Let’s Embrace the Future Together

Lester Alemán ’07, Alumni Council President

I’m always proud to share that Grinnell was a stop in the underground railroad. In fact, I feel many find our legacy of social justice impressive when I talk about my time in the prairie. When I share these stories, I often think about the decisions our founders were faced with when they opened our school. Moreover, I embrace that legacy as my own: to take positive risks in scenarios that may not seem clear and to use my values for justice and equality as the intuitive drivers of my leadership.

Grinnell College is surrounded by new challenges. We are in the middle of a global pandemic. Minimum-wage jobs are vacant because people have realized that they can — and should — get paid a livable salary. Interestingly, the country is experiencing the largest income gap in history. And let’s not forget we are still discussing race as a nation after the events of last year. Our campus is not positioned to solve these issues as an institution, but I feel our mission of preparing young adults for “the honorable discharge of the duties of life” means that we must position our students and alumni to take on these challenges. While it can be hard to know where to start, there is one challenge we can all rally around to ensure the College approaches it with strong vision, intent, and execution: the need for increased diversity in our community to ensure that Grinnell is developing leaders who reflect — and have the capacity to serve — our country and our diverse communities.

Knowing this, my instruction to this year’s Alumni Council is to be innovative and to seek ways to bring diverse alumni back to the fold. Our narrative as alumni is multicultural and multidimensional, and telling our different stories will allow our community to embrace the huge wave of demographic changes that we are about to experience.

I’m very optimistic that we will rise to the challenge. We have an outstanding new College president. We have a Board of Trustees that is exploring ways to diversify itself even more every day. We have committed faculty, staff, and student leaders working to center diversity, equity, and inclusion in our campus practices. And the Alumni Council has been part of the preparations, too; we’ve advised in the development of the College’s diversity plan, designed an awardwinning Multicultural Reunion, and launched the first-ever Code of Leadership that embraces our collective values as alumni as we engage one another, staff, students, and faculty.

More importantly, we have one another.

I can remember a time when my relationship with Grinnell as an alumnus was a bit shaky. But as I did with all the negative experiences in my life, I asked myself how I was going to grow and become a better person because of these moments. That’s when I allowed myself to experience Grinnell again, and let me be the first to say the grass can certainly be greener on the other side. Not only was I having fun, but I realized there are many structured ways where I can lend my skill sets to benefit students and strategic initiatives across campus.

As we prepare for diversity, we are adding seats at the table and I’d love for you to come sit a spell.

Please come back and share your narrative. Consider attending a diversity-themed event and connect with other alumni that you may have never otherwise connected with. For those of us that have never attended a standing alumni event like Reunion, I invite you to. And when you find it’s time to allow yourself to have a new Grinnell experience, come apply for Alumni Council. It’s through our engagement with one another and the school that we can help shape the future of Grinnell. We have a responsibility to care for one another, grow together, and ensure that the College is best prepared to take on new challenges. We have a responsibility to uphold the values of our founders and our mission and do our best to position the College for success.

Let’s work together to make Grinnell the greatest asset for future generations.

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