20 Reasons to Love Grinnell graphic with heart

20 Reasons to Love Grinnell

What’s Your Reason?
Erin Peterson ’98

Outsiders tell us there are lots of reasons to love Grinnell.

Forbes calls us one of the best liberal arts schools in the nation. We’ve been named a “Hidden Ivy.” And U.S. News & World Report doesn’t just rank us among the best of the best — the publication also lauds Grinnell for its teaching and its innovation.

We agree with their praise. But if you’re someone who’s spent years of your life on campus, you know that there are so many other reasons to love Grinnell beyond the rankings and superlatives.

So, whether you’re inspired by the social justice mindset that’s woven into Grinnell’s DNA or simply delighted by the beauty of campus, we invite you to read the tiny love letters from alumni, faculty, and staff on the pages that follow to learn the reasons they love Grinnell.

We hope their reflections will remind you of the best parts of your own experiences at Grinnell. And we hope you will share the reasons you love Grinnell, too.

We want to know your reason to love Grinnell. Send us your story at magazine[at]grinnell[dot]edu.

Cartoon many in face mask with fists up in a fighting posture1  Because we fight the good fight.
I am proud of the College’s long tradition of social justice activism, from J.B. Grinnell’s work with the Underground Railroad and his efforts to support the Meskwaki land purchase, to the Social Gospel movement in the late 19th century, to the work of Grinnellians in the New Deal, to the multifaceted activism of the 1960s, to divestment efforts, to the Innovator for Social Justice Prize.
– Jon Andelson ’70
2  Because we understand that everyone contains multitudes.
I have had professors who were aware of the civil war in Ethiopia and sent me notes asking how I was doing and how my family was. My professors have been encouraging and understanding. Having people who genuinely care for me is empowering.
– Feven Getachew ’24
3  Because Grinnellians are worth staying up for.
Some of my favorite things about Grinnell? Midnight debates in James’ first-floor lounge. Pushing couches together to make a “couchbed.” Swerving from passionate political discourse to who is surviving the next Game of Thrones episode. I loved the times when the lounge was filled with laughter way past a healthy bedtime.
– Eileen Fordham ’17
4  Because Grinnell will always remind you that there is more to life than just the daily grind.
No matter how your day goes, you can always expect a beautiful evening with a magnificent sunset.
– Shrey Agrawal ’24
illustration of stylized heads in a variety of colors and backgrounds each with a small icon indicating something such as and ear, brain, eye, etc. Because Grinnell makes extraordinary experiences possible for all its students.
I love that Grinnell’s commitment to providing financial aid beyond just tuition and fees meant that I could take advantage of aspects of the Grinnell experience outside the classroom. As a student, I had the opportunity to take part in two study tours abroad: one in Paris, one in Greece. The only reason I could take advantage of those opportunities, which opened my eyes to new viewpoints and educated me in an entirely different way than the classroom, was financial aid. Because Grinnell is able to meet the full financial need of its students today, it is changing the lives of many people — like the teenage me.
– Angela Onwuachi-Willig ’94
Because the bubble is real.
I marvel at the restorative power of being in the “Grinnell bubble” — life slows down for me while i’m there. I like roaming the campus by myself so I can pause, reflect, and connect with all the memories I have from my student days.
– Ryann Haines Cheung ’93
Because working (very) late into the night doesn’t have to inspire despair.
The Spencer Grill was always my favorite spot to hang out and study on campus. An iced chai and mozzarella sticks are the best brain food I can think of. Because I'm a night owl, it was an added bonus that I could stay as late as I needed to, enjoying a special kind of unspoken solidarity with the few others finishing assignments up at 3 a.m.
– Conner Stanfield ’21
Because we know that “flyover country” is breathtaking.
I was on the cross country team at Grinnell, so I spent a lot of my time outside of class running campus loops and on the outskirts of town with my teammates. To this day, my favorite route is still Penrose. I love approaching the intersection of Penrose and 16th Avenue. There’s a slight uphill at the turn that feels climactic when you run it at sunset. Even if the temperatures are biting and the wind is wicked, the beauty of the sunset in front of me, the College on my left, and the cornfields to my right always feels freeing and picturesque.
– Rachel Whitfield Arseneault ’10
Illustration of a jazz band and singer Because lessons from the classroom come to life outside it.
I got to know friends in the kitchen as part of Todd Armstrong’s “Comrades in the Kitchen: Russian and Soviet Food and Culture” tutorial. There is something truly magical about coming together to cook a meal and share that creation. It wasn’t long before the 14 of us were connecting in the kitchens across campus well outside of tutorial hours. The last night before winter break, two of our Chinese classmates taught us how to make dumplings. On a whim, we decided to share our dishes with Professor Armstrong, who, by total coincidence, also happened to be making dumplings at his home. What followed was a beautiful exchange on his porch on a frigid December night. I will treasure this memory and the people I shared it with for the rest of my life.
– Nicholas Lampietti ’25
10  Because we find our people here.
I love being able to chill in the HSSC (Humanities and Social Studies Center) rooms with a group of friends. Basically, any time that we aren’t eating or in class, we can just exist in the same place, either studying or chatting.
– Shabana L. Gupta ’22
11  Because Grinnellians are inclusive.
As an international Latino student, I was really scared about not being accepted. But Grinnellians don’t discourage you or make fun of you. They support you and have fun with you.
– Patrick Sales Garcia ’25
12  Because it’s always possible to find quiet amid the bustle.
I love to walk the winding, tranquil path from the bear center to Burling Library.
– Andy Hamilton ’85
13  Because every space is alive with the energy of Grinnellians who came before.
My favorite spots are Roberts, Flanagan, and the acting studio. Directing actors in productions has been a highlight of my time here. The talent I have seen in play after play is truly remarkable. When I walk into one of these spaces, my memory is charged with these past productions, sometimes from 40 or more years ago.
Illustration of two students with backpacks– Sandy Moffett
14  Because we focus on what really matters.
I graduated in 1957. I especially valued the spirit of the campus — a community of varied students, grateful and eager for a good education, and some fun, helpful, wonderful faculty and staff. Forty years later, the College asked how best to celebrate Grinnell’s 150 years. My group vehemently wanted no lavish parties. Instead, most responders wanted the budget used for projects to help others. Now, all these decades later, the superb Wall Service Awards exist.
– Marilyn Clarke Sippy ’57
15  Because our oldest living alumna represents the best of Grinnell.
Why do I love Grinnell? Edith Renfrow Smith ’37 (the first African American woman to graduate from Grinnell College; she was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters at the 2019 Grinnell College Commencement). She sees the good in every person and situation and refuses to waste any energy on negativity. She embodies all the best that Grinnell has to offer.
– Monique McLay Shore ’90
16  Because we learn to see the bigger picture here.
I remember graduating from high school thinking, “I know I need to go to college, but I am not sure why. I think I already know everything I need to know to get through life.” A short four years later, on the eve of my graduation from Grinnell, I remember the exact opposite sentiment running through my head: “I am never going to live long enough to learn all of the things I want to learn.”
– Heidi Eggert ’95
17  Because campus is a beautiful setting for breakthroughs.
As I have learned more about the benefits of walking for thinking, I have often invited students to take a walk with me around campus to talk about assignments, advising, or life. Weather and time permitting, I particularly enjoy walking with students on the northern edge of campus, past the Les Duke track, the Grant O. Gale Observatory, and Hamburger Hill. After our walking office hour, I ask them to reflect on how they feel, and they always say they feel more awake, less stressed, and able to think more clearly.
– Henry Rietz ’89
18  Because Grinnell can rewire your brain in the most beautiful ways.
Illustration of a woman's head with a white streak resembling a driveway and house and flowers at the crownI come from Kolkata, India, a city of 15 million. Growing up in a low-income family with limited resources, I developed a tendency to fight for everything I wanted. Grinnell was the first place where strangers were genuinely invested in my success. Nobody hides opportunities from anyone, and the College puts its endowment to good use. Everyone can get what they desire and be happy. I was so surprised when I instinctively told some of my peers to apply for an internship that I also wanted. This community helped me get rid of my past cynicism. Grinnell gave me a taste of how satisfying and uplifting communal growth feels.
– Evaan Ahmed ’23
19  Because there’s something special about seeing a Grinnellian where you least expect it.
After spending hours in pre-op, lymph node mapping, and waiting, I was wheeled to surgery by a young anesthesiology resident. We were chatting about how long he’d been in Seattle and where he went to medical school. I asked where he went to college, and you can imagine my grin when he said, “a little college in Iowa that nobody has ever heard of.” He told me how transformative the years at Grinnell were for him. I told him about participating in a nude demonstration against Playboy magazine. We were instantly bonded. He did wheelies as he pushed my bed toward the surgery, the two of us laughing together.
– River Malcolm ’69
20  Because when you know, you know.
Whenever I see someone around town wearing a Grinnell clothing item or learn someone went to Grinnell, a smile always comes to my face.
– Rachel Fritzell ’20

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