Amidst the backdrop of a beautiful, bright spring day on the Simpson College campus, and an even brighter outlook for employment for college graduates, 374 students crossed the stage and received their degrees on Saturday, April 28.
And while not every graduate will be heading into the working world, those that are can expect employers to hire 2.1% more new college graduates than they did a year ago, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
This news proved true for a new alumnus of the college Mikayla Struebing. Struebing received the Trustees’ Academic Award, the highest honor given to a graduating senior of the college. The recipient must have the highest cumulative grade point average and accumulated the greatest number of quality points of any member of the graduating class.
Struebing was offered a job as an audit associate at KPMG, one of the Big Four accounting firms, months before she received her diploma. Internships, work experience and networking helped her land her first job and put her on the road to continued success.
Simpson President John Byrd, who presided over his last commencement as the leader of the college before retirement next month, welcomed the capacity crowd to the 146th Spring Commencement ceremony. “We are all very proud and excited for those of you who are receiving degrees today,” he said. “Welcome to all of you on this very special day as we gather to mark this time-honored and festive occasion.”
Byrd then recognized the honorary grand marshal, Bob Downing, a member of Simpson’s Class of 1963, which is marking its 50th anniversary.
Chad Earwood, Simpson College alumnus from the class of 1994, delivered the Commencement address. Earwood owns and operates several companies including logistics company eShipping. He also established the Engaged in Life Academy, a school that teaches youth to become solutions to tomorrow’s problems, and Engaged in Life, a company that provides leadership tools and resources to help people become successful in life.
Earwood challenged the class to find a balance between their work lives and their family lives and to be the change they wanted to see in the world.
The ceremony continued with the conferring of three honorary degrees to Chad Earwood, Nancy Byrd and John Byrd. Each received the degree Doctor of Humane Letters for their service to, and representation of, Simpson College.
Three faculty members also received awards for distinguished service at Commencement.
Dr. Clint Meyer, assistant professor of biology, received the 2013 Distinguished Junior Faculty award, selected by the Faculty Personnel Committee to honor an excellent young faculty member. Of Meyer, the award states, “He continues to seek creative methods for engaging students and improving their learning by attending STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) conferences. He has served as co-chair of the Simpson Undergraduate Research Symposium for four years. He is quick to recruit students at Admissions events, coordinate the many teaching assistants for his department and lead his departmental research scholarship selection committee.”
The Faculty Award for Exemplary Teaching was given to Dr. Debra Czarneski, associate professor of mathematics. The award was established in 2012 to recognize faculty members who exemplify excellence in teaching, civility and concern for students and colleagues, a commitment to value centered education, and service to students, the institution and the community. Czarneski “has promoted summer research work for all science division students. She helps lead a workshop in the fall semester to teach students how to find and apply for Research Experiences for Undergraduates. She is an exemplary teacher, a mentor, a colleague, and a leader.”
Simpson Senior class president Lindsay Nash presented the 2013 Distinguished Teaching Award to Dr. Ryan Rehmeier, associate professor of biology. This honor is voted on by the graduating class to recognize a faculty member’s outstanding ability as a teacher. “Rehmeier has served on numerous committees including the Teacher Education Committee, Multicultural and Minority Issues Committee, Animal Care and Use Committee, Review Panel for Scientific Reasoning, Campus Sustainability Working Group, and he currently chairs the Educational Policy and Curriculum Committee,” Nash said.
“Additionally, he received the 2011 Distinguished Jr. Faculty Award, the 2011 Faculty Member of the Year Award from Simpson College Student Support Services, and the 2010 and 2011 Outstanding Faculty Advisor for an Organization at Simpson College given by Omicron Delta Kappa.”
The senior class then stood as President Byrd conferred upon the class the respective degrees of Master of Arts in Criminal Justice, Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Arts. Once all had received their diplomas, they were asked to move their tassels from the right side to the left, signifying the final step in the graduation ceremony.
Mark Roberts, president of the Simpson College Alumni Association, a 1989 graduate, and father of 2013 graduate Logan Roberts, welcomed the class as the newest members of the College’s Alumni Association and encouraged them to stay involved with Simpson in the years ahead.
The Rev. Michael Morgan, pastor of Marion First United Methodist Church in Marion, Iowa, and father of 2013 graduate Sarah Morgan, gave the benediction before the crowd gathered for fellowship, photos, congratulations and final goodbyes in and around the Kent Campus Center.