagen because of its focus on medicine. 

During fall 2016, Chechik enjoyed getting a chance to interact with female Danish doctors. “My classes were taught by doctors. We got a crash course in anatomy and diagnostics and learned a lot about the health care systems in Denmark, Sweden, and Estonia,” she says. 

She liked spending time with her peers and host family and relished traveling around Europe, but still, she felt like she wanted something more — a chance to really live and work in a place rather than just visit it as a student. 

One thing she’d hoped to do that fall was a research internship, but she couldn’t work it into her schedule.

Chechik had gotten a taste of research during the summer of 2016 when she completed a Mentored Advanced Project with Mark Levandoski, professor of chemistry. She studied neuronal nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) — proteins in the brain that are implicated in a variety of diseases including schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s. 

Since 2014, Levandoski has been collaborating with Bente Frølund, principal investigator in a lab at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology. Her lab also does work with nAChRs. In fact, some of the compounds synthesized in her lab are sent to Grinnell and used for testing purposes in Levandoski’s lab. 

After Chechik’s fall semester abroad, she continued working in Levandoski’s lab. Meanwhile she was determined to go back to Copenhagen. 

Levandoski had also hoped that Chechik would work in Frølund’s lab during her semester abroad. The summer of 2017 seemed like the perfect opportunity. 

“She did most of the work to get it arranged,” Levandoski says. 

After securing the summer position, Chechik applied for internship funding through the Center for Careers, Life, and Service (CLS). The CLS awarded Chechik funding through the chemistry department. Gifts from Shenda Baker ’85, a chemistry graduate, and Mark and Barbara Maisel, parents of Brenton Maisel ’11, made Chechik's global research experience possible, for which she is “incredibly grateful.” 

Although Chechik admits she sometimes felt overwhelmed by her responsibilities in the lab, she soon got the hang of it. “I’ve gotten a lot more confident in what I’m doing,” she says. “I like the hands-on nature of this sort of research. It’s shown me that I want research to be a part of my medical education.” 

Chechik also enjoyed working closely with students from many different nations. 

“Before coming to Copenhagen, I didn’t have a tangible sense of this big, international scientific community. It’s cool to realize that yeah, we’re in this lab, but the international community is working on this.”

Chechik also learned something about the value of talking with people from other countries, even if it’s not about anything important — like bidets. 

“Chinese students are blown away by it,” she says with a laugh. “They tell us stories of their first experience with bidets, and apparently, every Italian home has a bidet. I think that even if we’re talking about something as silly as bidets, we’re starting to understand other cultures and other people. That’s the first step in international relations.”