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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Class of 2013 Sets Diversity Standard

Following two consecutive years of record-setting first-year class sizes, one might expect that the comparatively diminutive class of 2013 would do little to stir up the level of attention garnered by the previous two classes. As most returning students are still trying to get used to 378 new faces all around campus, the class of 2013 has already made a substantial impact on the student body at large, setting a new record as proportionally the most diverse class ever matriculated at Grinnell College.

Among the 378 students in the class of 2013, domestic students of color make up 26 percent of the class, while international students make up 13 percent. Members of the first-year class come to Grinnell from 42 different states and 28 countries.

2013’s diverse makeup is no accident, but rather the result of a concerted effort that extends beyond the admissions office. “There is wide agreement around diversifying the student body from a lot of different of perspectives,” said Elena Bernal, Vice President for Diversity and Achievement. “The board of trustees especially has exerted a great deal of pressure and support to ensure that Grinnell continues to embrace diversity.”

In light of last year’s over-enrollment, the college was forced to take measures to keep the size of the student body in check, according to Seth Allen, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid. “We planned on enrolling a smaller class than last year,” Allen said. “As a result, the Admissions department was forced to be more stringent in evaluating applications. Last year, we admitted 35.6 percent of applicants, [it was] down to 27 percent this year,” said Allen.

Both Allen and Bernal noted that increased selectivity in the admissions process had some beneficial effects. “This year we were more able to evaluate applicants based on the kind of energy and outlook they bring to the college,” Allen said. “You’re not just looking to fill a class, but you’re looking to bring those students to Grinnell who are most willing and able to fit within our community,” said Bernal.
Thus far, it seems that admissions succeeded in choosing students that truly fit Grinnell. “There’s a sense of community here that I didn’t get at other colleges,” Hannah Kapp-Klote ’13 said of her reasons for choosing Grinnell. ” Students are smart but not pretentious,” she added.

Similarly, Nolen Royalty ’13 cited the supportive learning-driven community that Grinnell offers as motivation for attending. “Being at a school where people are motivated by genuine interest rather than their grades has been really good for me so far,” Royalty said.
Other new students experienced newfound academic fulfillment since entering Grinnell. “The people I’ve met have already instilled new interests in me,” Tim Greenfield ’13 said. Even those among the 27 incoming transfer students have had similarly positive experiences. “People here are more academically serious but still like to have fun,” Terian Kosick ’12 said, who transferred after spending her first year at Knox College. “Grinnell has a lot of the qualities I appreciated about Knox, but with a more academically serious environment.”

Bernal cast Grinnell’s goals of diversity as crucial not only to the college’s commitment to social justice, but to the foundations of the liberal arts. “If there are not engagements and interactions across differences on this campus, we are essentially replicating the very conditions we lament when we talk about social justice,” she said.

“Now we begin to actually embody the diversity that we’ve been talking about for decades,” said Bernal. “The success in this year’s class is not a plateau—it’s just another step in continual growth.”

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