Register: New president ready to guide Simpson College into future

March 21, 2014












Above: Simpson College Trustee and Board Chairwoman Sunnie Richer, Simpson College President Jay Simmons and Iowa Methodist Conference Bishop Julius C. Trimble at the inauguration of Jay Simmons, held Thursday, March 20 at Indianola First United Methodist Church.

Photo credit: Michael Rolands/Indianola Record Herald

Indianola, IA - March 20, 2014

By Paige Godden - Des Moines Register

Faculty, staff, students, former presidents and alumni gathered at the First United Methodist Church here to celebrate the inauguration of Jay Simmons, Simpson College’s 23rd president.

Simmons, who began at Simpson College in June 2013, holds a doctorate in political science and is the former president of Iowa Wesleyan College.

“We have heard that Jay Simmons shares Simpson College’s belief in the transformational nature of the liberal arts experience,” said Steven Griffith, Simpson’s senior vice president and academic dean. “We know him to be a warm, righteous and thoughtful person who has spent many hours visiting with faculty, staff, students, trustees and friends of the college to get a sense of who we are.”

Griffith said Simmons has a great vision for what the college may become, and that he understands that the core of a great college is found in the magic space between students and teacher.

“It is in this precious relationship that the tradition of excellence for Simpson College thrives,” Griffith said.

Simmons said he was told when he first began his job that he’d find an unusually dedicated and talented group of faculty, staff, students and trustees at Simpson College.

His experience so far, Simmons said, has been exactly that.

Simmons said the college will announce a strategic plan to help lead the college into the future within the next few days.

“It will help shape what we need to do in our years ahead,” Simmons said.

He said the college will begin to seek ways to strengthen its academic programs, to retain students and to address some of the financial and resource needs the campus has, including some space needs.

Simmons said a challenge for the college comes from the changing demographics of the Midwest. During the past decade, the number of 18-year-olds graduating from Iowa high schools has decreased by about a quarter, or from 40,000 to 30,000.

He said internally the college has worries about how it will generate the resources to continue its work and best serve its students.

Simmons said the liberal arts education students receive through Simpson College is still important despite a recent push for more science- and technology-based education.

“Are arts and sciences programs even relevant anymore in the larger public imagination? Is the work we’re doing still valued overall?” Simmons asked. “In my mind the answer to that question is most emphatically ‘yes.’ ”

He said today’s students are more career oriented than they have ever been. Employers seek graduates who have the ability to speak well and concisely, work well in teams, break down complex problems, and communicate across disciplinary, linguistic and regional boundaries.

Alexander Severn, student body president at Simpson College, said the students of the college appreciate Simmons’ interest in them.

“President Simmons makes it a point to include student leaders in discussions regarding our institution’s growth and the future and makes a concerted effort to keep the best interest of students in mind while making strategic decisions,” Severn said. “This is ensuring each student may have a voice that’s not only heard but also appreciated.”

View the Register article HERE.