Beyond the Classroom

Professor Amy Smallwood models for students how to serve others


For Simpson University Associate Professor of Outdoor Leadership Amy Smallwood, a college education extends beyond the walls of the classroom and encompasses opportunities to serve others.

“While the classroom certainly provides a quality educational experience for our students, we cannot ignore learning opportunities that take place outside of the classroom,” she says. “I love to walk alongside students during these times of informal education, helping them to see ways that God is working through the experience to form and shape them.”

Ethos of Service

Amy provides a positive example to students of what a life of service looks like. Since starting at Simpson in 2010, she has served three times as a faculty member of WorldSERVE, a student missions program. In 2013 and 2014, Amy mentored student missions teams going to Russia, and in 2016, she joined a team that went to El Salvador.

In 2014, Amy accompanied her team for two of the four weeks they served at a children’s camp by the Black Sea. Her decision to travel with her team was two-fold.

“I wanted to support an ethos of service at the university and to help students experience the impact that service can have on other communities and cultures,” she says. “Another reason was to take advantage of an opportunity to get to know students outside of the classroom and to spend time with them in an environment that would challenge them in many ways.”

The most impactful part of the trip for Amy was interacting with students while they were overseas.

“It was incredible to see our students thrive as they sought to demonstrate God’s love to those whose lives we intersected with for a short time,” she says. “I relished the one-on-one conversations I had with students as they processed through the cultural differences and their own desires to understand and demonstrate love.”

Passionate About Life

In addition to her work with WorldSERVE, Amy has been a member of Simpson’s Adopt-a-Floor residence hall program and attends numerous university music and athletic events each year. Outside of Simpson, she also volunteers her time and skills on the Shasta County Mountain Search and Rescue Team, on ski patrol at the Mt. Shasta Ski Park, and as a firefighter with the Shasta Lake Fire Protection District, among other efforts. She has also hosted students in her home and on outdoor adventures.

“Our students bring so much joy and energy to campus, and I often learn as much from them as they do from me,” she says. “Simpson students are passionate about life, and they come to Simpson seeking not only to learn academically but also to grow holistically in all areas of life.”

Outdoor Leadership

Amy is one of three professors in Simpson’s Leadership Studies Department, which includes the university’s unique Outdoor Leadership major and minor. Simpson is the only college on the West Coast to offer an Outdoor Leadership major and minor.

Beyond the Classroom
Students join Professor Amy Smallwood (in red) rock climbing at Yosemite National Park, about 300 miles southeast of Simpson University.

The Outdoor Leadership program is designed to prepare students for leadership careers in adventure-based outdoor programs, outdoor education programs, state and national park systems, and camps. Students learn skills in leading, making decisions, solving problems, teaching, and facilitating groups and gain competency in outdoor skills such as rock climbing, kayaking, wilderness expeditions, and much more.

“We believe that what’s most important is providing opportunities for students to grow in Christian character and leadership,” Amy says. “We want them to have strong theological and ethical grounding and to exemplify servant leadership.”

Service is also a key component of Simpson’s Outdoor Leadership program, and service projects are often incorporated into the curriculum. In the past, Outdoor Leadership students have helped clear trails and campsites of brush and debris, cleaned the beach along a section of Northern California’s Lost Coast Trail, taught Leave No Trace principles at a local elementary school, and volunteered at the Redding recycling center.

“Service is a way of life in our field, and we encourage our students to realize that the things they are learning need to be shared with others through service,” Amy says. “By this the love of God is made known to those around us.”

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