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Q&A for Term Position Starting Fall 2021

These are some of the questions we’ve received about the position, along with our answers. We have posted them with the expectation that they will also be useful to others. Feel free to send additional questions to

Will you consider candidates who do not have a Ph.D.?

Yes! Candidates who are knowledgeable in the computing discipline and show evidence of promise for effective teaching are welcome to apply. Our department has had tremendously positive experiences in the past with visiting faculty that did not hold a Ph.D.

Will you consider candidates who do not have a CS degree?

Yes! We think broadly about the discipline of computing. In addition to CS, our faculty hold doctoral degreess in mathematics, philosoph, and education. Past faculty have had degrees in evolutionary biology. While it is important that candidates be sufficiently knowledgeable about the discipline to teach a variety of courses in our curriculum, we welcome candidates that possess a degree outside computing (related fields preferred) as well as relevant computing knowledge and experience.

What courses will the new hire teach?

Grinnell’s normal teaching load is five courses over two semesters. Given our long history as a smaller department, several regular faculty have taught many courses in the curriculum. Therefore, we will do our best to allow visitors to teach the courses in our curriculum they feel best-suited to teach. We are a collegial department and try to work out schedules that balance interests and workload each year. For the several courses in which multiple sections are offered, we can often pair visiting faculty with an experienced faculty member teaching another section of that course. Depending on staffing and enrollments, there may also be an opportunity for visitors to offer an elective course for the major in the area of their interest.

For the current position, we hope to hire someone who can teach software design, but we can easily adapt to people who are interested in teaching other areas. We expect that the person in this position will also teach courses in our introductory sequence.

How many students are there in CS courses?

We cap our introductory courses at 24, our mid-level courses at 24, and our upper-level courses at 20. Current demand means that most courses enroll to capacity. We currently graduate around 60 CS majors each year.

Are teaching assistants available?

Most of our courses have what we call “class mentors” who serve many of the same roles as teaching assistants. That is, they support other students in class periods during lab sessions (every class day in some classes) and run weekly review sessions. Graders are also available for introductory and mid-level courses.

What are Grinnell College students like?

Hmmm … that’s an interesting question. By and large, we find Grinnell students a joy to teach. Most of them are taking classes because they want to learn, not because they have to or because they need to check off a box in order to graduate. Almost all of them have multiple interests. We see CS majors doing improv comedy, playing in ensembles and bands, competing on the athletic fields, and more.

Is there financial support for faculty scholarship?

Visiting faculty members receive an annual budget of $2,000 to cover attendance at a professional meeting (e.g., registration, travel, lodging, and meals) and up to $500 for other research expenses. Stipends for summer research students are covered out of a separate budget, as are supplies for those students and a stipend for supervising those students. Other resources are also available on a case-by-case basis.

Is there interdisciplinary work at Grinnell that could involve computer science?

In general, yes. Faculty in many disciplines use computing as part of their work. Some likely collaborations would like be with our biology faculty who are interested in bioinformatics, our computational chemists, English faculty working in the digital humanities, faculty working on the cross-disciplinary data science program, and some of our arts faculty. But others are certainly possible. In the end, it depends on two faculty finding common interests.

What do Grinnell students do after graduation?

Our computer science majors generally go on to do the typical variety of things that CS majors do. Some end up at well-known companies (Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Facebook). Some end up at startups. A few go on to graduate school immediately after college. Some end up in the financial industry. Some head off to volunteer opportunities (e.g., Teach for America or Lutheran Volunteer Corps.) Over the longer term, some bring their general thinking skills to other areas. We count physicians, professional comedians, fundraisers, and helicopter pilots among our CS alumni.

Do you expect to hire any tenure-track positions soon?

Yes. We hope that the College approves our application for additional tenure-line positions. We believe we will have at least one, and perhaps two, open positions.

What is it like living in Grinnell, Iowa?

Grinnell is a small town, with about 8500 residents (plus about 1600 Grinnell College students). It’s affordable. Many faculty live within walking distance of the College. (All but two of the CS faculty are within a five-block radius of the College; the others live about a mile away.) Some faculty choose to live in Iowa City or Des Moines, each of which is about an hour away. Our schools are decent, and the community provides a lot of interesting extracurricular activities. Several faculty in the department all note that we find this a great place to raise our children.

The Grinnell Office of Communications and the Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement put together this series of videos to help visitors understand what it’s like living and working in Grinnell.

What does the department do to support diversity in CS?

We consider diversifying the discipline one of our core missions. We support diversity in a variety of ways, including teaching methodologies shown to be more welcoming to those underrepresented in computing, a mentoring program for new students in the discipline, institutional support for student travel to Tapia and Hopper, and more. (Two of the faculty have leadership positions in Tapia 2021.) We include diversity training for our peer educators. And we participate in broader institutional diversity initiatives.