SUSI program aims to enhance Indianola’s ties to Des Moines

by Emili JohnsonStaff Writer

After months of planning and organizing, the Simpson Urban Studies Institute is finally making ground at Simpson. The program, which is a collaborative effort between the college and Urban Dreams in Des Moines, has hopes of enhancing the educational experience in the social sciences.

Fred Jones, professor of sociology and criminal justice, education and social sciences division head and director of SUSI, is very enthusiastic about the program and hopes students will see how their education is applicable to social issues.

“The two primary objectives are to provide valuable service to inner city residents and to enhance experiential learning opportunities for students that combines the theory they learn in the classroom with an applied setting,” Jones said.

SUSI, which will take root next fall, will take students through various and the Des Moines community to experience what the city has to offer culturally.

“We can help the students become more aware of how you can relate more effectively to minority and immigrant groups in the Des Moines area.” Jones said.

Along with helping students adapt to cultural differences, SUSI will also have a cultural sensitivity component that will focus a class on sensitivity issues.

Zach Wilson, the program director of Urban Dreams says that, while this is a project that was developed by Wayne Ford, it is something that has been in the works for the past 15 years.

“I think it will not only have an impact on Des Moines, but it will have an impact on the whole Midwest region,” Wilson said. “What it’s going to do is provide empirical research and data and it’s going to strengthen our program.”

Wilson also feels this research will validate the need for services provided to the community.

Walter Lain, assistant dean of multicultural student affairs, feels that the SUSI program will connect the Des Moines and Indianola communities together and bring light to issues that both communities are faced with.

“I think right now, somehow there’s this feeling that what happens in Des Moines is so distant from what happens in Indianola,” Lain said. “I just think that we had our eyes closed to some of the things that are happening here because the same issues exist whether you are talking about poverty or some of the other things that will come out of this program.”

Lain also feels that the SUSI program will help students apply what they learn in the classroom to the world around them.

Overall, the program has high hopes of being a force in retaining diversity at Simpson. Jones hopes to see at least 40 to 50 students involved in the program in the years to come and hopes that the programs will expand in every way possible.

“I hope to have some research partnerships developed so that we have agencies that we can keep going back to year after year so that we can be proactive [in] human service programming,” Jones said.