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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.

At this time, there are five new lectures to watch during the fall of 2021. The registration process is open and you can click on the registration links below.  DAR will continue to hold Virtual Alumni College in the spring of 2022, and release new lectures in March.

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 2021 Lectures

Stratification Economics and Intergroup Inequality

Faculty Member: Bill Ferguson ’75, Gertrude B. Austin Professor of Economics
Discussion date: September 17 at noon (rescheduled from Sept. 16)

This course will discuss how stratification economics offers a conceptual framework for understanding economic foundations of intergroup inequality by race, gender, ethnicity, or social class. 

Learn more about professor Bill Ferguson and see a full description of the lecture on the Stratification Economics and Intergroup Inequality registration page. After you register, you will receive an email with the link to watch the lecture at your leisure.

Regenerative Medicine: Learning from the Regeneration Pros

Faculty Member: Pascal Lafontant, professor of biology
Discussion Date: September 27 at 7 p.m.

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.

Learn more about professor Pascal Lafontant and see a full description of the lecture on the Regenerative Medicine: Learning from the Regeneration Pros registration page. After you register, you will receive an email with the link to watch the lecture at your leisure.

Edward Steiner: A Grinnell Professor's Immigration Story

Faculty Member: Professor Emeritus George Drake ’56
Discussion date: October 5 at 1 p.m.

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 and was considered an expert on immigration.

Learn more about professor emeritus George Drake and see a full description of the lecture on the Edward Steiner: A Grinnell Professor's Immigration Story registration page. After you register, you will receive an email with the link to watch the lecture at your leisure.

The Secrets of Shakespeare's Sonnets

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

Learn more about professor John Garrison and see a full description of the lecture on the The Secrets of Shakespeare's Sonnets registration page. After you register, you will receive an email with the link to watch the lecture at your leisure.

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.

Learn more about professor Michael Guenther and see a full description of the lecture on the The Invention of the Bicycle registration page. After you register, you will receive an email with the link to watch the lecture at your leisure.