For Students

So, you want to make a difference in the world. You’ve come to the right place!

Do you want to volunteer in the community, apply for a service leadership work-study position, participate in civic dialogue, or to get involved in a social innovation challenge? Maybe you are interested in taking a community-based learning class or partnering with a local activist movement or advocacy organization? Whatever your civic interest, we are here to help you identify a personalized array of experiences that will equip you with the skills and insights necessary to explore your civic aspirations.


Volunteering in and around Grinnell

Volunteers are essential to our community, and the opportunities you will encounter while at Grinnell are endless. Whether you want to join an existing group of volunteers or venture out on your own, we have resources and advisers who can help.

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Service Leadership Work-Study

Open to all students eligible to work on campus, Service Leadership Work-Study (SLWS) provides students with paid, community-driven service opportunities in local nonprofit and governmental organizations. These positions not only serve the community but also allow you to explore your civic interests.

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Civic Dialogue

Engaging in facilitated interactions, focused on dialogue and listening, different constituents come to appreciate the complexity and interdependency of the community in ways that break down stereotypes and divisions. Through civic dialogue, students can be meaningful democratic participants in the community, including helping to make it a more inclusive space for all of us.

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Shafiq Khan speaking at a rally to end human tracking in India

Civic Demonstration, Organizing, and Activism

When we leverage our collective voices in intentional and equitable ways, we are able to build meaningful coalitions, address community needs, and advocate for positive action.

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Systems Thinking and Change-Making

Often solving surface-level problems or symptoms of larger issues is not enough. Instead we must also address the root causes and systems that undergird the issue. This is where systems-level analysis and change-making come into play.  At Grinnell we think about system change both as a noun and a verb, a process and and outcome. And we offer ways for you to participate in both.

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Group of Indian women in a circle surrounding two women on motorbikes who are learning to be self sufficient in terms of mobility.

Social Innovator in Residence

Social innovation occurs within the intersection of service, activism, and systems thinking. It not only meets immediate needs, but also actively advocates for short and long-term change while working to transform the intersectional systems that undergird and reinforce oppression.

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Welcome sign

Social Justice Tour

The civic education and innovation staff in the CLS have designed a tour for people who are interested in becoming active in the civic life of Grinnell and who want to learn more about becoming socially just collaborators in community action.

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carpool clipart

Student Service Transportation

While many of our community partners are within walking distance of campus, others are located in our surrounding communities where transportation to and from a site is required.  The CLS partners with Facilities Management to help accommodate these service transportation needs.

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pink piggy bank

Funding for Civic Activity

Whether you are planning or implementing a civic activity or are working to complete or sustain a project started in a class, the Center for Careers, Life, and Service has funding resources that may help. These grants are supported by the Thorisson Endowed Memorial Fund.

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Critical Considerations for Students Holding F-1 Visas

F-1 students may typically participate in charitable or humanitarian service, like serving food at a soup kitchen, reading to children at a public library, or visiting the elderly.  However, many other scenarios of off campus community engagement fall into a category that is off limits or requires practical training authorization. Before volunteering in the United States, please consult with a member of the CLS staff below or with someone from the Office of International Student Affairs (OISA).

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Students sitting around a table

Community Engaged Classes

Community engaged learning (C-EL) classes combine community engagement and civic activity with more traditional academic coursework. C-EL classes are available across the curriculum and are designed to deepen students’ understanding of course material through mutually beneficial, classroom/community collaborations.

For more information contact Julie Lascol.

Post-Graduate Service

Postgraduate service is similar to having a short-term, full-time job with a non-profit organization. Volunteers typically make one- to two-year commitments to serve under-resourced individuals and communities, and receive a small stipend as well as additional benefits in exchange for this work.

Grinnell’s Girls Who Code group strives to close gender gap in tech jobs

Grinnell College March 29, 2024

The Ragnar Thorisson ’11 Endowed Memorial Fund for Social Justice was used to purchase small, circular robots that can light up and change direction.

After learning coding in all-girl programs growing up, Mia Hines ’24

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How We Move Forward Together: Essie Justice Group

By Gina Clayton-Johnson, January 22, 2024, for Convergence Magazine

Gina Clayton-Johnson, pictured above with students at Saints Rest, was the recipient of our 2017 Grinnell College Innovator for Social Justice Prize. She recently shared the following about a piece she’s …

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The Principles for Equitable and Inclusive Civic Engagement

by Kip Holley, The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University

Executive Summary

Civic engagement is more than collection of meetings, techniques, and tools. It takes place in an environment made up of …

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Contact Us

(641) 269-4940

John Chrystal Center
1103 Park Street
Grinnell, IA 50112


Monday 8:00am–5:00pm
Tuesday 8:00am–5:00pm
Wednesday 8:00am–5:00pm
Thursday 8:00am–5:00pm
Friday 8:00am–5:00pm
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