Grinnell College Alumni Council welcomes eight new members

Aug. 15, 2022 — Eight Grinnell graduates are bringing their collective expertise to a group dedicated to fostering strong alumni networks and encouraging alumni participation in College activities.

The new Alumni Council members for 2022-23 are:

  • Sasha Aslanian ’90
  • Jennifer Beinart ’06
  • Suha Gillani ’16
  • Donna Rothenberg Savage ’74
  • Natz Soberanes ’13
  • Vivek Venugopal ’01
  • Atavia Whitfield ’06
  • Jeremy Youde ’99

Each new member will serve an initial two-year term through Reunion 2024, and they are eligible to serve through 2028. Council members can be elected to up to three consecutive terms.

The Alumni Council strives to unite Grinnell graduates and former students. The 26-member group promotes a spirit of camaraderie among alumni and supports the College leadership, faculty, staff, and students in the advancement of the College. Council meetings are held on campus in the fall and spring. 

“It’s an honor to welcome our eight new members, who represent so many vibrant dimensions of Grinnell’s alumni community,” says Robert Gehorsam ’76, Alumni Council president. “As all of us – and the College itself – move forward from the pandemic, the Council has a special obligation to ensure that alumni are more engaged than ever in meaningful ways with the College leadership, staff, and faculty, our worldwide alumni network, and our current students –– who in a few short years will be alumni themselves.”

Here’s a detailed look at the new members:

Sasha Aslanian ’90

Sasha Aslanian
   Sasha Aslanian ’90

Aslanian lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and works as a journalist for American Public Media. She and her husband, Leif Larsen ’88 have a daughter at Davidson College and a daughter who will be first-year at Grinnell this fall, Liv Larsen ’26.

Aslanian has served as a class fund director, Reunion Planning Committee member, and internship host. She wanted to serve on the Alumni Council to further deepen her connection to Grinnell. 

“Whether it’s Zooming with a group of fellow French majors to talk about how majoring in French helped me find my career in journalism, or hosting Grinnellians as interns, I’m always energized by meeting current Grinnellians,” Aslanian says. “Alumni have an important role to play in supporting Grinnell, and I hope I can help more alumni see the many ways their involvement matters.”

Aslanian is serving on the Town Hall Task Force. 

Jennifer Beinart ’06

Jenne Beinart
   Jennifer Beinart ’06

Beinart resides in Lakewood, Colorado, and is an associate ethics counselor for the Federal Government. She previously was a family law and estate planning attorney at a small law firm in the Indianapolis area.

Beinart’s Grinnell volunteerism has included being a class agent, serving on her Reunion Planning Committee, hosting a student extern, and being a Grinnell-on-the-Front Range regional volunteer.

“Grinnell has greatly shaped the person I have become,” Beinart says. “I wanted to give back to an institution that gave so much to me. I am particularly interested in helping to reconnect alumni to current students and the College. Lastly, I find great fulfillment and joy interacting with Grinnellians and can’t wait to develop friendships with my fellow council members.”

Beinart is a member of the Alumni Awards Committee.

Suha Gillani ’16

Suha Gillani
   Suha Gillani ’16

Gillani lives in New York City and works at Grant Thornton as an ESG and sustainability advisor to private equity and technology companies in the North American middle market. Her previous work supported governments in Europe, Asia, and Africa to create regulations that catalyzed inclusive digital finance. 

An international student from Pakistan, Gillani’s time at Grinnell brought her lasting friendships, a loving host family, and diverse professional and personal experiences across the world. She hopes every Grinnell student will be able to experience similar pleasantries. 

“Through my time on the Alumni Council, I want to create more pathways that allow international students the access and exposure, both personally and professionally, to succeed after graduation,” she says. 

Gillani is serving on the Grinnell Connect Task Force. 

Donna Rothenberg Savage ’74

Donna Rothenberg Savage
   Donna Rothenberg Savage ’74

Savage is a resident of Kensington, Maryland. Inspired by her Grinnell experiences, she initially worked in student services, including a three-year stint as a residence hall director at Grinnell College. She later switched gears to run her own writing and editing business for more than 20 years, focusing primarily on health and medical topics.  

A regional volunteer and Reunion Planning Committee member, serving on the Alumni Council presents Savage with another conduit for giving back.

“My Grinnell student years were transformative for me because Grinnell offered so many opportunities to solidify my values and to find my way in the world,” she says. “I want to be part of ensuring that such rich opportunities continue to abound for current and future students, and to inspire other alums to give back in whatever way they can.”

Savage is a member of the Membership Development Committee. 

Natz Soberanes ’13

Natz Soberanes
  Natz Soberanes ’13

Soberanes is an Austin, Texas, resident who hails originally from Mexico. She is chief of operations at a family-owned company providing consulting and other consular services to the Mexican immigrant community in the U.S.

Soberanes serves as a co-class agent and regional volunteer. Joining the Alumni Council is how she wants to help others have the same opportunities she did.

“Choosing to go to Grinnell and receiving the support I did really changed the course of my life,” she says. “I also recognize that having been an international student at Grinnell, I want to be able to represent the international group of alumni that I didn’t see too often on the Council and that are a growing percentage of students whose voices I’m excited to help be heard.”

Soberanes is serving on the Town Hall Task Force. 

Vivek Venugopal ’01

Vivek Venugopal '01
   Vivek Venugopal ’01

Venugopal lives in San Francisco and works in the world of nonprofit fundraising, initially for a hospital foundation and then for a global literacy nonprofit. He now is director of revenue at Speechless, a company that helps individuals become better communicators and collaborators using the tools of improv and performance. 

In 2018, Venugopal was a featured speaker in the Diverse Paths of Leadership and Innovation speaker series at Grinnell. He previously volunteered for the College with the Grinnell Regional Admission Support Program (GRASP).

Venugopal is serving on the Grinnell Connect Task Force. 

Atavia Whitfield ’06

Atavia Whitfield
   Atavia Whitfield ’06

Whitfield lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she is an administrator at a social work school. She is passionate about effective leadership, mindfulness, and all forms of justice, and constantly uses her social work training to engage with students and community partners. 

For Whitfield, the learning environment at Grinnell College encouraged a new way of thinking, engaging, and being, which has guided her professional growth. She has a deep appreciation for Grinnell and the amazing people it attracts.

“As a member of the Alumni Council, I want to help expand access to transformative opportunities for students through mentorship with the alumni community,” Whitfield says. “I am excited to make meaningful contributions to an institution that has shown an unwavering commitment to service.”

Whitfield is a member of the Membership Development Committee. 

Jeremy Youde ’99

Jeremy Youde
  Jeremy Youde ’99

Youde resides near the north shore of Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota, where he serves as dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at the University of Minnesota Duluth. 

In addition to his role on the Council, Youde is a co-class fund director. He has volunteered in the past with GRASP.

“Grinnell gave me so much when I was a student, and it continues to have direct and ongoing effects on my personal and professional lives,” he says. “I want to make sure that future generations of Grinnell students continue to have access to incredible opportunities. I also want to find more ways to connect alumni with staff, faculty, and current students.” 

Youde is serving on the Grinnell Connect Task Force. 

Other Council news

The Council also re-elected the following members to their second terms: Ed Atkins ’66, Becky Reetz Neal ’65, Scott Shepherd ’82, Tom Triplett ’69, and Ben Vaughn Jr. ’15. Council members elected to their third terms were Debby Feir ’68, Debbie Gottschalk ’90, and Andrea Jackson ’95.

Bernard Jackson ’86 was elected Alumni Council president-elect for this year. He will serve as president in 2023-24.

Alumni Council leadership also is instituting a change this year in how the Council’s work is organized, moving away from having some of the standing committees that were in place the past several years. Three committees will remain: Executive, Alumni Awards, and Membership Development. 

In addition, the Council is launching two Task Forces for 2022-23. One is a Town Hall Task Force that will explore new content and possibly new formats for virtual Town Halls that strengthen alumni connections to the institution and to other Grinnell communities. The other is a Grinnell Connect Task Force that will work collaboratively with the College to evaluate this networking platform to strengthen opportunities for mentorship and engagement between alumni and students.

“We look forward to the way this work re-organization will allow us to focus on more concrete initiatives that could have deliverables within the year,” Gehorsam says. 

—by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

Visit the Alumni Council web pages for a full list of members, committees, meeting minutes, and information about serving on the Council.

To read more alumni news, check out our news archive.