Skip to Content

Grinnell College

Our Goal

Building and maintaining trust is critical to the success of any organization. Ultimately, trust is the natural consequence of promises fulfilled, expectations met and values lived. Indeed, the most significant predictor of the loss of trust in a crisis is the perception that an organization doesn’t care. As an institution of higher education, Grinnell College has an intricate web of audiences, which sometimes may have competing interests, making responding to sensitive issues or to crises especially challenging.

When the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic became clear in March 2020, WEST supported Grinnell College as its leadership moved rapidly to respond to the crisis at hand. WEST worked closely with Grinnell to ensure its community understood the College cared in order to build and maintain trust in the institution as it weathered the global health crisis


Like many colleges and universities across the country, Grinnell faced difficult decisions as spring break 2020 approached amid the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic. With a two-week spring break and a large proportion of international students, the College was the first college in Iowa and one of the first schools in the country to decide to close campus and shift to online learning for the remainder of the academic year.

WEST played a central role in guiding the College on communicating its pandemic response. To build and reinforce trust in its leadership from among target audiences including current students, faculty, alumni and prospective students and their families, WEST worked closely with the communications team to craft empathetic messages that clearly provided critical information. We reviewed and provided feedback on strengthening campus messages as the situation evolved. We also had a hand in shaping bigger milestone communications marking transition moments over the course of the pandemic.

We reviewed and edited the regular campus messages, providing critical information to students, faculty, staff and parents as the situation evolved. We also had a hand in shaping bigger milestone communications marking transition moments within the course of the pandemic.

WEST participated in daily virtual meetings with the College’s emergency response team, including representatives from each of its administrative departments, to provide strategic guidance in collaboration with the vice president of communications.

As the College’s response shifted out of emergency response, WEST continued to shape campus messages and provide strategic guidance about how to communicate with priority audiences as operational plans necessarily shifted due to the pandemic conditions.

Looking at Grinnell’s response with the pandemic, that was a major thing that was like, yeah, this is the school I want to go to. — Grinnell student in the Scarlet & Black

Our Results

Grinnell College safely closed campus at the beginning of the pandemic while providing academic continuity in its shift to online learning for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year. The College also was able to navigate the inherent uncertainty of the pandemic to facilitate a phased and safe return to in-person learning for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Related Case Studies

Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio

West End Strategy Team works closely with Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and its affiliates to draw attention to the firsthand health effects of abortion bans on patients throughout the state. Together, we create and pursue opportunities to elevate the unparalleled expertise of the organization’s leaders, spokespeople and validators in the field of reproductive health care and the needs of patients throughout the state.

PEN America

West End Strategy Team works closely with PEN America to cement its role as the leading voice at the intersection of free expression and human rights. Our work elevates PEN America’s research into the consequences of educational gag orders and book bans by placing PEN America’s experts at the center of the national conversation and harnessing the opportunities presented by the current political news environment.

Emerging Public Leaders

West End Strategy Team works with Emerging Public Leaders to showcase the organization’s efforts to recruit, develop, network and support the next generation of civil servants in Liberia, Ghana and Kenya as well as position the organization as a thought leader on the importance of government in international development.

Back to top