About Us

Instructors

Expand your knowledge and strengthen your skill with the guidance of accomplished instructors. SMU faculty, experienced educators, and business professionals will guide you through the learning process, sharing their passion and commitment to the highest standards in education. Our enthusiastic instructors look forward to helping you find inspiration or fostering your professional development.

CP
= College Prep
TP
= Test Prep
PE
= Personal Enrichment

Academic Excellence

Richard Blazevich is the author of two books about job hunting: Interview Prep Playbook and Amazing Interview Answers. During his 18-year career at PepsiCo, he has led campus recruiting for Frito-Lay’s marketing department and has been a featured speaker in interview skills workshops at some of the top universities in the country. He has also interviewed hundreds of candidates for a wide variety of roles. He has extensive experience with career coaching as well as helping job hunters write résumés and prepare for interviews and teaches “Mastering the Job Search: How to Land Your Dream Job” at SMU. Richard received an M.B.A. with an emphasis in Marketing and Business Strategy from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree in Business from Montana State University.

Deidra Fisher is an experienced educator, writer, and consultant. She is the founder of OneUp College Consulting, and in that capacity she works with students across the Metroplex to assess and augment their knowledge and skills to prepare successfully for college and to navigate the complex college application process. With a keen focus on her clients’ goals, Fisher helps to students to identify their “best fit” schools and to leverage their unique talents, experiences, and accomplishments. She also has worked with SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development on special projects. Deidra Fisher received a B.A. in English literature from Baylor University and an M.Ed. from Houston Baptist University.

Business and Finance

Richard Blazevich is the author of two books about job hunting: Interview Prep Playbook and Amazing Interview Answers. During his 18-year career at PepsiCo, he has led campus recruiting for Frito-Lay’s marketing department and has been a featured speaker in interview skills workshops at some of the top universities in the country. He has also interviewed hundreds of candidates for a wide variety of roles. He has extensive experience with career coaching as well as helping job hunters write résumés and prepare for interviews and teaches “Mastering the Job Search: How to Land Your Dream Job” at SMU. Richard received an M.B.A. with an emphasis in Marketing and Business Strategy from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree in Business from Montana State University.
Laura Klekar is a holistic financial consultant who supports others by providing financial education, balance and knowledge so they can pursue their dreams. She focuses her financial planning practice on supporting women in their financial health and balance. Laura is passionate about working with new/young professionals, women-owned businesses, and women who wish to move from corporate to business ownership. She received a B.S. in Biomedical Science from Texas A&M University.
William B. Larson teaches SMU Lifelong Learning courses for individuals and aspiring financial planners. He is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) and previously served as the Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Commercial Metals Company (CMC). Under Larson's financial leadership, CMC grew to become a $10 billion company with 15,000 employees. A native of Dallas, Bill attended the University of Notre Dame and graduated summa cum laude as the top-ranked accounting major in his class. He began his career at Touche Ross (now Deloitte) where he worked in the manufacturing, real estate, nonprofit, and Japanese markets and headed recruiting. He is active in a number of nonprofit organizations in Dallas and works with individuals and small business owners as an independent financial advisor.
Patrisha (Patte) Lee has worked in financial services for more than 20 years. A Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) with an M.B.A., Patte pulls from her broad experience working in senior advisory positions with Fortune 100 companies such as Aetna, UNUM, Travelers, and Marsh USA, as well as her knowledge of employee benefits and pensions. A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA), Patte enjoys helping women roll up their sleeves to work on their budgets. She teaches “Financial Literacy for Women” through SMU Lifelong Learning. Patte serves on the boards of the Sammons Center for the Arts and the Brookhaven Country Club Business Alliance. She works with the membership committee of the DFW Financial Planning Association and is a member of the DFW Estate Planning Association. She is active in the Collaborative Law movement and is a member of the Collaborative Law Institute of Dallas and the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) as well as a member of the interdisciplinary practice group. Patte works with the Dallas Women's Foundation on their grants committee and is an Instructor in the SMU Certificate Program in Financial Planning.

Valerie Strickland brings experience from the classroom and the corporate world to her work with SMU Lifelong Learning. As an entrepreneur herself, Valerie teaches students business and marketing skills that she uses and develops in her own work. Valerie is “dedicated to help each student develop his/her strengths and to assist all students in realizing and reaching their full potential.”

Annetta Taylor helps develop comprehensive financial and retirement plans for business owners, professionals, retirees and pre-retirement clients. A consultant at A.Box Financial, her philosophy is two-pronged: assisting clients in making wise financial decisions and managing their investments. Annetta has a B.A. in Communication from Houston Baptist University. She is active in the Junior League of Collin County and a Class 35 participant in Leadership Plano, part of the Plano Chamber of Commerce. She also teaches a financial planning class for SMU Lifelong Learning. Prior to her work in the finance industry, Annetta served 17 years on the staff of several churches and ministries throughout Texas, the United States, and overseas.
Allison Venuto is an alumna of both Baylor University and SMU and leads professional development and personal enrichment courses for SMU Lifelong Learning. A popular speaker, Allison has presented to more than 50 local organizations about a variety of topics. In 2011, Allison founded Ducks in a Row Personal Organizing. Allison says, "I implement organizational tools that changed my personal and professional trajectory. Working daily with clients has offered me opportunities to journey with individuals as they make significant life changes as a result of learning effective time-management strategies." She looks forward to helping SMU Lifelong Learning students experience growth of this kind as well!
Bradley P. Wilson shares his expertise with SMU Lifelong Learning students regarding their personal finances, including how to create a financial plan and retirement concerns.  A Presidential Scholar at SMU who graduated magna cum laude, he was recently recognized as one of the "Best Financial Planners in Dallas" by D Magazine. Bradley joined Christensen Wealth Management of Wells Fargo Advisors in 2005, a firm that provides comprehensive solutions and multi-generational wealth management to families and small institutional clients, particularly nonprofits. Bradley currently oversees the team's investment planning strategy.
Laura Wooten helps clients envision and revamp their businesses, design and launch courses, develop content and write books. A marketer, strategist, copywriter and content creator, Laura has been refining messages for companies and nonprofits for more than 15 years. She’s ghost-written articles that have been published in Forbes Woman, American Express OPEN, trade publications in numerous industries, and helped authors finalize their books. Sole proprietor of Wooten Communications and Focus Your Brilliance strategy development, Laura is a former board member of Dallas IABC and an active volunteer with Destination Imagination. She teaches copy writing for SMU Lifelong Learning.

Engineering and Technology

Jamita Machen is a recognized leader in information technology who has worked in a variety of industries – defense, mobile, e-commerce and travel, among others. Her experience includes work for multiple Fortune 500 companies, including Motorola, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Machen is the founder and owner of The Software Vault, and she launched The STEM-ulation Foundation to introduce pre-college students to S.T.E.M. disciplines through experiential education activities. Jamita Machen holds degrees from Texas A&M University, DePaul University, and the University of Dallas, and she has been recognized by the Dallas Business Journal and TeXchange DFW as one of the Top 25 North Texas Women in Technology. 

Fine Arts

Lane Banks is an artist living and working in Dallas and an instructor of modern art history for SMU Lifelong Learning. Lane’s art focuses on abstract, geometric paintings, sculpture, and drawings with black, white, gray and silver pigments. His work has been featured in exhibits at The McKinney Avenue Contemporary, Dallas; Dallas Public Library; Trammell Crow Center, Dallas; Bath House Cultural Center, Dallas; and can be found in the Neiman-Marcus Collection, Dallas, and at both DFW and Love Field airports. Banks received a B.F.A. from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana, and was also a recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant. Learn more about Lane Banks, his work and involvement in the Dallas art scene.
Anne Cameron is an artist and teacher whose career history includes clinical psychology and ordained ministry. Her passion, though, lies in the art of weaving, which she discovered while on retreat in Holden Village (Chelan, WA) nearly a decade ago, and she teaches weaving and textile classes for SMU Lifelong Learning. Always an avid crafter, Anne says "I love all the elements of weaving: design, fiber, color, texture and the magic of watching how these unfold right before my very eyes on the loom." When she’s not teaching others how to weave, Anne is an instructor in SMU's Perkins School of Theology.
Susie-Melissa Cherry, founder and president of Calligraphic Arts Design Studio, is an internationally recognized master calligrapher. Her esteemed client list includes the White House, Buckingham Palace, the Vatican and the Adolphus Hotel. Susie-Melissa creates individualized pieces for her clients, combining lettering styles including script, uncial, Old English, round hand and Gothic. A longtime instructor and mentor, Susie-Melissa is actively involved in preserving and teaching the art form she loves. She has helped many entrepreneurs launch successful calligraphy careers. Learn more about Susie-Melissa Cherry and her work by visiting her website or following her on Instagram.
Suzanne Kelley Clark began teaching painting, drawing, design and watercolor in 1986. Originally from upstate New York, Suzanne has known since early childhood that she was an artist. Her undergraduate degree from the School of Visual Arts in New York City prepared her for a brief career in advertising before she decided to pursue fine art full time. Suzanne received her M.F.A. in Drawing and Painting from SMU and has taught courses throughout Dallas, including at the Dallas Museum of Arts and the Creative Arts Center. Suzanne's work primarily focuses on landscape, preferring to paint en plein air (outside). Her media include oil on canvas and on board, pastels, and mixed-media drawings that are representational and painterly responses to nature. She has shown her work with private dealers, with Harris Gallery in Houston and with Cris Worley in Dallas.

Karen Damwijk is a graphic and web designer who has worked across the country for advertising agencies and large corporations. Her work has included projects for diverse clients like Yamaha Motorsports and Johnny Rockets Restaurant G. She brings her industry expertise and creative knowledge to engaging classroom experiences for students, and Karen teaches classes for both SMU Professional and Online (SMU PRO) and Lifelong Learning. Karen Damwijk holds a B.A.A. in graphic design and received her master’s degree in educational technology.

Kevin Gunter serves full time on SMU's piano faculty in the Meadows School of the Arts, where he instructs undergraduate music and non-music majors and graduate students in his role as Classic Piano Lecturer/Coordinator. Kevin maintains an award-winning studio of pre-college students in SMU's Piano Preparatory Department and is sought after as an adjudicator for local piano festivals throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Kevin is active in the Dallas theatre scene as a musical director and performer. He has given hundreds of performances in over 30 different productions at theatres such as Uptown Players, WaterTower Theatre and Lyric Stage. Kevin also participates in the Music Teachers National Association, as well as the Texas MTA and Dallas MTA. He is also a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the professional men’s music fraternity, as well as Pi Kappa Lambda, Phi Kappa Phi and Sigma Tau Delta. In May 2005, he received the Roy and Sue Johnson Award from the SMU Division of Music for excellence in teaching.

Anne B. Gunthner is an experienced instructor and artist, with a background in retail advertising, fashion, and illustration. Anne graduated from the University of North Texas, where she majored in Clothing and Textiles and minored in Art. She also studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology, the Art Students League, and the School of Visual Arts in New York City. After retiring from advertising, she focused her work on teaching and painting. Anne finds great pleasure in working with a variety of media, including pastel, watercolor, and oil. Regardless of the medium used, Anne aims “to capture the soul and essence of her subject while keeping the composition fresh and alive to the very last stroke.” Learn more about Anne and her work.

Lauren Finley Hughes is an independent art historian and private art consultant in Dallas. She received her M.A. in Art History from SMU and then joined the Dallas Museum of Art as a McDermott Curatorial Fellow. As a curatorial fellow and later as an independent art historian, Lauren has published and lectured on topics ranging from the art of the ancient Andes to eighteenth-century French art. In the field of art history, she has published her research nationally and internationally, consulted for National Geographic Magazine, and instructed college students. Whether teaching SMU Lifelong Learning classes or assisting clients with finding artwork that complements their interests, Lauren hopes to inspire others to look at art with a critical eye and discover the stories that art can tell.
Peter Ligon is a Dallas printmaker and painter who teaches studio art courses for SMU Lifelong Learning. An alumnus of North Texas State with a B.F.A. in Drawing and Painting, Peter received a full scholarship and subsequent M.F.A. from the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU. As a painter, he is interested in how color can be combined with shape to communicate space and place. His drawings are concerned with line, tonality and locale. In printmaking, he works primarily in drypoint, which is a process that manifests directly with often unpredictable results. Peter regularly exhibits work in galleries, colleges and alternative exhibition spaces in and around Dallas. He frequently travels to New York, New Mexico and Italy where he paints, draws and makes prints on location and extensively tours museums, galleries and historical locations.
Jann Patterson Mackey is an architectural historian who makes connections between history, design and culture in her courses, which span the globe from England to Dallas. With a B.A. in Art History and Foreign Languages from SMU, an M.B.A. from Thunderbird Graduate School of International Management, a Master’s of Liberal Arts degree from SMU, and a Ph.D. in Humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas, Jann shares her broad interests with her SMU Lifelong Learning students. In 2006, she was awarded a fellowship from the Royal Oaks Society, The British National Trust and The Attingham Trust to conduct an in-depth study of British country houses. In addition to SMU programs, Jann frequently presents lectures to historic preservation organizations, libraries and community groups.  She has served as a board member of Preservation Dallas and the Foundation of Saint Michael and All Angels.
Anna Membrino is an artist living in Dallas. She received her M.F.A. from SMU and teaches studio arts for SMU Lifelong Learning. Anna received her B.F.A. in Painting and Drawing and B.A. in English from the University of North Florida, and has also studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and Parsons at The New School. Her medium includes large-scale paintings inspired by vignettes she creates from plants and rocks to depict invented environments that are a blend of landscape and still life. Her work has been featured in a number of exhibitions throughout the United States, including the McKinney Avenue Contemporary in Dallas.
Daniel O'Donoghue begrudgingly started taking piano lessons at the age of 11 because his parents "made" him. Little did he know that piano would become one of his most important and fulfilling passions. From a young age, he was invited to play at numerous honors recitals throughout Dallas, the United States, and abroad. In 2007, Daniel was awarded the Carol Leone Jazz award, which is named after the distinguished SMU Professor of Piano. After he graduated from SMU with a B.A. in Music in 2010, Daniel received a full scholarship to pursue his Master’s of Music in Piano Performance and Pedagogy at SMU, which he completed in August 2013. He has worked on multiple musical theater projects (including Sweeney Todd and Urinetown) and other song cycles. He enjoys many styles of music including jazz, musical theatre, and classical. Daniel teaches piano through SMU Lifelong Learning.
Teresa Rafidi is an artist and photographer living in Dallas. Teresa received her B.F.A. from SMU and she instructs courses in photography and photoshop for SMU Lifelong Learning. Teresa has taught photography at the college level, in workshops at the Dallas Museum of Art, at the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, as well as through private tutorials. She has received numerous awards for her art, which has been exhibited nationally and internationally. As a professional photographer, she specializes in commercial and portrait work. Her photographs illuminate a space with a hint of a figurative presence not always seen. The work engages a sense of altered reality bathed in soft light to create a quiet image. You can learn more about Teresa and see examples of her work here and here.
Gail Sachson received her M.F.A. from SMU and is a passionate leader in the arts community of Dallas who offers experiential art tours for SMU Lifelong Learning students. Gail is a former Chair of the Dallas Cultural Affairs Commission and former Vice-Chair of the Dallas Public Art Committee. Serving on the boards of myriad of arts and cultural organizations, such as the Dallas Museum of Art, the Dallas Theater Center and the Dallas Holocaust Museum, Gail has been involved in the Dallas Arts community for over thirty years. She is the founding and current Chair of the Creative Arts Center Advisory Board, a member of the KERA Community Advisory Board and serves on the President's Council of the Advisory Board of the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing & Visual Arts. A popular tour leader, Gail owns Ask Me About Art, which offers lectures, tours, program planning and consultation. She blogs for KERA’s Art & Seek, writes about the arts for a variety of publications and has been an instructor in SMU Lifelong Learning for more than ten years.
Diana Souza is a visual communications professional who works as a leader and innovator on creative teams in New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Diana's specialties are sustainable design, book design, art direction, branding for nonprofits, presentation design, design thinking, illustration, photography, writing and meditation mentoring. She teaches a variety of courses for SMU Lifelong Learning, including “Children’s Book Publication,” “Digital Music” and “Photo Illustration.” She holds an M.F.A. in Arts and Technology from the University of Texas and a B.F.A. in Communications Arts from the University of North Texas.

Julio Suarez is a visual artist and art educator dedicating his career to art in 1991. He has been a creative arts instructor of drawing, cartooning, manga illustration, painting and sketchbook art with SMU Lifelong Learning since 2011. Suarez has thirty years of teaching experience with elementary and middle school students in a variety of workshops and residencies. His personal artwork, including watercolors and pen and ink illustrations have been published in books, magazines, corporate greeting cards and marketing materials. His artwork has been exhibited in galleries throughout the Metroplex and commissions are in private collections throughout the US, Canada, China and Japan. In addition to teaching, Suarez serves as an art juror, an enrichment teacher in after-school programs and as a professional development facilitator for teachers. Suarez received a B.A. from NYU with post-graduate studies in genetics, medicine and fine arts.

Andrew Wick is an artist and an educator who actively promotes fine arts as a vital component of the human experience. With a B.F.A. in Drawing and Painting from SMU and an M.A. from The University of North Texas, Andrew’s work has been exhibited at numerous well-known institutions such as the Dallas Museum of Art and SMU. As an artist, Andrew’s interest is in complementing the philosophical concept of an infinite meridian, a place where the temporal breaks down to become something beyond what we see. Andrew teaches drawing for SMU Lifelong Learning. Click here to learn more about Andrew Wick and his work.

History, Culture, and Travel

Martha Anne Fielder, historian and art historian, is a respected lecturer of English art and British history. Known for her ability to bridge the unique relationships between art and culture, Martha Anne has taught diverse classes spanning decades of European history, such as “Magnificence and Malevolence in the House of Medici,” “The Legacy of Henry VIII,” and most recently, “King Tut and the Real Indiana Jones.” A native Dallasite, Martha Anne received her undergraduate and master’s degrees from SMU and her Ph.D. from Texas Christian University. She teaches and presents programs to organizations throughout the DFW Metroplex. Martha Anne also founded Marco Art Tours to provide art and historical tours throughout the United States and abroad.
Elizabeth New Seitz is an expert in French language and culture. She is the founder of French Affaires, a unique company celebrating French travel, culture, language and l'art de vivre (the art of living). A native Texan, Elizabeth received her B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. in French from Vanderbilt University and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. She has lived, worked and traveled extensively in France. A former university French professor, Elizabeth's specialty is making France wonderfully personal and accessible to everyone through her tours, custom trip design, events, classes and lectures. Elizabeth, her husband and their French dog Marcel currently live near Fontainebleau, about an hour south of Paris.
Cary Walker’s case of wanderlust began with her first trip abroad and ultimately led her to a career as a lead guide and guidebook researcher for Rick Steves’ Europe. Cary began her career as a teacher and spent most of her summer months in Europe. Eventually, she combined her passion for teaching and travel and began leading group tours and conducting research in Europe as part of Steves’ team. Cary now spends several months abroad every year, traveling to her favorite European sites—on and off the beaten path. When not working with Rick Steves, she directs her own travel consulting business and teaches for SMU Lifelong Learning.

Languages

Paola Alva is a child psychologist and Spanish teacher, and she has taught Spanish in a variety of school and extra-curricular programs. Ms. Alva has developed and facilitated unique curricula for middle school and high school Spanish students, aligning with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and the rigorous International Baccalaureate standards. Her classes include all aspects of communication: including listening and reading comprehension, plus oral and written proficiency); Ms. Alva follows the Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) method, which allows students to accelerate their language learning and to develop fluency. Paola’s passion is teaching Spanish, and she loves to make learning a fun experience!

Damiano Bonuomo teaches Italian language for SMU Lifelong Learning and is a Lecturer of Italian in SMU's Department of World Languages and Literatures. A native of Guastalla, Italy, Damiano studied at the University of Modena before pursuing a graduate degree in linguistics at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Damiano is an avid Juventus soccer fan and an athlete, playing soccer, basketball and volleyball, as well as swimming. When not in the classroom, you can find him training for his next triathlon in an SMU pool, running on the Katy Trail or biking at White Rock Lake.

Gracilene is a licensed attorney in Texas and Brazil. She graduated from law school in Brazil and received her Master of Law degree from SMU. After completing her Master of Law and passing the Texas Bar Exam, Gracilene worked in the Legal discovery reviewing of both English and Portuguese language technical documents at Level2Legal Company. Since December 2017, she has worked as a general attorney at the SBA (Small Business Administration). She has a great passion for sharing her Portuguese knowledge skills.

Lucille Herrera has continued to distinguish herself on the SMU campus as an appreciated Spanish teacher since 1976. A retired Senior Lecturer for the Dedman College Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, Lucille has edited monthly Spanish publications and technical translations throughout her career. She holds a Texas Teacher Certification in Spanish and history and is the publisher of Workbooks I–IV: Aprender el español es divertido (Learning Spanish is fun). Lucille is a member of the South Central Modern Language Association and the Phi Beta Kappa Alumni Association.
Justin Rudelson is President of Rudelson International Academy, an intensive language and culture navigation school for business executives in Dallas. He is also Adjunct Professor in the Master of Liberal Studies Program at SMU and teaches Mandarin Chinese for SMU Lifelong Learning. Rudelson received his M.A. and Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from Harvard University. He was an Asian Studies major and Geography minor at Dartmouth College, and was the first anthropologist to conduct fieldwork in Xinjiang, China. A native of Beverly Hills, California, he established the porcelain-importing company Rudelson International with his family; it operated from 1982–2012. Since 1995, Rudelson has worked as an author and editor of ten phrasebooks for Lonely Planet Publications including Languages of the Silk Road (in which 16 languages are covered), and the Mandarin, Hebrew, Turkish, and Moroccan Arabic phrasebooks. Besides the Mandarin language, Rudelson has command of Cantonese, Uyghur, Japanese, Russian and Hebrew languages, as well as a working knowledge of 20 other Central Asian, European, Asian and Middle Eastern languages.
Thierry Tirado teaches beginner, intermediate and advanced courses in French language at SMU as well as through SMU Lifelong Learning. Thierry has also taught at the University of Texas, Arlington, and at El Centro College in Dallas. He has areas of special interest in French literature and culture, the French Naturalist Movement, and French language for law and business. In addition to coordinating intermediate French classes, Thierry serves as the assistant director for SMU-in-Paris, where he teaches an advanced class on the history of Paris.
 Cynthia Wildridge is an educator and consultant who brings a variety of experience and expertise to her work with children and adults. She is the author of several bilingual books for children, including Bun E. Learns to Count in French (Bun E. apprend à compter). In addition to teaching French conversation through SMU Lifelong Learning, Cynthia has developed and facilitated educational programs for the Thriving Minds Summer Camp program, in partnership with SMU and Big Thought; The Language Network; and the Dallas International School's Language Institute. Learn more about Cynthia and her work at bunetales.com.

Personal Development

Len Persons Bourland is an award-winning columnist in Dallas who teaches “How to Self-Publish Your Book” for SMU Lifelong Learning. A freelance writer, Len has been recognized for her two decades as a columnist for Park Cities People and has bylines in local publications including D Magazine. Len serves as a guest commentator on National Public Radio’s local KERA 90.1 station. Her book, Normal's Just a Cycle on a Washing Machine, is woven together from her most popular newspaper columns. Len credits her love of language to her Westminster prep-school education in Atlanta and her love of history to her undergraduate degree at Vanderbilt and graduate degree at SMU. Click here to learn more about Len Bourland and her work.

Shirley Kaczka is an experienced educator who works with both college and pre-college students. In addition to her work with SMU Lifelong Learning, she has held faculty positions at several schools in the Dallas Community College District (DCCCD). Kaczka also served as Associate Dean of Professional Development at Eastfield College. She received an M.L.A from Southern Methodist University and a B.B.A. from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, plus several certifications from the North American Council for Staff, Program and Organizational Development.

Gretchen Manes is a Licensed Professional Counselor (L.P.C.) and a Nationally Certified Counselor (N.C.C.) who teaches mindful self-compassion for SMU Lifelong Learning. She holds two master's-level degrees from The University of North Texas in Counseling and in Human Development and Family Studies. Gretchen has given talks and training nationally on topics including the principles of interpersonal neurobiology, complex trauma, attachment and mindfulness. Gretchen works in private practice in Dallas.
Denette Mann follows a caring approach to personal growth. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Registered Play Therapist, and Certified EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Therapist who also teaches mindful self-compassion for SMU Lifelong Learning. Denette specializes in working with children ages 3–18, parents or families who are dealing with life transitions, grief, loss, trauma, and emotional or developmental issues. Denette provides supportive coaching for parents working through rough patches with their children, and trains parents to use play therapy skills with their children in the Child-Parent Relationship Training program. Her priority is helping parents connect with their children by developing and strengthening their relationships.
Elizabeth (Liz) Navarro is an educator, consultant and coach specializing in communications. Liz teaches public speaking for SMU Lifelong Learning and is an adjunct lecturer at SMU’s Division of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs. She previously taught at Pepperdine University and has guest lectured for a number of nonprofit and public relations management courses. Additionally, Liz has taught English at the middle and high school level. Watch Elizabeth Navarro's TEDxSMU talk, Millennial Women are Dominating the Side Hustle.
Bridget Renshaw is a voiceover artist with a decade of experience who teaches others how to use their voice as an asset in her “Introduction to Voice Overs Workshop” course through SMU Lifelong Learning. Bridget’s voice can be heard in commercials, animations, voice dubbing, corporate videos, eLearning and video games. She has voiced numerous commercials including those for Samsung, Audible, Transitions Lenses, Scholastic, Simple Skincare, Classic Mazda and more. Bridget is also known for her English voiceovers translating Spanish Telenovelas and her character work on a variety of video games, eLearning projects and animated videos. Bridget loves to talk to people about following their passions in life, especially voice-over.
Dara Rossi joined the faculty of the Simmons School of Education and Human Development at SMU in 2010. She has an interest in helping women grow their potential in her “Women’s Coaching Circle” through SMU Lifelong Learning. Dara earned her Ph.D. from the University of North Texas with a major in Curriculum and Instruction and a minor in Educational Administration. Additionally, she holds a master’s degree in Science Education from the University of Texas at Dallas. Dara is an experienced educator with a strong science background, including K-12 curriculum development and administration. Prior to coming to SMU, she taught undergraduate and graduate courses at the University of North Texas.
Lavada Smith is a License Massage Therapist (L.M.T.), Certified Instructor in Qigong and Tai Chi Reiki III Practitioner. Her practice of these Qigong/Tai Chi movements combined with Ayurvedic applications in her life has led to studying and sharing various cultural practices to promote healthy longevity. Her education includes a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering and M.C.S. in Computer Science from Texas A&M University, B.A. in Mathematics for University of Texas at Austin. Her professional experience encompasses 40 years in computer technology and manufacturing for companies that included Texas Instruments, Apple, Xerox, and Oracle among others. Lavada hopes to inspire others to evaluate their own aging process and issues to consider alternative practices.
Allison Venuto is an alumna of both Baylor University and SMU and leads professional development and personal enrichment courses for SMU Lifelong Learning. A popular speaker, Allison has presented to more than 50 local organizations about a variety of topics. In 2011, Allison founded Ducks in a Row Personal Organizing. Allison says, "I implement organizational tools that changed my personal and professional trajectory. Working daily with clients has offered me opportunities to journey with individuals as they make significant life changes as a result of learning effective time-management strategies." She looks forward to helping SMU Lifelong Learning students experience growth of this kind as well!

Literature and Film

Lindy Bell is an active member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, most recently as the North Texas Region's Publicity Chair and Webmaster. She has shared her interest and research of Jane Austen and literature of the Recency period in courses for SMU Lifelong Learning and a number of other organizations. Lindy is currently writing a book about Regency-era holidays. In addition to her research, writing, and teaching, Lindy is the Administrative Services Manager for the City of Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau, a member of the Plano Fire/Rescue Association, and a 2015 graduate of the Plano Citizens Fire Academy. Lindy Bell graduated from Abilene Christian University with a degree in business.

Catherine Civello is a native of Dallas, Texas and has taught at both the university and secondary school levels, including several years at SMU and the University of Houston. Her doctoral studies focused on British and American literature of the nineteenth century while her later papers and publications concentrate on the work of modern and contemporary female writers. Her book, Patterns of Ambivalence, examines the work of English poet and novelist Stevie Smith.

James Greene is an award-winning poet who teaches literature and writing. A former student of writer Katherine Anne Porter, James received a B.A. from Washington & Lee University, with honors in English, and an M.A. in English from Stanford. James enjoys sharing his perspective on authors such as Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, as well as English Romantic poetry and Southern women writers with SMU Lifelong Learning students. He has studied with such literary luminaries as Wallace Stegner, Ivor Winters, Dayl Scroggins, P.J. Murphy, Joseph Millar, Dorianne Laux, and Pablo Medina. He has published three poems in Ilya's Honey and received an honorable mention from the Dallas Poets Community in 2001 and 2002
Rex McGee is a native of North Texas and a protege of the legendary filmmaker Billy Wilder (Some Like It Hot) who has sold over 20 scripts for film and television since receiving his B.A. in Cinema from the University of Southern California. He has worked in both Los Angeles and Texas as a screenwriter and journalist, and he currently conducts screenwriting and creativity workshops at SMU. His film credits include Warner Brothers’s Pure Country, starring George Strait and Lesley Ann Warren; the Hallmark Channel's perennial Where There's a Will, starring Marion Ross and Keith Carradine; and the IMAX film Texas: The Big Picture at the Texas State History Museum in Austin. A member of the Writers Guild of America West and the Dramatists Guild of America, he has collaborated on his screenplays with directors Jon Amiel, Peter Masterson, Robert Mulligan and Billy Wilder. He is currently adapting his own original screenplay of Pure Country for the musical stage. Learn more at rexmcgee.wordpress.com.
Rick Worland is a professor in SMU's Division of Film and Media Arts, where his teaching focuses on film history, documentary, popular genres (including westerns and horror film), television history, and the films of Alfred Hitchcock. He received his Ph.D. in Motion Picture/Television Critical Studies from UCLA. Rick’s work has been published in journals such as Cinema Journal, The Journal of Film & Video, and The Journal of Popular Film & Television, among others. He also has written two books: The Horror Film: An Introduction (2007) and Searching for New Frontiers: Hollywood Movies in the 1960s (2017), both from Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.

Test Prep

Joyce Asber has successfully helped individuals achieve their goals on the LSAT and SAT exams since 2010. Joyce graduated from the University of Dallas in 2000 with a B.A in English and went on to complete a Juris Doctorate at Boston College Law School in 2003. After being admitted to the bar in both Massachusetts and Texas, Joyce practiced immigration law for over five years. She helped individuals understand the immigration process, informed them of their options and obligations, and served as their advocate. Joyce utilizes these same skills, along with her test preparation training and her own superior test performance, to break down complex test items into understandable and manageable tasks. In addition to test preparation, Joyce currently works as a tutor and mentor to help high school students meet graduation requirements.

Gary Montry is an experienced MCAT, DAT, and GRE instructor. He has also taught biology and chemistry at the college level. He earned a B.S. in Biology from the University of New Mexico and has completed extensive graduate coursework in statistics and computer sciences. Gary is a data science nerd, Python guru, and lover of all things related to probability.

Nathan Townsie is a highly skilled educational leader. He received his B.A. from St. Mary's University before embarking on his teaching career with the Dallas Independent School District in 2004. After a successful career that included eleven consecutive Exemplary Commendations, three Master Teacher Award Honors, and the Texas Education Agency Award of Distinction for Algebra Readiness, Nathan accepted an instructional position at Trinity Basin Charter School. In addition to teaching, he has worked with pre-engineering students at UNT Dallas and Mountain View College. Throughout his career, Nathan has been instrumental in systematizing and constructing effective teaching programs including the creation of formative and summative assessments. He is an active mentor and founder of the Brothers and Sisters United program for at-risk youth.