Alumni Update – Jeremy Ward ’06

Check out Jeremy Ward’s latest accomplishment!

Mathematics and Actuarial Science Majors Participating in Summer Research

Twelve Simpson College mathematics or actuarial science majors will be working on summer research at Simpson College or at labs/universities across the country.

For more information on research in the Mathematics Department, click here.  For more information about off-campus summer research programs, click here.

Spanish Professor Tracy Dinesen wins Faculty Award for Exemplary Teaching

The Department of World Language and Culture Studies is proud to announce that our very own Tracy Dinesen, Associate Professor of Spanish and Director of General Education here at Simpson College, is the recipient of the 2015 Faculty Award for Exemplary Teaching.

Professor Tracy Dinesen shows off her award

Professor Tracy Dinesen shows off her award

Professor Dinesen sat down with us to talk a bit about Simpson College, teaching, and life.

Professor Dinesen, tell us a little bit about your career before coming to Simpson.

I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Colorado at Boulder where I majored in Spanish Language and Literature. I then did my master’s at the University of North Texas in Denton and continued with my Ph.D. at Texas Tech University.

While at Texas Tech I worked on a research grant to incorporate online tools in the lower-level Spanish sequence in order to better meet demand. I also worked at the Texas Tech Center in Seville, Spain where I taught all levels of language prior to coming to Simpson College.

What was it like for you when you started teaching at Simpson? What was the biggest adjustment?

I think that my biggest adjustment was moving from a research institution mentality to a small college one. I had never experienced life at a small college, and while it was what I wanted, I needed to learn how to communicate my expectations to students in a supportive way and give them my reasoning so that they could understand what we were doing on a deeper level. I worked really hard to improve my communication with my students, to help them understand what skills we are working on, and letting them know that I am here to support them along the way.

How do you think you have grown as a professor since starting at Simpson?

I am a completely different teacher than I was when I started at Simpson. I think that I am better at communicating with my students in all aspects. I can create a challenging course where students are asked to take risks and do things that they have never done before and still provide them with an environment that focuses on learning, improvement, and growth rather than perfection and getting a good grade.

I understand how to scaffold my course and focus on skill development and cultural knowledge in addition to improving language acquisition. I am much better at helping students see how the skills that they learn in my courses and the knowledge they gain is transferable to other fields of study.

I think that teaching is a field of study where there is always something to learn. I look forward to seeing what kind of teacher I am in another decade at Simpson.

What is your favorite course to teach here? What course would you love to introduce in the future?

I have many courses that I love to teach. I love teaching the Advanced Composition and Creative Writing course. I also love teaching Film in Spanish, Social Movements in Culture, Media and Culture, and Topics in Spanish Literature, among others. Generally I enjoy teaching courses that encourage creativity, deep thinking, and advocacy in addition to Spanish language skills.

A course that I would love to introduce in the future… I am working on a course that focuses on Historical Memory in popular culture. We will study art, film, and literature in Spain and Argentina to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of civil war and dictatorship. It isn’t the most uplifting topic, but it the works being produced currently are really innovative and thought provoking.

If you could give one piece of advice to new World Language and Culture professors, and even just new professors in general, what would it be?

That is a good question. I would say to remember that you don’t have to know everything or be an expert. Give yourself permission to not know, and then use that as an opportunity to teach your students how to find the information. They will respect you for it, it will teach them how to find answers to their questions, and it will encourage you to keep learning as well.

Meet your students where they are and help them reach for the next level while providing them with the support that they need. If you can do that, you will have the impact you are hoping for.

Finally, keep learning and feeding your passions. If you can remember what you personally love about your field, that will help you in more ways that you can imagine.

Thanks for your time, Professor Dinesen, and congratulations again!

The Simpson Difference: Why Math Modeling Matters

Check out this article about Simpson and the MCM/ICM modeling competition.




Student-produced videos explain “Why Simpson?”

Students in Lisa Carponelli’s Videography class were given a task: create a promotional video for high school seniors explaining why they should #ChooseSimpson. The time limit: a mere 90 minutes.

What they produced was more than even their professor expected. These students demonstrated a love and passion for their school while completing a fast-paced group activity. Catching students, faculty and staff on an average day on Simpson’s campus, the videos present an authentic look at the Simpson Storm and all we have to offer.

Data Science Presentations

The students in Dr. Schellhorn’s Data Science class will be presenting the results from their classification projects next Thursday, April 30, 1:00-3:00, in Carver 231.  Each of the groups investigated a classification problem based on a data set of their choice.  Specifically, each group used at least one classification technique to predict a qualitative response, which is a response with classes like yes/no or green/yellow/red.

You are invited to attend as many of the presentations as your schedule allows (since next week is finals week, we know it will be a busy one).  Each talk will be about 10 minutes long, including questions.

  1. Andy Ardueser, Kelly Brass, Emma Jones – “How Will You Die?”
  2. Scott Henry, Cody Jacobson, Katie Westlund – “Airline Ratings”
  3. Erin Brown, Kelly Bruett, Jess Schultes – “Constructing a Spam Filter for Email”
  4. Louis Joslyn, Tony Saucedo, Demetre Van Arsdale – “Predicting Income”
  5. Miles Kirts, Paul Safford, Nick Yaeger – “All-American Runners”
  6. Sam Schwarz, Courtney Sherwood, Lauren Tirado – “Forest Cover”
  7. Lauren Doocy, Kyle Jensen, Rachel Rice – “Predicting Student Quality of Life at Universities”
  8. Erik Hall, Park Mikels, Ruth Ann Roberts – “NFL Draft Predictions”
  9. Andy Becker, Geoff Converse – “Elementary School Test Scores”


Image source: Figure 10.6 in An Introduction to Statistical Learning with Applications in R by James, Witten, Hastie, and Tibshirani

WLCS Students Shine at Simpson’s Research Symposium

The Department of World Language and Culture Studies is proud that some of its very strongest students came out to represent our department at yesterday’s Undergraduate Research Symposium.

WLCS students presented on cultural topics as diverse as colonial and neocolonial stereotypes of Tahitian women, the role of fashion in the transformation of Eva Perón into a powerful cultural icon in Argentina, and the impact of U.S. “supernationalism” on the German-speaking communities of Iowa during World War I.

We were able to capture some parts of a couple of presentations on video. Enjoy!

Madison Densmore: “Vahine: Images and Origins”

Valerie Goodhue-Nolte: “‘In Their Shoes': The Creation of Evita Through Fashion”

Great job, WLCS presenters. Next step…publication!

Senior Multimedia Journalism majors produce Iowa Watch article on “hidden disabilities”

Simpson’s senior students in Multimedia Journalism have just seen their semester-long work documenting the challenges of Iowa students with ‘hidden disabilities’ published at IowaWatch.Org, the statewide investigative news source. The main story reported and written by Megan Quick, Steffi S. Lee, Kate Hayden and Ben Rodgers just went live, and more reports from the students will be publishing over the next several days at Iowa Watch. Click the link to check the project as it’s revealed!



Simpson Students Capture Innovation Award for Crime-Fighting App

Simpson College is home of the Student Innovators of the Year in Iowa.

Scott Henry and Thomas Klein captured the Prometheus Award for their work in developing a phone app through the EMERGE@Simpson program.

The Prometheus Awards, described as “Iowa’s premier event for technology,” are sponsored by The Technology Association of Iowa.

The association’s recognition confirms the message that Simpson has been sending to prospective students and anyone interested in technology and entrepreneurship: Why wait until graduation when you can develop your ideas today in a supportive campus setting?

“Our team went up against the best Iowa, Iowa State, and UNI had to offer and won,” said Chris Draper, director of EMERGE@Simpson. “Through EMERGE, I am certain this will be the first of many Simpson teams to compete and win against the best our state has to offer.”

Henry and Klein, along with Henry’s brother, Mike, a Simpson alum, developed the Snitch’n phone app after the idea was proposed by another Simpson student, Emma Negrete.

Snitch’n allows users to scroll through photos of people wanted by police and then send anonymous tips directly to the officer investigating the case.

To read the Des Moines Register’s coverage of the Prometheus Awards:

The Snitch’n phone app also was a finalist for Mobile App of the Year, but that award went to John Deere’s Mobile Data Transfer.

The awards banquet was held April 16 in Des Moines. Representing Simpson were the Henry brothers, Klein, Emma Negrete and her father, John, Draper and Sally Kreamer, director of the Fifth Judicial District’s Department of Correctional Services, which is using the Snitch’n app.

2015 MICS Results

Mark Brodie, Lydia Sinapova and Derek Lyon and 18 students attended the Midwest Instructional Computing Symposium (MICS) on April 10-11. This year’s MICS was held at the University of North Dakota (is that really even in the Midwest?). Despite the best efforts of Minneapolis road construction, rush-hour traffic and snow (!), the 3 vans arrived safely after a 10-hour drive.

In the first session Lydia and Derek gave a tag-team presentation on the undergraduate research in DNA computing which has taken place at Simpson in recent years. Derek explained the intricacies of DNA chemistry to an audience of computer scientists, while Lydia reported the results of student surveys showing which of their skills had been improved by their research experience.

The afternoon featured the poster session, followed by the robotics competition. Ellie Luebbe presented a poster on “Efficient Path Generation to Maximize Data Collection of Multiple Samples using Fluorescence Spectroscopy”. This work was done with Miles Kirts and Eric Marean. Park Mikels presented a poster on “Algorithmic Elimination of Unwanted DNA Hybridization in Complex DNA Mixtures”, co-authored with Geoff Converse and Dakota Spurrier.

Simpson participated in the robotics contest for the first time. In trials the robot performed admirably, but under the pressure of competition it got over-excited and its shot hit the back of the rim. The team of Nate Hayes, Kendra Klocke, Tony Clark, Josh Sutton, Holly Baiotto and Eric Marean worked hard between rounds cajoling, coaxing and coding to get it to improve, but were terminated. Hasta la vista, baby! Although the robot didn’t place, many valuable (and painful) lessons were learned and it was heard saying “I’ll be back” in an ominous tone.

The programming contest took place after dinner and ran for 3 hours. Six Simpson teams entered. The number of teams has increased steadily from two teams in 2010. Programming contests have become an important element of our program – they generate tremendous interest and excitement among students and provide an invaluable opportunity for improving programming and teamwork skills.

The team of Kendra Klocke, Tony Clark and Thomas Klein won 5th place out of 50 teams total, solving 5 out of 7 problems. This was their best finish at MICS. Since Kendra is graduating, Thomas and Tony plan to hold a hackathon to find a new team-member. Applicants should submit their resumes in binary.

The team of Maddie Thomas, Ellie Luebbe and Park Mikels placed 8th, solving 4 problems. This is an excellent performance – it was only their second time at MICS. They have 2 years of eligibility left and gained valuable experience.

The other four teams each solved 2 problems. These teams were: Jacob Williamson, Scott Henry, and Chris Colohan (23rd), Nate Hayes, Jacob Feld and Evan Kimberlin (27th), Teig Loge, Holly Baiotto, and Eric Marean (29th), and Audrey Lovan and Elisa Wildy (30th) . The last 2 teams were competing for the first time. Given that some teams solve no problems at all, this was an impressive result.

The contest finished near midnight. The students were so mentally exhausted that they went to bed immediately and definitely did not stay up until 3am.

The next morning Maddie Thomas presented her paper “Modeling of Linker Stoichiometry for Optimization of DNA Nanostructure Self-Assembly.” The paper described a project done with Esteban Sierra and Blake Tish in Lydia Sinapova’s Algorithms class. The paper was well received and generated a number of questions. Remarkably, Maddie was participating in a rugby tournament in South Dakota the day after MICS! Hopefully rugby won’t damage any of the brain cells needed for programming.

After traveling back by a different route (longer, but with less traffic, it also took about 10 hours), students and faculty returned to Simpson. Everyone had an enjoyable and productive time and expressed a willingness to return (except the robot).

The problems and solutions from the programming contest are available here.

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