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.”

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