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Virtual Alumni College

Virtual Alumni College is a lifelong, learning experience that allows Grinnellians to stay connected. Grinnell’s faculty showcase their excellent teaching and scholarship by recording 30-minute lectures for alumni to view once you have registered. Virtual Alumni College is an immersive, “return to the classroom” experience. It provides the chance for participants to re-experience the intellectual stimulation of the classroom with Grinnell College faculty members and fellow alumni.

For the fall 2022 series of lectures, in September, we will rerun the highest rated lecture, What is Writing For?, by Tisha Turk and the first ever Virtual Alumni College lecture, The Confederate Flag: Contextualizing White Supremacy, by Sarah Purcell. In October and November, there will be 3-4 new lectures and discussion sessions. Scroll down to register for the September lectures and discussion sessions and to read descriptions of the October and November ones. Stay tuned to this page for registration information for those October and November lectures and discussions.

Registration for lectures

An unlimited number of alumni may register to watch each pre-recorded lecture. Once you fill out the registration form, you will be sent a confirmation email that contains the URL for the pre-recorded lecture that you can watch at any time.

Pre-recorded lectures should be viewed before attending a discussion session, so that you are able to formulate questions and engage in the discussion with the faculty member and fellow alumni.

Registration for discussion sessions

An hour discussion session will be held for each pre-recorded lecture. Discussion sessions are not recorded. You should only sign up for a discussion session if you are available at the posted date and time listed below. If more than 50 alumni register, a lottery will be held and a waitlist created. DAR limits the amount of alumni who can participate in an online discussion because this allows for more intimate conversation. It also allows for all voices that want to be heard to be included in the discussion.

Discussion sessions are facilitated by a DAR staff member and lead by the faculty member who gave the lecture.


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 Smith-Benantismithben@grinnell.edu.

Virtual Alumni College Fall 2022 Lectures

What is Writing For?

Faculty Member: Tisha Turk
Discussion Date: Sept. 22 at 4:00 p.m. CT

This lecture explains some of the limits of defining writing as a skill, offers alternative ways of understanding what writing is and how it works, and explains why embracing these alternative understandings can help us become better writers.

Learn more about Tisha Turk and see a full description of the lecture on the What is Writing For? registration page. You are still able to watch the lecture by registering. After you register, you will receive an email with the link to watch the lecture at your leisure.

The Confederate Flag: Contextualizing White Supremacy

Faculty Member: Sarah Purcell, L.F. Parker Professor of History
Discussion Date: Sept. 28 at 3 p.m. CT

Learn the historical context of the confederate flag to help you make sense of today's flag debates.

Learn more about Sarah Purcell and see a full description of the lecture on the The Confederate Flag registration page. You are still able to watch the lecture by registering. After you register, you will receive an email with the link to watch the lecture at your leisure.

ICYMI: The Political Economy of Polarization in America, with a Few Ideas on Reversal

Faculty Member: Bill Ferguson '75, Gertrude B. Austin Professor of Economics
Discussion Date: Oct. 11 at 1 p.m. CT

This talk was given at Reunion 2022 and will address underlying political and economic conditions that have led to increasing polarization in the U.S. over the past 50 years, culminating in controversies over guns, immigration, COVID-19, and teaching about race. Concluding ideas on reversal will draw from Professor Ferguson’s prior experience as a community organizer.

Learn more about Bill Ferguson and see a full description of the lecture on the ICYMI: The Political Economy of Polarization in America, with a Few Ideas on Reversal registration page. You are still able to watch the lecture by registering. After you register, you will receive an email with the link to watch the lecture at your leisure.

Environmentalism and the Idea of 'Nature'

Faculty Member: John Fennell, F. Wendell Miller Professor of Philosophy
Discussion Date: Monday, Oct. 17 at 11 a.m. CT

This lecture is interested in philosophically unpacking the conception of nature that underpins the ethic of wilderness preservation – in particular the dichotomous way it understands the relation between human beings and the non-human (natural) world – as well as exploring some of its (possibly problematic) moral implications. 

Learn more about John Fennell and see a full description of the lecture on the Environmentalism and the Idea of 'Nature' registration page. You are still able to watch the lecture by registering. After you register, you will receive an email with the link to watch the lecture at your leisure.

Helen of Troy after the War

Faculty Member: Dustin Dixon, assistant professor of classics
Discussion Date: Oct. 26 at 2 p.m. CT

In this lecture, Professor Dixon uncovers a minor mythological tradition that imagines Helen growing old after the war. As these mythic accounts of an aging Helen reflect on the ephemerality of beauty and on the brutality of war, they offer us an opportunity to contemplate the power of myth both to express and to challenge our values. 

Learn more about Dustin Dixon and see a full description of the lecture on the Helen of Troy after the War registration page. You are still able to watch the lecture by registering. After you register, you will receive an email with the link to watch the lecture at your leisure.

Introduction to a Farewell

Faculty Member: Eric McIntyre, professor of music and director of the Grinnell Symphony Orchestra
Discussion Date: Nov. 8 at 1 p.m. CT

In this lecture, we examine the historical and artistic framework of the five compositions Ludwig van Beethoven composed in his final years, and consider how they still speak to us and provide a window into truth, almost two centuries after their composition.

Learn more about Eric McIntyre and see a full description of the lecture on the Introduction to a Farewell registration page. You are still able to watch the lecture by registering. After you register, you will receive an email with the link to watch the lecture at your leisure.