Sharon Wilkinson takes over as director of West Des Moines Campus


Photo courtesy of the Simpson College website

by Belle Ward, Features Editor

After Simpson College announced the elimination of the French Department last fall, Sharon Wilkinson knew she did not want to end her time at Simpson.

Her desire to keep stay active with the college led her to take over the position as the college’s campus director and academic adviser at the West Des Moines campus.

“I was looking to see if there was another job that I might be able to do on campus, and another way to contribute and use my skills and knowledge of the institution,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson began serving in the director position while she still has a responsibility to current students in French classes before she begins her full-time position in West Des Moines on June 1.

“Nadia, the teaching assistant, is teaching a couple of classes with my support underneath, but she’s doing some as the solo teacher in the classroom, and that’s allowing me to go to West Des Moines in the afternoon,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson prioritizes her students, giving both groups the best experience she can.

“And it’s two groups of students, my day students here and my evening students in West Des Moines, and I feel a really strong responsibility to make sure that their experience stays excellent,” Wilkinson said.

Although this transition involves challenges, Wilkinson wants the students she advises to feel supported in their programs.

“I think that’s probably the number one priority for me is to make sure that the students are not the losers in this situation,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson serves as the advisor to students in multiple capacities.

“One of my biggest responsibilities is working with the evening and online students who are in the programs that are taught at West Des Moines and that are taught online as their advisor,” Wilkinson said.

Students who are enrolled in the continuing and graduate programs often have other responsibilities outside of class, such as full time jobs or children, Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson considers herself to be an advocate for students on her advising role.

If a student is having a difficult term due to issues outside of class, Wilkinson can help a student plan the next steps, those steps might include talking with a professor or asking for an incomplete or withdrawing from the course.

“I’m there to help when unexpected things come up,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson is one of the six individuals working at the West Des Moines campus.

“I’m also a team player in the whole continuing graduate programs division. We’re a team right now of six women,” Wilkinson said. “And it truly is a group of women who function together really well as a team.”

Wilkinson enjoys hearing about future planning for the program.

“I like the side of that too, the creativity, trying to not only grow these programs, but reach students who might not otherwise have opportunities and also just to make sure that those opportunities are really outstanding for the students,” Wilkinson said.

Ginger Hermon, an admissions counselor at the West Des Moines campus, recruits evening, online and graduate program students.

Hermon said she is excited to work with Wilkinson at the West Des Moines Campus.

“Simpson College has been extremely fortunate to have an individual of Sharon’s talent, caliber and loyalty. Her entire professional career has passionately served higher education,” Hermon said in an email interview.

Although Wilkinson has not served in her new position for an extensive time, Hermon appreciates her skills and abilities.

“Her rapport with faculty and exceptional ability to cultivate relationships with students has already been a great addition to the Continuing and Graduate Programs,” Hermon said.

Wilkinson appreciates the support she is given by her colleges at the West Des Moines campus.

“It’s really being a team player, being the academic adviser, but also advocate, coach, and cheerleader for the students in that way,” Wilkinson said. “I think my 12 going on 13 years here on the Indianola campus is an asset because I have relationships with people here, and I can tie together day and evening in a way that was maybe more difficult before.”

Wilkinson has already seen more continuing and graduate students from the West Des Moines campus taking classes in Indianola, and more traditional students taking classes in West Des Moines.

“I think it does really create a wonderful learning environment to have people from all different experiences and backgrounds together, because you bring so much to the table,” Wilkinson said.

She plans to use her knowledge of Simpson’s Indianola campus to bring the campuses together.

“I hope to be the good ambassador for both groups and the diplomat to unite the different locations where Simpson operates,” Wilkinson said.