Role-playing in history-oriented Spanish course

This semester, the Spanish 202 class, officially titled “Gateway to Advanced Spanish,” is focusing its efforts on developing intermediate Spanish skills while studying the Spanish Civil War.

And the students, led by Professor Camille Sutton, are not only studying the circumstances both in Spain and worldwide which led up to the conflict – they are also inhabiting some of the key players!

Borrowing some of the activities and approaches associated with Reacting to the Past, a pedagogical framework that is widely used in Simpson College‘s History and Civilization courses, Spanish 202 students are investigating the individuals and groups involved in this historical period in order to take on their roles.

The preliminary unit, called “Las ideas” (The Ideas), centers on the cultural, economic, and political circumstances in Spain leading up to the war. Students have investigated the political “climate” of the country in the years preceding 1936, and are now using that information to try and develop speeches and statements promoting the ideologies of the characters they have been assigned. This work has involved research, reading, writing, and speaking about these complex topics – all in Spanish!

Students have been assigned a variety of roles, which range from real historical figures to loosely-sketched demographic types. One student has been assigned to adopt the persona of anarchist leader Buenaventura Durruti while another as been assigned to play the fascist José Antonio Primo de Rivera.

Katie Franco

Katie Kieffer as Francisco Franco

One student has taken her role assignment to a new level. Biology major, Spanish minor, and Simpson volleyball player Katie Kieffer was assigned to play Francisco Franco, and she has embraced the role with gusto, even going so far as to Photoshop her own face onto a photo of the dictator! (Original here.)

The following unit, “La guerra” (The War), will involve research into propaganda, journalism, and foreign involvement in the Spanish Civil War, while the closing unit, “La memoria” (Memory), will have students researching, presenting, and critiquing the ways in which the war and its aftermath are living on the memory of Spaniards.

Language and culture studies at Simpson College – never a dull moment!

Summer Research Symposium – Today

The oral presentation portion of the Summer Research Symposium will take place this afternoon in Carver Science.  The Summer Research symposium is an opportunity for Simpson students to share their summer research with the Simpson Community.  Come support Mathematics or Actuarial Science majors Louis Joslyn, Alec McIntosh, Erin Boggess, Kyle Jensen, Matt Christen, Geoff Converse, Jared Grove, Kylie Pape and Sara Reed as they present on a range of topics including biology, economics, environmental science and math modeling.

For more information including presentation times and abstracts see the Summer Research Symposium website.

From Simpson to Event Planning in NYC

Tony Warnke ’06 knew he wanted to work in event planning and after falling in love with Simpson College during a campus visit, he knew his path.  Getting support from his Admissions Counselor, Kara May, (now Assistant Director of the Hawley Student Resource Center) and numerous professors, Tony created an academic path in International Management with numerous events related internships in the US and abroad. His International Management and Spanish majors with minors in Corporate Communication, Latin American Studies and Marketing helped prepare Warnke for an exciting future in the New York events industry.

“Be vocal about what you want and lean on your professors and the Simpson staff. If something you want doesn’t exist, create it!”

Now working at American Express in New York City, Tony pursued his goals with a singular passion.  He credits his success in his path to the experiences he had over the years in internships, in the classroom and in creating events through PRSSA while at Simpson.

When working with the small PRSSA group back in 2005, Tony realized they needed a stand out project to include in their portfolios for job interviews. The group created the Goodwill Fashion Show, an event that, 9 years later, is still strong at Simpson.

Tony’s career path started in Des Moines in a position at the Integer Group gained after a successful internship.  His boss there encouraged him to pursue his dream of working in events in New York and gave him a fall back ticket, saying if things didn’t work out, he could return to his position at Integer.

Since moving to NYC, Tony has worked in wedding and social event planning, luxury event planning and now leads the premium sponsorship and experiences platform at American Express.

“The work touches a lot of different access points focusing on the luxury experiences.  A lot of marketing and public relations, social media, press work, and brand and sponsorship.”

When we talked, Tony was juggling work for New York Fashion Week, the US Open Tennis Championship, and a concert in Chicago.

Thinking back to his time at Simpson, Tony said,

“Marilyn Mueller was always pushing me and helping me get to where I wanted to go.  She was generous with her time.  Kara May got me to Simpson and was constantly a great help and support.”

When asked about Tony, Mueller said,

“Tony was passionate and on fire and knew his vision for what he wanted to do.  He was also a super networker (before the practice was touted widely) and it has served him well!”

Warnke worked his way from a small town life to the big time in New York City. With his Simpson education and experiences, he has a solid foundation to continue building a career upon. Tony Warnke is yet another example of how far Simpson success and hard work can take someone.

Brittany Rempe: Vermeer

Written by Steffi Lee, Career Services Undergraduate Assistant

What was she up to?
Brittany Rempe ’15 spent her summer interning full-time in the Communications Department of Vermeer Manufacturing Company in Pella, Iowa.  Vermeer is a world leader of agriculture, construction, surface mining, tree care and more.

What strengths did Brittany demonstrate during her internship?
Brittany says she was able to demonstrate skills in communication, content creation and visual engagement through her internship. “I did interviews successfully and got to know many people on campus,” she said. “I also communicated any problems or progress I was having on my projects as well.” She took photos of visitors on campus and also contributed to a monthly newsletter.

What other opportunities did she have during her internship?
Brittany had plenty of opportunities during her time at Vermeer. “I am hoping to get into employee relations, and this internship was in a department which focuses on internal communication,” she said. She was able to work directly with team members on crafting visuals. “This gave me some great insight on how people use their artistic abilities in corporate life,” she said.

What did her supervisor have to say about her work?
Kate Guess, Director of Communication, shared, “Brittany has strong professional communication skills.  Her written work has improved greatly to be more relevant to a employee-centric group, she has a strong voice and she has proven photography skills — all professional skills that will be valuable in her career path.”

Why does Brittany feel it is important for students to intern?
“I think students should intern because it gets you real life experience,” she said. “Learning how to do things in school is nowhere near the same as doing work in a real corporation. Even if you’re not able to use your skills as much as you would like, if you’re not able to contribute as much as you think you could due to your intern status, you still get a feel for how a boss to employee relationship works.” Brittany says internships provide insight that students can never learn in school.

Does she feel like this internship made her more marketable for future employers?
“I absolutely think this internship made me more marketable,” she said. She is currently putting together a portfolio of everything she has worked on in school, but having the corporation touch makes her compilation much more professional.

Are you interested in interning with or working for Vermeer?  Representatives will be on campus for the October 29th Business and Communications Career Fair.  Put on your professional clothing, polish your resume, and come visit with them.

Language Tables – part of the Simpson difference!

At most institutions, when you take a language course you attend class and do homework — that’s pretty much it. Not so at Simpson College!

At Simpson, we have TAs (teaching assistants) who are native speakers of the languages we teach, and part of their job is to lead Language Tables.

What is a Language Table?


Source: Wikimedia Commons

Just what it sounds like — you sit around a table, in a small group of about 5 or 6 people, and the TA leads the participants in a conversation in the target language. Language Tables usually last about 30 minutes. Sometimes the TA will show a photo or video and ask people to take turns trying to describe it; other times the TA will have people pick topics out of a hat and then have to say a few sentences about that topic.

The main idea of the Language Table is to get people talking in the target language in an intimate environment that is much less stressful than a traditional classroom!

This Fall, our Spanish 111 class at Simpson, led by Professor Camille Sutton, has been assigned to attend a minimum of 7 Language Tables over the course of the semester. The TA is the wonderful Briza Valery Flores, coordinator of the English program at the Universidad Politécnica de Chiapas, in Mexico.

Although the semester has only just begun, students have already been attending the Language Tables — some have gone 3 times already! Here is what some of them have had to say:

“I wasn’t sure how I was going to speak only Spanish for the whole time, but then I realized that it is a much more relaxed environment than I thought it was going to be. I thought that it was going to be like the oral exams I took in high school that really stressed me out, but instead it was more of a fun way to learn more Spanish and brush up on vocab that we haven’t used in a while.”

“I went in not knowing what to expect but they definitely were worth going to! For example, did you know that there are no suburbs in Mexico and in Mexico they associate people that live in the suburbs to be somewhat affluent. I thought it was kind of crazy that they don’t have suburbs especially since they are so popular in our country! From now on I will definitely be excited to go to language tables. I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up going more than 7 times! :)”

Language Tables are also very helpful in getting students to start to make goals for themselves and take on an active role in their education. Here is one student’s reflection:

“My goal as a senior in high school was to become fluent in Spanish or at least very close. Now my goals have changed slightly to incorporate more than just grammatical and linguistic knowledge. I hope to not only become fluent one day, but to also be able to understand the culture and the people. Someday I want to be traveling the world for my career; I want to meet new people, and experience different cultures. This course has given me the opportunity to see beyond my way of thinking and beyond my “American comfort.” It has also made me question why I do some of the things that I do as an American. My goals have become: 1) gain experience in understanding other people’s point of view 2) push myself to take ownership of my education (study tables and personal studying are on me) 3) learn the language well enough to be comfortable holding a conversation with someone.”

Language Tables with native-speaker TAs — part of what makes a Simpson College education unique!

Navigating international business customs and etiquette: Part of intercultural competence

Many of our students at Simpson College will go on to international careers. And few things will be more useful than the ability to navigate the intercultural communication required for successful business relationships.

This Forbes article presents some of the major issues that U.S. businesspeople should keep in mind when working with partners from around the world. An example: “In the U.S. where time is money (and both are often in short supply), business deals are secured overnight. But in most other countries around the globe, business contracts are based on trust that may take weeks to establish.”

Businesspeople hoping to develop successful international business contacts should heed the advice not to let any impatience or frustration show. “Never rush to get a contract signed,” the article advises, and “understand that accepting your host’s hospitality is but a first stop in a longer relationship.”

The accompanying slideshow offers a list of dos and don’ts for U.S. businesspeople seeking international success. The ability to adapt to the local business etiquette will be key in securing deals and making business contacts all over the world.

With this kind of advice, and a few WLCS courses under their belt, Simpson grads can take on the world–literally!

Brian Newton – Alumni Update

Brian Newton was named Assistant Director of Media Relations at Stephen F. Austin University.  Brian graduated from Simpson in 2013 where he majored in mathematics and economics/finance.  For an update on Brian, click here.

***If you graduated from Simpson College with a mathematics or actuarial science degree and would like to write an graduate update for this blog, send it (along with a current picture) to  We would happy to post it.***

Spring 2015 and Fall 2015 Courses

Check our the History Department’s upcoming course offerings at:

Mathematics Day – October 18, 2014

Math Day will be held on Saturday, October 18, 2014.

Discover why studying mathematics or actuarial science at Simpson College is a terrific choice for your future.  You will meet Simpson professors and students and learn about the exciting mathematics events occurring inside and outside the classroom at Simpson.  You will also have the opportunity to meet with Simpson alumni and learn about many career opportunities in mathematics.

Click here for a complete schedule.

For more information contact Dr. Rick Spellerberg (

We hope that you can join us!  

Register at

Student Creation of Ground Rules

by Nick Proctor

After attending the workshop on Adult Learning, I drew from one of the numerous handouts that we received to structure a discussion about student expectations and preferences for an upcoming debate on the topic of eugenics in my SC101 course. Although this method was only briefly addressed during the workshop, the one page distillation that was included in the handouts allowed me to implement it almost immediately.

Drawn from Brookfield’s Discussion as a Way of Teaching, the exercise asked the students to first reflect upon group discussions that had worked well or poorly for them in the past. They then took turns talking about this, which allowed them to recognize that there was a lot of common ground. We wanted to accentuate the positive while eliminating the negative, so we moved forward to proposing concrete rules and protocols. This gave us a structure for the debate. We dispensed with the final step of Brookfield’s process (charter creation) because with only 10 minutes remaining, the students were eager to begin working together in teams (which we had just agreed needed to be formed) in order to assign specializations (which we had just agreed were desirable) so that they could start assembling evidence (which everyone said was essential to having a good debate). In the end, the structure of the debate was quite similar to one that I could have mandated, but since it was created by the students they possessed greater ownership. Furthermore, they understood the function and rationale for every important component of the structure.

You can find a copy of the handout Nick mentions on page 5 of this document by Stephen Brookfield. The faculty development office is currently working on editing the audio and video recorded during the Adult Learning Workshop by Lisa Baumgartner. If you would like access to this material, please contact Shelly Priebe.