Cool Schools: Grinnell College

By Gabrielle Mercado 04/21/2015

Gabrielle Mercado, a graduate of Warren Township High School, wrote this piece about Grinnell College for Schuler's Cool Schools initiative. Schuler Scholars submitted stories and highlights of their college experiences, and their stories were turned into posters for our high school resource rooms. Thank you, Gabby, for sharing your love of Grinnell!

Hi! My name is Gabby and I am currently a third year at Grinnell College in Iowa. It’s a very small campus community with about 1,700 students; however, the school itself provides opportunities to meet extraordinary and diverse people through its many organizations and events on campus. 

In high school, I visited the campus with Schuler’s help and then again on my own accord. Every visit reassured me that I belonged on this campus because of the diverse people I met (students, faculty, swim team members, etc.). I applied and the rest is history.

My school offers pre-orientation programs for international students, students interested in the sciences and under-represented students to help them successfully transition to a college atmosphere. I joined the Grinnell Science Project (GSP) which allowed me to meet other first-year students and upperclassmen and become acquainted with the science community and campus a few weeks before the school year began. I also was a part of the Peer-Connections Pre-Orientation Program (PCPOP) which was similar to GSP, but focuses on historically under-represented students. These programs alleviated the difficulty of the transition for me, especially since the Noyce Science Center can seem like a maze in the beginning.

As you might have already guessed, I am interested in the sciences, so I am pursuing a biology major and neuroscience concentration. Even so, Grinnell’s curriculum is focused on promoting diverse thinking, so I have enrolled in a variety of courses. To introduce this diverse way of thinking, the college has one mandatory class that first-years take during their first semester of their first year called Tutorial. Tutorial classes are taught by professors of many different disciplines with the sole purpose of introducing students to college style writing. 

Tutorial professors push for students to choose whichever topic within a list of Tutorial courses offered that year that may be completely different from their potential major. My tutorial course was on the structures of poetry, which I found out later was a very interesting and difficult subject.  Other courses that weren’t a part of my biology major were courses in Spanish, gender/women’s studies, theatre and dance, and music. This past semester, I even studied abroad in Costa Rica, where I took courses in tropical biology, environmental studies and Spanish. 

If the course flexibility wasn’t interesting enough, we also host a Drag Showcase every semester to support the LGBT community on campus. It is a fun and exciting way to choreograph and perform on stage in front of the many students and faculty who attend. We also have many cultural clubs on campus such as the Latin American Dance Club (Salseros de Grinnell), Students of Latin@s (SOL), Concerned Black Students (CBS), Asian American Association (AAA), African and Caribbean Student Union (ACSU) and so many more. Each club holds different cultural events on campus, and these events are open to students and faculty for free!

What I absolutely enjoy about this college is the people. The community here makes it very simple for students to take advantage of these many opportunities, determine their true interests, and find out who they really are without judgment. You simply have to be willing to put yourself out there and give your “personal best”.

Gabby working in the lab at Grinnell College.

Gabby working in the lab at Grinnell College.

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