Simmons has a Strong Presence at 2024 ISLS Conference

International Society of the Learning Sciences (ISLS) 2024 Participants (from left to right): Anthony Petrosino, Kelsey Schenck, Candace Walkington, Prajakt Pande, LeaAnne Daughrity, Maximilian Sherard, Tony Cuevas, Marc Sanger, Saki Milton, Julianna Washington. ISLS 2024, Buffalo, New YorkA group made up of Simmons faculty, post doctoral and PhD students will present at the 2024 International Society of the Learning Sciences (ISLS) Conference in Buffalo, New York, June 10-14. The Simmons academics are presenting topics such as: Students’ Representational and Relational Caring in STEM; Exploring STEM Identity and Belonging in Minoritized Girls at a Summer Camp; and Pedagogical Issues in Virtual Reality Mathematics Education.With these presentations and those of other university researchers from around the country, the conference promises to offer discussion of meaningful issues and innovative approaches in the world of learning sciences today.

ISLS works to further scientific, humanistic, and critical theoretical understanding of learning and to engage in the design and implementation of learning innovations and the improvement of instructional methodologies. Learning Sciences (LS) research traditionally focuses on the cognitive-psychological, social-psychological, cultural-psychological, and critical theoretical foundations of human learning as well as the practical design of learning environments. Major contributing fields include cognitive sciencecomputer scienceeducational psychologyanthropology, and applied linguistics. Over the past decade, LS researchers have expanded their focus to include the design of curricula, informal learning environments, instructional methods, and policy innovations.

A core feature of research in the learning sciences is attention to the detailed processes of learning and teaching for theory development. Accordingly, the Society calls for papers that address questions about learning processes, mechanisms, and outcomes. Papers may develop data-driven theories that elucidate processes of learning and teaching within various contexts and the ways in which technologies, instructional practices, and learning environments can be designed to support learning in different contexts.

This year’s ISLS Conference leads up to the new Learning Sciences Master’s at Simmons that launches in the 2024 Fall semester.  The full ISLS Conference schedule of presentations by Simmons educators can be found here.


2024 Battle to Save Lives Competition

Dr. Bing presenting at Moody HallStudents in Dr. Eric Bing’s Creating Impact in Global and Public Health class are helping city transportation planners by offering some well-thought-out options on Dallas’ hike and bike trails.

Teams of undergraduates presented their comprehensive strategies in the ninth Battle to Save Lives, a global and public health case competition. The students’ plans were designed to improve user safety on the proposed Dallas LOOP Bikeway and encourage more involvement in the very diverse neighborhoods connected by the trails.

The goal of the LOOP Bikeway initiative  is to connect 50 miles of existing trails across Dallas, enhance accessibility to cycling and link diverse communities and neighborhoods. The hope is that it will serve as a unified thread across the city. However,  in some instances the plan for the trails presents challenges that require inventive  solutions. The student teams put together thoughtful and innovative proposals to address those challenges and provide answers to the problems.

The judges carefully considered each proposal, asked questions and offered feedback to each team. The South Dallas Community Strategy was won by Team Engage South Dallas. The Katy Trail Alternate Route challenge was won by Team Two Wheels, report One Vision.

Throughout the semester, undergraduates developed skills in public health leadership through hands-on training, classroom engagement, and interactive competitions. Many students hope to pursue careers where they can apply their knowledge to real-world public health challenges.

For the complete story and details on the teams, judges and outcomes visit

One of four teams of undergraduates presenting plan for increasing community engagement and user safety along the proposed Dallas LOOP BikewayOne of four teams presenting project












Outstanding 2024 Grads of Simmons School of Education & Human Development chosen as graduation ceremony speakers

Katie Brennan is receiving her Bachelor of Science in Applied Physiology & Sport Management with a concentration in Sport Management. Katie is a member of the Hilltop Honors Program, a Provost Scholar, a BBA Scholar, and served as a member of the Simmons Undergraduate Student Advisory Board. While at SMU, she has served as the Club Tennis treasurer for four years and on the executive board of her sorority, Alpha Chi Omega. Thanks to APSM faculty’s large network, she got involved as an Operations Intern for the Dallas Open. In Summer of 2022, she studied abroad in France with the inaugural sports management program. In 2023, she interned with the Professional Pickleball Association and worked part-time at the PPA  as a coordinator and assistant for the PPA/USA Pickleball National Championships.

Gabriel Shapiro, M.D. is receiving his Master of Liberal Studies Degree. Gabriel enrolled in the Master of Liberal Studies program upon leaving an impressive career at UT Southwestern as an Oncologist and Clinical Faculty Member for residents. From his first semester in MLS, he examined the intersections of human rights and poetry. The result, thesis which expanded his scholarship beyond medicine to examine the human condition and his personal curating of poems centering on compassion and empathy.

Maricela Pillaca is earning a Master of Science in Counseling.  Born in Dallas, she is a first-generation college student who is proud of her Mexican-Peruvian heritage. She has taught first and second grades in Mesquite ISD, served as a Learning Recovery Specialist, and mentored first-year teachers. While in the SMU counseling program, she completed coursework focused on child and adolescent counseling and school counseling; she completed internships at Armstrong Elementary in Highland Park ISD and Insights Collaborative Therapy Group. She also served as vice-president and president of the SMU Chapter of Chi Sigma Iota, the Counseling Academic and Professional Honor Society. Upon graduation, she plans to seek licensure as a professional counselor, certifications as a school counselor and registered play therapist, and work with children and adolescents in therapeutic and/or school settings.

Luis Zambrano, J.D. had a successful law practice for decades when he decided to become a teacher.  His goal is to help students understand the history and institutions of the United States, develop critical thinking skills, and increase their leadership skills. In the classroom, his professors say his intellectual rigor, genuine curiosity, and academic humility have inspired instructors and peers and enriched  conversations and learning experiences. Professors believe Luis will be exemplary in understanding research, translating it to practice, and addressing the learning needs of all students. Luis is currently a Teacher Preparation Program student in the Department of Teaching and Learning.

Lorena Tule-Romain is graduating with her Ed.D. in Education Leadership. She is the Co-Founder and Chief Strategic Officer for the non-profit ImmSchools. In that role, she created and launched an organization whose efforts focus on supporting undocumented students and families as they navigate the K-12 educational space. As a community activist, she also serves on the City of Dallas Parks and Recreation Board, is the Educational Community Chair for the North Texas Dream Team and served with the Dallas Greater Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Lorena  says, “I’m pursuing a doctorate in education leadership because I seek to create a safe and welcoming learning environment for all our children in K-12 schools, especially those that are undocumented.”

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 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’ 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.



SMU Simmons Sport Management Graduate Program Ranked #1 in Texas and #14 in the Nation

Dallas Area Sports Market along with SMU Program offers students exceptional opportunities

 The SMU Simmons Masters in Sport Management program earned a major seal of approval when it was ranked #1 in Texas, #3 private university in the USA,  14th in the country and #18 in the world. The rankings were conducted by the London-based intelligence service SportBusiness, a provider of data and analytics to the sports industry. The SportBusiness Post Graduate Ranking or SportBusiness PGR, is the equivalent of the U.S. News & World Report for higher education institutions. There are over 200 post graduate sport management programs throughout the world.

The outstanding rankings are the result of a first-time entry by SMU Simmons Masters in Sport Management program. The SportBusiness PGR is the most prestigious ranking of graduate sports management programs around the world. The rankings are based on a formula that assigns values to the quality of the faculty and teaching,  ability to connect with alumni and industry executives, support in finding a job in the industry, value for money provided by the master’s program, and employment in the sports industry sector.

In addition to the global recognition, the graduate surveys ranked SMU as the #5 sport management postgraduate program in North America for average salary three years after graduation with an average salary of $82,500, illustrating its success in producing graduates capable of advancing quickly in the ultracompetitive sports industry.

According to the Sports Business Journal, Dallas is the #1 city for sports business in the USA. The MS in Sport Management students participate extensively in experiential opportunities such as internships with over 175 North Texas-based sports and allied-sport enterprises as well as with SMU’s Athletics department. The opportunities range across the entire sports ecosystem and include teams, leagues, agencies, conferences, research, E-sports, media, facilities, and live events at all levels.

SMU Sport Management Program Director and Clinical Assistant Professor Peter Carton says,”SMU draws extensively on the fact that North Texas is home to some of the biggest names in the sports industry, ranging from professional sports teams to marketing and sponsorship agencies.” That, along with faculty members’ longstanding relationships with local and national sports industry leaders, offers students the real-world skills they need to become leaders and executives.  Carton adds,“One of the advantages of our approach is that we are one of the few programs with relationships that provide students with direct access to internships and jobs in their area of interest.”

Founded in 2012, the MS in Sport Management degree in the Department of Applied Physiology and Sport Management is an interdisciplinary degree between the Simmons School of Education & Human Development and the Cox Business School at SMU. The relatively new sports management degree, compared to other well-established programs founded in the 1960’s, prepares students for multiple roles in the sports industry. Students complete a part-time, one-year academic program that is combined with a capstone internship experience.

Simmons Dean Stephanie Knight applauds the program and its Director, Professor Peter Carton. “I know they have worked tirelessly and innovatively to establish this exceptional graduate program at Simmons and with our partners in the Cox School of Business. This is certainly a proud moment for SMU, Simmons, the Applied Physiology and Sport Management department, and Cox.”  

Scott Davis, Ph.D. and Department Chair, ad interim, of the Department of Applied Physiology & Sport Management regarding the ranking states “In just over 10 years, the ascent of our graduate program in Sport Management in the Department of Applied Physiology and Sport Management is nothing short of remarkable. With the outstanding reputation of SMU, our advantageous location in Dallas and our outstanding faculty and students, it is no surprise that our graduate sport management program has been recognized as one of the top 20 in the world. I look forward to our continued ascent in the rankings as we add additional resources to this outstanding program.”

Carton appreciates the recognition of the many factors that have resulted in the premier program. He says the recognition is a testament to the outstanding full-time and adjunct faculty, SMU administration, vast industry partners, and students. “We will use this ranking to further propel our vision, initiatives, and resources as we aspire to be one of the leading programs in the world.”

For more information about the 2023 SportBusiness Postgraduate Course Ranking, visit:

Simmons Reinforces Commitment to Cutting-Edge Technology Enhanced Immersive Learning

SMU has greatly strengthened its investment in Technology Enhanced Immersive Learning (TEIL) by adding three new professors to the existing group of TEIL researchers at the Simmons School of Education and Human Development. While Drs. Corey Brady, Prajakt Pande and Kelsey Schenck are all new faces at Simmons, they are already hard at work in their respective areas of research

Dr. Brady is an Associate Professor who specializes in Mathematics Education and the Learning Sciences. He studies mathematical and computational modeling to better understand and support the collective and embodied learning of classroom groups in innovative, immersive learning environments. He has been PI or co-PI on ten NSF projects totaling over $15 million, and he is a participant in the NSF AI Institute for Engaged Learning. He and collaborators received the Outstanding Paper Award at the International Conference of Learning Sciences in both 2020 and 2023.

Dr. Pande is an Assistant Professor who specializes in the convergence of embodied cognition, technology-enhanced learning, and STEM education. His research focuses on developing and evaluating innovative technology interfaces such as immersive virtual reality (iVR), to facilitate embodied learning of scientific concepts and phenomena. He examines cognition and action such as bodily interaction with scientific models and representations using qualitative interviewing, interaction analysis, and eye-tracking techniques.

Dr. Schenck  is an Assistant Professor whose research deals with embodied cognition, spatial reasoning, and STEM education. She is interested in using a grounded and embodied frame to understand the influence of the cognitive and affective aspects of spatial reasoning on students’ STEM learning and in the design of interventions with immersive technologies such as virtual and augmented reality. She also investigates the role of spatial ability and spatial anxiety in embodied mathematics, including geometry and proportional reasoning.