Alumna sets up global fund to expand minds and opportunities with travel

Dec. 13, 2017 — Erica Tarpey ’93 took her first trip across the ocean at age 7, when she traveled with her family to England, Ireland, and Scotland. For six weeks, she stayed with her father’s aunts, uncles, and cousins on their farms, milking cows, picking up fresh eggs, and watching as the hay was cut.

Erica Tarpey '93
   Erica Tarpey '93

“It was so unlike suburban Colorado,” recalls Tarpey, who grew up outside Denver. “It was fantastic.”

The trip was transformative for Tarpey, a French and political science major at Grinnell who has since visited more than 30 nations. And it’s why she recently funded the Erica Tarpey ’93 Fund for Global Grinnell, which will benefit the College’s Institute for Global Engagement.

“I’ve been a regular giver to Grinnell but when I heard about the Institute, it really grabbed me,” said the Denver-based business attorney. “The college is significantly expanding international immersion experiences for students and that’s what hooked me.”

The Institute, headed by Shuchi Kapila, professor of English and assistant vice president for global education, was set up in 2016 and includes a first-year student program that allows students to travel for a course, a language-learning center, and international partnerships with similar institutions.

“Our students want and need to be global citizens and incorporating that awareness into their courses, so they are able to think from many different perspectives will be a strength,” Kapila said.

It’s Tarpey’s goal that her gift to the Institute will enable students who travel to experience some of the same insights she’s gained from her travels.

Her five-year gift will specifically fund what Tarpey calls the ‘incidentals’ for Grinnell students who study abroad, such as travel insurance, visa fees, taxes and tariffs to enter and leave nations, and tickets to get on a bus to see a neighboring country or the countryside.

“These are the things that make travel more of an immersion, an outside-of-the-classroom educational opportunity,” she said. “The basic funding is great, but there are the add-on pieces that can make an exponential difference in the experience.”

Tarpey spent a semester in Nantes, France, during her third year at Grinnell.

“The more exposure people have to different people, thoughts, ideas, religions, and even foods, the greater appreciation and understanding we can have for those people and cultures,” she said. “Especially in this day and age, with such divisive lines being drawn, travel helps you realize that the color of your skin, or whatever your religion doesn’t matter, and shouldn’t be what we use to separate ourselves.”

“It’s eye-opening to go someplace else and be ‘the other,’” Tarpey added. “We’re so often surrounded by some level of comfort and similarity to the people who make up our communities. Travel not only helps you appreciate other cultures, it helps you appreciate your own.”

— by Anne Stein ’84

For your information:

Grinnell offers students have the ability to pursue learning opportunities around the globe. Learn more about Global Learning at Grinnell.