Graduate Liberal Studies Alumni

Mark Pollack '18

Mark Pollack is the Senior Director of Community Impact Grantmaking at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. He graduated from Simmons with a Master of Liberal Studies in 2018.

 

What do you do professionally and what is most rewarding about your job?

My job title is Senior Director, Community Impact Grantmaking at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. I serve as a project manager in the Community Impact Department with a focus on grantmaking in the Dallas community. The most rewarding part of my job is working with the organizations that are providing crucial health and human services and disaster relief in our community.
   
The single most rewarding project I’ve worked on was North Texas Cares, which was a collaboration of local grant making organizations including United Way that made emergency relief grants starting in March of 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the world went into lockdown, I was part of a core team that implemented the entire effort. North Texas Cares resulted in $63 million being invested in our North Texas Community to support organizations doing incredible work addressing crucial needs due to the pandemic.

 

What were some of the most meaningful aspects of your education at Simmons?

The most meaningful aspects of my education were related to the courses that I took as part of the Liberal Studies program. I had the opportunity to take classes that were of personal interest, classes that were more directly related to my daily work, and courses that will help develop my career to work for an International NGO in the future. My Liberal Studies degree had a focus on Global Studies so courses like International Humanitarian Aid, Business Ethics, and Human Rights have provided a solid foundation of knowledge and experience.

 

How did your education at Simmons prepare you for your professional career?

Several of the classes I took exposed me to new ideas and information that I’ve been able to incorporate into my professional career. My course on Human Rights shared information about human rights violations and historical issues in our Dallas community. The learning and research I did for this class has led me to be a part of the Racial Equity Council at United Way which is working to incorporate Racial Equity in all areas of the organization’s work. My capstone project allowed for research on topics relevant to my work in grantmaking and I have been able to incorporate what I researched into our organization’s grantmaking practices. In addition to the knowledge gained in my coursework, I was also able to develop and build long-standing professional connections with my peers.

 

What are some highlights from your experience as a SMU student?

As a student with a family, I enjoyed being able to experience some of the nonacademic parts of college life with my wife and children. We were able to attend sporting events like basketball, soccer, and football games and now have a new team to cheer for and support. Another great experience was going to the homecoming parade and participating in all the activities along The Boulevard.

 

Why are you proud to be a Simmons alum?

I enjoyed my time as a student at the Simmons School of Education and Human Development and I am proud to be an alum. I feel like my Liberal Studies degree helped me to develop both personally and professionally. The network and reputation that SMU has in the Dallas area has and will continue to be helpful in my future and I am excited to stay connected with SMU and the Simmons School.

 
GIna Weber Headshot

Gina Weber '20

Gina Weber is a consultant working with art and performance organizations, and will be an Adjunct Professor at UNT starting in Fall 2020. She graduated from Simmons with a Doctorate of Liberal Studies in 2020.

 

What do you do professionally and what is most rewarding about your job?

I am currently a consultant working with art and performance organizations to improve their operations. This Fall, I will be also be teaching a class as an Adjunct Professor at UNT. It's rewarding that I can serve on the Board of Cara Mia and Prism Movement Theaters, and volunteer for Teatro Dallas, Artstillery, RAICES, and Human Rights Initiative of North Texas. 

 

I am also a Docent at the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum. I can truly say that at this stage of my life and career, this is the most rewarding time because I am able to use my knowledge, experience, and academic skills to make a positive difference in people's lives.

 

What were some of the most meaningful aspects of your education at Simmons?

The Doctor of Liberal Studies Program at Simmons was truly a once in a lifetime experience that allowed me to work full time, take care of my son, and continue volunteering, all while seeking this intellectual challenge. Simmons encourages students to go beyond their academic journey by contributing to their community and the world, and to explore what it means to be human.

 

How did your education at Simmons prepare you for your professional career?

Simmons allowed me to broaden my knowledge, world view, and to seek creative and new ways to make a difference in the world and to solve every day challenges. This opportunity has prepared me to be a better and more empathetic human, and thus become a better professional. My education at Simmons has encouraged me to start a new professional career. Simmons prepared and encouraged me to take a leap of faith, and after a long and rewarding federal career protecting human health and the environment, I reinvented my career and enjoy a more creative future.

 

What are some highlights from your experience as a SMU student?

One of the biggest highlights from my experience as an SMU student are the lifelong friendships made with the inaugural cohort, professors, and program staff who nourished my soul. My SMU experience was rewarding as it enabled me to grow academically by allowing me to seek knowledge in all the schools within SMU. For example, I traveled to Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland with the Human Rights Program. The human rights education trips allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of what Holocaust victims and survivors experienced, and to gain knowledge of important human rights issues that continue to affect the world today.

 

Why are you proud to be a Simmons alum?

I am proud to be a Simmons alum because of all the support and guidance I received as a nontraditional Doctoral student. The faculty and staff at Simmons cheered my successes and cared about my journey. Also, I am proud because Simmons afforded me the opportunity to get involved in SMU activities such as being the Treasurer for the Simmons Graduate Council, and also Convener for the DCII Research Cluster on Creativity. As a Simmons alum, I am proud that I can characterize my life by one of my favorite quotes by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

 

Khalil Abdur-Rashid

Khalil Abdur-Rashid '19

Khalil Abdur-Rashid is the University Muslim Chaplin at Harvard University. He graduated from Simmons in 2019 with a Doctor of Liberal Studies specializing in Islam in America.

What do you do professionally and what is most rewarding about your job?

I serve as the University Muslim Chaplain at Harvard University. The most rewarding part of my job is engaging in teaching and educational programmings with students which allows me the opportunity to witness the amazing transformation of students who will do profound things later in life.

What were some of the most meaningful aspects of your education at Simmons?

For sure, the curriculum and faculty of the Graduate of Liberal Studies Program. The coursework and tremendous experience and wisdom of the faculty both inspired me and transformed me in ways that prepared me for the work I do now.

How did your education at Simmons prepare you for your professional career?

I learned the value of interdisciplinary work in an increasingly diverse world. The Simmons School is incredibly good at bringing together talented people from diverse backgrounds who can expose students to an array of ideas and experiences that prepare them for the daunting challenges we have today. There is a focus on both the local and global, as well as the historical and contemporary trends that equip us for the much needed professional work and leadership role that lay ahead of all of us.

What are some highlights from your experience as a SMU student?

Some of my most memorable experiences include engaging in cohort discussions and learning exercises as well as learning from the lively diverse opinions in class from both the faculty members and fellow peers around me.

Why are you proud to be a Simmons alum?

The Simmons School invested in me and challenged me to never be satisfied with mediocrity. The Simmons School, through its' faculty, students and educational programs, allowed me to grow and thrive, and enabled me to pursue reaching my fullest potential in ways I could not have ever imagined.

Robyn Short Photo

Robyn Short '98, '15, '20

Robyn Short is the founder of the Workplace Peace Institute, an organizational systems design and research firm. She graduated from Simmons with a Masters of Liberal Arts in 1998, a Master of Arts in Dispute Resolution in 2015, and a Doctorate of Liberal Studies in 2020.

What do you do professionally and what is most rewarding about your job?

My professional work is committed to cultivating peace in the workplace and in the community. As an entrepreneur, I have several companies that function synergistically to accomplish this. Through the Workplace Peace Institute, I work with organizations to create highly engaged workplaces by infusing human security and dignity as foundational attributes of their business model. As a peace-building consultant, I work with corporations and government entities to identify root causes of conflict and design education and training programs to support them in restoring positive peace.

Through my publishing company, GoodMedia Press, I am able to amplify the voices of other peacemakers to create positive social change. I am also the founder of Peace & Conciliation Project, a 501(c)(3) anti racism organization that brings communities together to address and repair the harm of racial injustice.

I am also an adjunct professor in the Master of Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution program at Simmons and a professor in the Master of Leadership and Negotiation program at Bay Path University. What I find most rewarding about my work is experiencing the human capacity for transformation and being continuously affirmed by our individual and collective desire for peace.

What were some of the most meaningful aspects of your education at Simmons?

The professional relationships I have established through my education at Simmons have been tremendously meaningful and rewarding. These relationships have been of paramount importance to my career. In fact, every person on the board of Peace & Conciliation Project are Simmons graduates. Many of my professors are now my colleagues. And I have developed lasting professional relationships with my peers.

How did your education at Simmons prepare you for your professional career?

The in-depth liberal arts education I received from Simmons shaped me as a person as opposed to preparing me for a single job, which is evident in the fact that my career is described in terms of outcomes not job roles. Simmons nurtured my desire to be a lifelong learner. I learned to take intellectual risks, which has resulted in a career that embraces all my talents and skills rather than pigeon-holing me into a single job. I am able to connect diverse ideas across disciplines and to express these ideas articulately and creatively, which has allowed me to contribute to my field in a very unique way that distinctively represents my own passion and sense of purpose. Ultimately, my education at Simmons has empowered me to be an agile contributor to a rapidly changing world.

What are some highlights from your experience as a SMU student?

Through my Simmons education, I have traveled to five different countries on two continents. These experiences broadened my world view and shaped my understanding of the human condition while informing my specific role in advancing peace and human security. While I can travel on my own, doing so through Simmons offered me the opportunity to meet the World Changers doing important work in those specific countries, and that transformative experience is something I could only have had through Simmons.

Why are you proud to be a Simmons alum?

As an alumna of Simmons, I am proud to be part of a lifelong learning community of World Changers.