President Anne Harris

The Power of Community

Grinnell College President Anne Harris and Carlos Mendoza speak during the Denver campaign event.

President Anne Harris on the power and importance of Grinnellians in the world today.

When Anne Harris came to Grinnell in 2019 to serve as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College, she had no idea that she would take on the role of Grinnell’s 14th president just a year later. And she certainly had no way of knowing she would take this position during a time of extraordinary change and uncertainty as the campus and community faced a pandemic and a long-overdue reckoning with racial injustice.

Harris was well aware, however, that she was joining a community of learners, doers, and achievers capable of overcoming any challenge and creating opportunities out of adversity.

Grinnell College President Anne Harris
   President Anne Harris

“I already knew this community was one strongly committed to engagement, dedicated to diversity, and effective through action,” says Harris. “But as we have faced unprecedented challenges over the past year, I have learned just how strong this community truly is. I have been humbled by the resilience, compassion, generosity, and commitment to each other that I’ve witnessed here.”

Today, as the Grinnell community faces recovery efforts from a natural disaster, the upheaval of institutions and fights against racial injustice, we are also forced to distance ourselves from each other and our home base. The entire way education is being presented has changed, and continues to change as new information becomes available.

Yet, says Harris, Grinnell is uniquely prepared to not only make the best of the situation, but to thrive and create new connections, opportunities, and relationships.

“We have led the way in creating new and unique opportunities for our students to stay engaged — and safe — during the pandemic,” she says. “We are continuing to explore new virtual programs, technological investments, and pedagogical methods to continue this trend, to bring students to campus safely and effectively this year and beyond, and we are working to reach alumni in new and meaningful ways that encourage engagement while making safety a top priority.”

The resilience, support, and determination Grinnellians have demonstrated recently is not surprising to many in our community. After all, Grinnell has nearly 175 years of putting in the hard work of creating and fostering a community that is recognized for its strength, diversity, creativity, and effectiveness. And Grinnell’s community is increasingly called upon to contribute to national conversations on anti-racism work, public and community health, and on topics across the intellectual spectrum upon which many alumni hold expertise.

“We are a teaching and research college, and we share our knowledge broadly,” says Harris. ”Doing the work of creating and maintaining community is not easy. It can be incredibly challenging and intense, but it is the most meaningful work we can do both for our constituencies and for the many communities they will shape; and, thus, it is always worth the effort. And today, this work is more important than ever.”

We ask you to make a gift through Grinnell College to continuing this endeavor and make this work possible. This support is not for the institution of Grinnell in the abstract, but for vital teaching and learning programs, and access and opportunities for current and future Grinnellians.

To support Grinnell’s endeavors, please make a gift.

— by Tim Schmitt