Ph.D. Student Robyn Pinilla to Participate in 2021 Clinton Global Initiative University

Robyn Pinilla, a Simmons doctoral student working in early mathematics, has been selected to join the  Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) 2021.

This program involves a commitment to action to address a specific challenge with a defined course of action and detailed objectives.

Pinilla will be working on a process to develop community-based STEM programming for young children, their families, and teachers in Dallas areas of need.

SMU provides funding to its selected students for getting their projects started and attending the annual CGI U meeting, which will be held at Howard University March 23-26. Graduation is in November.

“This exciting opportunity to work with the Clinton Foundation to collaborate with scholars and entrepreneurs from around the world reinforces the leadership and partnership ideals of SMU’s commitment to world-changing transformation,” she says.



Four Faculty Members Nominated for 2021 HOPE Award

Three Applied Physiology and Wellness faculty members, Caitlin Anderson, David Bertrand, and Brian Fennig, and Teaching and Learning Department Chair, Tim Jacobbe, were among a distinguished group of faculty nominated by students for the 2021 HOPE (Honoring Our Professor’s Excellence) award.

The sponsor, Residence Life & Student Housing, believes that it is important to highlight those professors who have gone above and beyond their role. Congratulations to these Simmons faculty members for receiving high recognition from students.

A Simmons Student and an Alumna Featured in Media for Black History Month

Congratulations to Bri Thomas, a Simmons student in the Department of Teaching and Learning and a teacher of African American Studies at Bryan Adams High School in Dallas.  WFAA Channel 8 interviewed her for insights on incorporating Black history throughout the year.

Jada Weathers, an alumna from the Department of Teaching and Learning (December 2020 graduate), was featured on CBS11 in a piece about culturally responsive classes.

Both teachers are working closely with Dr. Johnitha Johnson on her work in the area of urban education.

Wilhelm’s Opinion Piece Looks at Math Loss as a Teaching Opportunity

Associate Professor Anne Garrison Wilhelm offers new possibilities to deal with math learning losses during the pandemic.

In an opinion piece published by, she believes now is the time to redress traditional ways of engaging students in math.

“Even before COVID-19, our mathematics education system was not serving most kids,” she says. “Some just assumed they didn’t “get” math; others never really understood the mathematics they were taught in school, and this manifested when they had to enroll in college remedial math courses.”

For her ideas to create new strategies and make math a part of everyday life, read her piece here. Wilhelm teaches math education and conducts research in Simmons’ Department of Teaching and Learning.

CORE and Partners Identify Students’ Pandemic Struggles in Report on Citywide Summer Learning Initiative

Through a public-private partnership, Big Thought, its Dallas City of Learning network and Simmons’ Center on Research and Evaluation (CORE) at Southern Methodist University (SMU), published the results of its annual Dallas City of Learning (DCOL) Summer 2020 Report. Dallas City of Learning is a citywide initiative to ensure all students have access to high-quality summer learning programs.

This year, surveys and interviews included new items specific to the COVID-19 pandemic to understand the effect of the pandemic conditions on programs and students. Surveys and interviews were conducted through Dallas City of Learning programs with students, caregivers, and program staff.

Key findings from the report include:
  • Students surveyed rated their current social-emotional skills a 2.22 out of 4, a decrease of nearly one full point from their pre-COVID ratings. This indicates that the average student does not agree with the positive statements about their feelings since school closed in March 2020.
  • 78 percent of students agree/strongly agree that they learn better when they are at school with their teachers.
  • 73 percent of students agree/strongly agree that they can’t wait to go back to school.
  • 44 percent of students agree/strongly agree that coronavirus makes them feel scared.

During the summer of 2020, Dallas City of Learning partners provided 1,049 virtual and in-person program opportunities resulting in 1,480,961 cumulative hours of programming. Sixty-six percent of program leads reported that they made significant alterations to their programming for summer 2020, and 68 percent said that they are likely to continue with the adaptations they have made well after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

The findings from the Dallas City of Learning Summer 2020 report can be reviewed in detail at

For news coverage from The Dallas Morning News, read more.

Baker Publishes Research on Hate Crimes and Impact on Black Student College Enrollments

Dominique Baker, Ph.D., Education Policy and Leadership

Dominique Baker, assistant professor in the Department of Education Policy and Leadership, examines how reports of hate crimes –both on a state and campus level–affect the college enrollments of Black students.

She and co-author Tolani Britton from the University of California, Berkeley, set out to see the role hate crimes may play in college enrollment decisions. They also look at whether hate crimes reported at individual institutions correlate with the enrollment patterns of Black students.

Their findings show an increase in reports of state-level hate crimes predicts a 20% increase in Black first-time student enrollment at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

The study, published by Stanford University’s Center for Education Policy Analysis, can be read here. also wrote about the research here.



New Bishop Scholarships Support Master’s Degrees for Dallas ISD Teachers

Eight Dallas ISD teachers have been selected from 400 applicants to receive the first Kathryne and Gene Bishop Endowed Scholarships, created in 2019 to enable Dallas ISD teachers to pursue Master’s degrees in education from SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development.

The endowment creates a partnership between SMU Simmons and Dallas ISD to determine the nature of the degree, taking into account the needs of the Dallas Independent School District and Simmons faculty expertise.  The joint committee also establishes the criteria for the award.  The scholarship serves as a means to recruit new teachers in high-needs areas and to build the capacity of existing teachers in the district.  Scholarship recipients commit to two years teaching in Dallas ISD schools in addition to the two years of the program.  The scholarship covers approximately 94 percent of tuition costs for the 2020 Bishop Scholars who are pursuing Master’s degrees with dual specialization in special education and bilingual/ELL studies.

“With the vitality of innovation, the Bishop Endowment allows Dallas ISD and Simmons to re-think how to recruit and retain teachers to meet the challenges of urban education,” says Stephanie L. Knight, Leon Simmons Endowed Dean. “Simmons faculty members, who excel in scholarship and teaching, can equip teachers with proven research-based practices to increase learning in the classroom. For teachers, acquiring new knowledge matters, especially if they can build on skills the district needs.”

“Students in Dallas ISD will be the ultimate beneficiaries of these scholarships,” she says. “We are grateful for the generosity of the Bishop family and happy to welcome the first Bishop Scholars to the Simmons School.”

According to the recipients, which include teachers at eight Dallas elementary schools, the scholarship offers an “opportunity of a lifetime” to better support their special education and English-language learner students.

Okary Wong, a bilingual teacher at the School for Talented and Gifted in Pleasant Grove, is looking forward to the opportunity: “Through this program, I plan to equip myself with the knowledge and skills to best support my students,” Wong said. “As a product of Dallas ISD and a first-generation college graduate, I am truly invested in helping my students succeed in the same way my teachers supported me.”

Other scholarship recipients include Cheri Butler, inclusion/resource teacher at Frank Guzick Elementary; Diana Gonzalez, bilingual teacher at Clinton P. Russell Elementary; Ashley Millan, bilingual teacher at Adelfa Callejo Elementary; James Mims, bilingual special education inclusion/resource teacher; Alba Ramirez, bilingual teacher at Pleasant Grove Elementary; Adela Sanchez, inclusion/resource teacher at Stephen C. Foster Elementary, and Yadira Pagan Vargas, bilingual teacher at Clinton P. Russell Elementary. (Kathryne and Gene Bishop Scholars Bios)

The scholarship was created by Kathryne and the late Gene Bishop to support Dallas ISD teachers pursuing Master’s degrees. The couple worked together as long-time supporters of children’s health and education, among other philanthropies. Gene Bishop passed away in 2019.

At SMU, Gene Bishop served on the Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors (1979 – 1987), on the board of the Willis M. Tate Distinguished Lecture Series, and on the executive board of the Cox School of Business (1985 – 1989).  Kathryne Bishop served on the board of SMU’s Godbey Lecture Series.

Mr. Bishop served as an advisory director of Tolleson Wealth Management. He previously was chairman and CEO of Life Partners Group Inc., vice chairman and president of Lomas Financial Corporation and CEO of MCorp. He started in banking at First National Bank of Dallas in 1954.

The couple’s community involvement includes Children’s Health Services of Texas, Southwestern Medical Foundation, Communities Foundation of Texas, Dallas Methodist Hospitals Foundation, the Dedman Foundation, the Nancy Ann and Ray L. Hunt Foundation, and the Constantin Foundation.


Zippia. com Asks Potter About Pandemic’s Impact on Graduates and Careers

John Potter, clinical associate professor in the Department of Dispute Resolution and Counseling, joined a panel of experts to assess the pandemic’s impact on graduates starting their careers.

He sees positive outcomes from the pandemic that include adopting different ways of learning. Gaining these kinds of skills is important he says.

For him, the knowledge his students have acquired to resolve conflicts will benefit them any where they go.

To read the article, click here.



Gándara’s New Study on Free-College Programs Reveals Large Enrollments of Underserved Students

Assistant Professor of Higher Education Denisa Gándara and Amy Li at Florida International University conducted a study of 33 U.S. public community college promise programs, or free-college programs, and found that they are associated with large enrollment increases of first-time, full-time students—with the biggest boost in enrollment among Black, Hispanic, and female students.

The results come as the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is leading states to tighten higher education budgets, as low-income students are forgoing their post secondary plans at higher rates this fall than their wealthier peers, and as community colleges are experiencing larger enrollment declines than four-year universities. The study was published  in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association.

The research is the first on this topic to examine the effects of multiple promise programs on enrollment at community colleges across the country. For their study, the authors analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, for academic years 2000–01 to 2014–15, to examine the impact of 33 promise programs at 32 community colleges.

Gándara and Li found that, on average, overall enrollments at the community colleges with promise programs increased 23 percent more than at the seven geographically nearest public community colleges without promise programs. Compared to the nearest seven community colleges, promise colleges experienced a 47 percent greater enrollment increase of Black males, a 51 percent greater enrollment of Black females, a 40 percent greater enrollment of Hispanic males, and a 52 percent greater enrollment of Hispanic females. The only groups that did not, on average, experience an enrollment boost associated with promise programs were Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (API) males and females.

“Prior to the pandemic, promise programs were an increasingly popular mechanism for enhancing college entry and postsecondary attainment,” Gándara said. “Our study offers compelling evidence, and reinforces evidence from prior research, of the benefits of such programs in achieving college enrollment goals.”


Simmons Advocate Connie Blass O’Neill ’77 Receives SMU’s Distinguished Alumni Award

Every year, SMU honors fourConnie Blass O’Neill ’77 outstanding leaders in philanthropy, business and civic life with the highest honor the University can bestow upon its graduates, the Distinguished Alumni Awards.

This fall, Connie Blass O’Neill ’77, co-chair of the Simmons School Executive Board, will receive this honor from her alma mater during Homecoming 2020.

Simmons wishes to thank her for significant service to the School, and congratulate her upon her merited distinction.
As a student, O’Neill was SMU Homecoming queen, an officer of the Student Foundation, a member of Mortar Board and co-chair of her Senior Class Gift committee. She served as president and rush chairman of Chi Omega sorority and was named Outstanding Active. She graduated summa cum laude and was honored as the Outstanding Business Student in 1977.

O’Neill put her talent to work at Ernst & Young from 1977 to 1985 as a certified public accountant. She is a member of the Texas Society of CPAs, and senior manager in audit and tax department member.

Through the years, O’Neill has been an indefatigable volunteer for the University. She has been a member of the SMU Board of Trustees since 2012, where she has served on the Development and External Affairs, Academic Affairs, Audit, and Building and Grounds standing committees, and was voted Outstanding Trustee for 2015–16. In addition, she is co-chair of the Simmons School of Education and Human Development Executive Board and a member of the Cox School of Business Executive Board.

Her past SMU service includes membership on The Second Century Campaign Simmons School of Education Campaign Steering Committee; president of the SMU Alumni Board and SMU Young Alumni; chair of SMU’s Homecoming and Reunion Committee; and co-chair of the SMU Parent Leadership Council from 2015–19 with her husband, Chris ’75.

The Distinguished Alumni Award will be presented at the Armstrong Fieldhouse, Thursday, October 22 at 7 p.m.