Simmons Professors among those honored by Provost

Three Simmons faculty members were recognized at the SMU Provost’s 2024 Faculty Career Achievement Awards reception on April 15 at the Umphrey Lee Center.

Greta Davis Greta Davis, Ph.D., Chair of the Counseling Department, Michael Harris, Ed.D., Chair of Education Policy & Leadership and Anthony Petrosino, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Research & Outreach, were honored as faculty with state and national recognition.

Davis is the recipient of the 2023 Community Advocacy and Service Award from the Texas Career Development Association. The award was given in recognition of her five years of service leading the statewide Career Counseling Peer Consultation Group. The purpose of the group is to build the capacity of counselors in Texas to provide equitable and culturally responsive career services. The award was presented at the TCDA annual conference in November 2023.

Michael HarrisThe American Council on Education (ACE) announced in February 2024 that Michael Harris, Ed.D. was named an ACE Fellow for academic year 2024-25. Following nomination by the senior administration of their institutions and a thorough application process, 26 Fellows were selected this year. The prestigious Fellows program incorporates signature features such as retreats, interactive and virtual learning opportunities, visits to campuses and other higher education-related organizations, and placement at another higher education institution. All these experiences are condensed into a single year, providing the Fellows with years of on-the-job experience and skills development.

Fellows learn about innovative higher education practices that can be brought back to their home universities after the fellowship.

Tony Petrosino Petrosino was named a member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s committee on PreK-12 STEM Education Innovations throughout the 2023-24 academic year. The committee is working to identify research gaps regarding the interconnected factors that foster and hinder successful implementation of promising, evidence-based PreK-12 STEM education innovations at the local, regional, and national level. The work will result in making recommendations to the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education, and other national, state, and local educational agencies.

According to Dean Stephanie Knight the recognition of Davis, Harris and Petrosino is well-deserved. “We can be proud that these state and national recognitions elevate the reputations of these faculty members and grateful that they also raise Simmons as a whole.”

Davis, Harris and Petrosino say they are grateful for the provost’s acknowledgement and enjoy the work they are doing or have done on a state and national level.

SMU Simmons Professor named Poet Laureate for City of Dallas

SMU and the Simmons School of Education and Human Development are celebrating the announcement of Mag Gabbert, Ph.D. as the new Poet Laureate for the City of Dallas. Mayor Eric Johnson announced the news at an April 10th morning press conference at City Hall.  Simmons Dean Stephanie Knight and City Councilwoman Gay Donnell Willis were on hand for the ceremony.

Mag Gabbert, Ph.D. as the new Poet Laureate for the City of DallasThe Dallas native and graduate of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, says her new role is the thrill of a lifetime. “This city has always been very important to me, so it is no exaggeration to say that becoming only the second Dallas Poet Laureate in the city’s history is the greatest honor of my life up to this point.  I’m feeling immensely grateful and humbled.”

In her official role as poet laureate Gabbert will undertake various initiatives in partnership with the Dallas public library and the city’s Office of Arts and Culture. She hopes to inspire and unite the people of Dallas. “I hope that, by taking on this role, I’ll be able to bring people from all across this vast community together; I hope to forge new connections; and I hope to inspire our residents to further enrich their own lives through art. Not everyone realizes that they, too, can gain access to and devote time to art—but art should be available for everyone, and now I have the opportunity to help make it so.”

Gabbert is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Human-Centered Interdisciplinary Studies in the Simmons School teaching doctoral and master’s courses such as Transformational Narratives;  The Art of Creativity and Expression; and Translations and Interpretations Across Art Forms.

“SMU is proud to have Dr. Gabbert on our faculty and delighted that she will be able to share her considerable talents with the City of Dallas,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “In an age where social media tends to drive us to instant reactions, poetry gives us a reason to slow down and think. It’s a great gift that she shares with us.”

Dr. Stephanie Knight, Dean of SMU Simmons School of Education and Human Development, says the entire university, especially Simmons, is extremely proud and pleased about the announcement. “We are thrilled that Dr. Mag Gabbert has been named the Poet Laureate for the City of Dallas. With her many literary awards and published works in national and international reviews, we are not surprised she would achieve this impressive honor. Knight went on to say, “Dr. Gabbert’s students know her as an outstanding professor and now they have further confirmation they are being taught by the best  ̶  a poet laureate.”

Gabbert’s impressive list of accomplishments include the Pushcart Prize (2023), 92NY Discovery Award (2021),  and the Charles B. Wheeler Prize in Poetry (2021) from The Ohio State University and its literary magazine, The Journal, for her debut collection SEX DEPRESSION ANIMALS. The book was published by Mad Creek Books—trade imprint of The Ohio State University Press—in 2023​.

Learn more about Gabbert at

SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development Continues its Rise in National Rankings of Best U.S. Grad Schools

SMU’s Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development has once again advanced in the U.S. News & World Report 2024-2025 national rankings. Simmons remains in the top 50 and  is now ranked #48 out of  255 participating public and private graduate schools of education around the country.  That is an improvement from #49 last year.

Simmons maintains the #11 spot among all private universities on the list.  Simmons is #1 among private universities in the Southwest and is ranked #3 among all colleges in Texas. Statewide, only the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M at College Station, both public universities, have a ranking higher than Simmons.

According to Leon Simmons Endowed Dean Stephanie L. Knight, Ph.D. who has led SMU Simmons since 2017, “We are very pleased with our continued upward trajectory and steady rise in the rankings. I am grateful to Simmons’ dedicated research faculty members who I believe are the biggest factor in our continued advancement.”

To rank schools of education, U.S. News & World Report considers many factors including research activity, academic quality, faculty resources, student selectivity, doctoral degrees granted, as well as peer assessment scores.

External funding per tenured faculty member at Simmons is $647,695 which is a dramatic increase from 2019 when $143,700 per faculty member was reported. In fact, Simmons is ranked #1 among all colleges of education in Texas in terms of funded research per faculty member.

Knight says that Simmons will continue to look for ways to further improve learning through research. “Our researchers will remain diligent in their meaningful work not for the rankings but more importantly to improve learning for students here and around the world.”

The latest national rankings were released online on April 9, 2024, and can be found at

Simmons Faculty and Students to present six papers at ISLS Conference

Congratulations to Dr. Candace Walkington and the team of SMU Simmons faculty and students who have 6 papers accepted at The International Society of the Learning Sciences (ISLS) conference which will take place in Buffalo, New York, on June 10-14, 2024.

Simmons is proud of Dr. Walkington, along with other faculty members Drs. Anthony Cuevas, Anthony Petrosino, Kelsey Schenck, Prajakt Pande, post-doc researchers Drs. LeaAnne Daughrity, and Max Sherard, as well as Simmons Ph.D. students Saki Milton, Marc Sager, Julianna Washington, and Theodora Beauchamp.

The following are the references of the accepted papers:

  1. Sager, M., Sherard, M., Milton, S., Walkington, C., & Petrosino, A. Learning math through a game-based personal excursion.
  2. Schenck, K., Kim, D., Xia, F., Swart, M., Walkington, C., & Nathan, M.J. Exploring Interactive Technology for Supporting Embodied Geometric Reasoning.
  3. Daughrity, L., Walkington, C., Sherard, M., Pande, P., Beauchamp, T., & Cuevas, A. From Abstract to Tangible: Leveraging Virtual Reality and GeoGebra for Playful Math Education.
  4. Sherard, M., Walkington, C., Daughrity, L., Pande, P., Beauchamp, T., Petrosino, A., & Cuevas, A. Pedagogical Issues in Virtual Reality Mathematics Education.
  5. Milton, S., Sager, M., & Walkington, C. Exploring STEM Identity and Belonging in Minoritized Girls at a Summer Camp.
  6. Washington, J., Darwin, T., Beauchamp, T., & Walkington, C. A Qualitative Comparison of Mathematics Teachers’ and Students’ Experiences in a Virtual Reality Algebra Application.


Simmons mourns passing of West Dallas Community partner

The SMU Simmons School of Education and Human Development is mourning the death of West Dallas community leader Raul Reyes, Jr. Reyes, 50, was born and raised in the Los Altos neighborhood of Dallas and was forever devoted to serving his West Dallas community.  Reyes was passionate about the issues that impacted the people who lived there including education, housing rights, gentrification, and drug abuse prevention to name a few.

Reyes led his community in the partnership with SMU Simmons and Toyota USA Foundation in the establishment of the West Dallas STEM School  on the campus of the former Pinkston High School. Simmons Dean Stephanie Knight calls Reyes a tremendous partner and representative of the West Dallas community.  “Raul offered astute insight into the needs of the community he loved so well. His input and support were so valuable in the creation and operation of the West Dallas STEM school and feeder pattern.  I feel like I have personally lost a friend.  We at SMU Simmons School of Education and Human Development send our sincere condolences to Raul’s family and friends.”

Dr. Toni Harrison-Kelly, Executive Director of Simmons’ The Budd Center:  Involving Communities in Education,  worked closely with Reyes on several community projects. “Raul was a true leader and advocate for West Dallas, and his impact will be deeply missed. We are committed to continuing to support and empower the West Dallas community, building on the foundation that Raul helped to create. Together, we will honor his legacy by working towards making West Dallas more equitable for all its residents.”


Simmons Researchers Author Book on Cutting Edge Teaching Approach to STEM

A new book that focuses on integrated project-based instruction in STEM should  help teachers make Science, Technology, Engineering and Math curriculum more understandable for their students. That is the hope of the authors, Simmons Associate Dean Anthony Petrosino, Ph.D., Annette and Harold Simmons Centennial Chair Candace Walkington, Ph.D., and their colleague Denise Ekberg.

The new book, Frameworks for Integrated Project-Based Instruction in STEM Disciplines, takes a deep dive into a teaching method that has grown in popularity. According to Petrosino, “Project-based instruction has probably never been as popular as it is today. But with that popularity comes many different interpretations of what is meant by this type of instruction. We hope this book will help interested teachers, administrators, and researchers navigate the challenges and enjoy the benefits of project-based instruction.”

The book features deep coverage of multiple topics in PBI including supportive structures to make PBI easier to implement, student-driven inquiry, driving questions, and development of lessons based on national and state standards. There are also chapters dedicated to the history of PBI, implementation of PBI at scale, and future directions of PBI.

Walkington says project-based instruction is  an important way to make STEM learning relevant to students. “Kids ask the question, ‘When am I ever going to use this?’ It was important to write this book to give teachers more tools to bring this relevance into their classrooms. When kids confront real-world problems that  matter in their lives and communities, motivation and deeper learning can be fostered.”

The book brings together more than 25 years of applied research and instruction with preservice and in-service teachers from across the country. The authors also relied on the work they and their colleagues conducted in the STEM disciplines and the learning sciences. They say they are confident readers of the book will know it was written by people who have “walked the walk” when it comes to project-based instruction.

The hope is that the book will help give more STEM teachers, especially math teachers, the tools they need to try PBI in their classrooms. And while teachers might at first find the approach a bit intimidating to implement, the authors know from experience that it can be incredibly rewarding for students and teachers. For more visit


Simmons’ reflections on MLK, Jr.

The impact of the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the country and the world is truly immeasurable.  On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day , Dr. Toni-Harrison-Kelly, Dr. Magdalena Pando, and Dr. Greta Davis offer personal reflections on Dr. King and his contributions.

Dr. Toni Harrison-Kelly, Executive Director, The Budd Center: Involving Communities in Education

Dr. Toni Harrison KellyGrowing up, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was the first Black person that I learned about that held the title “doctor.” His representation of educational excellence was a beacon to me, allowing me to see myself attaining the same status in a country that for centuries denied that right to people who look like me. I stand on the shoulders of Black academics throughout history who, in Dr. King’s case, died because of their thought leadership. I can dream bigger because of his legacy. My prayer is that his achievements and life of sacrificial service are seen as blueprints for many more generations to come.

Dr. Magdalena Pando, Associate Professor Bilingual Education, Dept. of Teaching & Learning

Dr. Magdalena PandoDr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s impact on education and people of color is most evident in his activism and instrumental role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Dr. King believed in breaking down racial barriers by stressing that access to quality education was crucial for African Americans and other people of color. His extensive efforts in advocating for racial justice not only inspired change in educational policies but also serve as a catalyst for educators to create inclusive and equitable learning environments for Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). In education, we honor his legacy through an unwavering commitment to social justice, by creating opportunities for a quality education for all students, and by taking equitable approaches that align with his dream of racial justice.

Dr. Greta Davis, Chair, Dept. of Counseling

Dr. Greta DavisDr. Martin Luther King bravely called out injustice and inspired change through peaceful process. He continues to inspire generations after him to advocate and fight for social justice and peace for all peoples. One of my favorite quotes from Dr. King is “The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand at times of challenge and controversy,” which is a call to action to all of us to face times of adversity with bravery and integrity.



Lipsmeyer named Simmons’ Liaison to Texoma Semiconductor Tech Hub

Dean Stephanie Knight has named Dr. Lin Lipsmeyer, Department Chair of SMU Simmons Teaching and Learning Department, as Simmons’ Liaison in the Texoma Semiconductor Tech Hub (TSTH) announced by President Joe Biden in October.  SMU was the only site in Texas selected and will serve as the lead agency in the economic development initiative to strengthen, build and drive innovation in the existing semiconductor supply chain in North Texas and Oklahoma.

Dr. Lipsmeyer says she has always been interested in interdisciplinary and collaborative work built on partnerships and is honored and excited about her appointment and the work ahead. “The TSTH provides such partnership opportunities to strengthen future learning and workforce. Serving as the liaison between Simmons and the TSTH consortium, I hope to use my research, interest, and experience to help Simmons, SMU, and the Tech Hub members to build innovative workforce pathways and open up learning and workforce opportunities for all.”

The consortium has started planning its Phase 2 proposals and will have its first workshop for the TSTH members on December 13 to build the model to promote enhanced collaboration, expand the region’s technical workforce and catalyze the commercialization of technological advancements through the development of three main areas.

Simmons School of Education and Human Development hopes to be involved in the overall vision and involved especially in the area of Workforce Development to promote opportunities at multiple skill levels for students and adult learners to enter the workforce, acquire new knowledge and obtain advanced degrees and certifications while minimizing the time it takes to do so. Outreach education will begin at the K-12 level while adult learners can also find a pathway to advance their careers in the semiconductor industry.

Dr. Tony Cuevas- Simmons Assistant Dean for Technology and Innovation, Dr. Richard Duschl -Caruth Institute and T&L affiliate faculty, and Dr. Corey Brady- Director of the Technology Enhanced Immersive Learning (TEIL) Cluster will also represent Simmons at the December 13 Tech Hub meeting.  Dean Knight says, “I am confident these outstanding educators led by Dr. Lin Lipsmeyer will contribute their extensive expertise in research, technology, and teaching to  benefit the important work of the Tech Hub. This is an incredible opportunity for SMU and Simmons as part of the consortium to have a major impact on our country and the world.” For details of the Texoma Semiconductor Tech Hub visit

Article co-authored by Simmons Researcher honored with Editor’s Choice in The Journal of Educational Psychology

Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba, the Patsy and Ray Caldwell Centennial Chair in Simmons Teaching and Learning, has co-authored an article published in The Journal of Educational Psychology that was selected as the Editor’s Choice. According to the Journal, the article titled: The relations of kindergarten early literacy skill trajectories on common progress monitoring measures to subsequent word reading skills for students at risk for reading difficulties, was chosen for this honor  for “reflecting science that is incredibly important, impactful, and deserves additional visibility for the whole field.”

The study, published in the Journal of Educational Psychology (Clemens et al., 2023), addressed the need for reliable and efficient assessment data to inform early and preventative literacy interventions for students at risk of developing reading disabilities. Researchers asked two primary questions: Does growth on certain brief curriculum-based measures predict word reading skills at the end of kindergarten and first grade and which measures are better at predicting which students would have weak word reading skill profiles at the end of first grade?

According to Al Otaiba, “We learned that in fall of kindergarten it was important to monitor letter sound fluency (LSF), or the number of sounds that students name correctly in a minute. During this instructional period, LSF growth was best able to predict students who later struggled to read. However, by spring of kindergarten, as instruction starts to focus on reading words and texts, it was important to monitor word reading fluency (WRF), or the number of words read correctly.”  WRF includes short words (2-6 letters); some that are decodable and some that are irregular. Al Otaiba says she and her collaborators hope educators will take away from the study the importance of identifying problems earlier. “Instead of waiting to identify students formally as having dyslexia or a reading disability, typically at grade 3, kindergarten is an important time when schools and teachers can use reliable data from brief curriculum-based measures (LSF and WRF) across the year to adjust instruction and provide more intensive support and resources to prevent word reading difficulties.”  She says schools can also use this growth data to confirm their literacy programs are helping most students develop reading skills. By contrast, data for those few students with limited growth despite good instruction (i.e., those who have not responded as well) could be part of a comprehensive evaluation to determine whether students need special education. In other words, the data can be used to ensure children don’t have to wait to fail before supporting their instructional needs.

The article stems from federally funded research in which Al Otaiba served as Co-Principal Investigator with Dr. Nathan Clemens, who was the Principal Investigator. This was a 1.6-million-dollar measurement grant from the Institute of Educational Sciences at U.S. Department of Education titled:(R324A130214) Investigating the Technical Adequacy of Progress Monitoring Measures for Kindergarten Students At-Risk for Reading Disabilities.

The purpose of this grant  was to learn more about early assessments of risk for reading difficulties. The grant period was 2013-2017 during which Al Otaiba says she and her SMU Simmons team collaborated closely with Dr. Clemens and his team, first at Texas A&M and later at the University of Texas at Austin. The teams continue to publish several articles and present findings from the study.

The article on the study findings published in the November 2023 issue of  the Journal of Educational Psychology  was co-authored by Al Otaiba, Clemens, Kejin Lee, Ziao Liu, Alexis Boucher, and Leslie Simmons and can be found at


Mathfinder Camp at the Dallas Zoo

Students from throughout the Dallas area enjoyed exploring the lives of animals through the lens of mathematics. Mathfinder Camp was free to participants thanks to generous funding provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Thanksgiving week camp was a joint effort between SMU Simmons, talkSTEM, and the Dallas Zoo.

More than 60 children aged 8-12 attended the educational camp where they got the chance to explore an exciting new math app currently in development. The Mathfinder app, a collaborative effort between SMU Simmons and talkSTEM, is designed to make math fun while sparking curiosity and creativity and instilling a lifelong love for learning in children. The mobile app uses Augmented Reality (AR) technology for use on iPads. Students used the app to watch videos that showed them how to see math in the animals and habitats at the zoo. The AR feature allowed them to insert holograms over their camera feed to see new things in the zoo surroundings.

SMU’s Candace Walkington, grateful for the collaborative effort in working for the common goal of fostering a love for math and science among children. She also appreciates the data gathered to help further the success of the app. ”It was amazing to see the kids at the zoo using their ‘math lens’ to look at the zoo exhibits and generate their own observations and questions. The kids also loved sharing their mathematical discoveries with each other, their instructors, and even their parents at home.”

Koshi Dhingra, founder of talkSTEM, said, “We were thrilled to partner with SMU and the Dallas Zoo that allowed us to bring this unique educational opportunity to young minds in our community. We believe the camp showed children that math is not only essential but also a fascinating lens through which they can view all the places they go, including the zoo!”

Simmons Dean Stephanie Knight is extremely pleased with all aspects of the Mathfinder camp. “There is nothing better than when our Simmons research is taken into the community to directly serve youngsters by heightening their interest and understanding of math, reading and technology. The fact that it is a collaborative effort with talkSTEM, and the Dallas Zoo makes it even more exceptional. I applaud Dr. Walkington and her team for this excellent work and look forward to the impact the app will have when completed.”

The Mathfinder team plans to run additional camps in the Spring and Summer of 2024. The Girl Scouts of North Texas will participate in that camp at the Dallas Arboretum. The team’s current set of studies is looking at the impact that AR tools in the Mathfinder app have on learning. The long-term goal is to create an app that could be used anywhere to ask and answer mathematical questions about the world around you.