Campus Update: Welcome to the Spring Semester

Dear Grinnellians,

Welcome to a new decade, a new year, and Grinnell College's spring 2020 semester. I am grateful that our campus is once again bustling with activity and that members of our academic community are ready to fully engage in the important responsibility of fulfilling Grinnell's mission. 

Now is the time to recommit ourselves to actions that will serve to advance the College's strategic priorities in relation to enrollment, teaching and learning, the Grinnell learning place, post-graduate success, alumni engagement, and human and financial resource management. Together, in the coming months, we can embrace fresh opportunities to address the important work before us.

I encourage you to take a few minutes now to read some brief highlights of ongoing and anticipated developments that will inform our work this semester. I hope that you will take time, as well, to consider how you might help support these efforts.

Task Force on Student Financial Support and Success

The Task Force on Student Financial Support and Success was appointed last spring to assess whether the College's financial aid packages provide enrolled students with equitable access to all aspects of a Grinnell education, including participation as a full citizen of the College community, e.g., activities like varsity sports, and on-campus employment opportunities that could enhance post-graduate success.

The task force has collaborated with members of an advisory committee and with administrators to gather quantitative and qualitative data related to its central inquiry. Additionally, task force members have been researching a range of resources to bring clearer understanding to current challenges and potential opportunities related to student financial support and success.

The task force is expected to present a report to the Board of Trustees and to complete its work this spring, providing Grinnell with recommendations and a roadmap we can begin working from to improve student financial support and success.

Student Union 

The Board of Trustees will be wrapping up its work to study and deliberate upon the implications and long-term impact on the educational mission of the College of potential limited student union expansion. The trustees are working to set up meetings with UGSDW representatives and to schedule an open forum for campus members to discuss their findings during their annual spring meeting (Feb. 7-8). Meeting details will be shared when those are finalized.

Humanities and Social Studies Center

The new Humanities and Social Studies Center (HSSC) is quickly fulfilling our vision of providing a home to academic departments in the Humanities and Social Studies, and highly collaborative faculty and student spaces. Construction continues on schedule in Alumni Recitation Hall (ARH) and Carnegie Hall and is expected to be complete in summer 2020.

I am pleased to share that the College will embark on a new initiative this spring to add additional names to the facility's exterior stone lintel that serves to honor some of the greatest thinkers and writers of all time. You can expect to hear more soon about a first, contemporary name addition as well as a process for Grinnellians to identify additional luminaries we wish to honor.

Restorative Practices 

As Ombuds Chinyere Ukabiala shared earlier this month, this spring she is working remotely from Nigeria, where she has a special opportunity to pursue her interest in alternative methods of dispute resolution, including restorative practices and processes through a Fulbright grant.

During her time away, the Ombuds Office will continue to be a resource for the campus community and she will continue to oversee the functions of the office, as well as the restorative practices initiative that began in the fall. She will help ensure we maintain the momentum of our campaign to emphasize a culture of respect and accountability, focusing on community building and shifting the culture around conflict.

Campus Climate Surveys 

The results of the campus staff climate survey administered by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) last spring are being shared with the community this spring. This survey sought staff input about job satisfaction, general issues and concerns, and areas for improvement, and will be used to help develop an action plan.

Recently, Vice President for Finance and Treasurer of the College Keith Archer, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Anne Harris, and Chair of Staff Council Erika Jack hosted a series of meetings with staff members to provide an overview of the survey findings and discuss next steps and opportunities for collaboration on initiatives to address staff concerns. Those meetings were very well attended and there seemed to be a general sense of positive momentum for the future. This spring we can anticipate hearing more about the process and timeline for learning the results of the HERI faculty survey conducted last fall.

Presidential Search Process

As you will have read by now, the Presidential Search Committee has officially launched its work. Under the very able leadership of Board of Trustees Co-Chairs Trish Fitzgibbons Anderson '80 and George Moose '66 the members of the Committee reflect a diverse cross section of the College's stakeholders. The College will be well served by this process. I strongly encourage you to make the Presidential Search website an ongoing resource to keep yourself apprised of important search developments.

I want to take advantage of this last item to share a few personal reflections with you. 

Since I first came to Grinnell in 2010, I have worked with the board and an incredible community of staff and faculty to advance the College's mission, vision, and strategic priorities. I am honored to have played a part in this effort. I want to thank every member of our community for the welcome that my family and I received nine years ago and the countless acts of kindness and support during our time here. We have been deeply moved by the wonderful messages many have shared since the announcement of my plans to leave Grinnell this coming summer to become the new Head of School at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.

The time I have spent as a member of this community has been both personally and professionally rewarding. Going forward, I am confident that my replacement will continue to work diligently to further strengthen the College for the benefit of current and future Grinnellians.


Raynard S. Kington