Simpson fights stigma of being suitcase campus


Simpsonian archive photo

by Kelli Greiner, Special to The Simpsonian

INDIANOLA, Iowa — Most liberal arts colleges do not want the title of suitcase campus, meaning students stay on campus for classes, then pack their bags and go home for the weekend.

Some Simpson students believe that Simpson may have been a suitcase campus in the past but is now transitioning to one where students want to stay on campus more.

Students go home for many reasons. Ryan McAtee, a junior marketing major from Stuart, said he went home every weekend his freshman and sophomore years. McAtee restores cars and then turns around and sells them to pay for his college education.

“It’s a catch 22. It’s going to college, but working not at college, to pay for it,” McAtee said.

In his third and final year, he has decided to stay on campus more and only go home once a month.

“I regret not being here my first few years,” McAtee said. “I am meeting so many people now that I am staying on campus more.”

Maddy Swift, a senior elementary education major, does not have the luxury of going home because she is from Aurora, Colorado.

“Freshman and sophomore year I went home every break that I could,” Swift said. ”Now, this year I am only going home for Christmas break.”

Swift said activities keep her entertained without going home.

“Des Moines being so close, it is easy to find something to do on the weekends,” Swift said.

Swift attends many programs on campus. “Bingo is also a fun event that I love to go to,” Swift said.

Unlike Swift, Hannah Hill, a senior elementary education major from Norwalk, lives less than 30 minutes away from Simpson and chooses not to go home often. She works in Martensdale twice a week but still does not go home.

“I definitely went home more freshman year,” Hill said. She thinks it is common to go home more often the first year.

Simpson has many groups to keep students on campus and involved. The Campus Activities Board and Residence Life are two of those groups that work hard to plan programs for students to attend.

Hill likes to take advantage of whatever CAB event is going on.

“There is always something happening that I don’t want to miss out on,” Hill said. “I can’t think of a night where we have to sit in our room and be bored, especially on the weekends.”

“A typical weekend for me is hanging out with my roommates during the day, at night we go to whatever CAB event, our favorite is Bingo, and then we go to different people’s rooms to hang out.”

Hill said most people she knows stay on campus most weekends.

“My friends live farther away than I do, so when they go home, they want it to be for an extended time, not just for a day or two,” she said.

Simpson gave Kayla Reusche, a sophomore transfer student from Wartburg College, the opportunity to play both softball and tennis.

“I went to Wartburg, which was in my hometown, and I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and try something new,” she said.

Reusche has noticed few differences between schools.

“Weekends are pretty similar. (With) both places not a lot of people go home,” she said.

Since coming to Simpson she has not been home as often as last year. Waverly is a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Simpson.

“I have been home only three times,” Reusche said. “When I went to Wartburg I would go home every week.”

The Office of Admissions continues to try increase enrollment by attracting out-of-state students. It is important to keep those students involved and entertained by having activities throughout the weekend for students to attend.

Deb Tierney, vice president for enrollment, said the increase in out-of-state students has happened faster than expected.

“This year’s incoming class has 28 percent of their students from out of state,” Tierney said. The entire campus has 20.5 percent of students from out of state, according to the 2016 Institutional Data Review.

Kelsey Schott, a junior from Maine, knows all about living far away from home.

“Being from Maine, I only get to go home Christmas break.” said Schott, CAB president and a two-year Residence Life staff member.

Simpson has made changes to make the campus open more for out-of-state students who cannot go home during breaks.

“The dorms are now open during breaks. That wasn’t an option my freshman year,” Schott said.

Schott also noticed a significant improvement since her freshman year.

“My freshman year everyone went home. There wasn’t a lot of programming going on,” Schott said. “Last year, I saw some improvement, and this year I know a lot of freshmen, and they never go home on weekends.”

When Schott became the president of CAB, she had a goal of having an event every weekend. She knew first-hand how only having events occasionally was not fun for students.

“We requested more funding from SGA to be able to have programs every weekend,” Schott said. “Last semester was the first time in a couple years that we were able to have something every weekend.”

Schott attended conferences where she talked to other schools about the programming they put on.

“I found out that we do have more programming than other schools our size, which is great,” Schott said. “I have had students come up to me and say that they were going to go home this weekend, but because we were having Bingo or some other event, they decided to stay,” Schott said. This confirmed the work being done by CAB was successful, and students want to stay on campus on the weekends to take part in them, she said.

“Res Life has also increased programs in the first-year area because of the increase in out-of-state students,” Schott said. She can see a direct correlation between events and people staying on campus because of the programming CAB does.

“Campus on the weekends has changed. There are more people around, being social and doing things,” Schott said. “Regardless if they go to the events or not, people are staying around on campus more.”