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Data Across the Curriculum: Helping the Local and the International with Consulting Research

Students in Monty Roper’s Anthropology and Global Development Studies classes gain practical experience in fieldwork, data analysis, and ways to deal effectively with clients when they act as consultants for both local organizations in Grinnell and internationally in an agricultural village in Costa Rica.  The clients they work with get free research which is presented to them both in the form of an oral consultation and in a written report.


From left: Roni Finkelstein ’15, Ellen Pinnette ’15, Liberty Britton ’14, Rosalie Curtain ’15, Emily Nucaro ’14, Ben Mothershead ’15, Zhaoyi Chen ’14, and M’tep Blount ’15, listen to Juan Carlos Bejarono explain the palm growing process.


For a Global Development Studies/Anthropology seminar, students prepare research plans during the first half of the semester and then travel to a rural agricultural community in Costa Rica to spend the two weeks of spring break collecting data which is then analyzed and written up during the remaining weeks of the semester.  The first year of the project, the class conducted an in-depth community development diagnostic.  Since then, they have investigated a variety of rural development issues, mainly focusing on tourism, women’s empowerment, and organizational issues and agricultural projects of the town’s two cooperatives.


From left: Chloe Griffin ’14 and Samanea Karrfalt ’14 present their research on “Professional Black Hair Care in Grinnell, IA”

From left: Irene Bruce ’15 and Matt Miller ’15 present their research and answer questions.


In Grinnell, Monty works with Susan Sanning, Director of Service and Social Innovation, to identify and explore possible collaborations with community partners who have research needs.  In the past, for example, Mid-Iowa Community Action (MICA) was interested in knowing why families dropped out of their Family Development and Self-Sufficiency Program (FaDSS) before their benefits were fully used, Drake Library was interested in what kinds of programming would best serve the town’s “tween” population, and a hair salon wanted to find out whether it was economically viable to invest in special hair care products and services for black customers.

Ideally positive change occurs because of the class’ research.  Grinnell students, Dillon Fischer ’13 and Sarah Burnell ’13, interviewed graduates of Grinnell High School who had gone on to attend college about their preparedness for college academics. According to the GHS Principal, these findings led the school to revise its minimum writing standards, making them more challenging. The local after school youth program, Galaxy, requested a study on donor perceptions and desires and subsequently used the results to write a successful grant proposal for support. This year’s class is planning to do more follow-ups on previous projects to ascertain longer term results.

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