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Virtual Alumni College

Virtual Alumni College Fall 2021 is right around the corner. We look forward to sharing the lectures and eagerly anticipate participating in the lively discussion sessions. More information including how to register will be provided soon. 

For past sessions, you can continue to register to watch the lectures, listed on the Virtual Alumni College archive page. Thank you for continuing to make this program a huge success. #GrinnelliansStayConnected

If you would like to submit ideas for future Alumni Colleges, please send us an email, or if you have specific questions, contact Sarah

Virtual Alumni College Fall 2021 Lectures

Edward Steiner: A Grinnell Professor's Immigration Story

Faculty Member: Professor Emeritus George Drake ’56
Discussion date: August 31

Edward Steiner was Grinnell's Professor of Applied Christianity from `1903 to 1941. He immigrated to the U.S. in the late 19th Century and experienced two years of moving from place to place and job to job before converting to Christianity and becoming a pastor before ending up at Grinnell. He wrote more books than any other faculty member in History. He was an expert on immigration.

Stratification Economics and Intergroup Inequality

Faculty Member: Bill Ferguson ’75, Gertrude B. Austin Professor of Economics
Discussion date: September 16 at noon

This course will discuss how stratification economics—an idea developed by several leading Black and Latinx economists—offers a conceptual framework for understanding economic foundations of intergroup inequality by race, gender, ethnicity, or social class. It will relate theories of stereotype, prejudice, and discrimination to a human propensity for group comparison and conflicts over the distribution of material resources. Applications of the theory extend to public acceptance of government social benefits, attitudes toward immigration, and environmental justice.

The Queer Occult in the Shadow of Global Capital, 1978 – 1994

Faculty Member: AJ Lewis, assistant professor of gender, women’s, and sexuality studies
Discussion Date: TBD

Accounts of LGBTQ politics typically emphasize gains in visibility, publicity, and integration into civil society. Whether it be the 1969 Stonewall Riots, or Laverne Cox’s 2015 appearance in Time magazine, queer political watersheds are recurrently celebrated as a series of “coming out” moments. This talk, in contrast, examines enduring queer affinities not for exposure or public representation, but instead secrecy, mystery, and unseen forces—particularly those associated with the dark arts. Drawing from queer writings that span neoliberalism’s early onset in the late 1970s through its apotheosis of the Clinton years, I detail the “queer occult” as a site of resistance to post-Fordist social reorganization. What apparently disparate canonical thinkers like Audre Lorde and Susan Stryker share, in other words, is a dedicated sense that queer liberation might compel us not towards intelligibility or respectable citizenship, but towards fugitivity, evanescence, and untold powers of darkness.

Regenerative Medicine: Learning from the Regeneration Pros

Faculty Member: Pascal Lafontant, professor of biology
Discussion Date: TBD

When will Regenerative Medicine come of age? What technological barriers need to be overcome? In this talk we will assess how far Regenerative Medicine has come in the last decades. We will survey the field of regenerative biology and the extraordinary ability of several species to regenerate limbs, spinal cord, heart, pancreas, or their entire body from a one segment. How can we experimentally facilitate the emergence of these abilities in humans? We will learn about key biological processes that are the foundation of tissue repair and regeneration and consider the ethical questions Regenerative Medicine raises.

The Secrets of Shakespeare's Sonnets

Faculty Member: John Garrison, professor of English
Discussion date: October 11 at 7:00 p.m.

Shakespeare's Sonnets contain some of the most famous love poems in the English language. They also tell us a lot about how Shakespeare's thought his writing might exist beyond his lifetime in cultural memory. But what do they tell us about Shakespeare's own thinking about love or about how he'd remember his own life? In this lecture and subsequent discussion, Professor Garrison shares some of his latest thinking from his new research that earned him a Guggenheim Fellowship this year. And he invites participants to think about their own relationship to Shakespeare's poetry.

The Invention of the Bicycle

Faculty Member: Michael Guenther, associate professor of history
Discussion date: November 2 at noon

This lecture uses the fascinating history of the bicycle to explore three central questions that animate the study of technology: 1.) How and why do "inventions" appear in particular times and places, and who should receive "credit" for them? 2.) Why do particular design paths tend to become standardized and "locked-in" so that alternative forms of a technology, however promising, disappear? 3.) How are technologies shaped by social, economic, even political forces, and conversely, how do new technologies disrupt or transform society? We will explore these issues by examining the largely unknown story of the bicycles evolution in 19th-century America.