Education Policy & Leadership Alumni

Daniel Knoll

Daniel Knoll '18

Daniel Knoll is the Principal of The Momentous Institute. He graduated from Simmons in 2018 with a Masters of Education: Accelerated School Leadership.

What do you do professionally and what is most rewarding about your job?
I am the Principal of the Momentous School. The most rewarding part of my job is having the opportunity to work with our amazing students and families every day. Their love of learning, curiosity about the world, and drive to create a better future for themselves and their community make this work so powerful. As the Principal, I get to see it all in action, and serve others to accomplish their goals.

What were some of the most meaningful aspects of your education at Simmons?
My time at Simmons was shaped by the people I had the opportunity to work with and learn from. The professors are incredibly caring and fostered a community of critical thinkers. My classmates in my cohort shared so much knowledge and ideas about how to successfully prepare to lead a school. I graduated with a powerful network of colleagues and friends that I can turn to for advice and guidance.

How did your education at Simmons prepare you for your professional career?
The work I completed at Simmons was filled with ample opportunities for hands-on practice in the profession. I was meeting with and learning from various stakeholders on my campus, learning the ins and outs of a job that I would have very shortly after graduating. To move from the classroom straight to school leadership would not have been possible without the experiences and expertise I gained at Simmons. I also learned to be a better communicator and advocate for the issues that I care about because it will serve students and families.

What are some highlights from your experience as a SMU student?
Life as a graduate student working full time is extremely busy. There were long days (especially on the weekend), and yet each time I left campus I was re-energized to do this work and apply what I was learning. We visited schools and community centers all around Dallas, practiced high-stress situations that could occur on campus, got lost in philosophical debates about long standing traditions in education, and more. The time I was in class reminded me how much I love being a student, and how important it is to continue learning. Plus going to a football game was pretty great too!

Why are you proud to be a Simmons alum?
I'm proud to be a Simmons alum because as a community, Simmons graduates are working to change the educational landscape in Dallas. Better preparing teachers for their work in the classroom, rethinking how schools operate, training the next generation of leaders and more. Simmons is making change happen, and the students we work with are better prepared for a life of choice and chance.

Condensed and edited.

Elizabeth Caudill McClain

Elizabeth Caudill McClain '14

Elizabeth Caudill McClain is the Managing Director of Higher Education & Workforce at the Dallas Regional Chamber. She graduated from Simmons with a Masters of Education in Higher Education in 2014.

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

I work at the Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC), the oldest and largest Chamber of Commerce in the Dallas Region. I currently serve as the Managing Director, Higher Education & Workforce working with regional businesses, higher education institutions, workforce development organizations, and the Texas Legislature to improve the Talent Pipeline. The most rewarding part of my job is the people I get to work with every day. I feel immensely blessed that I get to wake up every day and work with some of the brightest and most passionate people in Dallas who are trying to support students to a living/high wage job. I'm constantly inspired by my colleagues inside and out of the DRC!

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

One of the most meaningful aspects of my education at Simmons was how individualized the entire experience felt. I wasn't in an auditorium class with prescriptive assignments, rather a small cohort of brilliant classmates and faculty who made every class and assignment fit to my interests. I studied higher education, which has so many diverse offerings. Among my class were future college athletics coaches, leaders in diversity, equity, and inclusion, student housing experts, and I was laser focused on higher education public policy and government systems. The faculty at Simmons made us each feel seen, heard, and challenged in our academic passion for higher education. This was so meaningful to me and helped me better understand my interests and skills in the higher education field.

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

My education at Simmons was incredibly helpful for my career! I chose Simmons for my graduate studies because I wanted a well-rounded graduate education. Rather than studying Student Affairs or just Higher Education Administration, I wanted a little bit of everything. Simmons provided me the opportunity to learn about all of the aspects of the higher education field from student affairs to higher education finance, which better prepared me for my current role. Every day I work to better align higher education and workforce needs, pipelines, and systems. Without the in-depth knowledge Simmons provided on how higher education works, I would not be as successful moving the needle for students.

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

There are so many! My undergraduate degree is from a fierce SMU rival, so I like to joke that I was surprised how happy I was as a student at SMU! In reality, I had an incredibly positive experience. A few impactful experiences include being a research assistant to one of the top higher education policy researchers in the county, serving as President of the Higher Education Student Association (HESA), and working for Resident Life & Student Housing (RLSH) which helped me pay for my education through scholarships and housing.

Why are you proud to be a Simmons alum?

I am very proud to be a Simmons alumni! Simmons is a top-tier School of Education that continues to grow every year. Because my experience felt so individualized, I feel a deep connection with the experiences and top education Simmons provided me.

Condensed and edited.