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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Reynaldo Wilson

Photo by Paul Hansen.

When Reynaldo Wilson `22 came to Grinnell from his hometown of Atlanta, he was looking for something different.

He quickly realized he got it when he found that Grinnell’s local McDonald’s closes at 11 p.m. A habitual late-night eater, Wilson said, “That was rough. That was rough to get used to.” But don’t worry — Wilson adapted. “I made do. I got snacks for later. It ended up being alright.”

As he prepares for his time post-Grinnell, Wilson is ready for another change. A double political science and sociology major with a not-so-secret side interest in philosophy, Wilson will be attending the U.K.’s University of Oxford for a master’s degree in sociology, where he will study inequalities and perceptions of fairness in the undergraduate college admissions process in the U.S. and the U.K. He plans to apply to law school upon completion.

Wilson decided to apply to three graduate programs in the U.K. after he lost a spot in a study abroad program through the College because of the COVID-19 pandemic. These schools included the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and University College London. He was admitted into each of the schools except for the University of Cambridge.

Wilson is personable and quick to laugh or extend advice. “My first year I was still getting used to the workload. I didn’t do anything except work,” he said. But by his second year, he began to get more involved, and he founded the College’s moot court team. Now he’s also a research assistant and board member at the Grinnell College National Poll, where he’s brought a passion for rectifying racial injustice.

Wilson says he’s especially proud of research he presented about people’s perceptions of racial inequality through the poll. In a population-based survey experiment, Wilson found that people were more likely to view the current status of racial equality in the U.S. pessimistically if they were reminded of the details of George Floyd’s murder by a police officer.

“I’m glad I was able to contribute. They don’t need it, but it adds even more support to social organizations like the Say Their Names activists who try to make racial injustice explicit and humanized. It finds that we can actually get somewhere and have more of a reckoning of racial injustice if we humanize it,” he said.

That interest in organizing for racial justice, especially through legal work, has informed many of Wilson’s other experiences throughout his time at the College. His second year, he worked at the Georgia Innocence Project over the summer, and last summer, he worked at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

I found that a lot of the readings in existentialism were addressed to me. -Reynaldo Wilson `22

Wilson’s interests naturally lend themselves to political science, which he said he knew he wanted to major in before he came to college. But his first year, upon the advice of his advisor, he tried a sociology class, “and was hooked.”

“I think I like sociology for the philosophical tools it gives us to analyze our current condition,” he said.

“I like philosophy, but sometimes it can be heavily academic and not really meaningful. But sociology is a kind of applied philosophy that I really enjoy,” Wilson said.

While we’re on the topic — Wilson is a philosophy enthusiast. One of his favorite classes at the College? Existentialism. Why? “The readings in academia … usually the audience are people that want to hire them to be professors because they sound really smart, and the audience is some higher entity… But I found that a lot of the readings in existentialism were addressed to me. Not like me, like Reynaldo, like Black from the South, not that, but they were addressed to an individual person, with different outlooks on the world, different constituent elements of character. They were talking to me.”

Wilson is also a dyed-in-the-wool humanities and social sciences kind of guy. We’re sitting in the HSSC. “I live here. I’ve been kicked out by FM [Facilities Management] a couple of times,” he said. He points to the Noyce Science Center. “I don’t even know what that building’s called, to be honest. I’ve had one class in there and it was stupid. If you gave me $10,000 to find a room in 10 minutes I wouldn’t be able to do it.”

His senior year, Wilson has been spending his free time on his Onewheel, an electric skateboard. “I like being outside,” he said. “So it’s just an easy way to see more outside … I’m always playing loud music, so I’m jamming. I see my friends, they start jamming with me.” Wilson said the skateboard “has done a lot for me to close the size of Grinnell.”

And what is Wilson excited about as he gets ready to move beyond Grinnell? “I guess, yet again, [to] explore a different way of life, a different way of doing things.” Born and raised in Atlanta, he’s excited to adopt a different perspective as he moves abroad in the next year.

But also, he’s going to eat at a restaurant after 11.

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