DAL offers higher education to students on non-traditional path

DAL offers higher education to students on non-traditional path

by Andrea KempEditor in Chief

For most Simpson students, life outside the classroom involves dorm rooms, freedom and life away from mom and dad. But, for students juggling higher education in the college’s Department of Adult Learning, these “extracurriculars” may be more like balancing soccer games, babysitters and full-time jobs.

There are 533 students enrolled in the school’s DAL this semester. The department encompasses those students who are enrolled part-time and taking classes during the day, night, weekend or online at any of Simpson’s three campuses, in Indianola, West Des Moines or Ankeny.

According to Walter Pearson, associate dean, assistant professor of education and director of Adult Learning, the DAL schedules and staffs 300 courses per year, as well as overseeing the Conference Office. Pearson has been with Simpson for 13 years, beginning his work at the West Des Moines campus.

During his career, Pearson has seen the DAL go through a number of changes, both structurally and strategically. New technologies have been implemented, such as the use of online programs such as FastTrack, a program offered partially online, with a once-weekly class meeting with their instructor.

Pearson has also been present for Simpson’s decision to offer a Masters of Arts in Teaching. Offered through a 16-month schedule, the program is designed with classes in the spring, summer and fall and student teaching the following spring. When the program is completed, a teaching license is awarded, allowing five years for master’s thesis completion.

Jennifer Hart, campus director and academic advisor in the DAL, notes that Simpson has employer reimbursement agreements with several major corporations in the Des Moines area, including Principal and Allied. For Hart, working with adult students means interacting with a population of Simpson’s student body with a unique approach to their education.

“They really want to be here,” Hart said. “They get worried if they miss a class because of being sick … because they’re actually paying for it out of their pocket, or their companies are paying for it. So there’s a high level of dedication that I’ve seen in my students.”

Denise Kalbus, administrative assistant for Student Support Services, is an adult student who understands the meaning of dedication. The mother of two will finish up her degree in Corporate Communications in the spring.

Kalbus explains that the choice to go back to school came after she went through a number of significant changes in her life and knew that furthering her education would give her a renewed sense of empowerment. Kalbus had been working in the graphic design field and was unhappy with the direction she saw the field moving in.

Balancing career, family and school has become a fine art to Kalbus. While completing her degree as a half-time student, Kalbus carefully plans out childcare arrangements to accommodate her night classes and her husband’s work schedule. In the end, however, Kalbus appreciates the support of those around her.

“I will tell you that taking classes as an adult with a family is a juggling act,” Kalbus said. “However, if the person wants to do it bad enough, they will find a way to schedule their time to make it work. Our family calendar is very full with work, school, children’s school activities, sports and extended family obligations. Fortunately, my husband, parents, and daughters have been–and continue to be- very supportive of me going back to college. I have leaned on all of them at one time or another for something.”

When Kalbus graduates this spring, it will be as a person proud to have worked hard for what she has earned.

“One thing they can’t take away from you is your education,” Kalbus said.