Britney Samuelson ’17 Proved Students Can Make a Difference From Day One

At Simpson, students don’t wait until they earn a degree to start making a difference.

How many college students help get a piece of legislation passed in their state legislature? How many are invited to the bill-signing ceremony and handed a pen from the governor?

Britney Samuelson did all of that, and she helped create a new major in the process.

“It’s so incredible to me that I had a part in making law that will actually improve people’s lives, and if I could do that the rest of my life it would make me happy,” said Brittney, who graduated in May with a Bachelor of Arts in social justice, applied philosophy and Spanish.

Britney’s success story begins in Newton, where she grew up. She chose Simpson because of the opportunities provided through the John C. Culver Public Policy Center, one of the features that sets Simpson apart.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do when I arrived at Simpson,” she said. “After taking a variety of interesting courses and exploring different careers through the internships I had, I began to realize that I loved public policy and the impact it can have on people’s lives.”

Britney decided that majoring in a single discipline felt too limited, so her advisor, Allison Wolf, professor of Philosophy, recommended that she consider creating her own major through Simpson’s award-winning Independent Interdisciplinary Major.

Britney was skeptical, but after conducting some research, she decided to create a social justice major. Simpson now offers that major to all students.

“It kind of feels like being a pioneer,” she said.

In 2016, while working as an intern for the United Way of Central Iowa, Britney was asked to research what other states offered in terms of high school equivalency degrees.

The state of Iowa offered one option, she discovered, while some states offer several including providing high school credits for work experience.

“The skills I learned at Simpson were how to do comprehensive research and how to look critically at data,” she said.

Based on Britney’s research, the Iowa Board of Education formed a task force to review the results. They proposed, and the State Legislature approved, giving the board more flexibility in providing other options, as long as they are as rigorous as achieving a high school degree.

Most bills take years to get approved. This one took months.

“It was crazy,” Britney said. “I was so amazed by the whole thing. This just moved along so quickly.”

And that’s how she found herself accepting one of the pens that then-Gov. Terry Branstad used to sign the legislation.

“That was really cool, to see the governor sign the bill that I helped create,” she said.

Britney knows Simpson students don’t have to wait to achieve success. They can start on Day One.

She now works as an executive assistant at the Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Civic Engagement.

“College is truly a time to grow into the person that you want to be, and everyone at Simpson helps make that process so much easier,” she said. “I am so thankful for the experience and the people that I’ve met here because they have given me the tools I need to be successful in this new and exciting chapter of my life.”