Meet Some Non-traditional Simpson Students

by Bryan Ingram

Simpson’s Evening, Weekend, and Graduate program (EWG) is host to a variety of different students—from the “average” college student, to single moms, full-time job holders, and even the occasional grandma.

Simpson’s three campuses, in Ankeny, Indianola and West Des Moines allow these students the flexibility the need to get their degree completion.

EWG also allows students to choose whether they are enrolled full-time and part-time, based on their schedule and when they want to graduate.

The “average” Simpson student on the Indianola campus has the opportunity to see their classmates walking to-and-from class, and now, thanks to adult learner Bryan Ingram, the “average” student can now be introduced to a variety of adult learners.

Stephen Conner is a technical Sergeant in the Air Force and is in his second year of a criminal justice major through Simpson’s Evening, Weekend and Graduate (EWG). With only six classes to go, Conner balances a full class load with the responsibilities of working in the Armed Forces.

“At any given time we can work 12 to 16 hours a day,” Conner said. “A lot of times we deploy and then I have to miss a semester.”

In fact, Conner’s most recent deployment was last October where he spent nearly two months in Iraq. Working with weapons as an ammunitions system journeyman, he enjoys “[knowing] you have a direct impact on the mission at hand.” Conner hopes to take his Simpson degree and “fly fighters” as an Air Force officer.

25-year-old mother of two, Courtney Lamb, is in her first class as a Simpson student and is a criminal justice major. Finding time to go to school, work and be with her family are the hardest parts of Lamb’s experience. “[My family] is my motivation behind [school]. I go to school for me but to also create a better life for [my family],” Lamb said. Lamb is currently employed at Iowa Medicaid as a Health Educator. After completion of school, however, Lamb hopes to work with under-privileged kids. “I want to work with teens,” Lamb said. “As a teen I had a lot of life events at an early age so I feel like I can relate to a lot [of their issues]… That’s what motivated me to either do counseling or criminal justice [so I can] try and get them on the right path.”

Senior Jenny Putz is a traditional student that takes multiple EWG classes to help satisfy her social work minor. In fact, Putz never would have realized her goal of pursuing a career in social work if it wasn’t for the EWG program.

“Had I not taken the [Human Growth and Development class] I would probably be stuck going into psychology and hating it,” she said.

Putz recommends all traditional students try an EWG class because of the different perspectives offered by the EWG students and professors. “It’s not like [traditional students] are lazy, but they just don’t have as much motivation to do well and to participate and to get the input and really learn [the material],” Putz said. Putz graduates this spring and hopes to continue her education pursuing a Master’s in social work.

72-year-old Jean Gifford has been taking classes at Simpson for six years pursuing a degree in sociology. But, this isn’t Gifford’s first college experience. “I went to [college] for three years [at] Iowa starting in the fall of 1956,” Gifford said She left “heartbroken”, however, because of financial reasons. “Back in the ‘50s there wasn’t as much student aid to help you,” Gifford said. Gifford always had the goal to come back to school. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m a goal setter. I set a goal to run a race when I was 50. I ran the Dam-to-Dam and even ran a marathon when I was 54. I’ll be graduating, if I’m on target, one week before my oldest granddaughter graduates from Iowa State.” Gifford hopes to use her sociology degree to “get back into volunteer work,” she said. “I’m 72 so I’m not going to [start a new career].”

According to 31-year-old Jamie Tom, an automotive electrician, he decided to go back to school after one of his co-workers was accused and busted for selling cocaine to an undercover police officer.

“That was the last straw,” Tom said.

The Indianola native is now studying full-time as a criminal justice major. After witnessing a family member go through an abusive marriage, Tom wants to become a Des Moines police officer in order to “help people like that who don’t know how to get the help that they need.”