Nature vs. Nurture

Simpson Colloquium SC 101 – Nature vs. Nurture

Were we born the way we are, or did we become who we are because of our experiences? Is nature or nurture more important? Scientists and philosophers have debated these questions for centuries. In this class, we will explore evidence for nature (our genes, brains, and evolution) and nurture (family, peers, schools, and other environmental influences) in human thought and behavior. We will then explore the fascinating ways nature and nurture interact, including how our environment can reshape our brain and change how genes function. We will learn how biology, psychology, and life experiences come together in crucial areas of human functioning like learning to talk, gender, and mental illness.

Meet Your ProfessorHeatherGroben

Heather Priess-Groben, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Psychology

Growing up in nearby Nebraska, I was always interested in the nature versus nurture debate: is it our genes or our environment that determines who we become? Given that my father and several of my siblings are adopted, I had a unique perspective to consider this question. My interest in nature and nurture eventually led me to become a psychology major at St. Olaf College, a liberal arts college similar to Simpson College in many ways. Several years later, as a Ph.D. student in developmental psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I delved into this topic more deeply when I examined how specific genes predict psychological disorders in adolescents, but only in the context of specific environments. That is, only by taking into account both nature and nurture could we get the full picture of why some adolescents develop disorders and others do not.

These days, I am having a great time watching how genes and environment work together in my most recent developmental psychology project, my one-year-old son. I also love talking about these questions with my students here at Simpson College, where I enjoy the same faculty-student interactions that I enjoyed myself as a liberal arts college student. I look forward to exploring with you the fascinating ways in which nature and nurture are interwoven, including how our experiences can influence the way our genes function and the way our brains develop. Welcome to Simpson College!

Meet your SC LeaderScreen Shot 2014-03-03 at 9.57.43 AM

Taryn Rasmussen

Hi everyone!!

My name is Taryn Rasmussen and I will be your Simpson Collioquium Leader for Professor Heather Groben. If you can’t pronounce my name it rhymes with Erin. I am from a small community in Northwest Iowa called Schaller. The population there was pretty small so it was important for me to find a college with a sense of community and Simpson was the perfect fit! I have an older sister (who actually went here) and an older brother so I am the baby of the family. I will be a junior in the fall and plan on graduating in 2016 with a Public Relations major. I have changed my mind multiple times because I love to learn and it was hard to pick just one! Simpson has so many great programs to choose from!

In high school I participated in NHS, theatre, speech, cheerleading, choir, and jazz choir. My love of music carried over into college and I am a member of the Women’s chorale.  Here at Simpson I also enjoy going to BINGO, the comedians, concerts, Religious Life’s Quench, and the off-campus church group of SALT. When I am not involved with campus activities and homework I enjoy reading, listening to music, playing video games, watching movies and hanging out with my friends.

I love meeting new people and I can’t wait to get to know all of you! I love social media and use it often so feel free to look me up on anything! If you have any questions I would be happy to answer them. I am excited to spend the fall semester with you and help your transition into college go as smoothly as possible! See you in June!!

Meet your Writing Fellowc amburgy pic

Christina Amburgy

My name is Christina Amburgy and I will be your Writing Fellow for Nature vs. Nurture! I am going to be a junior and I am majoring in Exercise Science. Aside from being your writing fellow, I am part of the Simpson Swimming and Diving team. I graduated from Knoxville High School and live in Pleasantville, Iowa. My hobbies are playing video games, Mancala, and being outdoors with my friends.

I am a very friendly and open person and I enjoy making friends with new people. My duty as your writing fellow is to make your transition from high school writing to college writing as ease free as possible. Along with meeting with you in class, I will be having one-on-one meetings with you where you can get more individualized assistance.

Feel free to add me on Facebook if you would like to contact me that way. My email is if you prefer to get a hold of me that way as well. I am very eager to meet you this coming year and I hope you have a wonderful summer!


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