A native of Arizona, Jason Simpson lives in Toledo, where he teaches at Val D’Or Community College. An historian by professional training, Jason Simpson serves as an instructor for history—specializing in Latin America—and the Spanish language. His research specialties include US-Mexico foreign relations, immigration within Latin America, and the Mexican-American War. He is widely published in the field, having contributed well-received original papers to peer-reviewed journals. He was a delegate from the University of Arizona system to the Latin American Studies Association meeting in 2013 in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. His paper presented at the conference, “Water Rights and Rural Development as Trans border Issues” was well received by LASA, and honored with several awards for excellence in post-graduate research. Working with both graduate students and undergraduate, Jason’s teaching career has had tangible results, and many of his former students have gone on to some of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the United States.
In addition to his academic pursuits, Jason enjoys kayaking the rivers and canyons of the American Southwest. An enthusiastic gardener, he incorporates indigenous techniques he encounters during his research trips into his home practice. He reads widely, exploring literature, history, current events, and politics from his home library. He and his wife Kim are also world travelers, frequently making sojourns across Latin America. The couple are both devoted fans of the Arizona Cardinals, and are frequently spotted at home games during the season.
Jason Simpson was born in Stedman, Arizona, on a small homestead within an hour of the border between the United States and Mexico. That frontier would loom large in his early life, as day-to-day existence brought his family into contact with immigrants and refugees from Latin America entering the United States. His father was a rural postmaster and a native Arizonan; his mother was a homemaker from Oklahoma who moved to the Southwest in her late teens. Simpson’s home life was idyllic, combining the best of small town life with an outward focus. His parents put great emphasis on education, and Simpson was a good student throughout high school. An Eagle Scout, he developed a great love of the outdoors and began a lifelong obsession with whitewater rafting and kayaking. He also played high school football and basketball.
Graduating top of his class, Jason Simpson was accepted to the University of Colorado at Boulder. In that quintessential American college town, his education continued. Initially intending to study English literature, Jason found himself drawn to history, in particular the stories of the region from whence he came. Jason’s studies took him into the history of the US-Mexico border, and the complicated stories that comprise it. The often contentious history involved the United States, Great Britain, Imperial Spain, the Mexican Empire and the later republics, and a number of Native American nations that found themselves in the way of the colonial juggernauts. As this epic unfolded before him over the course of his undergraduate career, Jason Scott AZ decided to pursue it as an academic career. His undergraduate thesis addressed the ongoing issues of immigration over the course of the mid-20th century. Well-received, it became a key component in his future success. Graduating Summa Cum Laude, he elected to follow his love of Latin America.
This love led Jason Simpson AZ to join the Peace Corps following graduation. He was posted to Costa Rica after undergoing additional language and cultural training. There, he worked in a small village in the remote interior of the country. He ran a small dispensary, oversaw rural development projects, including an irrigation system to supply safe drinking water to the community, taught health and safety practices, and taught English. Over the course of two years, Simpson developed his language and cultural skills while cultivating close relationships with local people. Forging lifelong friendships made it difficult to leave the country when his two years of service were up, and Simpson would forever treasure the memories he made.
Returning to his hometown of Stedman, he taught at a local high school while working on his teaching license via an online program. Teaching suited Simpson. It came naturally to him—Jason had always had a way with young people. It also built on his academic achievements and experiences in the Peace Corps. Thus motivated, Jason began to look for ways to combine his various skills into one cohesive life and career. A telephone conversation with a former professor from UC Boulder inspired him to further his academic career. Calling up on his old friend’s assistance, Jason made the decision to pursue a Ph.D. A close examination of his field and the available programs led Jason to select the Institute for Pacific Studies in San Diego, California. There he found faculty devoted to similar causes, including Stephen Haber and Evelyn Hu-DeHart. These luminaries in the field were able to direct his graduate work in the best possible way.
Jason Simpson of Arizona studied the history of the border extensively as an undergraduate, and delved even deeper while in graduate school. He examined the frontier between the US and Mexico not just from a political angle, but from cultural and environmental views as well. He was intrigued by the issues of water rights and immigration and the ways in which they interacted. Looking at select communities along the border, he compiled a huge amount of original research. Utilizing demographic data, historical maps and charts, geologic surveys, and contemporary environmental research, Simpson made some important new observations about the impact of settlement and migration in the Southwest. The environmental and social implications of these demographic movements were previously studied separately. Jason was among the first to work to combine the two, synthesizing a new approach to the field of study.
In San Diego, Jason began volunteering with the local homeless population. Inspired by his time in the Peace Corps, he decided to do so in order to continue his ideal of service for others. This became a lasting interest that would stay with him. He developed another personal interest. A lifelong athlete from the deserts of the Southwest, Jason was immediately fascinated by the ocean. Exploring the beaches of San Diego, he met swimmers and surfers from around the region. When another graduate student, Kim Walker, volunteered to give him surfing lessons, he took her up on it. Jason Simpson and Kim were married two years later.
Jason successfully defended his dissertation after four years of study, and his thesis was submitted for publication. As the job search began, Simpson chose to focus on smaller schools and community colleges rather than pursuing bigger positions at more prominent schools. Longing to return to his native state, he made contact with Val D’Or Community College in Toledo, AZ. The low student/teacher ratios and emphasis on classroom instruction appealed to him, and he sought and received a teaching position. Jason and Kim bought a small house near campus, and settled in.
Jason was rapidly a shining star among the faculty; he was honored as the best first-year teacher in the community college system. He introduced Kim to the world of the deserts and canyons, teaching her to kayak in a belated repayment for her surfing lessons. Jason and his wife made it a point to volunteer regularly, despite their respective busy work schedules.
Simpson continues to hone his craft as a teacher, and is considering furthering his career at a larger institution. He is drawn to the additional challenges that larger classes and student loads present, as well as the additional opportunities, both professional and social, available at bigger schools. He would like to further his professional and research connections, and to begin presenting his research at a broader array of academic conferences.
He continues to produce and publish ground breaking original research, taking full advantage of his proximity to the border and his fluency in Spanish in order to work with multiple archives and local resources. He is planning a six month sabbatical, during which he will travel to municipal centers in the Mexican Border States and their US counterparts. His planned research project involves examining local views of development over the course of the 20th century, and a local level analysis of the resulting social and environmental changes. He is planning on consolidating some of his existing research into a single publication: a book of essays on the history and cultural changes which occurred in the period he studies.
Jason also plans to pursue his many hobbies, regardless of where he is. He and Kim have begun training for a marathon, a mutual first for the couple. They continue to kayak the rivers and canyons of the region, and are planning to take a kayaking vacation to Sonora, Mexico. They are considering starting a family. Jason Simpson’s love for his native state Arizona may soon pass to a new generation.