November 19th, 2018

Brian and Anne

A letter I wrote in 2011 on engaging students in community work and practical problems

Written to the Then-President of Grinnell College on the subject of alumni volunteering:

Feb 20, 2011

I have in the past done a couple of things for GRASP but have otherwise not volunteered as a Grinnell Alum. I wanted to write to say that one thing I would love to do would be to coordinate with students on projects that would benefit the community. Whether that's an ongoing research project I could advise or consult on from a distance, or a spring break or similar short-term project in my local area that students came to participate in, I think it would be great to get alumni and students together to help make a difference in serving society.

While I was a master's student at the University of Waterloo, I saw how their partnerships between industry and students in the engineering program inspired students to tackle real, practical problems in school projects. I can only imagine that all kinds of alumni are in a good position to help Grinnell students identify and understand interesting questions and challenges in their fields of study, even as students are looking for topics to tackle for papers and projects.

For me, for instance, I would love to work with students who are interested in better understanding the history of the country's prison situation, and how many people have lost years of their freedom and in many cases their right to vote and their ability to pursue work in a career field based on convictions early in their lives, often related to the so-called War on Drugs. Alternatively, if any journalism or pre-law students are interested in documenting current conditions or cases, that would also be something I'd be interested in encouraging and being involved with. Similarly it would be good to document and understand conditions in our inner city communities and schools, for instance, and there might be ways we could set up spring or fall break projects to help address those by canvassing suburb library sales to build inner city school libraries or get books to kids a la the RIF program.

I would find collaborations like that really inspiring. If there's anything like that coming to Michigan, I haven't heard of it, but with Flint and Detroit being some of the poorest cities in the country, if I can bring attention and energy here I will.

Thank you for inviting ideas, and I hope you are enjoying your presidency.

Best wishes,

Anne (Gay) Gray, '96

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