Changes Grounded in Tradition

Alumni Council News
by Mary Knuth Otto ’63

This fall’s Alumni Council gathering focused primarily on two key issues occupying Grinnell at the moment, diversity and inclusion, and “Global Grinnell.” 

Having recently formed their own committee to address issues of equity and inclusion regarding alumni (Page 33, Fall 2016, The Grinnell Magazine), council members engaged in further discussions of the topic following a presentation by Lakesia Johnson, assistant vice president and chief diversity officer. Johnson discussed this year’s first-year “common read” at the College, Claude Steele’s Whistling Vivaldi, which council members read in advance. According to Steele, stereotyping and bias lead to “stereotype threat,” resulting in negative experiences among minorities in any culture. Johnson described ways she and her office are working to minimize such harmful influences on Grinnell’s increasingly diverse campus. 

A second significant conversation during the Alumni Council weekend centered around Grinnell’s new Institute for Global Engagement, whose mission, according to the College website, is to create “opportunities for students and faculty to develop their knowledge of the world.” Grinnell’s student body is now nearly 20 percent international, said Michael Latham, dean of the college, in his address to the group. The aim of this new institute, Latham continued, is to bring the world to Grinnell and to send Grinnell to the world. Grinnell supports adding international applicants to the student body through careful work in admissions. Further, the College invites up to a dozen international scholars a year for speaking engagements. 

Davíd Cook-Martín, assistant vice president for global education and senior international officer, described opportunities for travel through new Global Learning Program tutorials. These courses for first-year students guide them in studying global content. Spring 2016 classes included Origins of a Liberal Education, which took students to Padua, Florence, Rome, Madrid, and Mexico City; and Tolerance and Intolerance, which involved travel to Paris, Strasbourg, and Berlin.

In other news, a new Grinnell College alumni and friends website is in full operation,, as is Grinnell Connect,, a platform designed specifically for mentoring and career networking. Alumni will want to check out both of these for information and the opportunity to connect with fellow Grinnellians and students. 

Yes, Grinnell is charting new terrain as time goes on, but all that is happening —on campus and within the alumni community — is based on the solid history of the school’s founding. The core value of excellence in education, respect for diversity, and a tradition of social responsibility and action are affirmed at every turn. 

The Alumni Council is a group of 26 Grinnell alumni and two student representatives working with the Office of Development and Alumni Relations. The council’s mission is to foster strong connections between alumni and the College, and among the 20,000 Grinnell alumni located in the 50 states and 55 nations.

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