André Thomas ’14 had not lived in Indianola long when he noticed the beautiful college campus in the middle of the city.
He drove past it twice a day, to and from classes at Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny.
But something about Simpson College intrigued him. He wanted to know more.
“Every day, as I would drive back and forth and past Simpson, I became very curious about what Simpson College had to offer,” he says.
That led him to a conversation with Gwen Schroder, director of transfer enrollment at Simpson, and that conversation changed his life.
“Before I knew it, I was attached to Simpson,” Thomas says.
Thomas became another example of a Transfer Success Story.
Choosing the right college is a difficult decision no matter what the age of the student. Students decide to transfer for a variety of reasons.
When they do, Simpson is eager to help. Thomas can attest to that.
He met with Schroder, who told him how easy it would be to transfer his DMAAC credits to Simpson. He then met with Fred Jones, professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice, a subject that Thomas wanted to study.
“It went very smoothly,” Thomas said. “I was well prepared.”
Moving from one location to another had been a frequent occurrence in his life. His parents were both in the military and often were required to change addresses.
After graduating from East Meadow High School in New York, Thomas was prepared to join them in military life, joining the U.S. Air Force in 2007, but he decided not to make that a career and left in 2009.
How did he end up in Iowa? The U.S. Army transferred his mother there, so he joined her in Indianola.
Thomas began taking Simpson classes in August 2012. That first semester, he spent most of his time getting settled and adjusting to the academic requirements.
“Then I got busy,” he says, laughing.
He certainly did, serving on the student conduct board, as well as the Alpha Tau Omega scholarship committee. He also was a member of Omicron Delta Kappa; a teacher assistant for the class taken by transfer students; a photographer for the Multi-Cultural Student Alliance and the International Student Organization; and a historian for Hope for Africa.
He explains: “I would have to go back to the quote by Mahatma Gandhi, who said the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in other things. By getting myself involved on campus and helping other organizations, I was able to find more of me, which was very helpful for my growth.”
In 2013, Thomas embarked on a Study Abroad trip to India, which ignited his interest in international peace and conflict resolution issues.
“There were so many amazing things,” Thomas says. “Religious diversity, cultural diversity. The vibe of the place, the conversations, the culture, the food. It was exposure to something that was much different than the U.S.
“I wondered, how can I give to them what they gave me to me? They gave me a grand experience. I would like to offer my help, or whatever I can do, to show them my gratitude for them helping me.”
Thomas graduated in April with a degree in criminal justice. He has been accepted into the graduate program at American University in Washington, D.C., where he will study international peace and conflict resolution.
His goal: “I would like to work for the United Nations, or as a White House advisor dealing with international conflict, or even become a professor at the United States Institute of Peace. I want to go big places.”
Those are ambitious goals, but Thomas believes that Simpson provided him with the skills necessary to achieve them.
“Simpson College has definitely prepared me,” he says. “I’ve been accepted to my dream school, American University, in the program that I want to study. Were it not for Simpson College providing me the appropriate tools, this would not have come to fruition.”
Thomas has a message for any other students thinking about transferring or trying to choose a college.
“I would tell them that Simpson College offers great service in the realm of education,” he says. “I would tell them that Simpson will surround you with the tools that you need to become whatever it is you want. It offers you the ability to grow exponentially.
“And you don’t have to look very hard for those tools. They’re all around you.”