Join the Club
When students walk into the Student Organization Fair, they see dozens of tables staffed by enthusiastic fellow students promoting their clubs. It’s like a fabulous buffet where every dish looks more tempting than the last. These student-imagined and student-run groups add to the joy, variety, and richness of life at Grinnell. Here’s a sampling of a few of the organizations students can currently choose among.
A Toast to Trivia
by Yesenia Mozo ’22
“Quiz is in the name — fun is in the game!” says Maddie Hartog ’25, providing her sense of why Pub Quiz is a perennial student favorite.
Every Wednesday, Pub Quiz’s leadership — the “pub masters” — launch an hour-long trivia game. In typical Grinnellian fashion, students have coined playful and clever team names such as “Nutella Nation” and “How Many People Does It Take to Fix a Lightbulb?”
On a huge PowerPoint screen, the pub masters introduce different trivia categories, with 10 questions on each subject. Every week is different. Recent categories have included Current News, Star Wars Prequels, and PBS Kids. Once the category is over, one of the pub masters shouts, “Switch your sheets!” and the grading begins.
At the end of the game, the losing team chooses a category for next week — the “pity pick.” Pity picks pull students back in, creatively adding categories like American Tragedies, Scooby-Doo, and Kendrick Lamar. “I got the pity pick, and so I had to come back,” says Alex Carlon ’25. “I chose 2010s Disney shows, which then became a reason to play again with my friends and turn it into a tradition.”
In another twist, the pub masters often invite a student organization (like NextGen Iowa and the International Cuisine and Cultural Organization) to host a round of trivia, whether it be about their organization, events, or activism on campus. Around the holidays, Pub Quiz often turns to seasonal categories, like Haunted Places, Frankenstein, and R.L. Stine for Halloween.
With all these fun twists, it’s no wonder Grinnellians love to join in a friendly and competitive game of trivia.
Athletes As Activists
by Tim Schmitt
A commitment to social responsibility and the common good is built into Grinnell’s DNA. Grinnellians are known for putting shared ideals and values into action to make a difference in the world. However, with classes, research, internships, and more, it can be challenging to find time for everything — especially for student-athletes, who also have practice, training, and competition. But when something is important, Grinnellians find a way.
Student Athletes Leading Social Change (SALSC) was created to ensure that student-athletes and others could be involved in social justice work. SALSC schedules meetings late in the day to allow athletes with many time commitments to participate. “We want to make sure everyone has the chance to bring issues they are passionate about to the organization,” says Co-President Lexi Mueldener ’23, who was a member of the women’s golf team while at Grinnell.
SALSC hosts events to build a campus community that shares similar views, ideals, and passions. And despite the organization’s name, SALSC is open to all students, not just student-athletes.
SALSC has hosted a sexual assault awareness walk and a 3-on-3 basketball tournament to raise awareness for local charities. These events have been well received and effective at raising awareness, but they also bolstered the resolve of SALSC members.
“I’ve always had a passion for helping and I loved the idea of using our platform as athletes to spread awareness and spur social change,” Mueldener says. “Participating in the group strengthened my belief that whatever I end up doing in life, I want to be helping people in some capacity.”
Swing, Swing, Swing
by Yesenia Mozo ’22
Music fills the Bucksbaum dance studio as dancers feel the rhythm flow through their bodies. In a matter of minutes, Grinnellians are twirling, dipping, and swaying around the room.
Swing Society members are passionate about dancing. Even on a dreary day, they willingly trudge across campus to enjoy pure, uninterrupted dance.
To kick off a typical Swing Society meeting, one of the co-leaders shouts, “Leads, raise your hands! Follows, go find a lead!” Because Swing Society doesn’t use traditional gendered dancing roles, members can learn different dance styles and dance with everybody.
For newcomers, the leaders provide a 15-minute crash course in basic swing dance to get started. The teaching doesn’t stop there – co-leaders often teach new dance moves to the entire group. For example, Swing Society members have learned dips to pair with popular songs, like “Dear Future Husband” by Meghan Trainor and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham!
Dance moves such as the mummy, the fake lift, the Titanic, the tabletop, and the pretzel are group favorites.
“Everyone is here for a good time,” says Gavin Felker ’23. “There are definitely people who want to improve their skills, but it’s meant to be a casual dancing experience, purely for fun.”
Swing Society members bring fun twists to their meetings, too. On birthdays, members love to surround the birthday person and take turns dancing with them.
Swing Society offers a close-knit community where members bring old friends and make plenty of new ones. “Although I think I’m generally a solitary person, I like having an excuse to go interact and meet with other people,” says Felker. “Swing Society is a great outlet for that.”
by Jacqueline Hartling Stolze
The competing aromas of foods from around the world greeted a stream of people entering the Harris Center, lined up for the International Student Organization’s most popular annual event, the ISO Food Bazaar.
Excited and exhausted international students in tall chef’s hats waited to serve a favorite dish from their home countries. They had worked on the preparations for hours. Finally, the food was ready, and the hungry crowd was eager to sample the food.
Food Bazaar is ISO’s best-known and best-loved event. Every year, it draws a huge crowd. “People love it,” says Jivyaa Vaidya ’23. At the 2022 Food Bazaar, ISO offered 48 dishes from around the world.
It’s all worth it, she says, when you see the happy faces as people eat, chat, and connect. “I loved how everyone just came together for this event,” she says.
Vaidya is from India. When she arrived at Grinnell as a first-year student, Vaidya says she immediately felt at home. “The international students just bond,” she says.
It wasn’t long before Vaidya got involved with ISO. As a senior, she led the group as president. “I was so excited to be able to work with these people,” Vaidya says. “I became such good friends with each one of them.”
ISO sponsors many events throughout the year, such as Cultural Evening (an opportunity for student performers to show off their talents), scavenger hunts, study breaks, and more. International students also get ISO care packages during Finals Week with food and treats from home.
Beyond the events, the food, and the fun, ISO’s most important role is to create a home for international students at Grinnell. “I have always believed that students understand students best,” Vaidya says. “We are here for you, not just to give you events and fun — we are here for you because we think of you as our own family.”
Improv for a Cause
by Tim Schmitt
Though created to embrace the unknown, the Almost Always Improv student group is purposeful about its goals — having fun while doing good.
Appearing before an audience with no real plan except to entertain might sound terrifying. However, it offers students the chance to stretch their imaginations, sharpen their wits, and learn to roll with the (acting) punches, all while having fun.
Members meet regularly to hone their short-form improv skills; they also perform before audiences a few times each year to showcase their talents, build community, and raise money for a cause.
Clare Newman ’23 knew she wanted to join even before she officially became a Grinnellian.
As a prospective student, she saw an improv performance and thought, “I want to do that.” Newman auditioned and was accepted. “It’s where I made my first friends at Grinnell,” she says.
Although the group’s structure is intentionally loose (every member is a co-president), their “work” has an impact not only on the students involved, but also on the community.
The members take their work seriously. They’ve attended improv conferences to learn new skills; they also put on a 24-hour show every year to raise funds for an organization chosen by the members. Last year they raised more than $1,000 for Iowa Safe Schools, which provides support for LGBTQ students and allies in Iowa.
“We play games and make jokes, and it’s a lot of fun,” Newman says. “But it also helps build confidence. I’m a lot more comfortable and confident now just shooting from the hip, speaking without a script. Plus, it’s been a great way to relax and forget the stress of college for a little while.”
Grinnell’s liberal arts education is a bit like that magnificent, hypothetical Student Organization Fair buffet — it provides nourishment for a time in a student’s life when they can try a little bit of (almost) everything. The College’s 100+ clubs and organizations do their part to offer Grinnellians a fun and rewarding way to make lifelong connections, explore their interests and passions, and learn a lot about themselves. Why not indulge and enjoy!