Sep 21, 2020  
2014-2015 Academic Catalog 
2014-2015 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Education in the Liberal Arts

A liberal arts education has at its center four practices that distinguish it from other kinds of learning: critical thinking, examination of life, encounters with difference, and free exchange of ideas. By offering an education in the liberal arts, Grinnell College asserts the importance of lifelong learning characterized by sustained intellectual curiosity and an open mind for assessing the unfamiliar. At the same time, by using critical thinking to identify assumptions, to test logic, to evaluate evidence, to reason correctly, and to take responsibility for the conclusions and actions that result, a student of the liberal arts can grow personally as well as intellectually. A liberally educated person should be capable of principled judgment, seeking to understand the origins, context, and implications of any area of study, rather than looking exclusively at its application. A liberally educated person should also be skilled at solving problems, drawing together multiple perspectives in the creation of new knowledge.

Because knowledge is lost if not shared, both students and teachers of the liberal arts strive to engage in precise and graceful communication. This communication takes place verbally, but also in other ways, including the symbolic and expressive systems of mathematics, music, computer languages, the natural sciences, and the visual and performing arts. By learning and exploring these systems, one may attain an understanding of aspects of human expression, which is a crucial part of liberal education.

In Cultivating Humanity (1997), Martha C. Nussbaum speaks of “an education that is ‘liberal’ in that it liberates the mind from the bondage of habit and custom, producing people who can function with sensitivity and alertness as citizens of the whole world.” Nussbaum argues that the central task of liberal education is to activate each student’s mind, so that choices and actions may emerge from independent thought rather than from acceptance of conventional assumptions or dictates. Drawing on Socrates and the Stoic philosophers, Nussbaum sees liberally educated individuals as continually examining themselves and their own traditions. She also urges liberal arts students to gain valuable knowledge by studying alternative perspectives and cultures different from their own.

In the Grinnell College curriculum, the only requirements for graduation are completion of a First-Year Tutorial, 124 credits, and the academic major. This is subject to a maximum of 92 credits in any one division and 48 credits in any one department. This flexibility places significant responsibility on each student to design a coherent and compelling course of study, in conversation with a faculty adviser. Each student declares an academic major at some point during the first four semesters of enrollment. In consultation with an adviser, the student plans a comprehensive program that can incorporate options such as mentored research, off-campus study, teaching certification, an internship, or an interdisciplinary concentration.

The academic major gives a distinctive shape to the four years of undergraduate education. At the same time, it is important for students to balance exploration and focus in their nonmajor choices. Students need to design a program of study outside the major that reflects thoughtful planning and is consistent with their goals. Working closely with the academic adviser, the student develops a provisional four-year plan that reflects the diversity of academic disciplines while incorporating study at the advanced level in one or more fields. The provisional plan usually requires revision, but with each change the student and adviser consider how the plan reflects the student’s evolving sense of what it means to be liberally educated.

Student and adviser will need to discuss areas that the student seems inclined to avoid. Such resistance often points to an area of knowledge or a form of intellectual discipline that will enrich and balance the student’s academic program. Skills, methods of inquiry, and knowledge often transfer across disciplines. The creative application of these in new contexts may lead to new insights or solutions. Moreover, the ability to analyze material critically from multiple perspectives may illustrate the limitations of any single theory, however powerful, in explaining a complex range of phenomena. Finally, breadth of study prepares the student to approach new questions not yet formulated, in fields and professions not yet imagined.

What should the liberally educated person know? While each discipline in a liberal arts curriculum has its own rationale and purpose, the heterogeneity of good critical thinking and the free exchange of ideas militate against any single answer to this question. However, as each student works to create a personal definition in the form of the academic plan, the principles outlined below, articulated by the Grinnell College faculty, may serve as a useful guide.

Elements of a Liberal Education

The original seven liberal arts, in the classical world, consisted of the trivium of deductive reasoning comprised of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, and the quadrivium of quantitative reasoning, which encompassed geometry, astronomy, arithmetic, and music. In Rethinking Liberal Education (1996), Bruce Kimball describes how the medieval European universities added to the seven liberal arts “the three philosophies”: natural philosophy (empirical science), moral philosophy (human thought and behavior), and metaphysics (ontology, or the study of being). These categories of the liberal arts, inherited from the medieval European university, find their modern forms in the science, social studies, and humanities divisions into which Grinnell College, like many colleges and universities today, distributes its academic departments. Interdisciplinary programs draw upon multiple departments to examine newer areas of study such as environmental studies, global development, gender and women’s studies, technology, and American studies.

Grinnell faculty members have articulated six areas of study in the current curriculum that are important elements of a liberal education. Students should review this list for guidance as they consider their curricular plans.

  1. Nothing enhances the expression of knowledge better than engaging, clear, and accurate language. Reading closely, thinking clearly, and writing effectively form a web of connected skills, whether practiced in the First-Year Tutorial, in the Writing Lab, in designated writing courses, or in courses ranging from the introductory to the advanced level in almost every discipline. Students planning their academic programs should strive for the ability to convey their ideas with power and grace, to analyze and formulate arguments, and to adapt each piece of writing to its context and audience.
  2. Study of a language other than one’s own opens the mind to new ways of thinking. Language placement tests are offered during New Student Orientation, and students are asked to determine their appropriate level at that time. Many Grinnell College faculty members urge their advisees to study a nonnative language and its literature, not only for the exposure to a rich alternative world of cultural meanings, but also to gain a valuable perspective (unavailable to the monolingual person) on the workings of language itself. For careful planning, students should note that many off-campus study opportunities, the Alternative Language Study Option, certain academic majors, and many types of postgraduate study require specific levels of demonstrated ability in foreign languages.
  3. An education in the natural sciences—biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology— introduces techniques of observation and experimentation, the relation of data to hypotheses, and the practice of scientific reasoning. This work trains the mind to relate concrete empirical information to abstract models, stimulating multidimensional and creative habits of thought. Sustained experience in the laboratory and a grasp of basic scientific principles lead to a better understanding of commonly observed phenomena. Nonspecialists who are scientifically literate bring valuable understanding to public discourse and to an increasing number of professional settings.
  4. Quantitative reasoning, with emphasis on mathematical models and methods above the secondary-school level, aids in the expression of hypotheses, processes, and theoretical relations. A course in statistics can be helpful for all students, and particularly for those who might work in the social and behavioral sciences. Studies in computer science offer valuable exposure to principles of logic and problem-solving paradigms.
  5. The study of human behavior and society leads students to investigate their own identities and to gain insight into social categories and relations. Faculty advisers often urge students to take a sustained look at the history of a specific society, and also to examine a contemporary society (or a segment of it) that is unfamiliar. In light of these encounters, students learn to make and evaluate their own political and ethical choices. Whether a student explores anthropology, economics, education, history, philosophy, political science, religious studies, sociology, or interdisciplinary studies, this question will lie near the heart of the inquiry: in what ways have people lived together, and how should they live together?
  6. Students enlarge their understanding of the liberal arts through the study of creative expression. In the analysis of creative works, whether through historical survey of forms, aesthetic theory, or interpretive practice, the arts occupy the foreground, though knowledge of history and society may inform the analysis. In this way, courses in literature, music, theatre, dance, and the visual arts complement studies in anthropology, history, philosophy, religious studies, and other fields. Students also benefit from learning, through direct instruction in artistic or literary technique, the intense discipline of art and its interplay between conscious intent and unconscious design.

Students of the liberal arts should use this framework as a starting point for intellectual discovery and personal development as they plan their four years of study in consultation with their advisers.

Ways of Learning

Students at Grinnell College learn in varied ways, both inside and outside the classroom. They learn by doing, whether in athletic and artistic pursuits, through public presentation and performance, by conducting experiments, or by writing for an audience.

Grinnell College gives faculty members broad freedom to design courses and to develop appropriate methods of instruction. Faculty members regularly experiment with new teaching methods, assignments, and classroom activities. As a result, students encounter a range of academic experiences suited to the subject matter, to different learning styles, and to their capabilities and interests. Small classes, including introductory courses, allow for spirited exchanges between and among faculty and students. Courses do not simply rely on a textbook, but also make use of readings selected and arranged by the instructor, or materials and activities that draw upon the college libraries, laboratories, music studios, art galleries, computing resources, and field sites. In seminars, studio art courses, and departmental colloquia, students present their own work for critical discussion and analysis.

Independent study takes a variety of forms: guided readings, independent projects, mentored summer research, and course-linked projects that add credits to an existing course. High standards of quality are expected in all the forms of instruction for which credit is awarded, and all courses are taught by the Grinnell College faculty.

The First Year

Every first-year student at Grinnell enrolls in the First-Year Tutorial, a small group of students working with a faculty member to study a subject of interest to both students and tutor. The tutor also is the academic adviser for each student in the group, so that teaching and learning are closely linked with the planning of programs of study. In teaching, the tutor discovers the aptitudes and interests of the students, who in turn receive academic advice, not from an infrequently consulted stranger, but from a teacher who sees them several times each week. In planning a program of study, the student and the tutor balance the cultivation of existing interests with the discovery of new ones. An entering student should regard the first year as a time for gaining breadth in the arts and sciences, confidence in exploring a variety of disciplines, and a more mature understanding of the place of each of these in liberal education as a whole. The following guidelines are helpful in realizing these objectives during the first year.

  1. The student should develop his or her command of written English, not only in the tutorial, but also in at least one other suitable course as well.
  2. The student should develop his or her knowledge of mathematics, a foreign language, or both.
  3. The student should take courses in each of the three main divisions of the curriculum— humanities, science, and social studies—and should take no more than two full courses in any one division in any semester.

The Later Years:

Earning a Bachelor of Arts

The following years of a student’s undergraduate career continue to emphasize breadth of learning in the arts and sciences. At the same time, the student gives increasing attention to developing intellectual discipline in the systematic exploration of a major field of study and the design of a comprehensive academic plan. Grinnell offers three types of major programs:

  1. A major in one of the traditional disciplines such as economics, physics, or Spanish. The majority of students choose a departmental major program.
  2. An interdepartmental major, in which specified amounts of work are taken in more than one academic department. An example of such a major at Grinnell is general science.
  3. An independent major, in which the student pursues a program of study designed in consultation with two faculty advisers. Recent examples are international relations, human geography, and cognitive science.

When a student selects a major program, a member of the faculty engaged in that study becomes his or her academic adviser. Sometimes this adviser is the same person who was the student’s tutor. Even if the student changes advisers, the principle that advising should be linked to teaching and learning continues to be followed. Both student and adviser share an interest in the objects of their study. As the student begins increasingly to consider a career or further study after graduation, he or she profits from the advice of a faculty member aware of opportunities in the student’s field of interest. Often, mentored advanced projects are important and appropriate capstone experiences. Preparing for such projects and working to disseminate their results help students gain perspective on the journey they have taken in their undergraduate years and the paths they will follow after graduation.

Off-Campus Study

Each year, large numbers of Grinnell students, representing about 50 percent of every graduating class, are accepted into a wide range of off-campus study programs both abroad and elsewhere in the United States. Students study abroad throughout the world in Asia, Australia, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In the United States, programs are available specializing in fine arts, science, social studies, humanities, and education. In addition, the College sponsors a one-semester study opportunity in England, the Grinnell-in-London fall program. In the United States, the Grinnell-in-Washington, D.C., program is offered in the fall semester. Participation is open to all qualified students, regardless of major, and possibilities for study exist in virtually all subject areas.

Off-Campus Study is an opportunity for students to broaden their liberal arts education and enhance their majors, concentrations, or other areas of academic interest. Although Grinnell recognizes that just being and studying in a new and challenging environment is a valuable learning experience, the College believes the opportunity will be even more enriching if closely integrated with coursework on campus. During the application process to study off campus, students will notice that great emphasis is placed on selecting an appropriate program compatible with their academic goals. The student will be working together with academic advisers and the Off-Campus Study Office to choose a program that supplements and enhances a Grinnell education. More detailed information on off-campus study appears in Courses of Study .

Why a Liberal Arts Education?

Students pursuing a liberal arts education are urged to follow their true academic interests and are encouraged to explore interesting and exciting careers.

Grinnell College provides resources and guidance to assist all students in their pursuit of career readiness. A liberal arts education develops skills in reasoning logically, communication, both in the spoken and written word, and thinking critically.

A liberal arts education provides Grinnell students the opportunity to examine curriculum across disciplines to find their academic niche. This breadth and depth of curricular expansion provides an opportunity to explore many career choices.

Grinnell College sets the foundation for career choice. Resources abound to assist students in preparing for their future. Collaborative work with the faculty and the Center for Careers, Life, and Service prepares students for their success and assists in career assessment, exploration, and decision-making. The Center for Careers, Life, and Service works closely with alumni to provide pre-professional development experiences for students, internships, on-campus visits by professionals in a variety of fields, and off-campus interviewing events.

What follows is a sampling of areas conducive to a Grinnell College education.


Business looks primarily for confident and self-reliant individuals, not only for people who have studied particular aspects of business. Almost any liberal course of study can lead to a career in business. Students who plan such careers are encouraged to major in whatever field is of most interest and to add to that major significant study and internship experience in other areas. In this way they develop basic abilities that can then be transferred to learning on the job. It is important to develop a high level of competence in the use of English, economic principles, quantitative methods, and analytical abilities. Knowledge of a modern foreign language is an invaluable asset to anyone whose career may require them to work internationally.


A solid grounding in the liberal arts and sciences is one of the best preparations for a career in communication or journalism. Grinnell gives the prospective journalist an opportunity to gain skills in the art of communication through coursework and practical application.

For practical experience, Grinnell’s extracurricular resources include: the college newspaper, The Scarlet and Black; the college radio station, KDIC-FM; the Audio Visual Center; photographic facilities; and internship programs.


At Grinnell, students who plan careers in engineering have two options. A student may spend three years at Grinnell and two years in one of the engineering programs with which Grinnell cooperates: Columbia University, California Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Washington University. (Special arrangements can sometimes be made with other institutions.) Under normal progress the student receives a B.A. degree from Grinnell at the end of the fourth year and a B.S. degree from the cooperating institution at the end of the fifth year. Alternatively, a student may follow a complete B.A. course at Grinnell and, after graduation, undertake further study at an engineering school.

In either case, the prospective engineer studies the natural sciences as an integral part of a liberal education. Students are required to establish at Grinnell a strong foundation in mathematics, physics, and chemistry. A broad base of knowledge in the humanities and social sciences is also strongly recommended. The required science courses are those taken by any student with a serious interest in science, so a definite commitment to engineering is not necessary until enrollment at the engineering school.

Government Service

The diverse and intricate operations of government require competent administrators: educated individuals with interests and abilities in many disciplines, not just the social sciences. Such persons will find opportunities for careers at all levels of government—local, state, national, and international. Seniors interested in the United States Foreign Service should take the Foreign Service Officer Entrance Examination.

Several universities have graduate schools of public administration that provide advanced training for public careers. A law degree also is an asset for many such careers.

Health Professions

Most schools of medicine, dentistry, and nursing prefer four years of undergraduate preparation leading to a bachelor’s degree. They do not specify that the student shall have majored in one of the natural sciences, and they welcome students with strong interests in the humanities and social studies. Students must, however, demonstrate competence in English, mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics; and their undergraduate programs must include courses specifically listed by the professional schools as requirements for admission.


Students preparing to enter law school should take a four-year course of study in any academic discipline offered at Grinnell. Students considering law school may benefit from courses that stress the importance of logical reasoning, persuasive writing, critical thinking, argumentation, and textual analysis.

Teaching and Research: Colleges and Universities

Students interested in research and college teaching should investigate the recommendations of graduate schools and the requirements for advanced study in the particular professional fields. A good start in the special field of learning may be a necessary or desirable part of the student’s preparation for graduate school, but proficiency in certain basic disciplines, such as written English, foreign language, and mathematics, is equally important. And because most graduate programs are highly specialized, work in complementary disciplines should be stressed in the undergraduate program.

Teaching: Grades 5-12

The College offers programs leading to state licensure in teaching grades 5-12. Courses serving as an introduction to teaching, with emphasis on the philosophical and psychological foundations of education, are available to students who wish to train elsewhere after graduation from Grinnell. Those interested in later study for such graduate degrees as the Master of Arts in Teaching find this introductory work useful.

Grinnell considers the education of teachers to be a liberal endeavor and encourages students to develop a broad background in the arts and sciences as well as a deep knowledge of the subjects they will teach. The courses in education are a special component of the student’s liberal education. For students who wish to complete their liberal arts curriculum during the standard eight semesters, then continue with education and practice-teaching, Grinnell has implemented a ninth-semester program. A seventh semester option is also available, but students must complete all requirements for endorsements before the student teaching in the 7th semester. For students who opt for the 9th semester program, the college charges a fee of $2500.


The American Association of Theological Schools suggests that education in the liberal arts is the best preparation for modern ministry. Within this framework a concentration in any of the social studies or humanities departments is desirable, but any major is acceptable. Some knowledge of Greek is an asset but is not necessarily required by schools of theology.

Cooperative Programs Leading to Professional Degrees

Four years of undergraduate study are usually the recommended preparation for engineering, law, medicine, dentistry, and other professional programs. However, Grinnell maintains a cooperative relationship with several professional schools that will admit selected students after three years of undergraduate work. These students are awarded the Grinnell B.A. degree after one year at the cooperating institution if they have fulfilled the Grinnell graduation requirements. They also receive a professional degree from the cooperating institution upon completion of the program there. The prerequisites for all applicants are: senior standing (at least 92 credits), a minimum grade point average varies by institution, and completion of appropriate preprofessional studies with an approved minimum of courses in a major field, plus any courses especially required for the profession.


Arrangements with California Institute of Technology, Columbia University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Washington University (St. Louis). CASE, Preprofessional Adviser.

Public Health

Grinnell College and the University of Iowa have established a cooperative degree program leading to a BA from Grinnell and a Masters in Public Health (MPH) through the University of Iowa (UI) College of Public Health, in one additional year.  Grinnell students can apply for the MPH program in the spring of their third year at Grinnell.  The program requires that students have taken a course, Fundamentals of Public Health, through the UI, typically on-line, and have completed a Grinnell course in mathematics and one in biology, chemistry or physics as well as the GRE prior to admission.  Subsequent to admission, students will complete three UI courses as part of their fourth year program that will count both toward completing Grinnell and MPH degree requirements.  As with other off campus study, students pay Grinnell tuition and receive financial aid while enrolled at Grinnell and Grinnell pays the program expenses.  Subsequent to graduating from Grinnell, students’ fee and aid relationship is with the UI.  Additional information is available at

A liberal education is a good background for a career in public health and students may apply to any public health graduate program for which they meet qualifications.  Students should consult each program for application requirements.

Special Programs

Center for International Studies

The Center for International Studies fosters learning and inquiry through global connections and engagement. Concretely, the Center supports course-related travel for students and faculty, visits by prominent international scholars and artists, faculty development travel experiences across the globe, global research and service opportunities that emphasize an international perspective, and the promotion of internationalization across the curriculum. The Center oversees the College’s partnerships with other educational institutions across the globe such as Grinnell’s 20-year partnership with Nanjing University in China, which allows Chinese scholars to come to Grinnell, and Grinnell students and faculty to teach in China. The Center also sponsors numerous on-campus events that address international issues or feature international performers. In conjunction with the Office of Off-Campus Study, the center works to give Grinnell students many opportunities for study, research, internships, and volunteer work in Asia, Australia, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

Center for Prairie Studies

The Center for Prairie Studies was established in 1999 on the premise that the college should engage with its location, not ignore it or apologize for it. The Center’s mission is to promote a broad understanding of nature and culture in the tallgrass prairie region, of how and why the region has changed over time, and of the challenges it faces today. We are interested in cultivating a “sense of place,” in the goal of living sustainably in place, and in encouraging responsible action toward that end. The Center sponsors courses and course components, public lectures, symposia, art exhibits, musical and theatrical performances, academic-year and summer student internships, faculty development, field trips, and publications that explore the natural and cultural aspects of our community and its locale. Faculty members associated with the Center come from the humanities, sciences, and social studies. The Center maintains a close relationship with the College’s Conard Environmental Research Area (CERA), a 365-acre field station 11 miles west of Grinnell. The Center for Prairie Studies also collaborates with numerous community and regional organizations in furthering its mission. We invite visits to our website:

Center for the Humanities 

The Center for the Humanities was founded in 2001 to publicize and support superlative humanities research and teaching; provide faculty with an opportunity to engage in scholarly dialogue both at Grinnell and with humanities scholars worldwide; provide a forum for communication between the humanities, social sciences, and sciences; and offer students an opportunity to work with the Center and present their own scholarly work in a public forum.

Center activities focus on an annual theme selected by the center’s advisory board. Past themes have included “Modernity and the Problem of Evil,” “Feminist Scholarship Today,” “Thinking Interdisciplinarity,” “Humanities Now” and “Humanities for Life.” The Center’s theme for the coming year is “Science, Technologies, and the Human Condition.” The programs organized by the Center have included talks, seminars, and short courses by distinguished visiting scholars in the Humanities, an annual student symposium, and panel discussions focused on faculty scholarship. The Center also co-sponsors other scholarly and artistic initiatives on campus. More recently, it has organized off-campus events such as the International Film Festival at the Strand theater and it will co-sponsor some future programs by the Grinnell Area Arts Council. More information about the center’s activities is available at

The Louise R. Noun Endowment for Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies

The Louise R. Noun Endowment for Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies was endowed by the College in 1986. Operating through an endowed chair and interdisciplinary committee of students and faculty, the Noun endowment as sponsored national symposia, speakers, and events aimed to further understanding of local and global concerns about women, feminisms, and gender relations. The Noun endowment also initiated faculty colloquia, curricular development grants, a collaborative “Feminist Seminar” of scholarly readings, and plans for the gender and women’s studies concentration.

Since 1992 Noun summer internships have enabled students to work at sites including the Women’s Research Institute, Meijin; GLV (Gay Men and Lesbians Opposing Violence) in Washington, D.C.; the Women’s Oral History Project in Monteverde, Costa Rica; The Feminist Majority in Arlington, Va.; Lamda Legal Defense in Chicago, IL; the literacy project at the Midwest Women’s Center in Chicago; and the Commission on Gender Equality Western Cape Branch in South Africa. Each year, Noun’s Jeanne Burkle Award, named for a prominent local feminist, honors the senior student who has contributed significantly to the cause of women and gender equality.

In 2009, the College created a new interdisciplinary major—Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies—to further explore the study of these issues.

The Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights

The Rosenfield Program was established in 1979 to honor the Rosenfield family of Des Moines, particularly longtime trustee Joseph Rosenfield ‘25, who was a leader in promoting responsible and progressive action in public affairs, international relations, and human rights. The program promotes campus discussion of important policy issues and encourages civic responsibility among students. The program sponsors several three-day symposia each year. Recent topics have included: “Global Pharmaceuticals”; “Trends in Islam”; “Human Rights”; “U.S. Immigration Policy”; “What is Social Justice?”; and “Africa’s Role in the International Arena.” In addition, the program sponsors a wide variety of lectures and brings to campus a series of speakers and weeklong visitors from the United States and abroad, who address important policy issues from diverse government, academic, and private sector perspectives. The program provides stipends for about 10–12 students each year to undertake summer internships related to public affairs, international relations, and human rights.

Donald L. Wilson Program in Enterprise and Leadership

Established through a generous gift by trustee Donald L. Wilson (1904–1986), the Donald L. Wilson Program in Enterprise and Leadership encourages students to explore diverse career options within the private sector. The program provides interdisciplinary courses in management, innovation and leadership, in both profit and non-profit organizations. During the academic year, the Wilson program invites College alumni to return to campus to offer their expertise by teaching three-week short courses and/or visiting regular classes. Recent short courses include “So You Want to Start a Business?”, Atul Gupta ‘88; “Strategy, Leadership & Business Decision-Making”, Dan Finkelman ‘77; “Women Leaders in the Private Sector: Practical Career Advice”, Linnet Harlan ‘72 and Sydney McQuoid ‘73; “Intellectual Property and Its Role in Global Socioeconomic Shifts”, David Rosebaum ‘78; and “Ethics in Business and Life”, Clint Korver ‘89. Each summer the Wilson Program funds eight-week student internships in private-sector organizations throughout the world. The Program also sponsors spring-break externships, in which current students “shadow” alumni hosts for up to a week. The Donald L. Wilson Professor of Enterprise and Leadership administers the program with the assistance of a faculty committee.

Peace and Conflict Studies Program

The Peace and Conflict Studies Program (formerly the Peace Studies Program) was established in 2004, when the Iowa Peace Institute transferred its assets to Grinnell College to endow a new academic program that would build on the institute’s legacy of international peacemaking and interpersonal dispute resolution. With its mission of promoting understanding of the causes of conflict and exploration of creative strategies for the peaceful transformation of conflict in our community, our nation, and our world, the Peace and Conflict Studies Program continues Grinnell College’s long history of commitment to social justice and civic engagement.

Through campus presentations, short course offerings, a biennial student peace studies conference, and experiential opportunities, the Peace and Conflict Studies Program provides academic perspectives on conflict and peacebuilding, exposure to practical applications of conflict transformation and opportunities to attend conferences and workshops off campus. Events sponsored by the Peace and Conflict Studies Program have included presentations by such prominent conflict scholar-practitioners, as Bernie Mayer, Jayne Seminare Docherty, Howard Zehr, Mark Umbreit and David Cortright. The Peace and Conflict Studies Program also sponsors summer internship opportunities for students to get hands-on experience in working toward a more peaceful world.  

Academic Resource Centers

The Math, Reading, Writing, and Data Analysis Labs, the Science Learning Center, the Academic Advising Office, the Faulconer Gallery, and the Libraries are designed for all students who want to improve their competence in science, mathematics, and data and statistical analysis, their reading and study skills, their information searching and evaluation skills, or the quality of their writing, study, and time-management skills. Staff in these units work closely with classroom faculty and each other to help students integrate these skills and enhance their learning.

Academic Advising

Academic Advising provides individual instruction and coaching on academic and life skills, including time management, organization and planning (e.g., understanding course expectations, overcoming procrastination); academic preparedness (e.g., note-taking, test preparation, study skills, class participation); and academic planning (e.g., choosing a major; determining academic plan or credits to graduation; interpreting academic policies; interacting effectively with faculty advisers). Located within Student Affairs, staff members offer direct support to students experiencing academic difficulty or who need help understanding Grinnell’s academic policies and procedures. The staff also coordinates peer tutoring for subjects within the humanities and social studies divisions, and academic accommodations for students with disabilities.

Faulconer Gallery

The Faulconer Gallery opened in 1999 and encompasses 7,420 square feet of space for the exhibition of fine art at Grinnell. Recent shows have focused on contemporary painting, sculpture, installation art, and photography by national and international artists. The Gallery also presents select exhibitions of historical importance. Each year, the Gallery presents an exhibition of student work, and frequently exhibits new work by the College’s own art faculty.

The greatest strength of the College’s permanent art collection is in prints and drawings, but the collection also includes paintings, sculpture, African art, and photography. The overall collection is a unique teaching resource and research tool for students and faculty. In the Print and Drawing Study Room, through direct examination of original works of art in a secure, well-appointed facility, students, faculty, and staff have access to information and material not available through reproductions. This space is used frequently by classes, scholars both on and off campus, and individual students doing research.

The staff of the gallery works with students in a variety of ways to program the gallery, and brings prominent artists, curators, and critics to campus to speak and conduct workshops and classes. Internships provide students with hands-on experience, and the director of the gallery teaches a Museum Studies course.

The Libraries

The Libraries help students learn how to find information for class assignments, research papers, and other projects, to critically evaluate the information for quality and relevance, and to incorporate it into their work responsibly and ethically. Students may contact a librarian in person, by telephone (x3353), by email (query), or through instant messaging.

Library Labs are research appointments pairing a librarian with a student or small group of students who are conducting in-depth research on a specific topic. Forms for arranging Library Labs are available online, as well as at the reference desks of Burling Library and Kistle Science Library.

Math Lab

Math Lab provides individual instruction in calculus, introductory statistics and computer science. The Math Lab provides assistance on a drop-in basis for math and stats, and the Director assigns individual tutors for all levels of math and computer science classes. Individual appointments may also be scheduled with the Director. Computers are available for accessing statistical and graphing packages.

MAT 100  is a one-credit course recommended for students who want to review high school math skills before taking a college class or while concurrently enrolled in an introductory course at the 131 level or below.

Reading Lab

The Reading Lab provides individual and small-group instruction in reading and study skills, emphasizing reading efficiency, vocabulary building, and methods of effective study (concentration, time management, test preparation, etc.). Students may work at the Lab, or meet by appointment with the Director, without registering for the course.

RED 100 , a one-credit course, is especially recommended for students who have difficulty keeping up with reading assignments or understanding and remembering what they read. It is also helpful for international students who want to improve English language proficiency and pronunciation. Students must attend 22 class sessions and compile a 60-word vocabulary file.

Science Learning Center

The Science Learning Center provides individual instruction in introductory science courses. Students may sign up for a one-credit science lab course with permission of the director to review prerequisite skills before taking a college class or concurrently with an introductory course. The Science Learning Center also provides peer tutoring for biology, chemistry, biological chemistry, and physics. Students who cannot take the course or who need only occasional assistance may schedule individual appointments with the Director.

SCI 100 , a one-credit course, involves individual and small-group instruction emphasizing problem-solving skills. This one-credit class must be taken in conjunction with first-year sequences in physics, chemistry, or biology. Consultation with the related course instructor and permission of the Director of the Science Learning Center are required.

Writing Lab

The Writing Lab offers one-on-one instruction in composition, including organization, coherence, grammar, and style. Students may enroll in the one-credit course or sign up for appointments as needed. Students may work with the instructor on any part of the writing process, such as brainstorming, organizing, revising, or copyediting.

The one credit course Basic Principles of Writing  teaches the fundamentals of writing at the college level in five group workshops (covering topics such as writing clear and effective thesis statements; developing logical, fluid paragraphs; using evidence; and writing with style) and six individual appointments and focuses on the development of strong arguments. Advanced Principles of Writing , a two-credit course, also utilizes a combination of workshops and individual appointments and focuses on the development of strong arguments.

The Writing Lab also assists students with oral presentations, including content, audio-visual supports and feedback on presentation style. Students may also enroll in the 2-credit course Oral Communication Skills , in which they give five speeches and receive feedback from their instructor and peers.