Graffiti on a brick wall. Several layers of paint with "Truth" in white paint on top and the only legible writing on the wall.

Alumni College 2018 - The Truth

Wednesday, May 30 – Thursday, May 31

The Oxford English Dictionary defines truth as, “conformity with fact; agreement with reality; accuracy or correctness in a statement, thought, etc.” The truth is stable, secure, something everyone can agree upon without question. It is the way something “is.” Or is it?

Truth, it turns out, is surprisingly difficult to define. It can be elusive and it can change based on cultural or personal contexts. Sometimes what we thought to be true is no longer true. Sometimes fake news distorts what is true. And sometimes the scientific method is disregarded as untrue. Does this mean there are no real truths? Does this mean that human kind is destined to fall into a dark hole of relativism and doubt with no inherent honesty or grasp of what is real in this world?

As Grinnellians, we know that truth matters. It matters in personal relationships, in science, and it matter for governments and in public policy. Because of this, it is a vital part in how we gain and approach knowledge and in how we create discourse. 

Lectures and seminars offered in this year’s Alumni College will examine the problem that is truth. We will explore the meaning of truth and how it has evolved and changed. And we will look at how truth can be defined in multiple ways and what that means for our lives now and in our future. This inquiry will be led by faculty from philosophy, education, religious studies, classics, and anthropology.

Please check back often as we will post faculty names and the titles of their programs as they are confirmed.

Preparing for Alumni College

  • Alumni College Schedule. Alumni College will begin on Wednesday, May 30 at 8 a.m. with breakfast.  Arrivals for Alumni College are on Tuesday, May 29.  You may check in beginning at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 29. Classes, seminars, and workshops will take place all day Wednesday and all day Thursday. The last class/workshop will take place on Thursday evening. Please view the preliminary schedule.

Confirmed Faculty

The Truth of Creation and the Creation of Truth

Dustin Dixon, assistant professor of classics

In My Father’s House Are Many Mansions: Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis on Truth in Other Religious Traditions

Harold Kasimow, professor emeritus of religious studies

A Search for Authenticity: Telling the Truth about the Holocaust through Tourism

Daniel P. Reynolds, professor of German, Seth Richards Professor in Modern Languages

Red, White, and Blues: Black Women Speaking Truth to Power in Neo-Soul

Lakesia Johnson, associate professor of gender, women’s and sexuality studies, assistant vice president & chief diversity officer

Pedagogy, Precision and the Porousness of Truth in the Age of Trump

Katya S. Gibel Mevorach, professor of anthropology
Sam Rebelsky, professor of computer Science

Three Philosophical Theories of Truth: Correspondence, Verificationist, and Fallibilist

John Fennell, associate professor of philosophy

Previous Alumni College Topics

Alumni College 2017

The outcomes of recent elections illustrate there is an intense difference of opinion on many critical issues facing our country. The way we use language, the way we view and interpret data, and even the way we call ourselves to action can seem worlds apart. Are these differences irreconcilable? How did we get here and where do we go from here? How can we be hopeful and rise above these differences? Alumni College 2017 took a deeper dive into these questions and sought to find answers that create understanding, empower and educate, helped us realize empathy for the “other,” and searched for ways we can bridge the gap.

Alumni College 2017 Faculty

George Drake '56,  president emeritus of the College and professor emeritus of history
William D. Ferguson '75, Gertrude B. Austin Professor of economics
Douglas Hess '91, assistant professor of political science
Barbara A. Trish, professor of political science
Johanna Solomon, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer in Peace Studies

Alumni College 2016

Food sustains us, it binds us to each other, it provides a foundation for us culturally and intellectually.

Alumni came back to Grinnell and examined food like they probably never had before. They explored food as culture, food as ritual, food as choice. Along the way, they looked with new eyes on the decisions made about food, the way other cultures use food to sustain and identify, and the way our food, and our interaction with it, is changing and evolving.

Alumni College 2016 Faculty

Mark Levandoski, professor of chemistry
Todd Armstrong, professor of Russian
Leslie Lyons, professor of chemistry
Mark Laver, assistant professor of music