Learning ‘outside the box’

Learning outside the box

by Jessica Savage

As many students contemplate where they will be living next year, 11 groups of Simpson students already have living arrangements – in a house.

“A lot of colleges are going to ‘learning communities.’ The idea behind it is an extension of the classroom,” said Laurie Dienberg-Hoppe, assistant director of residence life, about the theme houses.

The process of acquiring a theme house has changed since last year. According to Dienberg-Hoppe, there is a new G.P.A. requirement. A G.P.A. requirement was not a part of the application process in the past. The new rule states the house must have at least a group average G.P.A. of 2.7.

Dienberg-Hoppe said they did not have to turn anyone away this year because of the grade requirement.

Despite early speculation that theme house seven would be turned into office space, the house has been assigned to a group of students.

The house was originally left off the list as a choice for a theme house according to Dienberg-Hoppe. It was decided the house would not be used for office purposes.

Although theme houses may be a popular choice among some students, Student Development saw a decline in applications. Twelve groups signed up for houses, as compared to 13-15 groups the previous year.

“I think this [decline] is due to a much more detailed application process [that goes beyond] the G.P.A. [requirement],” Dienberg-Hoppe said.

There are other expectations Simpson has for theme house dwellers that are laid out in a theme house packet. This packet explains expectations of theme houses, the theme house selection committee and selection process and expectations of the theme house manager and advisor.

As part of the application process, there is a personal statement, short answer question and an application interview for the group to complete.

Several expectations are set out for theme house residents. They are required to provide social and educational programming for all community members, participate in 15 hours of community service per person each semester, sponsor an educational event on campus, have a faculty/staff advisor, have a student manager and maintain the house at full occupancy.

The theme house manager is expected to be the head of the household, taking care of all necessary paper work, being the contact person and reporting any troubles. The advisor is expected to provide necessary help to the students, to attend house-sponsored events and help oversee the budget of the house.

The theme houses have been around for about 12-15 years, according to Dienberg-Hoppe. Since that time, Simpson has included theme houses in the college’s a strategic plan .

There are five themes Simpson would like to see in at least five of the houses every year, called the Five Centers of Excellence – performing arts, computer science, business, science and education. The goal is to expand the academic areas into the theme houses. Other groups may fill the rest of the theme houses with a plausible theme in mind.

The themes for next year’s houses include Performing Arts, Progressive Action Coalition, Running for Success, Carver House, Grounded (two houses will have this theme), Sol House, Success-Upward Bound Mentors, Edification, New Horizons and Government House.

The theme houses had to put together a list of programs, events and activities that they would like to do as a house.

nTheme House 1 – Sol (“sun” in Spanish) house. Junior Lisa Croat is the house manager. Junior Trish Fry said the group will volunteer at the Shalom House in Des Moines to help mentor and befriend inner city kids. They hope to co-sponsor a concert on campus.

“We are a safe haven for friends in need to have a place to go,” said Fry.

nTheme House 2 – The Government house. Freshman Lindsey Ingles is the house manager. The group would like to educate Simpson community on the importance of voting and motivate more people to vote during student elections.

nTheme House 3 – The New Horizons house. Sophomore Ryan Riley will be the house manager. Sophomore Brent Harberts, who will be living in the house, said the group would like to bring more diverse activities to campus.

“We’d like to open some eyes,” Harberts said, “Most students are middle-class Iowans who maybe haven’t been exposed to new things.”

The group would like to bring diversity speakers to campus.

nTheme House 4 – The Running for Success house. The manager will be junior Joe Wilson.

“The main project is fundraising,” said house manager junior Joe Wilson. “We are going to try and get out cancer awareness. We plan to run in marathons and raise money for cancer research.”

Wilson said they also plan to hold a cancer awareness day in Brenton Student Center to help raise awareness within the Simpson community.

nTheme House 5 – The Edification house. The house manager is freshman Eric Drey.

nTheme House 6 – The Carver house. Sophomore Amber Rumley will be the house manager. The group plans to give diversity presentations to local elementary schools. They hope to increase multicultural awareness and activities on campus.

nTheme House 7 – The Progressive Action Coalition house. House manager junior Lisa Anderson said the group plans to continue programs they have recently started, such as the shantytown and recycling. They hope to expand their group because they will now have a central location for meeting.

nTheme Houses 8 and 9 -The Grounded house. Sophomore Katie Ziskovsky and junior Bryan Willer will be the house managers. The houses plan to get the campus coffee shop off the ground and even bring in the community. They would like to have children’s night where children come in for hot chocolate and story time.

“We are also going to try and have discussions after forum events,” Ziskovsky said.

Willer said the theme has many meanings, including the main project, the coffee shop.

“Grounded can mean in reality, in common sense. You can play it off in so many ways,” he said.

nTheme House 10-The Performing Arts house. Junior Brooke Jackson will be house manager. The group will continue the “Underground” to raise money for the AIDS Project of Central Iowa. They would also like to hold more performing workshops for the entire Simpson community.

“The realm of performing arts is huge,” Jackson said.

nTheme House 11-The Success-Upward Bound Mentors house. Junior Sara Sonderman will be house manager.

“Our job is to transport students to Simpson and teach them about college,” said sophomore Haley Hopp said,

Hopp said they plan to bring the kids to their house and invite the Simpson community to meet them and tell them about college life as well.