Language and culture skills both fun and profitable

This article in the Harvard Business Review confirms what we are always saying–world language and culture skills are not only useful and fun, they are profitable too!

A survey of over 2,400 consumers, carried out by market research firm Common Sense Advisory and titled “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy,” found some pretty convincing data revealing how important it is for companies to provide information about their products and services in different languages.

Here is what they found:

  • 72.1% of consumers spend most or all of their time on websites in their own language.
  • 72.4% of consumers said they would be more likely to buy a product with information in their own language.
  • 56.2% of consumers said that the ability to obtain information in their own language is more important than price.

No matter what major you choose at Simpson, including world languages and cultures in your studies will enhance your marketability and make you an asset to any organization!

New book by Simpson World Language and Culture Studies professor

The Department of World Language and Culture Studies congratulates our colleague, Professor Mark Bates, on the publication of his book, With Arms Wide Open: Stories of Nicaragua, which was just released by Tate Publishing.

9781631227981medCurious about the book? You can read a little bit about it here. You can also hear about it directly from Professor Bates himself, who will be holding two readings/book signings in August.

On Saturday, August 23, he will be at Dunn Library on the Simpson College campus from 1:00-3:00 p.m. On Saturday, August 30, he will be at Smokey Row in Des Moines from 2:00-4:00 p.m.

Drop by one of these events to hear excerpts from the book and to get your own copy!

¡Felicitaciones, Profesor Bates!


Finding her way in divinity school

From a Communication & Media Studies degree to divinity school? Why not? asked Erin Guzman. While studying at Simpson, Erin was passionately involved with the Religious Life Community, and religion courses with Professors Jan Everhart, Mark Gammon, and Maeve Callan struck a chord that ended with matriculation to the Vanderbilt University Divinity School.

Thinking back to her time at Simpson, Erin focuses on the big picture things she learned. She worked for the Simpsonian as a sports writer and eventually became the layout editor. That position and her relationship with Communications professor Brian Steffen led to her job as Advertising Art Director in the Vanderbilt Student Media organization and doing public relations work for the Divinity School, but the lessons learned in the classroom pale in comparison to the life lessons learned. Erin explains, “I had a good time figuring out who I was at Simpson. I was really involved on campus but I wanted to explore different majors and career paths, and Simpson allowed me to do that. I’m still not sure where I’ll be when I finish at Vanderbilt, but I’m discovering who I am, what I’m passionate about, and where I see my gifts being most useful and that’s important to me.”

Erin explained that the path after Divinity School is not always a position in a church. Some will pursue pastoral care working with specific groups, college students for example, a position which interests Erin right now. But others go into teaching, non-profit work or to dramatically different fields.

We look forward to seeing where Erin goes after she graduates next May and we know it will be with purpose and she will be making the world a better place.

Erin’s always had a passion for ideas and for making a difference with her faith. She’s a great example of what students can do when they combine their passion — in her case, religion — with the skills of journalism and new media. –Professor Brian Steffen

More information about the other students in Erin’s class who matriculated at seminary or divinity schools.

Botched advertising reveals importance of intercultural skills

This recent article in Advertising Age, titled “Six Cringeworthy Blunders Brands Make in China,” shows us just how essential intercultural skills are in today’s globalized business world.

Welcome to the World Language and Culture Studies blog!

In this space, we will provide updates on the latest happenings in the Department of World Language and Culture Studies, as well as news relating to international and intercultural issues.


Always clean up your mess-interning at a start-up

Mariah has some advice for those who want to land internships at start-ups: put yourself out there and always clean up your mess. In Mariah’s 1st semester at Simpson, she received an email announcing the Des Moines Start-Up Job Crawl and on a whim, decided to take part. Although start-ups are generally tech focused and Mariah’s interests fell toward marketing and public relations, she signed up. Nothing ventured nothing gained.

As Mariah puts it, “Dwolla was the last stop on the job crawl and it was getting late. I almost skipped it.”

It’s a good thing she didn’t-a quick chat with some of the team and an encounter with Dwolla founder Ben Mline (he noticed her initiative to clean up the mess when she accidentally knocked over someone’s drink!) led to an internship at the company her 2nd semester at Simpson.

She’s gone back to Dwolla twice since then for internships at the growing organization. This summer, Mariah is working more than ever as part of the team. “I’m focused on content generation, event planning and developing our internal culture… Culture – that’s not something that just happens. We are intentional about making sure the culture we started with grows with us as we grow here and elsewhere.” Mariah explains that internal events, like the hackathon she coordinated last week, are key to ensuring the culture of innovation and creativity remain. She has also developed video content and offered her hand to the business development team.

When asked about how her Simpson education has informed her work at Dwolla, Mariah says coursework and individual assistance from faculty has been vital. “My writing has grown and developed thanks to (Professor) Brian Steffen. He pushed me to strive to improve upon my writing and be willing learn from other’s work. As far as video editing and production, Lisa Carponelli has been instrumental. I took her video 101 course and it gave me a solid base for the work I’m doing now.”

Mariah has one more year at Simpson where she will finish up her IMC-Creative major and marketing minor and then it’s off to a new adventure. Her semester in London, Fall 2013 and travels around Europe ignited her to take advantage of any unknown situation and make it her own. Maybe she’ll stay in Des Moines, maybe she’ll head to a big urban center or maybe she’ll take some time to explore.


Dwolla is a Des Moines based mobile and online payments system. A number of Simpson alumni have found success at the organization in Des Moines and in San Francisco.

Interested in landing your own internship at a start-up venture? Talk with a faculty member to learn more.

Making a difference in the local community

Senior Tanner Klein graduated earlier this month, but he is staying at Simpson through May Term to finish up one last internship to impact the Indianola community.

Tanner found Funaro’s Deli too late as he puts it.  It wasn’t until the summer of his senior year that he was introduced to this local institution, but he wants to change that for future students.  “It’s better food, better quality than the other places around here.  And you know, they have deal for Simpson students-you get a free drink and a cookie with your sandwich there”

This shop on the square in Indianola serves delicious breakfast pastries and cinnamon rolls as well as a great lunch, but as Tanner found out, very few students know about this haven for mom’s style cooking just ½ mile away.  His mission in his internship is to change that.  He is developing a marketing plan for the deli to advertise the student special and share Funaro’s with the community.

This was Tanner’s first internship and Funaro’s first time hosting an intern as well.  “Getting started was difficult figuring out what I could do and what they wanted me to do, but after some conversations with Greg and B-Bop and Professor Mueller, we really got started.  I have developed a number of marketing ideas for them to use in the future so that when they want, they can pull an idea out of the plan and go for it.  I’m also helping them apply for the Warren County Economic Development grant for small businesses.”

When asked about why an existing business needs grant funding, it’s clear Tanner is excited about Funaro’s and wants to see them succeed.  “The machines and ovens are really old-they were purchased with the bakery.  These days, you can get higher quality, more energy efficient machines that would really let them make more bread, spend less money on cooling the store and be better at the great work they already do”

Tanner has studied marketing and management with an emphasis on entrepreneurship the past four years and hasn’t quite figured out exactly what he wants to do in life.  “My goal is someday to own my own business, but I’ve got to spend some time this summer figuring out what next steps to take.  I’ve got a few good job leads right now.”   He is headed back to Tripoli, a small community in northeast Iowa, to work this summer and consider his options.  Maybe construction project management?  Maybe a management development position at a large corporation?  His focus right now is on making sure Funaro’s is set up for a good future with good plans set for the next intern and then he’ll think about his next step.


Financial Executives International Iowa present awards to two accounting seniors


Simpson College students Zachary Ripka and Hilary Zarr received the outstanding accounting and finance academic recognition award from the Iowa FEI Chapter on April 22, 2014.  The students received recognition at the 2014 college convocation, and also attended the FEI Iowa chapter meeting to receive the organization’s award.

Zarr began work at MidAmerican Energy Company in Des Moines 2 weeks ago as a tax analyst.

I have been studying for the CPA exam this past semester and will continue to study in the summer and fall. I will be taking two or three of the exams this summer in July and August. I won’t be doing anything too exciting except for beginning work and studying.


Background about the organization:

FEI has been the voice of corporate finance for 78 years, and has 15,000 members.

Our local chapter has a distinguished membership of nearly 90 professional financial executives, and has been providing quality programming and colleague fellowship to its members for 68 years, as we were founded in 1944.

Our local chapter meets monthly, providing professional development and continuing education for our membership and for guests at our meetings. Each year, we address topics in our professional field such as ethics, business and career decisions, emerging trends, technology, economics, and other aspects affecting public and private companies. As well, every year our chapter contributes to the national research foundation for FEI.

For many, many years we have enjoyed a close relationship and partnership with strategic business leaders in our community such as Deloitte, Ernst and Young, KPMG, Holmes Murphy, Robert Half Management Resources, and the Davis Brown Law firm.

Students’ work featured in local media

Inspired from their own experiences abroad and interactions with international students at Simpson, the Multimedia Journalism seniors collaborated with Iowa Watch on an investigative report on internationalization in higher education.Iowa World Logo

As part of their work, students interviewed business leaders, career services staff at Iowa colleges, fellow students who have studied abroad and students from other countries currently studying in the USA.  Their work concluded with a featured series of articles and media published at   Since being published, the work has been republished by a variety of news outlets-great coverage for our senior students!

Des Moines Register

Iowa Public Radio

Burlington Hawk-Eye

Cedar Rapids Gazette


The students also participated in a panel discussion about the research, you can watch the full video of that panel here.

Composing Your Life

Simpson Colloquium 201 with Brian Steffen

One of the most important questions college students ask is, “What Should I Do with My Life?” This course will help students transition into the Simpson community as they identify their strengths and life goals through a series of readings, written assignments, and interactions with members of the Simpson community. By the end of the 8 week course, students will be familiar with the many resources available to help them get the most of the Simpson College experience and discern, plan, and take steps toward their future.


Meet Professor Steffen