Gretchen Rosendahl ’09 heard a different call than most religion majors when she left Simpson College. Instead of a call to pastoral work, she chose to minister in a different way.
Rosendahl’s ministry career is not one of pastoral care and sermon delivery from a pulpit. Instead, she has been an officer with the Des Moines Police Department since 2012.
“I wanted to get into some kind of human service or public service so it was just kind of a matter of finding out what my calling was going to be,” she said. “I didn’t feel like ministry was my calling, but based on some of the classes I had taken, I realized that ministry is not always within the church.”
One of her religion professors, Mark Gammon, said he was at first confused by Gretchen’s career choice until he gave it a little more thought.
“Gretchen is able to understand multiple points of view, recognize opportunities for compromise and project authority,” he said. “She’s smart, reflective and thoughtful. We need more police with these kinds of virtues, and I’m sure that Simpson helped her to cultivate them.”
Rosendahl said her classes contained debates, discussions and various other ways to promote critical thinking.
“So I was constantly forced to listen to other peoples’ thoughts and ideas and the opportunity to give your own,” she said. “As an officer, you have to be able to talk to people on the street and have a conversation. Communication was big at Simpson, and it’s definitely a big part of what I do now.”
Rosendahl takes her own path in all that she does. Her time at Simpson was quite different than that of many of her peers.
“I was working full-time and a mother to my oldest daughter,” she said. “The goal was to continue school full-time, work full-time and graduate on time. And I did.”
After two years at Des Moines Area Community College, where she completed general education requirements, Rosendahl looked into transferring to complete her Bachelor’s degree. Being a commuter student and a mother, she needed a college close to Des Moines that would work well in her busy life. During her search, she said Simpson’s small class sizes and close-knit community stood out.
“I liked having smaller class sizes and being able to have more one-on-one discussions with professors so they get to know you better,” she said. “They understand what you might be going through as a student. The thing about Simpson, I just love the professors. The professors help bring a lot of life and color into their departments.”
At Simpson, Rosendahl began as a journalism major, but after one semester with professor Gammon in a humanities course and a religion course titled “Jesus,” she transitioned to a religion major.
“I would have to say his class is what sparked my interest,” she said. “To have professor Gammon mention after class ‘that was a good point’ or any kind of feedback was the first time I could see that these professors really do care about us and take the time to get to know us and give us the opportunity to find our voice.”
The respect between Rosendahl and professor Gammon went both ways, as he became her adviser and mentor during her final two years at Simpson.
“To give a sense of what Gretchen accomplished, she earned her college degree in four years, including a transfer, while raising an extremely young daughter,” he said. “She completed almost the entirety of her religion major in two years, which isn’t easy to do.”
Rosendahl impressed professors and fellow students alike during her time at Simpson, being vocal in class discussions and passionate about her viewpoints, two traits that have aided her career on the police force.
“I’ve certainly told her this more than once,” Gammon said. “I’ve had students who have gotten better grades, but none of whom I’m more proud than Gretchen. I’m always glad to run into her in Des Moines, and if we were able to request beat cops for our neighborhood, there is no doubt who would be on the top of my list. Working with Gretchen is one of the best experiences I’ve had as a teacher.”