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The Scarlet & Black

College hires new faculty and staff

Ben Newhouse and Mollie Ullestad were recently hired by the College. Contributed

By Marnie Monogue

Grinnell College recently hired a handful of new faculty and staff members, many of whom began working in August.

Mollie Ullestad, the new International Student Adviser, arrived on campus in June, and has already had time to adapt to life in Grinnell and plan for her future time here.

“One of my big goals this year is learning [about] the students, and … figuring out what the Grinnell student is like,” said Ullestad. “But we’re also starting a new program called the Cultural Ambassadors, which I’m a big part of … we’re sending international students into the local Grinnell schools to facilitate some cultural experiences, which should be really great. Give U.S. kids some experiences with all these different cultures.”

Ullestad applied for her current position at Grinnell specifically because of the College’s high percentage of international students.

“My master’s is in geography with a focus on international education, so I was looking for [an] environment that … could provide me with a career in that,” she said. “And, also, Grinnell is such a great school! I just felt it was the best of all worlds.”

Ullestad has already adjusted well to life in the town of Grinnell, partly because she is a native Iowan.

“Originally, I’m from a small town called Jewell, which is about 20 miles north of Ames. It’s a very rural community — like, 1,500 people,” Ullestad said. “Coming from small-town Iowa, you know, growing up, there’s not a lot of diversity. And so, a lot of times in order to experience cultural diversity you have to either travel outside of Iowa or go to some of the biggest cities.”

Having experienced a lack of cultural diversity growing up, Ullestad recognized an opportunity for greater cultural experience in Grinnell.

“Here in Grinnell … I’d love to help people get those cultural experiences that maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise if it weren’t for our international students,” Ullestad said. “I just think they’re such a good resource … I hope Cultural Ambassadors will help [with cultural experiences] within the community, and also maybe make the international students feel, you know, more welcome in this environment, even though it is very welcoming. But, you know, it’s just different, coming to this place from, say, Asia or Africa.”

Newly-appointed Dean of Students Ben Newhouse, who, according to his staff biography, is a native Texan, says his own transition to life in Grinnell has been much like any other.

“It’s interesting to be the ‘new guy’ again, or the new person on campus, and to work to get to know the student community. In many ways, it feels like being a first-year student all over again, where you leave an environment that you’re well-known and trusted in the role that you serve to seek to find ways to build those relationships and rapport with students,” said Newhouse. “So, a great joy of my time was to wander around the Organization Fair and introduce myself and get to know students and the really wonderful things they’re doing to contribute to the campus-life experience.”

Newhouse applied for his present position at the College for a variety of reasons. “I had been the Dean of Students at another college very similar to Grinnell for about six years and really loved serving and supporting students and the community as a whole in that capacity. And, for me, Grinnell’s role allowed me to expand responsibilities and serve the student community in a slightly, you know, different way,” Newhouse said. “For me, it was about taking on a challenge, working with a new student population that I found to be incredibly committed to their education, and seemed really wonderful to work with. So, it was a community that I wanted to be a part of. I’m excited about the opportunity.”

Newhouse emphasized that he found his greatest joy in engaging with students. He enjoys “[helping] students figure out what they care about and how they will make that ‘real’ for themselves and the world both here on campus and beyond that.”

According to Newhouse, his biggest goal for his time at Grinnell is “to support the educational mission of the institution, both at the most global level possible, but also at the very individualized level.”

“I value that as the Dean of Students I get to know students one-on-one, sometimes in some really difficult moments,” Newhouse said. “I’ve seen students tackle some really tough stuff across their educational experience and do so with incredible strength and grace and dignity.”

Both Newhouse and Ullestad encouraged students to stop into the Student Affairs offices at any time, even to say hello.

Ben Newhouse and Mollie Ullestad were recently hired by the College. Contributed
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