May Term: Intense. Focused. Fun.

By Laura Wiersema ’18 

While other schools wrap up their spring semester, complete with finals stress and deadlines, Simpson students are starting their favorite time of year: May Term.

Confused? May Term is a three-week term in when students take one class. But these aren’t your typical 101 courses.

How about analyzing themes of love and death in the Harry Potter books? Or researching and developing alternative worlds? Maybe learn the history of rock ‘n’ roll?

You’re not dreaming. These are all real classes Simpson professors offer during May Term.

“Courses offered on campus tend to be more imaginative and interactive than those offered during a regular semester,” said Maeve Callan, the associate professor of religion who’s teaching, “Love, Death and Harry Potter.” “May Term offers us more of an opportunity to think outside the box, to make the world our classroom by studying medieval European history or exploring tropical ecology at the sites themselves.”

If none of those topics interest you, don’t worry. May Term course offerings vary every year. Students are required to take at least two May term courses to graduate.

Some see it as an opportunity to explore outside their majors while others use it as a way to meet curriculum requirements. A biology major has to get their arts credit somehow, right?

First-year Patrick Long-Quian of Houston, Texas, is taking “Agents of Change,” a May Term course focused on creating a presentation about sexual assault and harassment that will be showed annually during welcome week.

“I’m taking May Term because it’s an opportunity to take a course that can broaden your horizons,” Patrick said. “The course is outside my music major, but I think that it’s such an important topic that it doesn’t matter what major you are.”

The three-week term is also a great time for students to travel, especially those who struggle to fit studying abroad for a semester into their schedules. May Term includes several course offerings in other countries like Costa Rica, Japan and England, just to name a few.

Don’t get the wrong impression. These students may be traveling, but it’s not simply a vacation to jump-start their summers. Experience abroad classes also have a study focus.

One trip to Britain, France and Germany, for example, examines how each country views World War II differently while visiting different museums and memorials. Who’s portrayed as the enemies, the victims, the winners, the perpetrators?

Still other courses help students explore the field they’re hoping to enter. Career Observation, led by Bobbi Sullivan, director of career development and civic engagement, allows first- and second-year students to job shadow a professional in their desired area of study.

For example, first-year student Zach Theis of Newton is thinking of majoring in biochemistry and minoring in criminal justice and forensic science. During May term, he’ll be job shadowing in the criminal investigation unit of the Des Moines Police Department.

“I chose to take this May Term because I wanted to get my name out there in the criminal justice industry, and I wanted to make sure I absolutely wanted to go into the forensic sciences,” Zach said. “I am hoping to gain connections, as well as a better idea of what the CIU does and what it’s like being in the field.”

For some students, especially seniors, May Term offers the opportunity to get a head start on summer jobs or careers. But most students enjoy the intense and innovative learning experience that the three-week courses provide.

No matter the course, on or off campus, May Term always offers something unique. So take it all in. What you learn may surprise you.

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