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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Language alumni return to campus

Bonjour! Hola! Privet! Students had a chance to connect with language major alumni during the weekend of Nov. 1-3 at Grinnell’s Languages for Life Reunion. Events included an alumni roundtable session where students had the chance to ask questions about language majors, a foreign film night, a progressive party touring the various language houses and special alumni keynote speakers.

Molly Campe ’96, Associate Director of Alumni Relations, and a faculty planning committee, which included at least one faculty member from each language department, were in charge of planning this year’s reunion. This has been the second year that Campe has coordinated a themed reunion. Last year, Grinnell hosted the “Academic Affinity” reunion, where all psychology alumni were invited back to Grinnell to engage with current or prospective psychology majors. Campe is currently working with different departments to see what the theme should be next year and hopes to continue similarly specialized reunions every year.

“We had people who have never been back to Grinnell since they graduated come back for this weekend, because this reunion speaks to them more than perhaps their class reunions,” Campe explained. “People feel [more of] an affinity towards their majors than they necessarily do to their class year.”

Current language students dine with alumni at Grinnell’s first Languages for Life Reunion this past weekend. Photo contributed.
Current language students dine with alumni at Grinnell’s first Languages for Life Reunion this past weekend.
Photo contributed.

Campe found the weekend to be incredibly successful in expanding Grinnell’s alumni network and alumni resources to its students.

“This reunion allowed us to connect with alumni who we haven’t connected with before. I also run our regional alumni networks, such as Grinnell-in-LA or Grinnell-in-Chicago and have alumni who will be going back to play a larger role in the regional planning committees,” she said.

Campe also noted that many alumni spoke to her after the event and were interested in hosting internships and externships for students.

The reunion was an excellent source for students to network with alumni in their academic fields. One of the keynote speakers, Hanna Griff-Sleven ’81, who majored in German, offers an internship to students each year and was able to speak directly to students who were interested in it.

Although this reunion was open to any student interested in learning about careers that involve different languages and cultures, it most directly impacted language majors. Glenna Colerider-Krugh ’15, a Spanish and sociology double major, attended multiple events during the weekend reunion. For Colerider-Krugh, attending reunion events was a reassuring experience and made her feel confident with being a Spanish major.

“At the alumni roundtable session ‘What I Did with My Language Degree,’ my friend and I went around and asked them ‘What did you do directly after graduation?’ because that’s what’s on our minds as students right now,” Colerider-Krugh said. “We found out that a lot of them took some time off before getting to where they are now. And that is very reassuring. It kind of says that I don’t need a set plan right now.”

After attending the reunion, Colerider-Krugh now has a better idea of where she can utilize her language degree in places she had not previously anticipated. One attendee of the event, Will Cummins ’10, a Spanish and economics double major, found a job in Grinnell’s Admission office as the Assistant Director of Admission after spending a year teaching English at a bilingual school in Madrid, Spain. He has found that his Spanish background has been useful to him in both careers.

“I will occasionally speak with students or parents who are more comfortable with speaking in Spanish when discussing the admissions process,” Cummins said.

Though it was not necessarily a reunion for Cummins, since he works on campus, he said that engaging with current students gave him a different perspective on the possibilities of a liberal arts language degree, which is also helpful for his work with prospective students.

“I remember that I talked to Tanya Santiago [’14], who is also a Spanish and economics double major. It was cool to hear her talk about careers that were more related to Spanish and some careers that were more related to economics, and how she planned to navigate the two,” Cummins shared. “It was exciting to talk with [alumni] about the different ways we’ve gone, even though we shared the same experience of having studied a language at Grinnell.”

Cummins recommends that language majors utilize the network of faculty and alumni available to them to help figure out the best way for them to make the most of their degrees.

“Students should spend time talking to their [language] professors about how they ended up becoming professors. They should ask them, ‘What path did you follow?’ ‘What other options did you consider?’ ‘And for a student like me, what would you recommend, in terms of opportunities?’” he suggested. “I think there is a lot of value in talking to someone who had a language major. Even though they ended up being a professor, which is something that a student might not consider, certainly the professor considered other options along the way.”

If certain departments are interested in hosting next year’s reunion, please contact Molly Campe at [campe].

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