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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Lex Baumann

Photo by Paul Hansen.

For her entire first semester of college, Lex Baumann `22 could not earn a three on her weekly three-point calculus I quiz. You got one point for putting your name on the paper, one point for trying and one point for accuracy. She passed the class, although not with the grade she wanted, and it taught her an important lesson:

“You’re not going to be great at everything you do,” said Baumann.

Baumann came to Grinnell College from St. Charles, Illinois. While she was plenty prepared for the cold Midwest winters, academics were another story.

“I did fine in math in high school, but I’d never taken a math class where I didn’t get an A … compared to here, my high school was not as rigorous.”

Baumann credits her tutorial advisor Albert Lacson and his class with giving her the skills to handle the stress of Grinnell academics. They journaled, meditated and planned out schedules as a group, which was a significant help for her in adjusting to college life. Baumann took calculus I in her first semester as she was planning to major in economics. She was a declared economics major before she realized she no longer wanted to pursue economics.

“Well, I’m going to be major-less now,” Baumann said describing her decision to change majors. “I was worried about not being able to go abroad; not being able to graduate on time.”

Luckily, she had advisors, both official and unofficial, to help her determine her path. The class that opened her eyes to the field of education was EDU-213, Cultural Politics Language Teaching with Professor Cori Jakubiak. Here, she discovered interests in policies and pedagogies and how she might change them through a career in law. 

Her passion for education and justice is supplemented by her parents: her mom is from an immigrant family and her dad is from a working-class family, and education is a priority to both of them.

“We have family friends out in the Philippines, for example, and they didn’t get the same opportunities as my mom did,” said Baumann. “And it was just kind of by sheer luck that they ended up here, you know, but that wasn’t something I was even thinking about until I’d started taking these education classes. I had just known that like, it was really important to my family.”

Outside of classes, Baumann is very involved in campus life. She works as a senior interviewer for the office of admissions. She is involved in tap dance and plays the piano. In her second year, she enjoyed planning events as a Community Advisor and started a Zumba club with some friends. 

Baumann has also engaged in political activism through canvassing for Bernie Sanders during the 2020 election cycle and with a former campus group called Student Action.

When she chose to go to college in rural Iowa, Baumann did not think about the Iowa caucuses and the fact that all presidential candidates spend time in Iowa, especially on college campuses. A CNN town hall with Joe Biden took place during Baumann’s second year in Bucksbaum’s Roberts Theatre, and she remembers witnessing her peers engage at that event.

“I really enjoyed listening to my classmates question him and push back on ideas that he was presenting to us. I think it’s always really empowering when you’re with a group of students who are like, ‘yes, we’re fighting for the same cause. And we’re not afraid to question authorities like Joe Biden.’”

This year, Baumann crossed off a task on every Grinnellian’s bucket list: climbing Bucksbaum. It was a chilly night when her and her friends ventured to the building. Baumann, who is scared of heights, struggled to get up, and one of her friends had to pull her to the roof. After a while, they decided it was too cold and decided to climb down. However, this proved harder than climbing up. 

“My friend went first and she was like a ninja — like, she got down so easily. I couldn’t get down … I tried to swing down like the way she did and I was dangling there for a minute. She’s like, okay, like, drop onto the chair. And so I did but I missed the chair.”

Baumann emerged unscathed, but her other friends remained stuck, and they ended up calling campus safety. The remaining friends on the roof spent a while up there while campus safety searched for a ladder. Baumann remembers throwing blankets up to them while they waited. Another lesson learned: don’t climb Bucksbaum if you don’t have a way down.

Next year, Baumann plans to attend Loyola University to participate in their child law program in combination with their Masters in Public Policy. Short term, she hopes to help children gain access to education resources and break down barriers for them. Long term, she hopes to reform education in other ways, such as eliminating the use of standardized testing. This path will combine her passions for policy studies and education she pursued here at Grinnell. 

“I’m leaving Grinnell with a lot more confidence than I came in with,” said Baumann. “I think I’m more confident in myself, not only as a person and what I want, but also in my ability to think critically and succeed in an environment where there isn’t always one correct answer.” 

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