The Nation's Oldest Continuously Published Student Newspaper

The Simpsonian

The Nation's Oldest Continuously Published Student Newspaper

The Simpsonian

The Nation's Oldest Continuously Published Student Newspaper

The Simpsonian

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Heidi Levine announces retirement, leaves a legacy to marvel

Photo courtesy Heidi Levine
After 40 years of working in higher education and nine years at Simpson, Vice President of Student Development and Planning Heidi Levine has announced her retirement.

Heidi Levine, the vice president of student development and planning, has been in school since 1964. Since first stepping foot into the world of education in kindergarten, she hasn’t left. Now, that time is coming to an end with the announcement of her retirement after this school year. 

An email from college President Jay Byers on Monday, Feb. 5, announced the end of Levine’s nine-year tenure at Simpson College. 

While Heidi will be greatly missed, we join her in celebrating the new opportunities awaiting her in retirement,” the email said. “Please join me in congratulating Heidi and thanking her for her outstanding service to Simpson College.”

Levine’s higher education experience

Levine got her start in higher education in 1983 as a resident director at the College of New Rochelle, her path to working in student affairs was actually an accident. 

“I went into my master’s degree program thinking I was going to be an adolescent therapist and was in a counseling program that was focused on higher ed and colleges,” Levine said. “Then, over the course of a master’s degree, realized that it would really be a wonderful setting to work in rather than doing the kind of work I would have done if I had followed my original career path.” 

Levine worked as a counselor and counseling services director at numerous colleges for nearly 20 years. Then, she attended a month-long leadership program for women in higher education that changed the course of the rest of her higher education work. 

“This program was designed to help when (women) get into presidencies or other cabinet-level positions,” she said. “I came back from that thinking, ‘I can do this,’ and I think that was the first time I really believed, ‘yeah, I could be in that role.’”

That conference was during her last position in counseling at SUNY Geneseo, a public liberal arts university in New York. After the leadership program and coworkers encouraged her to move higher up, she took a different road in higher education: student affairs. 

She took a job in student affairs for the first time in 2008 at Cornell University as the assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students. 

No, not the Ivy League Cornell University in New York. The Cornell located in Mount Vernon, Iowa. Or, as Levine calls it, the “older, smaller, poorer Cornell.” 

But, after five years as an assistant vice president, she realized she wanted more. 

“I don’t want to be one away from the cabinet table anymore. I want to be there,” she said. “I don’t want to work for somebody else sitting at that table. So, I started looking for vice president positions.” 

And that’s how she ended up at Simpson. She had fallen in love with Iowa, specifically the Des Moines Area, and Simpson crossed all the items on her checklist: small, religiously affiliated and, of course, the available vice president position. 

“It was the kind of institution that I have learned is a really good fit for me,” she said. “I like being in a place that’s small enough where I can have relationships with people.” 

But that was in 2015 and was far from the end of her role in student affairs.

The legacy Levine leaves at Simpson

The previous vice president of student development, Jim Thorius, had served the college for 30 years, starting in 1984. Meaning Levine had big shoes to fill after Thorius’ tenure had come to an end.

Heidi has made many vital contributions to the College in leading student development and strategic planning while providing wise counsel on the Cabinet and through her leadership roles on various campus committees,” the email from President Byers said. 

Levine prides herself on her leadership style that steered Simpson into being a more inclusive and collaborative institution. 

While her time in higher education is coming to an end, she has left a legacy that will last at Simpson College. 

Levine leaves behind the Simpson Dialogue Program, the expansion of the welcome week program, the launching of the collegiate esports program, sexual violence prevention efforts, the expansion of health-relate services and more as accomplishments during her Simpson years. 

 But she didn’t quite get to everything she wanted. 

“At one point in time, I had hoped that I would actually be seeing something that was nearing completion as I was getting ready to retire,” Levine said. “That is obviously not going to be the case, but this is something I have worked really hard on, particularly with the Board of Trustees (…) they need to be updated or need to be replaced.” 

Levine hopes the seed she planted of updating dining is something that will be seen in the next few years. 

Recently, Levine was recognized and awarded for her accomplishments and commitment to higher education by the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) with the Esther Lloyd-Jones Professional Service Award.

According to the ACPA website, the award “honors the life and work of one of the earliest pioneers of our profession, Esther Lloyd-Jones. The award recipient exemplifies the profession’s commitment to service through significant, continued, and unselfish service/leadership activities that have benefited the nominee’s campus, the profession, ACPA, and the profession’s practice on the state and national level.” 

What comes next?

After 40 years of being in higher education, Levine realized 2024 would be the year she retired. 

“I just don’t have the same kind of energy anymore and thought, ‘the college and the students deserve to have somebody who brings that kind of energy and excitement to them,’” she said. “I don’t know that if I came back for another year, or another two years, that I would bring the spirit that I think the work deserves and that the college deserves.” 

While the position is filled for the upcoming academic years, Levine has words of advice for the future vice president of student development and planning: 

“Appreciate the amazing staff you’ve got, the expertise they bring, and the passion they bring,” she said. “Make lots of connections, get to know faculty. Step outside the division. Get to know the students, be engaged and be involved.” 

While her post-Simpson plans have not yet been made, she has joked around about getting a part-time job at Trader Joe’s, one of her favorite stores. 

“I love Trader Joe’s. I love their products. I love the atmosphere,” she said. “There is something right now that feels really appealing to me about working 20 hours a week.”

After her nine years of leadership and innovation at Simpson, all jokes aside about Trader Joe’s, Levine knows it’s time to step down and go with the flow with what is to come.

“I know it’s time, and I know I’m going to miss the people like crazy, and I’m going to miss the work,” Levine said. “I think this work matters. I think higher education matters. I truly believe that we change people’s lives.”

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Kyle Werner, Managing Editor & Social Media Manager

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