Simpson alumni to come back for homecoming

by Vic Jones and Chelsea Winegard

Simpson College alumni come back to campus Oct. 7 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. for an event to help current students network and get excited about the future.

The event, “Career Tailgating: Scoring a Connection,” will get students thinking about the future now instead of putting it off until senior year, when it is often too late.

“Continuing to look at ways to connect students to alumni, to investigate a potential career path and for students to get a better sense of where they’re headed,” Internship Coordinator Adam Gross said.

Most students do not think of Simpson alumni as a resource. While other events in the past have involved alumni, this event will bring the alumni to campus. This will be more convenient to students wanting to participate rather than driving to Simpson’s Des Moines campus.

“I truly enjoy connecting with students and discussing career goals and opportunities,” said Donni Alley, president and creative director of Alley Design Solutions, Inc. “So many fellow alumni helped me along my way, and I want to continue that important responsibility in hopes that the students I help will do the same someday.”

Hearing from alumni, who were once in the same position, will show students the various career paths available.

“As a student, I would have appreciated the opportunity to speak with graduates and learn from their experiences,” said Michael Sadler, state legislative affairs director.

One such alumnus, Paul Hengesteg program coordinator at the University of Delaware Office of Equity and Inclusion, has taken an 11-year journey to where he is today.

After graduating from Simpson in 1999 with a double major in theater arts and German, he began as a stage manager. His journey took him many places, from the Shakespeare Theatre Company to Washington, D.C. working as the meeting and event planner for the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

“The experience of working at a national advocacy organization was tremendous, and the mission of the organization was one that I could very easily stand behind,” Hengesteg said. “Which is just as critical as the ability to perform the job when working in the non-profit sector.”

Hengesteg began his current position in 2010.

“This job really is a culmination of my professional experience thus far,” Hengesteg said.

Talking with alumni like Hengesteg will show current students that there is not one direct path to a career.

“The reality is it’s not going to fall on your lap what the perfect career is,” Gross said. “It’s going to be a learning process.”

Career Tailgating will feature three 20-minute roundtable discussions where students can connect with a variety of alumni who can show students the possibilities of different majors.

There will also be an opportunity at the end of the event for students to continue talking to a specific alumnus to get more information.

“Often times it’s those informal conversations that lead up to internships and jobs,” Gross said.

Hengesteg, while at the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, had an intern from Simpson College, Amanda Yanchury, who later graduated in 2009.

“I still keep close connection with Amanda Yanchury, and gave her a job reference just a couple weeks ago,” Hengesteg said. “She got the job!”

The alumni are looking forward to this event and are eager to give advice that will help students in the future.

“For me, there really wasn’t a question of deciding to participate or not,” Hengesteg said. “I knew I would join the fun as soon as I heard about it. I’m an alumnus who is always thrilled to get engaged on campus, so if I can be of service, I’m happy to do it.”

Hengesteg is not the only alumnus excited about coming back for this event.

“Just to know that I might help a student in a small way is a great feeling,” Alley said. “Plus I want to see this event be successful and become one of Simpson’s homecoming traditions that both students and alumni will look forward to each year.”

Alumni now realize that the knowledge gained as students at Simpson is truly valuable.

“If there’s one thing I learned at Simpson, it’s that transferrable skills – aka, a liberal arts education – truly are paramount,” Hengesteg said. “I may have a theater and German degree, but the skills I’ve gained academically and professionally in those fields are what qualified me for the job I have.”

Students should be as excited as the alumni are for this opportunity.

“I think it’s a great idea to connect current students with graduates that may be in places where the student hopes to be one day,” Sadler said.