Career experiences lead student to Simpson

by Kate Paulman

Like most college students, junior Cathy McConnell was just a little bit shocked by the size of the dorm rooms.

But unlike most college students, McConnell isn’t counting the days until her 21st birthday; McConnell is a 41-year-old junior living in Kresge Residence Hall.

“I was really surprised by the smallness of the rooms,” McConnell said. “But the loft beds are very nice. They look a lot better than they used to.”

After graduating from high school in Brooklyn, Iowa, McConnell went to school at Iowa State.

“I was so shy,” McConnell said. “I was lost.”

Seeing that a big college didn’t work for her, McConnell went to a community college and earned an associate degree in nursing. She worked in the field until three years ago, when hospital politics changed her mind.

“I enjoyed working in critical care,” McConnell said. “But I couldn’t handle it with the nursing shortage. The hospital politics just got so bad that I had to get out of there.”

Once she decided to go back to school, the decision came down to Simpson College and Central College in Pella, Iowa. McConnell was offered a better financial package at Simpson and liked the compactness of the campus, she said. She decided on Simpson and is currently working on a degree in accounting.

McConnell is taking 16 credit hours and working on completing her Cornerstone requirements. “I wish I was taking less (credits),” McConnell said. “It’s keeping me so busy. I never feel like I’m caught up.”

Unlike some adult students enrolled at Simpson, McConnell takes all of her classes during the day.

“I take them during the day and get them over with,” McConnell said.

Despite a heavy class load, McConnell said she feels that college is better the second time around.

“I was so shy that it made it a lot harder to go to college [after high school],” McConnell said. “This time I’m focused on what I want to do so it’s easier for me to learn.

“At Iowa State I was walking around thinking, ‘I don’t even know what I want to do.’ But here, so far, I’m enjoying it. I know what I want and I know what I’m doing now,” she said.

McConnell chose to live in the dorms due to its convenience. For her, the drive to and from classes would be about two hours each way. However, McConnell usually goes home on the weekends, but plans to do that less once the weather gets bad.

“It’s a lot harder to cook and shop for one,” McConnell said, “and this way I don’t have to set up another place to live. Plus I figured that I would meet more people. If you’re a commuter, you don’t really get to meet anyone. You just come and then you go.”

McConnell says that she doesn’t feel particularly isolated from other students on campus and those in her dorm hall.

“Before I left, everybody made the comment that I was going to be called Mom by all the younger students,” McConnell said. “I hope that doesn’t happen. I haven’t had any running to me with their problems, I’m not really sure that I want that. But I do have younger friends that I talk to and always talk to me. My roommate and I talk and give each other advice.”

Despite a long span of time since McConnell’s days at Iowa State, she says that much of college life is about the same.

“It’s a lot quieter than at Iowa State, but that’s just a smaller school,” McConnell said. “It’s mostly what I expected it to be. What I didn’t expect is to have to wait in line to eat. The lines at lunch time are just amazing.”