Opinion: Simpson forum actually enhances liberal arts experience


by Ben Rodgers, managing editor

In a few short weeks, Barack Obama’s former senior advisor, David Axelrod, will come to campus for the Fifth Annual Culver Center Lecture. As a student who has attended two of the three Culver Lectures during my time on campus, I can make an estimate as to the climate of the crowd: a small number of students and a large number of Indianola and Des Moines area residents.

Low attendance at Simpson College forums goes beyond the amount of students that attend the Culver Lecture, but rather Simpson Forum events in general.

Many students and alumni say one of the biggest benefits offered by Simpson is opportunities sit in small class sizes and get to know professors, along with many other amenities. I wholeheartedly agree these are great benefits, but one that often goes overlooked in the vast wealth of knowledge that is offered to students through Simpson forums.

Since Simpson prides itself as a liberal arts institution, attending forums as a student is at the heart of a liberal arts education. As it has been driven into our heads since first setting foot on campus, the mainstay of the liberal arts education is to learn about ideas from numerous areas of academics to make us better, well-rounded individuals.

This is exactly what is perfect about forum events. As students, many of us have busy schedules and it can be extremely hard to venture out of our majors to take classes in different camps of study, however, the forum allows us to do so.

As a journalism student (and someone who has tried to explore other minors and majors), I have not had the opportunity at Simpson to take courses in the sciences.

However, if the Simpson Forum and physics department are hosting an astrophysicist on campus who is discussing black holes, there is a perfect opportunity to learn something new. Sure, the event may be catered more to those who understand the science and I may not understand every little bit of subjects covered; I still have exposed myself to a new way of thinking that may not be used in my discipline of study.

If the idea of being introduced to other disciplines doesn’t spark your interest in attending forum events, the high profile of speakers should. In my time here I have been fortunate enough to see numerous individuals at the tops of their fields come speak on a variety of issues including Emily Bazelon, Jim Hightower and former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson, along with many others.

These are all individuals who have driven discussion in their fields and have helped set political, cultural and societal trends in the community. As students who are supposed to receive a well-rounded education, and leave as “engaged citizens,” we should learn from and aspire to be like those who drive discussion not only in their field of study, but a community as whole.  

While I have attended numerous lectures, I am also guilty of spending my time at 7:30 on a Wednesday night scrolling through social media instead of going to a forum event. We’re all busy, but I urge every student to take the opportunity to attend at least one of these great events once per semester.

Next time a professor requires you attend a forum event for class, instead of moaning, thank them. You may be inspired and opened to a new way of thinking you never knew was possible.