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Grinnell in Chicago: Rosenfield Tour
Dinner and discussion


Grinnell-in-London Reception
6 - 8 p.m.
Hotel Cafe Royal


Grinnell-in-St. Louis Luncheon
Noon - 2 p.m.
SqWires Restaurant

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News from Campus

Alumni News
Writers@Grinnell: Thisbe Nissen & Jay Baron Nicorvo

Award winning author Thisbe Nissen, and novelist Jay Baron Nicorvo, will read from their work and discuss writing on Tuesday, January 30 as part of the Writers@Grinnell series at Grinnell College. The event, which is free and open to the public, will start at 6 p.m. at the Pioneer Bookshop located at 933 Main Street, Grinnell.

Thisbe Nissen is the author of three novels, Our Lady of the Prairie, Osprey IslandThe Good People of New York, and a story collection, Out of the Girls' Room and into the Night (winner of the John Simmons Short Fiction Award). She is also the co-author with Erin Ergenbright of The Ex-Boyfriend Cookbook, a collection of stories, recipes, and art collages. Her fiction has been published in The Iowa Review, The American Scholar, Seventeen, and The Virginia Quarterly Review, and anthologized in The Iowa Award: The Best Stories 1991-2000 and Best American Mystery Stories. Her nonfiction has appeared in Vogue, Glamour, Preservation, and The Believer, and is featured in several essay anthologies.

 She has been the recipient of fellowships from the James Michener-Copernicus Society, The University of Iowa, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Yaddo, and the MacDowell Colony, and was the 19th Zale Writer-in-Residence at Tulane University. She has taught at Columbia University, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Brandeis University, The New School's Eugene Lang College, and in the low residency MFA program at Pacific University. These days, she teaches undergraduate, masters, and doctorate students at Western Michigan University.

Jay Baron Nicorvo is the author of a novel, The Standard Grand (St. Martin's Press), picked for IndieBound's Indie Next List, Library Journal's Spring 2017 Debut Novels Great First Acts, and named a best book of the year by The Brooklyn Rail. He's published a poetry collection, Deadbeat (Four Way Books, 2012), and his nonfiction can be found in The Baffler, Poets & Writers, and The Iowa Review. He's been an editor at Ploughshares and at PEN America, the literary magazine of the PEN American Center, and was membership director for the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP). 

Alumnus Endows Biology Professorship in Honor of Classmate

John ChambersJohn Chambers ’77

John Chambers ’77 has committed to endow a biology professorship in honor of Doug Johnson ’77 — his friend, classmate, and fellow co-captain of the Grinnell College swimming team.

A native of Rochester, Minn., Johnson majored in biology at Grinnell with the intention of going into the medical field. He was pursuing a graduate degree in human physiology at Wake Forest University in 1981 when he died in a hiking accident in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Douglas D. Johnson ’77 Professor of Biology will support students who, like Johnson did, wish to pursue careers in medical science, medical research, or public health. The faculty member chosen will promote learning in cell and molecular biology through distinguished teaching, published research, and engagement with peers at academic conferences.

“We are honored that John has chosen to create this lasting tribute to his friend,” says Mike Latham, Grinnell College vice president for academic affairs and dean. “It’s a most fitting way to commemorate Doug’s life while strengthening our ability to provide a world-class education in cell and molecular biology. Increased engagement in scientific research will provide our students with a rigorous and compelling experience, which is highly valued in medical and graduate schools.”

Chambers visited Grinnell in October to talk with biology faculty members and attend classes and student research talks. He came away impressed.

“The biology department always has been strong,” he says. “The excellence of the faculty should be recognized. They inspire students like Doug who want a career in health sciences. Ultimately, the success of the Johnson Professor of Biology will be measured by the successes of the students nurtured by the professor.”

The Johnson professorship will be the second endowed chair in the Grinnell College Biology Department. The Waldo S. Walker Chair in Biology is held by Vincent Eckhart.

What makes Grinnell’s biology program distinctive is the integration of research into every level of the curriculum, starting with introductory biology, where students practice the process of science that produces new knowledge, says Ben DeRidder, associate professor and chair of the biology department. Chambers’ gift will present more opportunities for first- and second-year students to gain research experience, giving them preparation for careers that matter.  

“Just getting a foot in the door in a lab with a professor is impactful,” DeRidder says. “Students — like Doug — who aim high will be able to get a good start. It’s a competitive field, so getting early opportunities are important.”

Johnson and Chambers competed on the swim team together under coach Ray Obermiller. They lettered each of the four years, were co-captains the last two, and roomed together on trips to away meets. At times, they competed on the same relay team, such as the 1976 Midwest Conference meet where they set a school record in the 800 freestyle relay. Johnson specialized in the freestyle.

“The swim team was a very close-knit group,” Chambers says. “During swim season, we always had dinner together every night. A number of Doug’s teammates and friends still remember him. I think naming a professorship after him would be something he would have liked.”

Chambers recently retired from his position as managing director of Standard & Poor’s Rating Services. He had served as chairman of the company’s sovereign rating committee since 2005. Chambers earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and philosophy from Grinnell College and Masters of Arts in English literature from Columbia University.

New Admission and Financial Aid Building Taking Shape

The Admission and Financial Aid Center is under construction on Park Street, directly across from Alumni Recitation Hall (ARH). These images give you a glimpse of what it will look like when the building is complete in fall 2018.

See updates and project overviews on our Construction Central webpage.

Interior view of AFA, including the fireplace in the lobby

Interior view of AFA, including reception desk area

Faculty and Students Present Digital Liberal Arts Projects

On Friday December 8, the Digital Liberal Arts Collaborative (DLAC) and the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment (CTLA) hosted the annual Digital Liberal Arts Teaching Fair. As in years past, this year’s fair featured a variety of projects from all three divisions—science, social studies, and humanities—of the college.

Approximately 75 attendees, mostly faculty but also including some administrators, staff, and students, explored thirteen exhibits. The projects incorporate various digital applications and resources that enhance the engagement of learners with their subjects and the presentation of knowledge to wider audiences. Many exhibits Alex Claycomb '18 presents a project that digitally visualizes and maps the early modern Spanish Empire. highlighted the close collaboration between faculty and students. For example, Celeste Miller, professor of theater and dance, presented Digital Bridges to Dance with Charlotte Richardson-Deppe ‘19, who explained the project website as well as a poster of her drawings portraying feedback to performance art. Alex Claycomb ‘18 presented the work of students in Spanish Professor Mirzam Pérez’s project, Diseñando Imperios, in which the Omeka platform was used to curate, interpret and present a selection of documents and artifacts visualizing and mapping the early modern Spanish Empire.

Other projects displayed emerging technologies such as virtual reality that provide learners with an immersive experience into their subjects of study. For example, chemistry professor Elaine Marzluff demonstrated the use of Google Cardboard goggles with a mobile phone app Sarah Purcell explains the Uncle Sam Plantation project to President Reynard Kingtonto explore protein molecules in a 3D environment. And digital liberal arts specialist David Neville and history professor Sarah Purcell guided attendees through a virtual representation of the Uncle Sam Plantation, a nineteenth-century sugar plantation, that used architectural plans and photographs to virtually recreate the spaces of the plantation complex and tell the forgotten histories of those who lived there.

Several other projects on display also have publicly-accessible web-based components available for browsing and discovery. Among these were sociology professor Ross Haenfler and his students, with the Deviance and Subcultures website; music professor Mark Laver’s project on hip-hop music; music professor John Rommereim’s Grinnell Virtual Choir; the Vivero Digital Scholarship Fellows program, presented by library digital scholarship specialist Elizabeth Rodrigues; and the Data Analysis and Social Inquiry Lab, presented by DASIL director and anthropology professor Xavier Escandell. Rounding out the list of Students exploring the various displays at the Digital Liberal Arts Fairprojects and presenters were art history professor Eiren Shea, with a digital mapping project of objects and monuments produced in the Mongol Empire; math and statistics professor Pamela Fellers, with a demonstration of statistical analysis using the video game Guitar Hero; philosophy professor Tammy Nyden, who presented student-created infographics and videos produced for a mental-health policy and outreach project; and psychology professor Damian Kelty-Stephens, demonstrating a motion capture system to collect biomechanical data for the analysis of human movement.

For more information about the Digital Liberal Arts Collaborative at Grinnell College, visit the DLAC website and follow DLAC on Twitter @GrinnellDLAC.

Library for Alumni

Your Grinnell student days may be a thing of the past, but your quest for knowledge does not have to be. To support alumni’s lifelong learning endeavors, the Grinnell College Libraries and Office of Development and Alumni Relations are pleased to provide alumni with access to a range of academic databases.  For more information and to access these resources, please see the Library for Alumni web page

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