“Simpson was just what I needed it to be and more than I hoped it would be.”
Luke Kirchner, a junior from Urbandale, had a good idea of what he wanted to do with his life and his experience at Simpson College put him on the path to successfully achieving his goals.
But even he could not have foreseen the extent of his achievements – including being selected from a nation-wide pool for the one, full tuition scholarship to receive his engineering degree from Washington University in St. Louis.
Let’s start at the beginning. Luke was looking at schools and decided to attend Simpson because he wanted to be part of the 3-2 engineering dual-degree program offered by the college. The degree allows a student to study at Simpson for three years, then transfer to an approved engineering school to study for two years. The result is the student receives a Bachelor of Arts degree from Simpson College as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering.
“I understood that having experience in the liberal arts would help me stand apart from other engineers and give me an advantage in my career,” Luke stated. But he didn’t stop there.
Arriving at Simpson, Luke joined one of the fraternities on campus, Kappa Theta Psi and discovered his potential for leadership. He held many positions within the fraternity and thrived in the roles.
“Greek life at Simpson is unique in that it debunks all of the popular stereotypes of Greeks. I liked stepping up to these roles because it made me realize I really could become the change I wanted to see.”
During his first year, Luke was recognized as Academic Leader in Omicron Delta Kappa’s leadership banquet, and was treasurer for Alpha Lambda Delta, both honor societies on campus. In subsequent years, he has made the President’s List, was elected president of the Physics and Engineering Club, was initiated into Omicron Delta Kappa, was the driving force in bringing a chapter of Sigma Pi Sigma, the national physics honor society, to campus, participated in summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs), and presented his research at Simpson’s undergraduate research symposiums held in the fall and spring.
Luke credits the REUs for giving him a lot of hands on experience. He applied and was accepted into a REU in electrical engineering at North Carolina State University. He built upon that experience and attended an intensive (completing an entire course in just 11 days!) January term class at Washington University in St. Louis – one of the schools with which Simpson has the dual-degree transfer arrangement.
“I attended the class every day from 8 am – 5 pm, even on New Year’s Day,” Luke explained. “It really was intense!”
The following year, Luke applied for and was accepted into several summer REUs and chose to attend Washington University’s program in chemical engineering because it gave him the chance to go to Australia and build connections with international universities.
All of Luke’s experiences led him back to Washington University.
“I knew if I wanted to attend Washington University, I would need financial help,” Luke said. “Chris Kroeger, director of the dual degree engineering program at Washington University, encouraged me to apply for the Harold P. Brown Fellowship which offered several partial scholarships to students but only one full tuition scholarship. I knew at that moment I would need to win that scholarship so that’s what I set my sights on.”
Luke was accepted to Washington University, then he had to submit an essay on why he wanted to be an engineer, what he would do once he was an engineer and what impact he could make at Washington University. His accompanying list of activities and accomplishments at Simpson impressed the scholarship committee.
Chris Kroeger had this to say about Luke and his application. “Simpson does an outstanding job of preparing their students for pre-engineering study. Luke acquired several great research experiences, which made his application further standout, including his independent Physics research at Simpson.”
Applications for the Brown Fellowship were received from students from 40 institutions around the country and were very competitive.
Luke Kirchner from Simpson College came out on top.
“I would have to say the main reason I had the success I have had at Simpson is because of the wonderful faculty,” Luke said. “The professors here are great and truly want you to succeed. My Greek life experience also helped shape who I am today.
“My Simpson experience will help me in my next step because it taught me to be a leader. Simpson is a great place because it offers plenty of opportunities for young people to play major roles in changing the school and the community for the better. At bigger schools, it would have been nearly impossible to affect that kind of change.”
Luke understands how important those skills will be in his life ahead. “Wherever life takes me, knowing how to make an impact is a very valuable skill that I will continue to take advantage of.”