Dean's Office

Renee McDonald

Dean ad interim of the Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies and Associate Provost for Graduate Education ad interim

Renee McDonaldDr. Renee McDonald is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at SMU, where she has been a member of the faculty since 2003. She has also served as Associate Dean for Research and Academic Affairs in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences since 2011. In addition, she has been the Provost’s Fellow for Research Excellence and Scholarly Impact since 2020, working closely with the Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies and the Office of Research to advance SMU in strengthening its impact in graduate education and research. She has held leadership roles pertaining to graduate education and research in various areas of the university and was integrally involved in the conceptualization and creation of the Moody School. She has remained an active researcher and educator of graduate students, working to understand predictors and consequences of youth exposure to violence and developing and evaluating interventions to help children and adolescents recover from experiences of violence and abuse. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and philanthropic foundations. She is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science. She received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Houston in 1994.

Alan Itkin

Senior Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs and Chief of Staff, Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies, and Adjunct Lecturer in World Languages and Literatures

Dr. Itkin oversees administrative, admissions, recruitment, professional development, student life, fellowship, and other functions of the Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies under the direction of Dean Quick.

Dr. Itkin holds a Ph.D in Comparative Literature from the University of Michigan, an M.A. in Humanities and Social Thought from New York University, and a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of California Berkeley. Prior to joining SMU, he served as Assistant Dean for Graduate Education and Research in the College of Arts and Science at Vanderbilt University.  He also maintains an active research profile as a scholar of modern German culture and Holocaust literature.  His academic monograph, Underworlds of Memory: W. G. Sebald’s Epic Journeys through the Past, was published by Northwestern University Press in 2017, and he has held the titles of Senior Lecturer in German at Vanderbilt University and Visiting Assistant Professor of Literary Cultures at New York University.

Dr. Itkin teaches as adjunct lecturer in the Department of World Languages and Literatures.

Kerri Bennett

Associate Director and Diversity Officer, Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies

Kerri Bennett works with Ph.D. and Dedman College Master's students to provide administrative support for student progression, maintaining academic records, and processing students for graduation. Kerri is the main point of contact for dissertation format checks, Graduate Student Travel Grants, and similar resources offered by the Moody School Dean's Office. She also handles general admissions questions for Ph.D. and Dedman College Master's applicants and potential applicants. Kerri has over 10 years of experience in Higher Ed from Recruiting, Admissions, to Student Finance. She joined SMU in Fall of 2016. While helping motivate others to further their education, she also obtained an MBA with a concentration in Marketing.  

Stevie Otto

Director of Recruitment and Admissions, Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies

Stevie Otto works closely with graduate departments across the institution to help promote their doctoral programs to prospective students.  She is also a valuable resource for interested students who want to learn more about the graduate student experience at SMU and who need help starting the application process.

A native of Houston, Stevie is a graduate of Southwestern University and the University of Iowa.  She has worked in higher education for several years, starting as an academic advisor and transitioning into admissions and recruitment.  Before coming to SMU, she most recently served as the Assistant Director of Admissions and Outreach for the College of Visual and Performing Arts at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.  She has worked in Academic Affairs and Graduate Studies throughout her entire professional career and enjoys being able to help students take that next step in their own professional development.

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Jean Nixon

Program Specialist, Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies

Jean Nixon provides administrative support to the Moody School Office. She handles Academic and Enrollment Registrar forms in addition to other backend processes for the daily operations of the school and graduate students. Jean answers general questions regarding admissions (Dedman College), travel grant reimbursement documents, etc. She is also the main point of contact during office visits, phone calls, and emails plus collaborates on the Moody School social media presence. Before taking this position, Jean began her SMU career with the SMU|Perkins School of Theology over 4 years ago, in the Perkins Office of Enrollment Management. A short trip Up the Hill and Jean joins our team in Spring ’21.

Rachel Ball-Phillips

Director of Graduate Fellowships and Awards, Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies

Dr. Ball-Phillips helps graduate students learn about, select, and successfully apply for external fellowships and awards. Prior to joining the Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies, Dr. Ball-Phillips directed National Student Fellowships and the President’s Scholars at SMU.

Dr. Ball-Phillips holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in South Asian History from Boston College, and a B.A. in History from SMU. During her time as a graduate student, she conducted language study and research through multiple American Institute of Indian Studies language grants, a Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship, and a Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy Fellowship. She has taught in the William P. Clements Department of History since 2014, and maintains an active research profile as a scholar of South Asian History. She is currently completing work on her manuscript Film in the Archives: Tracing Regionalism in Indian Cinema, and has started preliminary work on an oral history project titled Hare Krishnas in Longhorn Country: An Oral History of Devotees in Dallas.

Dr. Ball-Phillips also serves as the President of the Fulbright Association Dallas Chapter.