Jun 16, 2024  
2019 - 2020 Academic Catalog 
2019 - 2020 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 non-major 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. Non-specialists 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 their 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, they profit 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 Pursue a Liberal Arts Education?

Students pursuing a liberal arts education develop valuable and transferable skills in logical reasoning, written and spoken communication, and critical thinking. With Grinnell’s individually advised curriculum, students are urged to follow their true intellectual interests. By examining the liberal arts across disciplines while developing expertise in a particular field or fields, Grinnell students learn the flexibility and adaptability that enable and inspire the big thinkers and global leaders of tomorrow.

Through collaborative work with faculty and the Center for Careers, Life, and Service, Grinnell College assists all students as they discern their strength and interests, articulate their values, explore professional pathways, and make strategic decisions about their futures. Students are encouraged to network with alumni and to take advantage of pre-professional development experiences through job-shadows, internships, on-campus alumni visits, and off-campus industry tours and interviewing events. Through these and other modes of experiential learning, including volunteer-service, athletes, and a wide array of student organizations and extracurricular activities, Grinnell students learn the value of the co-curriculum in developing skills that will contribute to identifying - and launching upon - careers filled with meaning and purpose.

In short, engaged students benefit tremendously from the resources provided by Grinnell College and can pursue graduate education, participate in fellowships or full-time service, or enter the workforce in a wide array of areas. What follows is a sampling of professional fields for which a Grinnell College education is particularly conducive.


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 supplement that major with 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.  Students interested in careers in business should develop a high level of competence in the use of English, understand basic economic principles, and hone their analytical abilities through the study of various quantitative methods. Knowledge of a modern foreign language is an invaluable asset for students whose careers may require them to work internationally. Students considering careers in business should engage with programming of the Donald and Winifred Wilson Center For Innovation and Leadership.

Communication or Journalism

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.

Although students preparing for any career pathway at Grinnell can supplement their classroom education with involvement in a wide variety of extracurricular and co-curricular activities. Grinnell’s resources for students interested in communication or journalism are particularly robust. These opportunities include the college newspaper, the Scarlet and Black; the student-managed Grinnell Press; the college radio station, KDIC-FM; the Audio Visual Center; photographic facilities; and numerous alumni-affiliated internship programs.


Prospective engineers study the natural sciences as an integral part of a liberal education. Students should establish at Grinnell strong foundations in mathematics, physics, and chemistry, and they should supplement their coursework with summers spent in research labs (in either the non-profit or for-profit sector). A broad base of knowledge in the humanities and social sciences is also strongly recommended. The science courses necessary for careers in engineering are those taken by any student with a serious interest in science, so a definite commitment to engineering is not necessary until enrollment in further specialized higher education.

See below for information about cooperative degrees with engineering programs available to Grinnell students.

Government Service

The diverse and intricate operations of governments require competent administrators: educated individuals with interests and abilities in many disciplines, not just the social sciences. Such individuals find opportunities for careers at all levels of government—local, state, national, and international. Participation in the Grinnell in Washington off-campus study program, with its integrated internship component, is particularly attractive to students anticipating government-related careers in the Washington, DC area. 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, and Grinnell alumni are competitive applicants for such degrees. A law degree also is an asset for many government-related careers.

Health Professions

Although certain core courses in the sciences (such as biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics) and English are often required across health-related programs, schools of medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, and their ilk do not specify that applicants must have majored in one of the natural sciences. Provided they have heeded the particular course prerequisites and other requirements. Grinnellians are routinely successful in gaining entry into major programs (medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, public health) as well as more specialized programs (including health administration, nursing, occupational therapy, optometry, physical therapy, physician assistant, and speech and hearing science).

See below for information about a cooperative degree program with the University of Iowa for students interested in pursuing a Masters in Public Health degree.


Students considering law school will benefit from courses that stress the importance of logical reasoning, persuasive writing, critical thinking, argumentation, and textual analysis. These skills are cultivated in many of the academic disciplines offered at Grinnell. Those who excel academically at Grinnell and do correspondingly well on the Law School Admission Test are awarded spots at the most competitive law schools in the country.

Public Service

Grinnell’s longstanding commitment to social responsibility prepares individuals who are determined to make a difference in the world. Students whose majors fall in the Social Studies Division receive strong preparations for careers with non-profit organizations, non-government organizations, and institutions supporting advocacy and social justice, but students with any major can — and are encouraged to — align their values with their careers. Students with service-oriented interests are encouraged to engage with the robust co-curricular opportunities made possible through the Rosenfield Program in Public Affairs, International Relations, and Human Rights; the Peace and Conflict Studies Program; and the Grinnell Prize and the Service Learning and Civic Engagement Program (both housed at the Center for Careers, Life, and Service).

Teaching and Research: Colleges and Universities

Students interested in research and college teaching should consult with their faculty advisers and investigate the recommendations of graduate schools and the requirements for advanced study in their field. A strong academic foundation 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 fields, such as written English, foreign language, and mathematics, is equally important. Because most graduate programs are highly specialized, work in complementary disciplines should be stressed in the undergraduate program. Students should work closely with faculty mentors and staff at the Center for Careers, Life, and Service for gaining appropriate experience — typically research — during the summers and academic terms.

Teaching: Grades 5-12

The College offers a program leading to an Iowa teaching license for grades 5-12 in several endorsement areas: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Psychology, Math, American Government, Anthropology, American History, Economics, Sociology, World History, Chinese, French, German, Russian, Spanish, and English as a Second Language (ESL). The Iowa license is directly transferable to almost all other states. Anyone interested in licensure should consult early with faculty in the Education Department because a major in an area does not necessarily meet the requirements for licensure in that area. Licensure students must also complete a core curriculum including a course each in the humanities, math, American history or government, and course work in the physical and biological sciences.

For students who wish to complete their liberal arts curriculum during the standard eight semesters and then continue with an internship in student teaching, Grinnell has implemented a ninth-semester program. A seventh semester option is also available, but students must complete all requirements for endorsements before student teaching in the 7th semester. For students who opt for the 9th semester program, the College charges a fee of $2500.

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. Courses serving as an introduction to education emphasize the philosophical, historical, and sociological foundations of education and are designed to appeal to all students, not only those seeking licensure at Grinnell. Those interested in later study in education, either for related graduate degrees or for a Master of Arts in Teaching, will find this introductory work useful.


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

Although four years of undergraduate study is usually the recommended preparation for matriculation into most law, medicine, dentistry, and other professional programs. Grinnell College maintains a cooperative relationship with certain schools to shorten the time to the second degree in some fields.

Computer Science

Computer Science majors at Grinnell College may apply for admission to a cooperative degree program leading to a B.A. from Grinnell and a Master of Computer Science (M.C.S.) from the University of Iowa in one additional year of study. Students may apply for the M.C.S. program in the spring of their third year at Grinnell, provided they meet the minimum GPA requirement and have completed 80 credits toward the B.A. at Grinnell. Under normal progress, students complete their B.A. from Grinnell at the end of the fourth year and the M.C.S. from the University of Iowa at the end of the fifth year. Similar to off-campus study arrangements, students pay Grinnell tuition and receive financial aid while dual-enrolled at Grinnell and the University of Iowa (year four). In year five of the program students’ fee and aid relationships are with the University of Iowa.


Grinnell College students may take part in combined-degree arrangements with California Institute of Technology, Columbia University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Washington University in St. Louis. In these arrangements, students spend three years at Grinnell and two years at one of the partner institutions. (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. With these combined-degree arrangements, students pay Grinnell tuition and fees their first three years (when they are physically at Grinnell College) and then the tuition and fees of the partner institution in years four and five.

Public Health

Grinnell College students in any major who have completed the prerequisites may apply for admission to a cooperative degree program leading to a B.A. from Grinnell and a Masters of Public Health (M.P.H.) through the University of Iowa, in one additional year of study. Grinnell students may apply for the M.P.H. program in the spring of their third year at Grinnell, provided they meet the minimum GPA requirement and have completed these prerequisites: the GRE; and online course in fundamentals of public health through the University of Iowa; one Grinnell course in mathematics; and one Grinnell course in biology, chemistry, or physics. Similar to off-campus study arrangements, students pay Grinnell tuition and receive financial aid while dual-enrolled at Grinnell and the University of Iowa (year four). In year five of the program students’ fee and aid relationships are with the University of Iowa.


Special Programs

Institute for Global Engagement

Grinnell’s Institute for Global Engagement promotes strategic planning for international education and external partnerships across the College, and fosters learning and inquiry through global connections and engagement. Concretely, the Institute supports course-related travel for students and faculty, visits by prominent international scholars and artists, faculty development travel experiences across  the globe, off-campus study, a language learning center, global research and service opportunities that emphasize an international perspective, and the promotion of internationalization  across  the curriculum. The Institute oversees the College’s partnerships with other educational institutions across the globe such as Grinnell’s decades long partnership with Nanjing University in China, which allows Chinese scholars to come to Grinnell, and Grinnell students and faculty to teach in China. The Institute also sponsors numerous on-campus events that address international issues or feature international performers. The Institute works to give Grinnell students and faculty 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: www.grinnell.edu/academics/centers-programs/prairie-studies.

Center for the Humanities 

The Center for the Humanities was founded in 2001 to promote and support humanistic inquiry in our community. Toward this end, the Center sponsors programming each year around an annual theme; co-sponsors an incredible range of programming with partners across campus; convenes workshops and colloquia around faculty research; provides targeted support for faculty research; offers a year-long seminar built around the work of visiting scholars; and partners with community organizations to help ensure broad access to arts and literature.

The Center’s theme for the coming 2017-18 year is “The Politics of Human Thriving.” We will be welcoming distinguished guests and planning related campus programming throughout the year, helping our community consider a host of concerns relating to this broad theme from a humanistic perspective, including race, gender, sexual violence, and activism.

You can learn more about the Center and its activities at:  http://www.grinnell.edu/academics/centers/humanities.

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 has 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 initiates faculty colloquia, curricular development grants, collaborative programming, and plans for the Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies (GWSS) program. Created in 2009, the GWSS major provides an interdisciplinary curriculum in which women, men, gender, and sexuality are examined by looking at various cultures and historical periods by employing diverse methods of inquiry.

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.

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 week-long visitors from the United States and abroad, who address important policy issues from diverse government, academic, and private sector perspectives. The program sponsors group travel for students, who learn about program-related issues from professionals, alums, and organizations in locations around the world. The program provides stipends for about 10–12 students each year to undertake summer internships related to public affairs, international relations, and human rights. The program also sponsors a travel program, for students to learn on-site about the program themes.

Donald and Winifred Wilson Center for Innovation and Leadership

Established through a generous gift by Donald (‘25) and Winifred (‘27) Wilson, the Center is a hub of innovation and leadership. 

Wilson supports and facilitates a broad range of curricular and co-curricular programming for students, including: faculty and alumni-led courses; campus programs such as TEDx, Pioneer Startup Weekend, and the Spark Tank community-based social innovation competition; and experiential learning and professional development activities (e.g. internships, externships, workshops, and conference participation).  Regular courses taught by our Emeritus Wilson director include “Creative Careers: Learning from Alumni,” “Leading Innovation and Entrepreneurship,” and “Sustainability and Social Responsibility in Organizations.”  Our alumni short courses are diverse and have included such topics as: “Asian American Activism, 1875-2010,” “Real Life Entrepreneurship,” and “Ethical Leadership in the Workplace.” A good part of Wilson’s programming comes about through proposals from students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

Collectively, our programming addresses leadership and innovation in ways that:

  • Develop Knowledge: enhances a critical understanding of the key traits of leadership and innovation and how success in these areas is affected by social & historical contexts.
  • Encourage Practice: creates opportunities both on and off-campus for students to develop and practice skills critical to leadership and innovation.
  • Inspire Action: motivates students to embrace the challenges of innovation and leadership.
  • Promote Reflection: assists students in recognizing their own aptitudes and interests for leadership and innovation.
  • Reveal Synergies: helps students to recognize the common traits between their liberal arts education and leadership and innovation.
  • Provide Mentorship and Modeling: introduces students to successful leaders and innovators, with particular attention to our own alumni.

We seek to engage students from different areas of study and diverse backgrounds for one common purpose: to inspire and prepare students as innovators and leaders.

Peace and Conflict Studies Program

Peace and Conflict studies is an established, interdisciplinary academic field, with historical roots stretching through a rich range of social and intellectual contexts, beginning with concerns about the Cold War nuclear arms race, a heritage in the civil rights and antiwar movements, and now reflecting applied scholarship in building peaceful practices and institutions in societies across the globe that have been ravaged by war and violence. At Grinnell College, the Peace and Conflict 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 institutes’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 an introductory course in peace and conflict studies, 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 for students and faculty. 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, David Cortright, and George Lopez. 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.  

There are a variety of courses relevant to Peace and Conflict studies across offered across the curriculum in the humanities, social studies, and sciences. Please contact the Chair of PACS or the Coordinator of PACS for more specific information about current offerings.

Academic Resource Centers

The Math, Reading, Writing, and Data Analysis Labs, the Science Learning Center, the Academic Advising Office, the Grinnell College Museum of Art, 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, oral communication, 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. and learning strategies.  The staff compliment the work of faculty advisers in academic planning, when asked, by holding discussions with students about choosing a major, determining academic plan or credits to graduation, and interpreting academic policies. Staff members also provide outreach and support to students experiencing academic difficulty whether due to course material or personal circumstances. Students seeing tutoring for subjects within the humanities or social studies are connected with resources through this office.

Grinnell College Museum of Art

The Grinnell College Museum of Art opened in 1999 under the name Faulconer Gallery and encompasses 7,420 square feet of space for the exhibition of fine art at Grinnell year round. Recent exhibitions have focused on contemporary and historic printmaking, feminist sculpture, photography, installation art, contemporary painting and drawing, and rare books, all by national and international artists. The museum works with the Department of Art and Art history to present an annual exhibition of student work, and an exhibition every few years curated by students in the exhibition seminar, with an accompanying catalogue.

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 an important teaching resource and research tool for students and faculty from across campus. In the Print and Drawing Study Room (in Burling Library), through direct examination of original works of art in a secure, well-appointed facility, visitors have access to information and material not available through reproductions.

The Museum hosts hundreds of public events each year—from concerts to yoga, and from talks by visiting artists to class projects. The staff of the museum works with students in a variety of ways to program the museum, 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 museum 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 and introductory statistics. Assistance is provided on a drop-in basis and individual tutors are assigned upon faculty recommendation. Individual appointments may also be scheduled with the director. Computers, books, calculators and other learning aids are available for use in the lab.

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 calculus or statistics course.

Reading Lab

The Reading Lab provides individual and small-group instruction to improve reading, learning, and verbal 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 with a focus on mathematical pre-preparation. 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, neuroscience 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 for-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 copy editing.

The one credit course Basic Principles of College 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. Advanced Principles of College Writing , a two-credit course, also utilizes a combination of workshops and individual appointments and focuses on the development of strong arguments.

Additionally, 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.

Students who have been selected as Writing Mentors or who wish to develop peer tutoring and mentoring skills can enroll in Teaching and Tutoring Writing , a two-credit course.