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Rhonda Stuart ’86 and Intercultural Affairs spearhead first Multicultural Reunion

Rhonda Stuart, performing with her band in The Pub, now Bob’s Underground. Contributed.


As part of an effort to improve inclusivity on campus and in the broader Grinnell College community, the Office of Intercultural Affairs is partnering with multiple student and alumni groups to host the first ever Multicultural Alumni Weekend Nov. 10 through 12. 

“Grinnell is a place with rich history, but sometimes that history can be lost over time or generations,” said Jordan Brooks, assistant director of intercultural affairs. Brooks thinks that the Multicultural Alumni Weekend is an opportunity for the College “to connect back across our time and say, who were we? And how does that influence who we are now? And how does that influence who we are going to be tomorrow?”

For some, what Grinnell was in the past may not be quite as comforting as what it has become today. 

“Grinnell was not as diverse when I was there. There really were no support systems in place. It was not really a great time to be a minority on Grinnell’s campus during the 80s,” said Rhonda Stuart ’86. She hopes the Multicultural Alumni Weekend will offer an opportunity for some of those who were alienated in the past to return to a more supportive community. “It is a way for people who may have had a not-so-great experience like mine to come back to the campus [and] see the changes and the diversity that have happened since their time on campus.”

Rhonda Stuart, performing with her band in The Pub, now Bob’s Underground. Contributed.

The event is an opportunity for alumni past and present, as well as students, to meet and discuss their experiences of inclusiveness at Grinnell. Recent alumnus and former SGA President Dan Davis ’16 is also helping to organize the festivities. 

“As a non-binary student on campus, I was pretty well-respected, and for the most part I never felt as if I wasn’t included,” Davis said. “I do know that a lot of my friends who were students of color, they did not have as positive of an experience.”

Thus, the event aims to bring people with different experiences of Grinnell’s history together to meet each other, and to meet with and give advice to current students. Concerned Black Students has held a Black Alumni Reunion for many years, but this is the first time multiple multicultural student groups joined forces to organize an event like this. Though multicultural events are rich and common on campus for current students, they are far sparser for alumni.

“As our different student organizations from the Multicultural Leadership Council have been growing, and their alumni base has been more involved with the school, there has been a want to have similar reunions to the Black Alumni Reunion. … [The Office of Development and Alumni Relations] put that information out, and talked with alumni about how could we pull something like that together, and the idea to do a multicultural alumni reunion … came out from there,” Brooks said.

After months of organization, the Multicultural Alumni Weekend features a long list of activities for alumni and current students. Some are familiar activities, including visits to classes, a campus tour and a welcome dinner. Some activities, however, are specifically tailored to this event, including a performance by spoken-word artist Carlos Andrés Gómez and the Life After Grinnell networking event.

“We are really excited to roll out something that’s a little different from the normal events that most of the time you will see on Grinnell’s campus,” Davis said. “We are trying to steer it away from networking in the sense of ‘I’m looking for a job.’ … We want it to be more under the common understanding that becoming an adult after Grinnell while you hold a marginalized identity can be rather difficult, so we really want to emphasize, [for example], this is how queer people are living in cities, [or] this is how it looks like it to be black and moving to a city.”

This type of helpful advice to current students, a historical and external perspective on diversity outside the tight-knit Grinnell community, will be a key part of the Multicultural Alumni Weekend. So, with the planning nearly complete, event organizers are considering how a successful weekend will play out while thinking towards the future.   

“A successful weekend would be if people come, they meet students, they socialize with each other, and they have a good time,” Stuart said. “It is giving groups that may or may not regularly come back to the campus a chance to come back.”

Davis is optimistic about the event’s prospects. 

“We want people to understand that it is difficult, there are difficulties that come with graduating from Grinnell and then taking on the rest of their lives, but at the same time, I also think that we don’t want to have everyone leave on some dreary note,” they said. “We also want to [point out] how wonderful it is to be who we are, and to continue being who we are, and to do it unapologetically.”

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